Wild for weeds…
Rough hawkbit, cat’s ear, sow thistles, tagwort, viper’s bugloss, mallows, self-heal, love-in-a-mist, wild mignonette, rosebay willowherb, creeping buttercup – AKA ‘weeds’. According to Alex Morss, research shows that these colourfully named but often overlooked plants are heavy hitters when it comes to nectar and pollen. In other words, they’re bees’ best mates, and a growing number of street botanists are bringing them to our attention through the simple act of chalking the names of our autotrophic friends wherever they find them.
As one London chalker says, “I’ll keep labelling as I go on my daily walks. I think it’s really tapped into where people are right now. Botanical chalking gives a quick blast of nature connection, as the words encourage you to look up and notice the tree above you, the leaves, the bark, the insects, the sky. And that’s all good for mental health. None of us can manage that much – living through a global pandemic is quite enough to be getting on with. But it’s brought me a great amount of joy.”
An instantly lovable offshoot of the wider growth in plant awareness and advocacy, this green-fingered graffiti is a great example of using the right words in the right way to make a difference. So long live weeds, and long live words. And a big thank you to everyone who brings the two together for our understanding and enjoyment.
Change the ending…
In these uncertain times, simple words put together well carry much weight. Whether it is Captain Tom’s “Remember, tomorrow is a good day, tomorrow you will maybe find everything will be much better than today…”, Duke Ellington’s irrepressibly upbeat “What I do tomorrow will be the best thing I’ve ever done…”, or this gem from C.S. Lewis: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
The great thing about all these thoughts is that they never lose their relevance or power to inspire. They remain as universal and heart-warming as sunshine.
So here’s to Tom, Duke and Clive (yes, Clive). Let’s all take heart from their warmth and wisdom.
The long why…
In Japan, home to more centenarians than any other country, the island of Okinawa is known as “land of the immortals”. It’s where over 1,000 people aged over 100 live.
How come so many Okinawans live so long? Having a reason for living makes a big difference. According to longevity expert Dan Buettner, focusing on your purpose can add up to seven years to your life. So it’s no surprise that on Okinawa people set up friendship groups known as ‘moai’, which means ‘meeting for a common purpose’. Across Japan there’s a rather lovely word for this purposeful way of living: ‘ikigai’ – ‘the reason you get up in the morning’.
For people, and for companies, the secret of a long life is to have a strong why. So if you’re looking for a new year’s resolution as we head towards 2019, why not find and/or fine tune your ikigai. Here’s to a long and happy life for all.
He’s no tiger…
On a recent trip to LA I was struck by the sheer brilliance not only of the sunshine but also of much of the communication. Our American friends seem to revel in clear lively English. Whether that’s shedding light on age-old tar pits…
or discouraging cars from driving down dusty ol’ cowboy towns…
It’s a confidence and playfulness in words we can all enjoy and draw inspiration from.
For me it started with sunshine fingers…
A beautiful poem by Gilda Hanson, a very promising young poet deservedly commended in the Agincourt 600 competition. I’m very proud to say she is also my daughter.
by Gilda Hanson
I have been waiting for this moment
For 600 years
For me it started
With sunshine fingers
And soldiers getting ready
On their first day at school
Morning minds aching with worry
About the day ahead
The French army stood
Like bulls ready to charge
Blocking our way
We were silent
Full of fatigue and fear
I heard my heart
Cast out of steel
An unsteady hand
Grabbed my body
Placed me in the arms
Of a long yew bow
Drew me back
And let me go
And I SOARED!
As high as the heavens
My brothers and sisters
An army of arrows in flight
A chaos of screams
Of mud, blood and guts
And down my fellow arrows arched
A waterfall of death
But I flew on
Until I fell
To pierce the heart
Of a destitute ditch
And there I lay
An outcast arrow
Save for time
Like soldiers to battle
So thank you
For finding me
For taking me home
For listening to my story
And for giving me hope
Sketch trees in winter…
“In handbooks on Chinese traditional painting, an advice commonly given to the artist who wishes to learn to paint trees is to sketch them in winter, for then, without the seductive yet confused and blurry effect of their leafy masses, through their stark nudity they can best reveal their inner structure and specific character.”
So says Simon Leys in his Chinese Shadows. A fair few decades on, Apple teaches the same principle to its design pupils, pointing them in the direction of Picasso’s progressively stripped back sketches of a bull.
To divine, distil. It’s a sure route to get to the heart of a character. And once you’re there at the essence you can add and amplify, as Chineasy does to great effect in making it easier to understand and remember Chinese language characters.
My own personal favourite is this eternally optimistic take on tomorrow:
Tomorrow is going to be a bright day. Amen to that.
On essays and free spirits…
In a world awash with doomy gloomy news, the Guardian’s In praise of… column offers a daily dose of thoughtful sunniness – 200 words or so of positive take on all kinds of more or less topical subjects.
Subjects such as the essay: “…an intensely personal and conversational genre which is the preferred literary mode of free spirits… The best essays, like George Orwell’s, are tough but not fanatical, delight in the commonplace and ambiguous and can see the world as easily in a ham sandwich as a morning rose.” Much like the In praise of… pieces themselves – which to my eyes are in many ways mighty fine essays in miniature.
So here’s to essays, free spirits, and In praise of…
Sunny free range people…
I came across this rather fine job ad on the window of the Flat Planet cafe, Great Marlborough Street, the other day. Ironically on the site of a former AN Other Coffee Chain, it struck me as a refreshingly engaging alternative to the cookie cutter communication of cappuccino corporations.