The first lockdown was all about birdsong and banana bread, according to one newspaper article this week in the usual desire to label and alliterate.
There have been numerous permutations on our collective experience since then but, now that we are coming full circle, it's been wonderful to feel the sun on our faces and see delicate snowdrops bobbing in the breeze. We may not be baking as much in this lockdown, but I'm sure we're all delighting once more in hearing the birds singing. Spring is on its way, and we can dare to hope for the future once more.
The restorative power of nature has been documented extensively, and is widely acknowledged in our recent difficult and unusual times.
Appropriately, on Tuesday we're marking 200 years since the death of the great Romantic poet John Keats, the author of 'Ode to a Nightingale' which inspired the poet Ruth Padel recently:
"Sleepless in lockdown, I heard a robin belting out its song in the middle of the night and thought of Keats," she said. "A beautiful song and a little spark of hope. A perfect example of where poetry can take us, why we need it."
She is one of three poets who have been commissioned by The Poetry Society to acknowledge Keats' work in some new writing. There is a free event on Tuesday, details are here. But another more surprising figure involved in the celebrations is Bob Geldof who will lead an immersive video tour of the Keats-Shelley House in Rome. Find out more here or listen to the recent Radio 4 programme here.
Meanwhile, the nature writer Richard Mabey celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday, and I've chosen his fascinating memoir 'Nature Cure' as my recommended title this week. In it he talks of his move to East Anglia, his depression, and his inspiration from the life and work of that wonderful pastoral poet John Clare as well as beautiful observations of wildlife and fauna. You can read an appreciation of his work, by Tim Dee here or read my interview with Richard here.
One of the latest generation of nature writers, Melissa Harrison has spoken about how a passion and appreciation for the natural world is the best motivation for individuals playing their part in influencing climate change and environmental issues. And the lead character in the children's title I've recommended this week, illustrates this beautifully. 'The Last Bear' is the most moving and magical account of a threatened polar bear and encourages us all to think about our individual responsibility in being part of the problem and also being part of the solution, taking action before it's too late.
No polar conditions here any more, of course, and another indication of spring soon being upon us is the launch of this year's programme of author talks from the UEA this week. They are taking place online most Wednesday evenings until May, and there's a £5 fee to hear some extraordinary speakers. This week the award-winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga will be talking about the success of her 2020 Booker Prize shortlisted novel 'This Mournable Body'. Read more about the programme here.
Finally, don't forget that tomorrow evening we'll be joining together on Zoom to talk about 'The Girl with the Louding Voice'. Everyone is welcome to log on to these virtual discussions. Just reply to this email and I'll send you the details. And if you call by Browsers Bookshop in Woodbridge on Tuesday morning, you'll be able to pick up the title we'll be talking about in our March meeting.