I have been loving the sound of the rain on the veranda recently,
and the smell of the plants that gets so much stronger and fresher after they’ve
been doused. Being under shelter as the rain falls on the roof reminds me a bit
of camping at festivals, and a bit of being really young and in my dad’s workshop
out the back, with its corrugated roofing and smell of cut wood and glue.
The sound of the rain also made me think about the news items there have been about forest-bathing recently, the Japanese practice of immersing oneself in nature, and research which has shown it’s good for us to have time in the wild.
We’ve probably all got a story about a noisy co-worker: someone eating carrots loudly or humming in a shared office. But what effect does work noise have on us?
Here’s a piece I wrote for BBC Science Focus magazine, all about the phenomenon of aphantasia – not having a “mind’s eye”. Free to access.
New year is expectation-tastic with its contradictory pressures of having a stonking New Year’s Eve, and then a sanctimonious fresh start on New Year’s Day. The fantasy is that suddenly, all those things we wanted to be but fell short of last year will suddenly click into place.
In my 20s the focus was mostly on plans for the night of New Year’s Eve. I once spent a New Year on my own. It was great. I made myself spaghetti and wrote a short story. It was good because I had the choice though. Like most things, if you can decide to do something it feels better than if the situation is inescapable. I was alone but I didn’t feel lonely, and I had the luxury of knowing that if I did I could probably run out into the night and find a friend at short notice. Continue reading
The death of the high street is everywhere at the moment. House of Fraser is in trouble, and its Birmingham branch, formerly Rackham’s, is one of the stores to close. The Exeter branch, formerly the artist known as Dingles, will stay open, though for how long is hard to tell.
I have a nostalgic fondness for department stores. They remind me of going with my mum to have a toasted teacake in the shop cafe as a treat when I was little. Those moments felt really special, oddly grown up, to be in a cafe just us two. The toasted tea cakes always had a lot of butter on, and the loos had a dated picture of a posing woman on the door and those funny sanitary towel bags on top of the cistern which I was too young to know what to do with, but which I admired for their funny Victorian lady on the front. Continue reading
An article in the Telegraph today interviews Dr Gallagher, a psychiatrist based in the US, all about how he thinks demonic possession is real and exorcism can be helpful.
The article doesn’t give any alternative point of view, or ask Dr Gallagher any particularly challenging questions, so it’s possible to read it and think it’s not that controversial. Continue reading
Image by Adrian Scottow
It was a Supermoon the other night and I was admiring it and thinking about how the moon looks like it is glowing, when in fact it is reflecting light from the sun.
It made me think about how things are not always what they appear to be, and how it’s possible to view the same thing in different ways, sometimes depending on what other information is available to us. Continue reading
Photo by Ricky Brigante
I’ve been indulging in a guilty pleasure recently: binge-watching The Apprentice. I don’t have a telly and tend not to watch loads, but when I do I really get into it. The Handmaid’s Tale, Bake Off, and now Alan Sugar and his job applicants…
There is something I enjoy about watching the naked ambition and downright competitive nastiness of the candidates. Every series someone says “I’m not here to make friends”, which is blatantly obvious in the scenes in the boardroom where they are all fighting for their place in the competition and passing the blame. Continue reading
I’ve been reminding myself of some of the basics of compassion-focussed therapy recently, and I thought I’d blog about it because we could probably all use a bit of this. Compassion-focussed therapy is a third-wave CBT approach, which means it has grown out of cognitive behavioural therapy even though it looks quite different to traditional CBT. A key part of it involves learning to show more compassion to ourselves as well as others. Continue reading
Today is World Mental Health Day. I haven’t written on this blog for ages – I’m sorry for the radio silence – but World Mental Health Day has got me back on here. I have been working on a couple of other things which are available or nearly available to read if you’re interested. I’ve written a piece for The Guardian on trauma which you can see here. I’ve also been working on a bigger project this last year or so – a book about child development – all the juicy experiments and theories that I think would be really useful for everyone to know about – and it’s coming out in March. It’s called Blueprint: How Our Childhood Makes Us Who We Are and it’s available for pre-order on Amazon which is both exciting and terrifying. Continue reading