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   2020-04-17       101        Books
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Title : Poetry teaches us how to live
Description :

 Why Is Poetry So Important in Today's World?

Words by Carola Kolbeck @chameleoninhighheels


The power of poetry is in its ability to cast a "sideways" light on the world, allowing the truth to creep up on you. It assists us in comprehending and appreciating the world around us. There's no doubt about that. Poetry instructs us on how to conduct our lives. Poetry is like clearing the dirt from a window, in that it exposes human flaws so that we can see them more clearly and relate to a deeper understanding about the innermost emotions of each other a little better.

The use of poetry can substantially affect and nurture writing, speaking, and understanding. Learning writing rules and then breaking them with poetry can offer writing a new dimension of beauty. With its pace, rhythm, and rhyme, reading poetry aloud helps free the tongue and lay a solid basis for verbal connection. Understanding poetry provides the mental strength as well as the motivation to comprehend written communication.

Poetry as a therapeutic support for anxiety

Poetry Therapy is a type of creative arts therapy that uses the written word to help people comprehend and express their feelings and thoughts. Poetry is usually short, yet it is primarily emotional. Writers are able to express feelings they may not have realised they possessed until they put them down on paper. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental illnesses treated with bibliotherapy, and poetry can help people realise the barriers and blockages that have been created around their minds. It is tough to express one's feelings. Poetry has proven to be one of the most effective outlets for me. However - Although is brilliant for releasing one’s inner consternations it doesn't make good commercial reading - If you are planning to write commercially - think about what you are bringing to the reader - they wont want to be smothered in a negative quagmire!


Poetry making a comeback

Poetry as a genre has had its ups and down, and poetry lessons at school may bring back some unfavourable memories.  Whilst I personally relished reading of my natives Goethe, Schiller and Rilke, amongst many others, I also acknowledge that after weeks of lessons on late 18th to 19th century poetry, I was ready for something else.  Recent studies, however, have shown that poetry as a creative genre is making a comeback, and, according to the London School of Economics (2019), sales of poetry books have been soaring.  Gusejnova (2019) suggests the reason for this being is that, “throughout history, readers have been drawn to poetry in the context of political crises which fragment and challenge society”. This has been the case throughout history, and Gusejnova recalls other eras of uncertainty:
Dante was popular “during the conflict in the Italian city states; John Donne during the Reformation; Milton’s writing during the English civil war; the poets of Négritude and the plight of the African diaspora in the twentieth century; the work of the war poets during both World Wars in countries from China to the United States; Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Brodsky and the poetry of dissent in the Soviet Union.” (LSE, 2019).

Poems can give people not just a creative outlet where they can voice their emotions and deal with feelings of conflict and the unknown themselves.  Readers of poetry appreciate that poems resonate with them, making them feel less lonely or simply reassure them that someone out there is putting their own fears and anxieties into words.  Philosophical poems mostly deal with questions related to the meaning of life, theories of knowledge and knowing, principles of beauty, of things and the existence of a higher power.  

You may have heard of William Wordsworth, an 18th Century poet and a founding member of English Romanticism and prominent thinker. His work mainly consists of spiritual and epistemological speculation, a poet concerned with the human connection to nature, who uses the vocabulary and speech patterns of common people in his writing. One of Wordsworth’s most famous poems, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ is a good example of the poet’s inspiration with nature, and how the memory of the daffodils dancing in the wind, brings joy whenever he recalls them.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze …
Wordsworth has inspired many contemporary poets including our authors Tom Rubens.


Seven Luminous Paths - A masterpiece by 

Tom Rubens for the times of uncertainty

Tom Rubens, a teacher of English in further and higher education, as well as author of eight books on Philosophy, a selection of poems and three novels is also active in radical politics, and in local community affairs.  His latest work, Seven Luminous Paths, is a selection of contemporary, philosophical poems.  A modern William Blake (1757 - 1827), who is described as one of the key figures of English Romanticism, Rubens is not shy to call out injustice and sensitive topics.  Blake used to openly speak out against injustice in his own lifetime: slavery, racism, poverty, and the corruption of those in power.  Rubens’ poems equally touch on current themes in society, such as The Black Lives Matter Movement in Winter Night on Brixton Road:

So different from the African skies
under which their ancestors were bought,
And so different from the American skies
under which they were sold.



He also touches on economic changes, like in Dockland Once:

What stretches before the gaze
Is neither church nor palace nor
Futuristic fuselage of glass and steel,
But instead
A clif-chain breadth
Of warehouses, grey-brick,
Impressively high but
As mute this waning Sunday
As on each and every Monday. 

He is also heavily influenced by nature and British land, with poems such as Below Snowdon, South Downs 1 & 2 and The Sea at Marazion.  In the latter, he paints a clear and detailed picture of the southern coast of Cornwall that has you smelling the rich air near the sea and see the beauty of the ocean and the beach:

Later, high up once more,
Out in the bay and looking west,
From the walls of the castle of
St. Michael Mount,
You see how sea-line's height
exceeds that previous;
Near-mauve is now near-silver,
As sun weighs the heavier on
the greater distance.
Horizon implies, for the first time.

Like Blake’s poems, Rubens’ language is diverse and symbolically rich and he combines his expertise and command of the English language in this latest publication.  Scott Stahlecker’s Foreword refers to Rubens’ “timely poems” and honours “Rubens’ humanistic sensitivities”.  He also acknowledges that “lovers of the arts will also appreciate the sensual experiences unleashed in Rubens’s poems.” Frieze around the base of the Albert Memorial and St Paul’s at Summer’s Peak both take the reader for a close up with monuments and memorials, exploring not only in beautiful words their exterior, but also take us on a closer journey of their meaning and background history:

Though the eye rose
with the golden motif,
With the marble it slowly edges across,
As along a line of choicest verse.
For here it is regaled with
A chiselled vista of life-size figures
Come from every point
on history's compass;

If you are looking for a sing-song rhythm in Rubens’ poetry, you will not find it.  As Stahlecker notes, “stylistically, his verses defy conventional form, yet they curve along with a melodic flow, and are filled with stimulating visuals and evocative words that delight the senses. Consequently, you will not only be enjoying the poem Penetration, but you will be buttoning up your coat and feeling its penetrating effects Like the tip of a slender icicle into flesh” (Rubens, 2021).

Rubens’ Seven Luminous Paths is a feast for the senses and an experience that makes you wonder how many words of the English language are underused.  It paints delicate and intricate pictures in front of your mind’s eye and takes you on journeys set both in the past and the present.  This collection will wrap you up in its own world, like a blanket on a cold winter’s evening.  And what’s better than going on a walk in a beautiful wonderland as the nights are dark and cold?

To grab your copy of Seven Luminous Paths, go to:



Tips how to read poetry 

  1. Poetry anthologies are an excellent place to start because they offer a range of voices.

  2. Reading poetry doesn’t require a highfalutin approach; you can read as you’d read anything else. 

  3. If you didn’t feel a connection to the poem, it’s okay 

  4. Re-Read the poem twice and you will notice little extra meanings the second time 

  5. Don't be afraid of unfamiliar words - sometimes authors make their up to express the emotion

  6. Resist the urge to stop halfway through reading - give yourself time to become accustomed to the artform




London School of  Economics. 2019. Whys is poetry having a moment?. Available at: Why is poetry having a moment? (lse.ac.uk). Accessed 29th November 2021

Poetry Archive. 2021. William Blake. Available at: William Blake - Poetry Archive. Accessed 29th November 2021

Rubens, T. 2021. Seven Illuminous Paths. London: Happy London Press

Post Date : 11/30/2021
Title : Why don't we like wasps?
Description :

 For the love of wasps -  Why it’s about time to drop the prejudice...

Let’s talk about wasps.  Do you like them? No? Then you’re certainly not alone. Wasps get a bad rep for being pests, for being obnoxious around food and a nuisance at any summer BBQ and picnic.  We swat them, we shoo them away, we squeal and run away and make the most absurd dance when a wasp is near.  We’re panicked and annoyed by their presence and teach our kids to be careful around them.  Whilst it’s definitely true that a wasp sting hurts and can be dangerous for those that are allergic, wasps, with their shiny bright bodies, get a hard time despite being incredibly helpful players in our ecosystem.  

“As adults we no longer see the simple things and the beauty that’s within them”, Clare Newton, award-winning photographer and author of Colour of Silence (2021) explains.  “Take for example a wasp – we fear their presence, but have overlooked their striking and graphic patterns. Or do we watch them long enough to see how intelligent they are...? They come along onto our plates, have a sniff, maybe try a bit and go. Like us they need to eat

and if hedgerows and wild meadows are ploughed up, where do they get food?”

