14 October 2022

Green sanity

My esteemed colleague Leigh prompted us to embrace the colour green to raise awareness of World Mental Health Day this Monday just past. This resonated with me. While currently owning no green clothing other than my socks, I thought writing, not wearing, might contribute.

I don’t know where it started, but green’s always been my joy. Perhaps Dad’s insistence that green was his lucky colour initially hooked me. He would wear a green tie on occasions when he hoped for luck, along with green cufflinks. I tried that with underwear on Newcastle matchdays. It worked as well as could be hoped.

These days, a couple of tangential greens make me happy. We were invited into Greenhaugh Primary School to hear the children read and sing for the first time since lockdown. I’ve written about Greenhaugh before, and while all of our mental health undoubtedly suffered in the fight to save it, the fight was worthwhile, and this visit lifted my spirits.

I used to play football extremely badly. Moving into the middle of nowhere twenty years ago (not to mention anno Domini) made this harder, and it fell by the wayside. I didn’t realize how much I missed participating in a competitive game until I was asked to join the mighty Blackcock pool team. Perennially bottom of the league, the green baize nevertheless calls me, and I love the game.

But it’s green in its common meaning which lies at the heart of the matter, of course. Someone once commented that one’s happiest childhood memories are never indoors. Camping and narrowboating certainly rank among mine.

Although I grew up a city boy, my wife persuaded me to move into the green yonder. While we worried that we both might struggle, in truth we’ve never looked back.

Dulce domum

She had form. A short break as students had us walking a portion of the Ridgeway, from Swindon to Avebury via Uffington. Sunburn and blisters didn’t dilute the joy of a slow journey through the English countryside.

We doubled down on narrowboating, and have been on the canals several weeks a year for over fifteen years. Landscape and nature are balm. Seeing HS2 carving swathes through the South Oxford summit was one of my saddest memories.

When I commuted, a random tweet made me count up the number of waterways I crossed each day. That commute was of course a burden, but it was a beautiful one, almost running the entire course of the North Tyne. Getting Max the dog soon after we moved meant four daily walks, and inspired another.

Many years of the Big Garden Birdwatch partially scratched the perennial itch for collection and documentation (I still delight in nuthatches, siskins, and the very occasional long-tailed tit), but I was happiest to compile a list of every wildflower I could see in the verges of our single-track road.

Mum said she once heard a professor say on the radio that she firmly believed that if you take an interest in the natural world, it will hold your interest for the rest of your life. Maturin would agree.