Updated: Apr 7

Finding Freedom Where We Least Suspect

I live in a tiny flat in Boscombe- and it suits me because I'm near the beach and the shops- but I daydream about the day when I can have a garden. Then I will sit underneath an apple tree- beside a rose bush- sip tea and strum my guitar. A simple dream- but of reach- nonetheless. Or so I thought. The lockdown has changed how I look at the world. Yesterday my girlfriend showed me a patch of scruffy ground outside my flat. You could call it a communal garden- but that sounds too fancy. Normally it's just a place I rush away from- where I park my car and plonk my bike. But the lockdown has forced me to sit still and see things differently.

Claudia, my girlfriend gave me a big bag of compost and told me to dig. That scruffy patch of ground is now full of plants. Yesterday we ate our lunch in the garden- the garden I didn't know I had. We sipped tea, as birds flitted cheerily by. Sometimes we just can't see the wood for the trees- or in my case: I couldn't see the garden on my doorstep.

But change was easy-much easier than I thought. And now I see things differently- garden related things at least. All I needed was a spade, a bag of compost and a nudge in the right different. And- "Voila!" I can now sip tea in my garden. I don't have to wait for for a cottage in the Cotswolds to magically appear. There's a popular definition of madness, attributed to Einstein that says, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." But so often- the force of habit blinds us- we don't see what's right in front of us. "I bemoaned my lack of a garden- when all aIong I had a little patch of ground staring me in the face- shouting: "dig me, plant me, water me".

The Lockdown has forced us to change. To my amazement I now run online choirs. A few weeks ago I would have laughed at the idea. I didn't know it was possible. Then there's gyms. For years I've paid £60 a month for a yoga membership. I rush to the gym- train, shower, and rush back- with barely time to breathe. Yoga- my preferred method of relaxation is exhausting- at least the way I practice. Now I exercise at home- for free- in my garden.

When I was a school teacher one of my colleagues- who was having trouble with her class looked at me in despair and sighed: "getting these children to do what I want is like herding cats." The image has stuck with me. You can't herd cats- they are independent, curious, and ever-so-flexible. Cats spring, squeeze and shunt. They won't be herded or cajoled. That's why we love them.

We instinctively know that we must adapt and change- that we must "look differently at the world'. And the lockdown, with its challenge of social isolation is an opportunity to become curious- to think- what could I do differently? Yesterday a friend phoned me excitedly. Recently they'd bought a house and were slowly renovating- but it's hard to renovate when you don't own a tool box and have never used a drill- "I watched You-tube videos- it took 6 hours- but I changed the kitchen taps- I never knew I could plumb- it's amazing- I feel great- I did it." I phoned her yesterday and asked, "would she take a look at my boiler?" Who knows, maybe we could start an online plumbing and gardening business.

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