In Colour of Silence, Newton looks, through the medium of photography, at the good, bad and the ugly and asks that we embrace all not just the easy to understand, but the fearful-looking things and fight to protect the natural world we live in. 

Therefore, in this post, we want to clear up the unfair stigma and opinions of those six-legged warriors and shine a light on all the amazing things they do to our environment.  

Social Wasps - an introduction

According to a Prof Hart (2017), “The insects we most commonly identify as "wasps" are the social wasps. Social wasps (called yellow-jackets in some places) live in colonies consisting of hundreds or thousands of more-or-less sterile female workers and their much larger mother, the egg-laying queen.  The handful of colony-living, nest-building species is just a tiny fraction of overall wasp diversity, estimated at more than 9,000 species in the UK alone. Most wasps are solitary, some are tiny (a few species practically microscopic), none ever bother us and virtually all are overlooked.

Social wasps nests start to develop in late spring, when queen wasps emerge from hibernation. Building a small nest of just a few paper cells, the queen must rear the first set of workers alone before the first batch of worker wasps can start to take over the work required by the developing colony.
Wasp workers toil ceaselessly to raise their sister workers from eggs the queen lays, cooperating and communicating in intricate ways to build and defend the nest, collect food and look after the queen. When the colony is large enough the workers start to give some young larvae more food at a much greater rate than usual, triggering genetic switches that cause the development of a potential queen rather than a worker.

Male wasps, who take no part in the social life of the colony, develop from unfertilised eggs in a form of sex determination called haplodiploidy, also found in bees and ants. These male-destined eggs are laid by the queen and rarely by workers, some of whom retain the ability to lay eggs but lack the ability to mate.
Potential queens (called gynes before they head a colony) and males, sisters and brothers of the workers, are the reproductive future of the colony. Mating with males from other colonies, the gynes overwinter before starting a colony of their own the following spring.”

We’ll never consciously meet any of the wasps existing in the UK, however, it is important that we learn to co-exist and even protect our wasps, as without them, things would look quite bleak.  We’ll now present some of the relatively underrated benefits of having wasps around.    

An understudied and misunderstood helper of nature

Professor Seirian Sumner (2021) points to the sad but true fact of current life: “Wasps are one of those insects we love to hate – and yet bees, which also sting, are prized for pollinating our crops and making honey. In a previous study, we found that the hatred of wasps is largely due to widespread ignorance about the role of wasps in ecosystems, and how they can be beneficial to humans.”

Feeding this ignorance is the fact that “wasps are understudied relative to other insects like bees, so we are only now starting to properly understand the value and importance of their ecosystem services. Here, we have reviewed the best evidence there is, and found that wasps could be just as valuable as other beloved insects like bees, if only we gave them more of a chance.” (Sumner, 2021)

Just like a bee 

They may look less fluffy and cute than bees and may scare us with their fierce stripey armour.  They seem more aggressive and mean because their sting appears out of the blue and they don’t die like bees afterwards.  However, wasps are not so unlike bees who we really love and value.  Both bees and wasps have species that can live socially with others or alone.  The common wasp which most of us think of immediately when we think of wasps, lives socially in a nest which they skilfully build of chewed up wood.  That gives the nest its paper-like texture. If you have ever come close to a wasps nest, an empty or inhabited one, you will see just how skilful and intrinsically fabricated their homes are.  
Yes, wasps sting, but only when they feel they need to defend themselves or their nest.
And, just like bees, wasps are important pollinators, even though they are not as effective as bees, who are hairier. So, rather than dismissing wasps as pointless, we need to recognise their importance of being valuable helpers in the pollination process.  Just because we can’t steal honey from them, doesn’t mean they don’t do a precious job.

A recent review by the University College London (2021) showed that wasps contribute to lots of pollination: “Pollination by insects is vital for agriculture, and its economic importance has been valued at greater than $250 billion (US) per year worldwide.”
Moreover, “researchers found evidence of wasps visiting 960 plant species. This included 164 species that are completely dependent on wasps for pollination, such as some orchid species that have evolved adaptations to attract the wasps they rely on, such as an appearance that mimics the back end of a female wasp. Many wasps are also generalist pollinators that visit a wide variety of plants, so the researchers say they could serve as ‘backup pollinators’ if a plant loses its local primary pollinator.” (ULC, 2021)

This shows just one of the reasons as to why wasps are such an integral part of our ecosystem.  Their uses are varied, however, as will be explored in the following sections.

Keeping the pests in check

We may think of wasps as pests, but that would be very unfair.  In fact, wasps are some incredibly important and natural pest controllers and according to Dr Seirian Sumner of University College London, “a world without wasps would mean that we would have to use a lot more pesticides to control the other insects that we dislike and find annoying.” Wasps are also crucial in controlling the populations of centipedes, millipedes and spiders.  Those critters are a huge part of a wasps diet.  In addition, they eat other insects, which they take back to their nests and feed their larvae. Solitary wasps are also useful in controlling pests.  They lay their own eggs amongst the larvae of other insects, for example greenflies. Eventually, the host larvae will be killed by the wasp larvae.  Because they sit right at the top of the invertebrate food chain, they are incredibly important for a balanced ecosystem. To be clear, “it has been estimated that the social wasps of the UK might account for 14 million kilograms of insect prey across the summer. A world without wasps would be a world with a very much larger number of insect pests on our crops and gardens.” (Hart, 2017) .

Moreover, as Hadley (2020) explains, yellowjackets, the most commonly seen wasps in the UK,  “mostly scavenge dead insects to feed their offspring, meaning they prevent the bodies from piling up—like a cleaning service. Unfortunately, their scavenging habits and love of sugar puts them in close proximity to people, which almost never ends well for the yellowjacket or the person.”

To get an idea just how useful wasps are, University College London (2021) looked at the impact insects had with their ability to biocontrol pests of crops.  They found that  “predation by insects is worth at least $416 billion (US) per year worldwide. However, this figure does not even account for the impact wasps have.  “The review highlights how wasps’ role as predators makes them valuable for agriculture. Wasps regulate populations of arthropods, like aphids and caterpillars that damage crops. Solitary wasp species tend to be specialists, which may be suited to managing a specific pest, while social wasps are generalist predators, and may be especially useful as a local source of control for a range of crop-eating pests.”  This shows just how useful wasps are in our ecosystem and that, without them, many food crops would be destroyed by plagues of pests. 
The researchers also looked at future uses of wasps regarding agriculture.  They believe that “wasps could be used as sustainable forms of pest control in developing countries, especially tropical ones, where farmers could bring in populations of a local wasp species with minimal risk to the natural environment. Professor Sumner and colleagues recently published a study, finding that common wasp species are effective predators that can manage pests on two high-value crops, maize and sugarcane, in Brazil.” (ULC, 2021)

Wasps and Yeast

Hadley (2020) also points to research by the University of Florence.   They recently discovered another important role of both hornets and paper wasps: “They carry yeast cells in their guts.  Yeast is an essential ingredient in making bread, beer, and wine, but we know very little about how yeast lives in the wild. The researchers found that wasps and hornets feed on late-season grapes, which are rich in wild yeast. The yeast survives the winter in the stomachs of hibernating queen wasps and is passed on to their offspring when they regurgitate food for their young. The new generation of wasps then carries the yeast back to the next season's grapes.” Wine, anyone?


Medical Miracles?

As if this wasn’t enough, wasps may also hold the key to some medical problems and may provide a cure for some severe illnesses.  According to ULC (2021), wasps’ venom and saliva have antibiotic properties.  What is more, “yellow-jacket wasp venom has shown promise in treating cancer.” 


Some final thoughts

It’s hard to break years, decades, even centuries’ worth of learnt beliefs and perceptions of nature’s creatures.  We’ve been told that wasps and bad and useless, and met them with contempt and disregard.  Now is the time to rethink, relearn and understand just how valuable those little flying insects are.  If we’re not careful, they’ll soon be threatened by extinction.  And a world without wasps is not one we want to imagine. 
So, let them live.  Respect them.  Care for them and lend them a helping hand.  We need wasps in our future.

And finally: Here’s a little video which shows what would happen if wasps were to disappear:

Why wasps are just as wonderful as bees - BBC Ideas



BBC News. 2020. Why wasps are just as wonderful as bees. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/ideas/videos/what-if-all-the-wasps-disappeared/p085ltfr Accessed 16th November 2021


Briggs, H. 2019 Scientists: Why we should appreciate wasps. Available at: Scientists: Why we should appreciate wasps - BBC News (Accessed 14th November 2021)


Hart, A. (Prof). 2017. What’s really the point of wasps? Available at: What's really the point of wasps? - BBC News. Accessed 16th November 2021


Hadley, D. 2020. What do wasps do and why do we need them? Available at: What Do Wasps Do, And Why Do We Need Them? (thoughtco.com). Accessed 16th November 2021


University College London. 2021. Wasps are valuable for ecosystems, economy and humans. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2021/apr/wasps-are-valuable-ecosystems-economy-and-human-health-just-bees (Accessed 16th November 2021)

Post Date : 11/29/2021
Title : Can scary insects inspire a story?
Description :

Squashing those little creatures are our friends, not foes.

