When I was small, we lived in a tiny hamlet near Moreton-in-Marsh, with no streetlights and no sounds except the occasional flight from the aerodrome, which is now the Fire Service College.
I loved those long summer evenings when, with no school the following day, my brothers and I would play out late. The dusk made games like hide-and-seek so mysterious, and the air was so fresh and clean. We ran around screaming like bats with delight and watching the amazingly colourful moths that would fly through the always-open windows and settle on the stairwell.
The recent National Garden SleepOut event supported by Primrose got me thinking what I could do. ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is something I can relate to. From a Cider with Rosie type childhood to being sucked into to the ’80s ‘yuppie culture’, I spent more and more time in offices – enjoying my work and proud of my achievements – but constantly craving the sight of ‘something green’ out of the window.
Raising children and now watching grandchildren I can’t help but observe the stark contrast in their activities and mine. More traffic on the roads, the ‘technological revolution’ and health-and-safety issues have prevented children experiencing natural adventures and escapades.
What is more, so many workplaces have air-conditioning, mealtimes often consist of fast food and even the water is purified. Even the plants provided to improve the atmosphere look too shiny and plastic – in my eyes at least.
When finally my doctor said, “no more work for you”, it was a mixed blessing. I felt my efforts to have come to nothing and wallowed in those thoughts until I was referred to Bridewell Organic Gardens in Oxfordshire. Feeling defeated and small, I was shown round by one of the service users – to the vineyard, the poultry and many other outdoor occupations, none of which were powered by anything but human effort and only then if one felt up to it.
I had come home! In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by hills, woods, wildlife and horticulture I began the journey to rediscovering myself and to understand that much of what I was going through was caused by too much time in a sterile world.
We are part of nature. We are animals — Not in the derogatory sense often used, but flesh and bone made from the planet. We have become over sophisticated, spoiled in many ways and definitions, yet forgetting who we really are. We are largely ‘nature deficit’ as a society. Fast cars, fast food, fast productivity are burning us out and we don’t know how to slow down. Who was it said “stop the world, I want to get off!”?