It's the end of another month and the wet and blustery weather this weekend has meant we can no longer ignore the changing season. An open fire and lots of tea and toast is my remedy!
The days are flying by and, with the former punctuations to our week no longer possible - no theatre trips or meals with friends, no holidays to look forward to or meetings to attend - one day seems to merge into the next, I find. Even Christmas celebrations may look rather different this year, and with restrictions, they say, likely to last until March, once again we need to find new ways of getting through.
Books will continue to be my greatest resource, of course, and I'll be sharing more recommendations for escapist, inspiring and uplifting titles in the coming weeks. But the crime writer, Ann Cleeves has sponsored an initiative in the north-east which goes a step further.
Acknowledging how reading helped her cope when her husband was ill, she is supporting a scheme where reading coaches suggest works of poetry, novels or non-fiction ttles to patients suffering from chronic conditions, mental health issues or loneliness. Bibliotherapy projects are run in a number of areas but generally focus on self-help books. This initiative supports the idea that fiction helps reduce depression and aids empathy, as well as providing an escape from the challenges of our daily life.
Nature is also a comfort and delight, even in inclement weather. Researchers say that just "10 minutes of wind brushing across our cheek, or the sun on our skin" can lower stress levels.
This week sees the publication of 'The Lost Spells', a beautiful new book celebrating our natural environment. It's written by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris and their first work together 'The Lost Words' was a huge success. If you remember, that was a beautiful oversize book, whereas this 'sequel' is tiny in comparison. They hope to encourage us to keep it in our pockets as a 'talisman', a companion to enjoy and reference while out walking. Read more about it below, and my feature on Robert for 'Suffolk' magazine, published earlier this year, is here.
We'll all be indoors much more in the coming months and we have a tremendous resource through our televisions, radios and computers, of course. Screen time can be very draining, but if we draw up a comfortable chair, snuggle up with a blanket and dim the lights, then we might like to attend this week's virtual launch party for 'The Lost Spells' here, see children's writers talk about their work for an Ipswich Arts Festival initiative here, watch the dramatisation of David Nicholls' melancholy novel 'Us' on the BBC here, listen to last year's Booker Prize winner Bernadine Evaristo on Desert Island Discs here, or attend this year's Cheltenham Literature Festival here.
There's a lot on offer and many of these and other activities are 'on demand', so we can fit them into our day as we wish. But for some live interaction, why not join in with our Zoom book group meeting tomorrow evening - just reply to this email to receive the log in details.
Or join me in meeting Susie Dent, the presenter of Dictionary Corner on Channel 4's 'Countdown', and its comedy cousin '8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown'.
She'll be speaking on Thursday 8 October, so I'm "counting down" the days...(!)
I know it's not the same as meeting her in real life, or sharing comments and observations while sitting alongside others in an audience. We won't see how tall she is, can't ponder on her choice of shoes, nor catch her eye, but she has put aside the time especially for us and will answer our particular questions.
Every ticket purchased includes a signed copy of Susie's book 'Word Perfect', a 'linguistic almanac full of unforgettable true stories tied to every day of the year. You'll never be lost for words again!' It provides great talking points (for those awkward silences meeting the family on Zoom?) and a lovely Christmas gift.
Please do support events like this, if you can. It will give great encouragement to the organisers, booksellers and authors and your purchases will also help ensure that when things return to life as we remember it, events will be able to continue just like they used to.