But their looks inspire great stories...

By Carola Kolbeck @chameleoninhighheels

With Halloween just gone, how many spider web decorations did you see? We saw a fair few and also lots of giant spiders and creepy crawlies for an extra spooky and scary effect.  It made us stop and think why we appear to be so much more accepting and tolerant of those six or eight-legged creatures during Halloween, but we’re quick to swat and shoo them away when we meet them in real life.  At best, we carefully trap them and catapult them back outside if they have come into our homes, at worst, we kill them.  

Whilst it has been scientifically proven that us humans have an inbuilt fear of snakes and spiders, we must not use this as an excuse to dispose of them as if they were worthless.  We may call them creepy, but they are essential players in our ecosystem.  In fact, without them, our natural world would collapse.  

Invasive Insects

If you search for invasive insects, you will find a barrage of negative publicity.  They are described as pests, nuisances, most-wanted, most-hunted and destructive.  Upon further inspection, it becomes clear that all those attributes exist because they mess with humans’ systems, crops and farming.  There is talk of them invading our lands and threatening our food crops and livelihoods.  However, as mentioned in a previous blog, the UK’s diversity of wildlife has diminished to extreme levels, mainly because humans are claiming every last bit of untouched land for themselves.  It is in fact humans who invade nature and continue to build houses, rob wildlife of its habitat and erase their sources of food.  Humans pour tarmac on what was once a field and flatten hedges and woodlands.  Millions of animals, including insects, are displaced.

UK Insects

In the UK alone there are a staggering 27,000 types of insects.

Today we want to talk to you about them and their importance in our ecosystem.  If we’re having a little biology lesson first, let’s recall that insects are also called invertebrates.  This means they don’t have a backbone, multiple legs and three body sections.  Most of them also have wings and certainly don’t look as cuddly and cute as a standard pet we’d invite into our homes.  Flies, beetles, bugs, butterflies, earwigs, grasshoppers, bees, wasps and ants - we know them, we see them, and, for whatever reason, fear them or are disgusted by them. However, there is really no need for it and they actually need our support and help to thrive.  As a matter of fact, many of our insects and creepy helpers in the ecosystem are threatened with extinction and many kinds have already vanished.  

Reasons are manifold.  Pesticides are incredibly toxic and don’t just kill off those bugs that eat our crops, but also harm insects that are essential for our plants, food and healthy nature around us.  According to Community Action Works, “one in every three bites of food we eat depends on bees”. Of course, it is not just bees we have to be worried about, but many other animals, many of them insects, are as crucial for a fully functioning nature as well as ecological diversity: “Pesticides can also contaminate our food, harm pollinators, and threaten our ecosystems. Pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids (or neonics), are killing the pollinators we depend on to support our food systems: bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, and more.” (Community Action Works).  Poisonous pesticides aren’t the only contributor though: the loss of natural habitats through excessive housing developments has a huge role to play.  In addition to this, some nocturnal insects can’t live in cities as they are put off by bright lights.  

Using photography to save insects

Clare Newton (2021) used the powerful medium of photography to highlight the raw beauties of our fragile nature. In fact, photography is a perfect medium to discuss the issue of threatened species.  Colourful and detailed photos can raise awareness of the most endangered ones.  

Newton recalls her own frustrations with the limitations of the human eye and its inability to really see and appreciate the beauty of anatomical forms and the intricacy of detail. She began to specialise in macro photography, which involves producing photographs of small objects to larger-than-life size. Her aim is to raise awareness of the UK endangered species of insects featured in the IUCN Red List (Red data book). She is hoping to aid conservation by providing the public with visual tools to identify these species, in an attempt to elevate their importance. Aside from appreciating their beauty, in many respects insects are the unsung heroes of the ecosystem. They play a pivotal and very diverse role that is often not recognised. In some areas of the world eating insects is a novelty,  but in others they provide an essential and much-valued source of nutrition. They are an integral part of many food chains and are essential to pollination as many flowering plants are reliant on insects to transport their pollen and ensure fertilisation. Bees are our most important pollinator and we are reliant on them to help us pollinate our food crops. To put this into perspective, 70 out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees. 

A particular area of interest in Newton’s macro photography has been discovering and celebrating indigenous wasp species of the UK. She shows how beautiful and precious those insects are and how they deserve so much more than our irritation, impatience and disdain.  Insects also escalate the decomposition of organic waste. Even in death insects are contributing – as their nitrogen-rich bodies decompose, they return this important element to the ground.

Useful insects for growing vegetables

When we think of growing our own veg, we are also concerned to protect it from unwanted visitors who nibble or destroy it before we can harvest it.  Of course, our gardens are natural places for insects. It is true that some insects harm the plants in our gardens, and we already know that spraying toxic pesticides is not the answer. Moreover, plenty of insects are really good for them and actually increase the growth of plants.  It’s therefore really important to stop using harmful pesticides to kill insects. It is much better to use biological control.  The following insects are deemed best for your garden, according to Morning Chores Blog: 


“Ladybugs are probably the most well-known of all the beneficial bugs in the garden. Part of the reason they are beneficial is that they eat quite a few of the bad bugs. Each ladybug can eat fifty to sixty aphids per day and over five thousand in a lifetime. In addition, they also like to munch on mealworms, leafhoppers, and mites.

Their larvae don’t harm your plants while being born and will eventually eat more bugs too. If you have enough of the items that attract them and enough food, you can have many generations in one season.

Best of all, we don’t have to worry about them being eaten by predators because they secrete an odor that most other bugs do not like.”

Green Lacewing:

“These bugs are beautiful. Their wings genuinely look as though they have a lace design on them. As gorgeous as their wings are, they serve a mighty purpose for any garden. Lacewings will eat aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers and mealybugs.  They are also easy to get into your gardening space. Plant dill, angelica, or coriander to catch their attention.

Ground Beetles:

“Diversity is something that, in some respects, we seemed to have lost over time in the garden. The ground beetle seems to have not noticed this as there are over twenty-five hundred different species. The ground beetles are nocturnal and get all the bugs that are on the ground (it does what is says on the tin). They will get rid of some bad bugs such as slugs, snails, cutworms, cabbage maggots, and caterpillars. They have a huge appetite! One beetle larvae can kill up to fifty caterpillars.”

Hover Flies:

Another good variety to have hanging around your garden are hoverflies. They will prey on aphids, scale insects and caterpillars.  This variety of fly is only drawn to a few items, though. You’ll need to grow common yarrow, fern-leaf yarrow, dill, or basket of gold to attract this type of fly to your garden.


“Spiders are fabulous creatures for the garden.  They eat aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers and fruit flies.  In order to get spiders to your garden, you need a place for them to spin their webs. This means that larger plants, such as corn, will do really well at attracting these bugs.”

Soldier Beetles:

“Soldier beetles are another helpful variety of beetle you want in your garden. They eat grasshopper eggs, aphids, and soft-shelled insects.  They are also easy to attract to your garden by planting goldenrod, zinnias, marigolds, or linden trees. If you have these plants in your garden, the soldier beetles will come.”


“Like the fly, these wasps attach their larvae to the tomato hornworm, as shown above. The larvae start out eating the hornworm alive and by the time the wasps are fully grown, the hornworm is dead. Considering the fact that the female will lay anywhere from fifty to four hundred eggs at one time, their impact is felt throughout the garden. Before you know it you will have beautiful tomatoes without a single hole from a tomato hornworm eating your precious produce before you can pick it. This means if you see a hornworm in the state the one above is in, leave it alone, it is soon going to die anyway.  In addition, the adults will eat aphids, codling moths, garden webworms and many different caterpillars, beetles, and flies.  Worried about the fact that these bugs are wasps? They don’t sting unless they have to and even then their stings are considered medically harmless.”

Bumble Bees and Bees:

“This is an animal that everyone should want in their garden. Bees are wonderful in helping to pollinate fruit trees. They also help pollinate other plants such as tomatoes, raspberries, cranberries, peppers, squash, along with pollinating flowers.  One of the best ways to attract bees is simply to have the items mentioned above. You could also purchase a beehive which would help you be able to collect local honey as well.”

There are many more, but for now we’d like to keep an eye out for them and thank them for the fantastic work they do.  Leave them be, be kind to them and watch them be your ally in growing your own veg.

Time is running out

We are running out of time.  We have overstepped the line so far already, that it’s nearly too late to turn around.  The world is at a tipping point. Every little bit can tilt it a bit further over the edge.  

