A Man For All Seasons
Living in the UK has it distinct privileges. None more that living in a country that has definite seasons. Everyone has their favourite season I’m sure - but I love them all. In this blog I’m going to talk about why I love each season and how each season affects me. I’m also going to talk about how The Black Dog can be related to each season in an exclusive extract from the book I’m writing.
One of the many reasons I love living in the UK is that there are clear and definite seasons. They change every 3 months or so. But in addition to that any weather form doesn’t stay too long. Each one passes. Sometimes a heatwave will last for a couple of weeks before the cooling showers arrive. Sometimes heavy rain will deluge down upon us all for a few days before strong winds blow it away. Then the sun will come out, dry things up with a nice comfortable heat. And so on.
In the winter snow I used to love (and still do enjoy) making a snowman. I’d go to great pains to make sure the body was smooth and as perfectly round as I could possibly make it. I’d dress it up and give it a non-scary face. Of course as the sun came out, albeit in a cold pale manner, the snowman would melt and if there was rain, then very often the next day I’d wake up to a scarf and twigs on the ground. The snowman had passed on.
When I lived in Spain for a few years a trip to the beach would always entail building a sandcastle. I’d work hard to make the sand as compact as possible and would decorate the magnificent castle with seashells and seaweed. Once the day trip was done, we’d kick the sandcastle down, or leave it for the sea to do its thing. The sandcastle passed on.
Once I had become medication free I started to think about how nothing is permanent. Everything passes. Everything is cyclic. I love all the seasons for very different reasons and eventually I was able to use the seasonal analogy to my mental health…and I’m not talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder (though I have been known to suffer from it). Allow me to explain.
Spring - Everything is starting to grow again. Bulbs are starting to show signs of blooming. Birds are making their nests. The grass is starting to look greener. Leaves on the trees are starting to form so that by…
Summer - things are growing at a merry pace. The birds and the bees are in full flight. The ground is warm and the rain is helping the seeds to swell and grow. The heat can be intense, but for me that’s a small price to pay for such beauty. Come September it cools down and brings…
Autumn - with its magical changing colours. Leaves are falling from the trees ready to fertilise the ground beneath them. The squirrels are starting to store their food. The fungi is starting to spore and provide food. As the foliage rots into the soil and breaks it up along comes….
Winter - with its icy cold temperatures. Making the ground solid and helping break the soil up even more. The birds enjoy the feeding stations even more and appreciate the hole you leave in the bird bath. But before you know it it’s back to…Spring - Everything is starting to grow again.
For me Spring is a similar feeling to coming out of a Black Dog cycle. You are starting to feel a bit better, the grip of its fangs loosening. You can feel your heart and confidence grow in strength slowly but surely. Summer is when the dog is lazing in the sun and can’t be bothered to move. It’s leaving you in peace and you’re enjoying life. Autumn, you can feel a change coming on. The eyes of the dog are changing slowly. You can sense its presence. Winter he’s with you like a permanent frost. Nothing you can do can shake him. You feel like you’re constantly walking on thin ice or slipping over on the pavement all the time.
As you can see with the seasons, the Black Dog is cyclical. It is so very rare that he just leaps out from nowhere. There were times that it did happen suddenly, but more often than not it was gradual. Having been on my own for many years I started to pay attention to the signs. I could sense when the Dog was in autumn. So I’d make sure I had things in place ready for the Dog’s winter!
As we enter the longer nights and colder days there are a few things you can do to chase away the blues. Here are 5 of my favourite things to do.
Enjoy a mid-afternoon stroll. If work permits I like to get out in the middle of the afternoon (as long as it’s not raining). I put on my walking boots, put water in my jacket and go wherever my instincts tell me. Average walk is about 45 minutes to an hour long. I realise that some of you may be at work, but if you get a decent lunch break what’s to stop you spending half of it outside. The fresh air blows away the cobwebs. Being away from the hubbub of the office is perfect. It gives you a form of exercise releasing the oh so important endorphins.
Put some warm, ambient light on. As the evenings draw in and it gets dark earlier and earlier I find that having to turn on lights at home a real downer. So I invested in some coloured LED bulbs. They come with a remote control and I have them set up to nice warm colours of Orange and Yellow - the best I can do to replicate the suns rays.
I’m very lucky to have an open fire. If I find myself in a low ebb I’ll light the fire and curl up with a good book. I give myself an hour or so to do this. It’s vital to take time out for yourself. Get your favourite blanket, make a hot drink (a toddy is fine ;-) ) and enjoy your book. If you want to, listen to some gentle music. Those of you that don’t have an open fire or wood burner to enjoy, Netflix have ‘programs’ of fire places to enjoy. Or you can use your imagination :p
I really enjoy baking. So I’ll bake a loaf, or make a cake, pie or biscuits. As I live on my own, I then pig out on them. My attitude is if God didn’t want us to eat, he’d have made gluttony a sin. (Thank’s Homer Simpson!)
Nothing warms the soul quite like a homemade soup! Try this recipe…it’s so easy…and if you make your own bread it’s even better!
1 bag of casserole vegetables from you supermarket (go fresh if possible)
500ml or so of vegetable stock or gravy
1tbs of mixed herbs
1 clove of crushed garlic (or garlic granuals equivalent (1/4 tsp)
Salt and Pepper to season
1 or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (smooth preferably, but crunchy is fine)
Put all the ingredients into a crockpot, cover it and leave it to do its thing. If using an oven I’d suggest 180 degrees C for at least 90 minutes. Just check it every so often to make sure it doesn’t boil dry.
I use a slow cooker, low heat, for about 4 hours but longer is fine.
When it’s all ready, I get my wand and blitz it for a few minutes until it’s nice and smooth with no lumps in it. I personally don’t add any cream to this, but there’s nothing stopping you if you want to.
This is a really hearty soup and quite filling. With all natural ingredients too it’s more than one of your five a day!