Just because parts of nature are ugly and unsightly doesn’t mean they are bad.  Just because they don't fit into our carefully curated cookie-cutter lives, doesn’t mean we should destroy them.  Nature does not fit into a cookie cutter. It is raw, wild, ugly and weird, which is exactly what makes it so precious and beautiful. There is no time left. We need to act now. Start today, right now. Let those flies and wasps, worms and creepy crawlies live. Exist next to your house spiders.  Pick up the beetle.  Think and act greener to reverse Code Red.

What will you change today?

Book Deals can be found...

Post Date : 11/24/2021
Title : Nature helps children do better in school
Description :

Is our childhood love for nature silenced by adulthood and modern life?

Colour of Silence insights that show nature is special

By Carola Kolbeck @chameleoninhighheels

What are your childhood memories of nature?  

Remembering those feelings of surprise and magic when we first saw the sea, or exploring woodlands and turning over a piece of rotting bark to see strange creepy crawlies scamper back into the undergrowth, how our memories influence the way we experience nature. How a cloud transformed into a dragon, which then transformed into a crocodile, an elephant, a witch, or a heart.

Every beetle was a new pet to be treasured, every snail was worthy of a cardboard house made of an empty shoebox filled with grass and leaves.  Every bird was watched quietly so it wouldn’t fly away. 

For most of us, memories of childhood are filled with care and love for nature.  We were astounded by things that may seem trivial to us now, if we even care to notice them at all. 

What is the nature of a child’s development?

Children's learning environments, both social and physical, can influence their academic progress. Allowing children to spend time in natural surroundings or providing controlled nature activities can help create a calmer, more socially secure, and enjoyable learning environment. Being outside can help improve peer-to-peer and student-teacher connections, which are important for learning, even for kids who are socially marginalised. Some claim that nature provides a rich tapestry of "loose components," such as sticks, stones, and dirt, which foster pretend play, exploration, creativity, and problem solving. Indeed, observations by teachers and principals imply that children's play is beneficial.

Over the previous decade, various scientific research investigations and articles have thoroughly proved the benefits of connecting with nature. This collection of studies demonstrates that children's social, psychological, academic, and physical health improves when they contact nature on a regular basis. Dr. Kellert stated in 2005 that nature is essential to children's growth on all levels—intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically. According to Dr. Kuo and Dr. Taylor, children as young as five years old can benefit from exposure to nature, which can considerably lessen symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.

“Green environments are an essential component of a healthy human habitat” according to Frances Ming Kuo, a researcher documenting the positive link between nature and human health, and social and psychological functioning. Kou summarizes various research studies that show that humans benefit from exposure to green environments (parks, forests, gardens, etc.) and conversely, people with less access to green places report more medical symptoms and poorer health overall. Kuo uses the phrase “Vitamin G” (G for “green”) to capture nature’s role as a necessary ingredient for a healthy life. Evidence suggests that, like a vitamin, contact with nature and green environments is needed in frequent, regular doses”.

Spending time in nature helps kids do better in school, in a number of surprising ways.

Source MING KUO 

Researchers have discovered that nature is not just good for kids’ health; it improves their ability to learn, too. Even small doses of nature can have profound benefits. When compared to traditional learning, nature-based instruction outperforms traditional instruction in academic settings and can improve academic achievement in schools. In a randomised controlled trial of school garden-based learning including over 3,000 pupils, kids gained more information than waitlist control classmates who completed conventional classrooms; additionally, the more garden-based instruction, the greater the gains.

Researchers have concluded that it is past time to take nature seriously as a learning and development resource. It's past time to integrate nature and nature-based pedagogy into formal education — to turn isolated efforts into more widespread practises. The benefits of school gardens, green schoolyards, and green walls in classrooms should be evaluated through action research. Teachers' efforts to hold classrooms outside, take regular field trips, and cooperate with area nature centres, farms, and forest preserves should be supported, not discouraged, by principals and school boards. Teachers who have pioneered nature-based learning should serve as role models and coaches, assisting others in overcoming obstacles and reaping the advantages.

Participating in field trips is a great way to enjoy a unique learning experience outside a classroom environment. Field trips are not only good fun, they allow students to absorb, interact and immerse themselves in a practical way. On a field trip, students are more likely to retain information. Being immersed in information and being involved in visual and practical experiences will help students remember, learn and understand subjects.

Starting Children young in nature

I remember vividly taking part in a litter picking afternoon in my local neighbourhood as a child.  Some of our parents had organised this and we were excited to search through hedges, bushes and grasslands to pick up any rubbish others had carelessly discarded. We were astounded by just how much we found and outraged by the disregard of others.  Ironically, many items had been thrown away just a few steps from a bin.  Unfortunately, even though the local newspaper made our efforts front page news, we never repeated the event.  One thing however stuck: The outrage, the anger, the disbelief of why people would just throw things away and don’t take home their rubbish, and an inability to ever just drop anything carelessly into nature.  My mother had educated me and it stuck.

Fast forward 30 years, and I have my own children.  Now, even more so than ever, instilling a deep love and care for nature with all its living beings, is the most important lesson we can teach them.  Whilst we are lucky to have schools and educators doing their part, we cannot rely on them alone to teach our children the importance of being gentle with life around us. 
If we have a picnic, we take all our rubbish home.  If something can be thrown in a nearby bin, then we do so, but if it can be recycled, we also take it home.  We talk about discarded rubbish others leave and they are outraged, because we taught them that it is wrong.  More recently, we took them on a river clean up near a local city.  It was cold, it was raining, it was grim.  But we persevered and pulled out the most absurd items others had simply dumped in the river.  The children voiced their outrage, they were angry and talked about it with their friends.  Whilst I am not a clairvoyant, I am fairly certain that my children will never litter and continue to do their bit for our planet when they are older. 

The same goes for other living beings on this planet. Many of us are not keen on spiders, wasps and other bugs.  It’s easy and convenient to swat, to stomp on and to kill them.  Our children see what we do and copy it, because they believe it’s the right thing to do.  It’s therefore up to us to challenge our own behaviour and rewrite the narrative.  If we pick up the spider and move it outside, if we lend the wasp a helping hand and guide it back to freedom, if we leave the bugs be and gently step over them, they will do the same and learn to accept them and to live in harmony.  What’s more, they will pass this behaviour on to others and future generations.

Living in harmony with nature is the only way forward.  

Protecting and caring for it is a must.  

So, how have we unlearned to live with nature and What happened over the last few decades to shift our minds?

Modern life is different to that of hundreds of years ago and many of us don’t have time to spend it outside, exploring and wandering.  Nature is slow.  Think about trees and plants growing.  Think about gardening and caring for nature.  That’s not fast-paced.  It takes time.  In modern life, we don’t have time. We work fast, we travel fast, we eat fast.  We don’t have time for nature.  

Technology, with all its wonderful advantages, has created for many a lifestyle that keeps them house-bound, car-bound and glued to screens in all shapes and sizes.  Our lives have become so busy and pressed for time, that we don’t cycle or walk, but drive everywhere to gain time to work more, to spend more time at home, to be able to carry all that shopping, to have comfort over effort.  

Many of us have everything they want available to them 24/7, either at the click of a button or in stores which import products from all over the world.  Life has become so fast-paced that we are worn out, burnt out and exhausted, but feel guilty if we are not busy.  

"We want it NOW!"

We hustle, we spend, we consume, we discard, and the cycle repeats itself. If something breaks, we don't have time to fix it in this chaotic, hurried society, so we throw it away, contributing to the ever-growing mounds of trash. We have lost our ability to wait patiently and want everything right now, right now, no matter what the cost is. Order now and receive it in less than 24 hours, transported through express from the other side of the planet.

Slow nature, delicate nature, unpredictable nature doesn’t fit in.  It’s here to serve us, to feed us, to make space for us, to get out of the way as we build up more houses, as we flatten fields, as we fell down woodlands and forests. And so, as nature around us is depleted, we watch beautiful photographs from far away, hang up images of untouched places in the world, and keep on consuming and buying and throwing away.  

As Mother Nature fights back with unpredictability, floods, storms, droughts and wildfires, we stand in horror, perplexed as to how this could happen. As our homes and cars and possessions are swept away, we are grateful for our lives, but can’t fathom how we lost it all, and how nature took it away from us.  Only - we took nearly everything away from nature first.  Nature was here first. The trees were here first. The oceans, the rivers, the streams, the fields, the forests, the flowers, the animals.  And we need them all.  So desperately.  And we need them to be healthy and well.  But they don’t need us.  

The great paradox is that we are destroying what keeps us alive.  Yet, what keeps us alive does not need us.  

One thing is for sure.  Things will have to change.  All our lives will have to change. How we travel, how we work, how we heat our houses, what we eat.  And there is no time left.

Experiences from childhood helped to make Colour of Silence

In Colour of Silence, author and artist Clare Newton vividly recalls her own childhood and the joys she experienced roaming through the countryside:

“When I was 9 years old, I skipped down the country lanes of Essex, marvelling at the abundance of tiny copper and blue butterflies that flitted through the rambling hedges.  Then I climbed over an old wooden gate into a lush green pasture where, shimmering under the dapples of craggy oak trees, a small dew-pond teaming with life beckoned with the thrill of secrets.”

She herself kept the love and admiration for nature and showed us with her book not just the pretty parts, but also the ugly and eye-opening disasters us humans have caused. 

In preparation for this book, Newton contacted many scientists and environmentalists, academics and researchers, to contribute to Colour of Silence.  Clare was deeply moved to receive a message from the Dalai Lama himself, who provided a message for the book:

“We can no longer keep exploiting the resources of this earth – the trees, the water, and the minerals – without any care for the coming generations. It is common sense that we cannot survive if we keep working against nature. We must learn to live in harmony with nature.”

This is also what Colour of Silence wants to teach us.  Clare’s photography is provoking us to open our eyes to really see nature again.  To see it and recognise that, if we do not take action now, if we do not stop living as we are now, then our children and their offspring may never experience the sheer and raw beauty of all those things we were allowed to enjoy in nature when we were younger.  We need to learn to take care of nature and find the child within us that will love and care for nature, instead of tearing it down.

So, what can we do to help restore the balance of nature? 

Should we sell our cars, never buy anything new again and become vegan?  For many, those are not realistic options.  We need transport to get us to our places of work, we need food to eat and often the most sustainable options are not affordable for many. 
What we can do is make small changes, every day, every week, every month, every year.  And we need to put pressure on those in charge, the politicians and world leaders.  The large corporations, the polluters, the green washers.  We need to hold them accountable. Mother Earth needs our help, and every time we make a sustainable choice, we are taking a step forward.  

The conclusion from the researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States.

“We are no longer children, we are adults with responsibilities for our children, for our future generations, for the future of the world.  As children we lived in harmony with nature, we loved it, we cared for it, we saw its magic, power and magnificence.  It’s time to awaken that inner child, to open our eyes and realise what we are about to lose. 

Take that inner child by their hand, go outside, look around you and ask yourself: Do I want to risk nature for cheap thrills of consumption and short-term gratification? Or are you ready to put down the destructive armour and give our world a helping hand?”

Colour of Silence 

Published by Happy London Press.

ISBN 9781912951031

Price £24.95

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Newton, C. 2021. Colour of Silence. London: Happy London Press

Natural Learning Initiative | College of Design | North Carolina State University

​​Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship  Ming Kuo, Michael Barnes and Catherine Jordan University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA


Ideas for nature field trips

https://www.sjatours.org/ South East, London, East of England, East Midlands,

https://thebushcraftcompany.com/locations/penshurst-place/ students will become fully enveloped in the wilderness, sleeping under the stars, and cooking over open fires. 

https://www.surreyoutdoorlearning.uk/facilities/high-ashurst adventure/night walks, archery, challenge course, climbing and abseiling 

https://www.peatrigg.org/ Medieval farming, remains of ridge and furrow

Post Date : 11/09/2021
Title : Protecting all Forests - importance for biodiversity
Description :


"It is our collective responsibility to protect the world we all live in" Dalai Lama

by Carola Kolbeck (@chameleoninhighheels)

As COP26 has arrived, hopes are that, given it coincides with Halloween, it does not turn into a horror show, but will be a testimony of the magic that can happen when countries work together for a good cause.  Reports about our planet being in danger fill the media every day, and so they should, as Code Red for humanity threatens our existence as much as it does the species we have treated as inferior for so long. Sir David Attenborough made a heartfelt plea and warning to all of us ahead of the climate summit: “If we don’t act now, it’ll be too late.” In addition to this, he mentioned that the world’s richest nations have a “moral responsibility” to help the world’s poorest.  Ignoring those problems would be a catastrophe, and there is not a day to waste.  The seriousness of the issue and the decline of the planet we call our home is real, and humanity’s wasteful and disrespectful actions have pushed the world to a tipping point.  Some may feel overwhelmed and scared about what they can do and what changes they have to make to accommodate living in a healthier world. The picture seems so big and scary. 

Shocking and contradictory; 
Amazon wanted to destroy our forests

Amazon wants to destroy 130 year old forest in Hampshire just for their sheds!

Back in May this year Sarah Ferguson made a plea to stop Amazon from building a warehouse - not on a brownfield site but in virgin and ancient woodland.  'Century's old trees in ancient woodland are being threatened to be destroyed to make way for a 220,000 sqm by 23.5m tall distribution hub thought to be Amazon's distribution centre.' Source Daily Mail

The destruction would include three Grade A mature beech trees - which makes a mockery on any conservation laws that are supposed to protect against development and preserve British Heritage under a grading scheme and protected oak trees. The ancient woodland is estimated to support 2,300 species of wildlife all of which will be wiped out.

Last Friday 
"Sarah Ferguson wins battle to save historic trees in Hampshire countryside that were due to be destroyed to make way for a massive 'Amazon' warehouse" Source Daily Mail

Now have a look at this contradiction; do you think multi million dollar companies have the right to promote a symbol of care for the environment, while the top directors do exactly the opposite?

"While searching for products on Amazon’s website, consumers will now see the Climate Pledge Friendly label"

"In September of 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge—a pact to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Accords ten years early by achieving net-zero carbon by 2040. I've been following Amazon's progress since then (here), along with other sustainability announcements and partnerships. I did a double-take when I saw Amazon's latest big update on the initiative—52 new companies have signed on to the Pledge virtually overnight, pushing the total number of signatories past 100. " Source Forbes

But like all super rich organisations they will appeal. And the only thing that will stop them is if we all make a fuss.. 

So Lets get fussing and spread the word - it should not be allowed. We need to maintaining pressure on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council's development control committee because it is at this point that decisions get over turned.

Question we find ourselves asking...

How can I save the planet? 

          How can I protect the rainforest? 

How can I stop the extinction of animals?

Whilst these are questions the world faces, we need to be aware that we cannot rely on an individual person to save the planet. It take combined and continuous effort to change a mind set on nation’s leaders.  The question has been going on for a long time:
“We Must Save the World’s Wild Life – An international Declaration” – April 1961

Passionate campaigners who single mindedly confront the world

Inspired by a series of articles in a UK newspaper written by Sir Julian Huxley about the destruction of habitat and wildlife in East Africa,  businessman Victor Stolan pointed out the urgent need for an international organisation to raise funds for conservation. The idea was then shared with Max Nicholson, Director General of British government agency Nature Conservancy, who enthusiastically took up the challenge.  In 1961 HRH Prince Philip spoke against the growing problems of wildlife and the climate change. The outcome was the birth of the World Wildlife fund – WWF. So what has happened to the pledge that happened nearly 60 YEARS ago???

Young Heroes to inspire us:

It is hard to comprehend the incredible efforts of one campaigner – Greta Thunberg a Swedish environmental activist is known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation, criticising them for their failure to take for what she considers insufficient action to address the climate crisis.

Another environmental hero is Jamie Margolin rose to fame in her early teens, when she and other environmental activists co-founded Zero Hour, a youth climate action organisation and movement. A Colombian-American, Jamie was motivated to take action against the climate crisis after experiencing the effects of wildfires in her home state of Washington. In 2018, she and 12 other youths sued the state over those fires—and while they didn’t win, the Zero Hour organisation went on to gain national attention leading dozens of marches by young people, with Jamie leading the way.

If Sir David Attenborough has been fighting for this for years and not got far, Joe Blogs will feel even more powerless.  

So is there any point? Is there anything we can do, apart from recycling, reusing, buying less plastic, eating less or no meat, or using the car less?

Eat more vegetables is healthy for the planet

Eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and less meat and dairy, can significantly lower your environmental impact. Producing plant-based foods generally results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires less energy, land, and water.

"Meat provides 17% of global calorific intake, but it requires a disproportionate amount of water and feed. And more land is given over to grazing animals than for any other single purpose. Overall the livestock sector accounts for between 8% and 18% of global emissions—about as much pollution as comes out the tailpipes of the world’s cars. Ruminant livestock, such as cattle and sheep, have stomachs containing bacteria able to digest tough, cellulose-rich plants. But along the way, huge volumes of gases are farted and belched, 100m tonnes of methane which is 25x more toxic than Carbon." Source The Economist

British Nature is as much at risk as the Rain forest!

The answer lies closer to home as we think.  Many of us think of air pollution in mega-cities such as New Delhi and Beijing, the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest and the melting of the glaciers.  Yes, we should be worried about this.  We should not stop talking about this.  But what about nature around us?  It’s not just about the exotic wildlife – but British landscape is also paying heavily for the privilege of building new housing – It has lost 97% of its wild flower meadows – News 2015.

Can Photography impact society?

Photography has an important role to play. Not only can it mirror our lives, recording all aspects we give it an opportunity to, tangibly preserving our memories. as well as providing evidential proof of the state of affairs.

The camera, whether it’s on your phone or a DSLR, its easy usage has certainly impacted the way we see things.  No doubt, photography has impacted society and how we see the world.  It allows us to see people, places, things and events from all over the world and it opens up new horizons and worlds which we otherwise wouldn’t have access to.  Photography is a powerful tool to open people’s eyes to the good and the bad in the world.  Yes, it can have negative impacts, if we think of the paparazzi, but used it the right way, photography will illuminate the world and its problems and its beauty.  

Whilst it is important to keep conversations about nature going, we need to ensure we are not partly detached by looking at pictures of wildlife from the exotic  worlds only.  We need to raise awareness of our British wildlife. “Waking in the mornings to the songs from  blackbirds, or listening to the summertime buzz of wasps as they home into a jam jar.” (Newton, 2021). Because all those things we are so used to are  diminishing right under our noses.  To give an example; The RSPB are actively campaigning to raise awareness on the British state of  nature are currently campaigning “to Strengthen the Environment Bill, with legally-binding targets to  save nature and Revive Our World”. 

Insights of an artist

Clare Newton FRSA is lending us a helping hand to refocus, in her new book Colour of Silence .  Newton is an award-winning photographer and artist who has built an impressive reputation over a number of years for staging large scale photographic art exhibitions of unusual, but fascinating, subjects. Her ‘Jump4London’ was a 2-year photographic record of thousands of individuals having their personal images captured in a kilometre-long, multi- sponsored, public installation that won her a Guinness World Record.

The 6-metre high Olympic and Paralympic Wall installation commissioned by ExCeL London, celebrated the venue’s outstanding contribution to the 2012 London Games, being the largest single venue in modern Olympic history. Her continued contribution to large-scale public art has recently been recognised by the Royal Society of Arts, where she has become a Fellow of the Society. 

In her latest work of art, Clare shows us that we can do a lot of things, simple things, that will contribute to a better planet, a healthier world, a more diverse ecosystem, but we need to start at home, right in front of our doorstep, in our gardens.   With her analytical eye she keenly watches the little miracles that  surround us, exploring the invisible-obvious.  With Colour of Silence, Newton has turned her attention to the unspoken elements of nature to  demonstrate that the remaining beauty may not be around forever.  The images collected  throughout her career have been combined with a commentary, which questions why the impact of  humans on the world is still seen as acceptable.  The book is thought provoking, packed with captivating images where the artist puts questions to  influential environmentalists and scientists across the world, to provide a sense of reality on the  issues of conservation. The curated subjects build an overview of British nature; exploring the growth and decay from insects through to birds and the changes brought about by pollution, over  population and parts of agriculture.  

Commenting on the book Clare said: 

“As a photographic artist – I feel it is so important to make  images that draw people into the conversation and can provocatively demonstrate reality or can  invite questioning in people. It is more important than ever to encourage people to rethink – Care  for nature and not destroy it as the enemy”. 

So, what do you do when you see a garden spider scurrying across your kitchen floor? Do you squeal and throw a book on top of it? Suck it up in the hoover? 
That wasp that flies in your bedroom.  Do you usher it out again or swat it with a magazine?  The slugs and worms that crawl across the path when it rains.  Do you step over them, even give them a helping hand to safety or do you leave them there to be stomped on?  

How do you feel about the flies, the ants, the daddy longlegs, the mosquitos, the beatles, the earwigs, the woodlice, the bugs and “pests” that invade your home and garden?  The Colour of Silence provokes such questions and covers the good, bad and the ugly and asks that we embrace all not just the easy to understand, but the fearful-looking things and fight to protect the natural world we live in.  Clare Newton’s photography is like a mirror and we need to look at reality right in front of us.  

As Clare says: “I tried to get close and really use my eyes to see things with detailed clarity – I love learning and the book is about a journey into the unknown, which I want to share with the reader; the exploration and questioning, to reveal this hidden beauty and its meaning of wild things that are right under our feet.” 

The fact is, all those critters are not invading. We have invaded them.  We have modified and destroyed their natural habitat.   And it’s up to us to fix it.  It’s up to us to re-think, to re-evaluate our habits, our luxuries, our conveniences, all at the cost of the ecosystem around us.  

The UK says that it is committed to working with all countries and joining forces with civil society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action.

Alok Sharma, COP President-Designate, says that “there is no viable pathway to net zero emissions that does not involve protecting and restoring nature on an unprecedented scale. If we are serious about holding temperature rises to 1.5 degrees and adapting to the impacts of climate change, we must change the way we look after our land and seas and how we grow our food. This is also important if we want to protect and restore the world’s biodiversity, upon which all life depends.”

The message is clear. Change must happen now.  It must start at home.  Are you ready to seize the opportunity to change, too?

Colour of Silence 

is published by Happy London Press.

ISBN 9781912951031

Price £24.95

Publication date: Autumn 2021

Book can be purchased :

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COP26. 2021. HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org) (Accessed 17th October 2021)

Newton, C. 2021 The Colour of Silence. London: Happy London Press

Shukman, D. 2021. Climate change: Sir David Attenborough in ‘act now’ warning Available at:

Post Date : 11/01/2021
Title : Beauty found in Nature's mundane creatures
Description :

No more quiet, Colour of Silence

Saving our World starts under our feet

By Chameleon Inhighheels 

 Saving our planet starts at home 

Did you see the first ever Earthshot Prize Awards last Sunday?  Five £1m prizes were handed to the winners of a selection of impressive finalists, all concerned with inventions that will help reverse and combat climate change.  It was an inspiring and encouraging programme to watch, not just because people all over the world are passionate about sustainable living, but because the UK is clearly committed to leading this change in the world.  It’s not the only thing happening this month, shining the spotlight on the environmental crisis we as humans have created.

From 31st October until 12th November the UK will, in partnership with Italy,  host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.  Whilst we seem to have Covid under control, the climate crisis persists and it is becoming clear that we are entering dangerous territory.  Therefore, this conference promises that the UK will “ work with partners to take forward action on protecting and restoring forests and critical ecosystems, and will champion the transition towards sustainable, resilient and nature positive agriculture.”

“No more empty summits, no more empty conferences.” 

Greta Thunberg

Whilst it is clear that action needs to happen worldwide, worrying about the rainforest whilst spraying harmful pesticides on flowers and destroying local flora and fauna won’t work either.  We need to care not only about destruction abroad, but also right in front of our doorstep.  

The pandemic certainly opened our eyes and hearts to the beauty of nature around us, in the safe radius we were allowed to move in.  We marvelled at the beauty of the British countryside, its flora and fauna and got busy booking ‘staycations’, realising that it’s actually rather quite nice here.  Reports from cleaner air in cities due to less traffic, clearer water in rivers as pollution declined and an appreciation for everything local was on the rise, whilst we were waiting for the pandemic to pass.  We vowed to change, we promised to love nature and care for it and remember those glorious summer days in quarantine, certain that this was a turning point for humanity.

And then the lockdown ended, and we slowly returned back to whatever normal meant for each of us.  We jumped back into our cars, we bought the coffee in the take-away cup, we slipped back into old habits, we started muddling through life because it is fast-paced and noisy and busy and we need to keep up with demands on us, our social lives and work.

With many of us complaining that we didn’t have a real summer and how lucky we were in 2020, enjoying glorious sunshine and mediterranean-like weather, the beginning of August brought further bad news from the UN.  Code Red for Humanity was the reality we had closed our eyes to, the worst-case scenario many of us never thought would happen: That humanity had mistreated Mother Earth to such an extent that it has changed the climate, maybe even in irreversible ways.  The report predicted “increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade.”  If nothing changes, we face a catastrophe, one we have created ourselves.  

However, we can change things, if we work together, if we start changing now.  It is a sobering moment, one that shows that there is no room for delays anymore.  

For many of us this may be frightening and we also may feel quite helpless, not sure what we can do, things that are within our power.  The answer could be simpler than we expected.  Whilst we cannot physically stop another tree in the rainforest being felled, we can step outside our front door and start changes here and now, this moment.  Yes, we need to support and campaign for saving our planet as one world, however, there is much work to do here in the UK, and we can absolutely get involved in that. 

A recent article by the BBC suggested that the UK has

“…little room for nature due to development and agriculture”.  

It also claims that the UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries.  In addition to this, the UK’s biodiversity, of which 90% is considered safe from falling into ecological meltdown, has only got 50% of it left. Those alarming figures tell us that we are in dire need to start caring for nature locally, rethink the way we live and review how we treat our ecosystem.  

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB suggests that, 

“to play our part, we need the UK to step up and turn our global promises into action at home, to show that we are not going to let another lost decade for nature slip past.” 

Globally, so the BBC reports, “biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history. Since 1970, there has been on average almost a 70% decline in the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.  It is thought that one million animal and plant species – almost a quarter of the global total – are threatened with extinction.”  

It is true that extinction of species naturally occurs over time, as dinosaurs proved, however, the extinction of species in today’s world is being drastically accelerated because of humans.  It is said that humans were responsible for the demise of the mammoth, the giant sloth and the sabre-tooth tiger, but since the mid 18th century, humans have had ever-growing demands on nature.  We use nature to grow food, to get water, to find building materials to name a few, and with this, we are depleting and destroying the home of many species. In order to save species from mass-extinction, we have to preserve their natural habitat. 

Given those tragic figures, it becomes clear that we have to take action here and now in the UK.  We need to protect species and their habitat around us.  We need to listen to environmental agencies, we need to stop destroying nature to build more houses.  We need to stop killing animals because they don’t fit into our living spaces.  

Photography to show the beauty in the mundane; Love all nature

Here at Happy London Press we are proud to announce that we are committed to this change and we proudly publish our latest book.  

Clare Newton, award-winning photographer and author, is discussing this in her new book “The Colour of Silence”, a thought-provoking work of art that holds up a mirror and makes us face reality.  Newton, an award-winning photographer, has turned her attention to the unspoken elements of nature. Using her skill in combining researched messages and the art of creative photography, she has created a book to draw a non conservation-aware reader into a sense of reality and trigger a deeper interest in acknowledging the fast approaching truth.

“Nature is fragile, beautiful, ugly and harsh; but in every form it is beyond precious. As adults we no longer see the simple things and the beauty that’s within them. Take for example a wasp – we fear their presence, but have overlooked their striking and graphic patterns. Or do we watch them long enough to see how intelligent they are…? They come along onto our plates, have a sniff, maybe try a bit and go. Like us they need to eat and if hedgerows and wild meadows are ploughed up, where do they get food?” (Newton, 2021).
It’s time to change. It’s time to reverse Code Red.  It’s time to work together, and do a little bit more, every day. Small changes by many can lead to big progress.  There is no time left.  Our future, and that of our children depends on it.  As Emma Marsh writes:

“Nature is Not a ‘Nice-to-have’ ~ ever. It provides our life support system” (in Newton, 2021).

Colour of Silence 

is published by Happy London Press.

ISBN 9781912951031

Price £24.95

Publication date: Autumn 2021

Book can be purchased :

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Briggs, H. 2021, Biodiversity loss risks ‘ecological meltdown’ – scientists – BBC News <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58859105>  (Accessed 10th October 2o21)

COP26. 2021. HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org) <https://ukcop26.org/>  (Accessed 17th October 2021)

Lock, S. 2021. Prince William reveals Earthshot Prize winners in global bid to tackle climate crisis | Prince William | The Guardian <https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/oct/18/prince-william-reveals-earthshot-prize-winners-in-global-bid-to-tackle-climate-crisis>  (Accessed 18th October 2021)

McGrath, M. 2021. Climate change: IPCC report is ‘code red for humanity’ – BBC News <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58130705>  (Accessed 9th August 2021)

Newton, C. 2021 The Colour of Silence. London: Happy London Press

INVITATION To Book Reviewers:
If you are a photographic book reviewer and have a proven following of 5k ++ readers, please get in touch for a free copy of the digital book version.

More opinions about the subject of nature:

Retired US Army, B.S Environmental Management

I am going to throw a wrench into the mix of answers here and go by the definition of the word “nature” to show everyone that every answer I read has one important contradiction in description. Everyone, including Websters dictionary wants to separate human activity from nature, when everything that takes place on earth is a part of nature, including humans. No matter what humans do to the earth, good or bad, it is still nature. If you are separating humans from nature because of the harm we do to the environment, you will find out that the nature of the earth has destroyed the environment far worse than humanity via natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, asteroid strikes, climate change, etc. There is no right or wrong way to evolve in nature. It is what it is and does what it wants.

If you throw anthropic principles into the mix you change those rules because humanity then becomes foremost, thus shares responsibility for what nature does. Those who care about the health of our environment like myself do so first because they want humanity to continue to exist and know that we must work with nature and not against it to make that happen because nature is ultimately in charge and not us.

Chuck Mickey

Nature is what is natural and empirical (observable) vs Metaphysical realities which are highly subjective. You have physical sciences 101 and Pseudoscience's. For an example Evolution is a pseudoscience….here is why.

Olbers paradox  “dark night sky paradox” argument that darkness of the night sky is an assumption of finite universe meaning has finite amount of stars IF infinite the sky would be filled with light universe completely illuminated, extremely hot and filled with waves of radiation levels too great for any life to exist at all. Static universe?

Atheist believe this: 1 Evolution magically existed before time 2 big bang took place creating universe out of nothing 3 life came from none life and eventually evolved into a species possessing's genetic DNA codes that changed one species into a new one perpetually over millions of years.

First question everyone ask is what mechanism of communication did evolution use to perpetually change DNA codes, how was new information added and why did it need time? Time is metaphysical reality of your own mind not father time. You can not find a pound of time in nature, its not a physical thing. So why does Evolution need time if it doenst exist? plus we spontaneously change from a baby to adult—what more change would evolution need then us totally changing?

Sciences has made it clear, no one has ever observed something come from nothing and its impossible to get life from none life…..lastly no species has ever been observed to change into an entirely different species.

Any one who finds a complex machine in the amazon and implies that machine created itself or was by chances would be considered mentally unstable, insane person.

Before I can think OF nature, I have to take myself OUT of nature - to place myself as an observer, even though in reality, I am IN nature, part of its chain, web, and cosmos.

Now that I am apart from nature, viewing it from a created space outside of it, I think nature is amazing. I see you in it as well, as part of the human species within nature.

But the strange thing about humans in nature, is that we use labels to split nature apart into “good” and “bad” parts. Humans in nature also seem to separate themselves from nature, turning themselves somewhat like wild horses into workhorses, racehorses, and showhorses. These “horse-like humans” have to live in fenced up areas in nature called towns, barns, cities, and farms. It almost appears to be a form of self-domestication.

Nature can still exist outside of these domesticated areas, and sometimes nature is allowed in as well, unless the humans deem these elements of nature, weeds, pests, vermin and other labels that justify their elimination.

From this far away, nature looks pretty strange. Humans are in it, but they seem to be trying to get away from it.

Prakash Kumar Self employed

Nature is nothing but an illusion, imagination and unreal. There are 2 states of nature. One is non dual and the another one is dual. In non dual state nature is none else but CREATOR. In dualistic state it is CREATION. Creation is attempted by creator without losing its non dualistic state. In this act it created an element called mind which is the smoke screen on which the process of creation is attempted since existence. This creation is a non stop, on going process which is without beginning and without end. It is endless. So the mind is the smoke screen where temporary state of nature is taking shape endlessly and creator who is the only one permanent and eternal is hiding furiously and fiercely its true and core nature, identity and the form.

So at the end it is all illusion because we do not know who the creator is and what is being created is temporary which gets dissolved or disintegrates over a period of time without any identity . So nothing is real and permanent except illusion and imagination. This is what the nature is and this is how it is designed or structured or programmed. It is our insanity or intoxication where we forget the temporary nature of our existence.

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Post Date : 10/27/2021
Title : How do you know you have told the best story?
Description :
Being a Good Writer 
How do you know you’ve told the best story?
by Hunter Liguore

When a writing student asked me how to know if he was a good writer, my heart felt a little heavy, sad even, that this student would even question if he was ‘good,’ since I knew how hard he worked. It’s a question that a good writer will ask. It comes from a place of wanting to be good at the craft, to ensure all bases have been covered, and if we’re missing something to learn it. To be a good writer means what? And by whose standards? 

One a foundational level, there are ways to gauge if we’re writing ‘good,’ and for the sake of discussion, ‘good’ here implies that we’re connecting with our readers; our work is understood, discussed, easy to navigate, even; and presents some type of quality, not only that it met our vision of what we intended, but that others can be included. The foundational level (for me) is a basic understanding of grammar and an understanding of how sentences are created, and how those sentences in turn connect to a cohesive paragraph, then to another, and create a story in the reader’s mind. We begin with a title, then the first sentence, and keep going. At this level, in basic terms, writers can be honest and ask: is the writing coherent and cohesive? 

Some measurements for writers are to check the basic rules of grammar and sentence construction, and if we don’t feel we have a good foundation in this area, then take the time to learn it. In my classes, I see students groan over learning what an adjective is or how to reduce the redundancy of prepositional phrases to construct more succinct sentences. Here’s the thing: once you know the rules, you can break them and bring in your art, so much so, that your sentences become your own and no one else’s. To me that’s when you start to thrive and when you go from good to great.   

Take a look at this passage from Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk: 

“People still talk about some do-gooder. A good scout, the one in every crowd. Some altar boy, some teacher’s pet walks into the Southeast Precinct, looking both ways, whispering with one hand cupped beside his mouth. Past dark o’clock, it’s midnight o’clock, when in walks the kid with his hood up, head down, wearing sunglasses, no less. He’s nobody’s Stevie Wonder. No white cane, no dog. Whisper-asks can he talk to somebody in charge. Asks the desk sergeant on duty. Whispers, “I want to report a crime’s supposed to happen.” No other author could’ve constructed this. It’s Palahniuk’s vision, his words, his construction.

It’s the same if you were to look at a painting from Basquiat or Kahlo and know without being told it’s theirs. For an author, we aren’t just mucking about with words, we’re fashioning them, and how that comes through us is ours—our vision, our voice, our mastery—so the more we know how to use words to carry out the stories we want to tell, the more quickly we can and will create our own signature rhythm. 

So once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of how words work, you create your rhythm and you can begin to build things. What you build is infinite. To me ‘good’ writing draws from one’s inner imagination, so it is unique and not imitative. If looking outward to see what other writers are doing, you’ll only be a copy of the original, and never ‘good.’ Imitation is a virus among writers, who see others selling work or getting praise. It might make you feel like you’re missing out and need to change your craft. But don’t. Get imitation out of your system and you’ll begin to really care about your work in a deep way, knowing you’re the only one that can write it. 

Most often, the ‘thing’ that we’re mastering and crafting in writing is a reader’s understanding of what we’ve assembled. You write a short story. Is it good? Ask a reader. How much work did they have to do on your behalf? Did they need to fill in the action, pacing, character details and emotion, or setting? That’s what we’re attempting to do, balance those things—pull it out of your brain and get it on to the screen, to reach an audience. Is it good? translates to: did the reader get it? Did they see what I’d wanted? Did they understand it? 

As author Jan Nerenberg explains, “A good writer writes, views critiques as an opportunity for growth, and falls in love daily as words are juxtaposed with new companions in the creation of story.”

Exactly. Measuring this takes time and confidence. It takes a willingness to revise the vision and go over it. Read it aloud and even then, even polished, it can't miss things. We do our best. We won’t serve every reader. For every story, there are some who will like it a lot, and some who won’t. That’s why ‘good’ needs to be self-driven. We reach ‘good’ when we know we’ve listened so deeply and executed everything we possibly could to meet the reader’s satisfaction. Anyone who has ever written knows what I’m talking about. You finish and a few days later, you get a nag to tweak a word. Next thing you know, you’re back on page one and a full revision ensues. Good. It means you had more for the reader to envision. 

Eventually, we can be satisfied with our work, based on what we wanted for it, and trust that it’s good, by our standards. Even in the light of rejection, or those who have an objection. Reading the paragraph from Adjustment Day, you might not like it or be able to follow along. That’s why, ultimately, the craft of writing is really the negotiating of our ability to trust our inner voice, our vision, our gift to bring a story into the world. 

How do you know you’ve told a good story? You decide it. If it’s lots of applause from readers, then you’ll use that as a guide. For others, it’s when there is nothing more to write, that you’ve written the strongest story, regardless of the opinions of others. 

Either way, keep writing, keep honing, keep redefining what good writing means to you. A day will come when you will just ‘know’ the work is good and carry it confidently out into the world. 

Meet this week’s Author: Hunter Liguore 

...is a writer, professor, and historian, specializing in Modern Irish history. Her historic fiction has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Irish Pages, Anthropology & Humanism, and more. Her archaeology-adventure novel, The Lost City of the Mayan,” is now available.

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Post Date : 07/23/2021
Title : School can show you the first page of a great novel and it can ignite a passion
Description :

Discovery of great novels – Books that schools inspire us to take up reading

by Cavan Wood

Were your school days the best days of your life? A cursory reading

much of literature produced about it suggests they were not.

Schools are places of learning, Places where school literature study plays a big role but they can be haunted by bullies or cynical teachers. They can provide a framework to explore teenage problems – such as in J.K.Rowling’s “ Harry Potter” series in which the magical establishment of Hogwarts seems a little like an Eton for wizards. Schools have the advantage of having a large cast of characters and personalities upon which a writer can develop their stories, which is why both in realistic and fantasy tales they are often featured.

They are the venues for power struggles. It might be the bully

against their victim. Or the race to become head boy or girl,

exposing the internal politics of teenage groups. Above all, it might

be about how does the teacher take control of a class and gain their

respect. These tensions can often be fertile ground to develop

stories in.


The school novel really began after the publication of Thomas

Hughes’ “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” in 1857. Dickens had presented

education in not an all together favourable light in both “Nicholas

Nickleby” and “Hard Times”, but both the academies featured are

not the principal focus of the tales. Hughes’ story is about a child

coming to terms with Rugby school – indeed, one edition says that

the novel is written by “an old boy”, someone who had walked the

path Tom was to in the tale. There are long accounts of how the

a game of rugby football developed there. Yet at the heart of the

novel, there is a conflict that needs to be resolved.

Tom encounters a bully in the form of Flashman, (a character so well

drawn that over a century later, George MacDonald Fraser, made

the school hard man the “hero” of a number of comicnovels). Following a trope 

that will be developed in many other books and versions of school life, 

Tom and the boys defeat their tormentor

in true David versus Goliath style. Thomas Hughes has an agenda in

his story is to show how Christian virtues should be the mark of the

gentlemen that schools at their best should be developing in their

students. Schools as a place where morals are learnt as well as

Maths or English is important in the debate to education to this day.

Teachers can be the centre of attention in the school novel,

especially as we see how students can learn from them as possible

role models. Sometimes, this can be disastrous as in the case of

“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, where the title character teaches

them her fascist views as well as her subject. Yet this does not have

to be the case. In 1934, James Hilton produced perhaps the defining

picture of a secondary school teacher of his time in “Goodbye Mr

Chips.” We see the teacher across a number of years, with the

writer showing how his character goes through various stages. He is

the young buck, the middle aged man seeing others challenge his

ways and question his competence to becoming finally the respected

sage of the class and staff room.

Along the way, he has experienced loss with his wife and seen the

effects of the First World War. At one level, you think this is a life

wasted, but Hilton is clear that for all his struggles, there is a

nobility of purpose in Chips choosing teaching as a career. It is an

act of self-sacrifice for an essentially shy man who prefers the

company of books to others.

It enables him to influence an entire generation of children, even

when it might appear that the teaching of Latin is a dry pursuit. He

may not have become a parent to his own child, but when he is

challenged about this, he says “yes – umph – I have, he added with

quavering merriment,” Thousands of ’em, thousand of ‘em .. All boys”

(page 124 of the 1969 Hodder edition.). He has been “father” to

many students by his teaching, example and care.

Yet most school books are about the experience of the student not

the teacher. Sue Townsend’s “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged

13 and ¾” (1982) is a work of genius. It is a mark of her talent that a

middle aged woman (as she was at the time of creating her hero) was

totally able to draw a realistic portrait of the mind and interests of

her male title character. Townsend’s Adrian is an unreliable

narrator, with little clue as to what is really going on around him, be

that in his family or in the relationships he has with others or even

in his own head. Yet he thinks he understands all of these and while

this could provide tragedy, it instead is the source of great, realistic

comedy. He has a crush on Pandora, a girl that he will remain

besotted with for the rest of the series of novels, causing him

increasing heartbreak. He has a Flashman figure in the form of

Barry Kent, a bully who torments and later on has in some senses a

more successful life than Adrian. We feel for him despite the fact,

he is a hopeless failure like Mr Pooter in “The Diary of a Nobody”

and Bertie Wooster but his world is instantly recognisable. The fact

that Sue Townsend was able to take Adrian into middle age so

successfully shows how much she loved and understood here

character. Yet the influence of school is something is something he

can never escape.

Jonathan Coe’s “The Rotter’s club” (2001) is a very funny and

thoughtful book not just about school, but growing up as a teenager

in the West Midlands of the 1970s. The principal character

Benjamin Trotter (like Adrian Mole) is a naïve young man who has to

deal with the stresses of growing up. The novel is set in Birmingham

and a tragic incident that shaped the city in that decade is a key

moment in the story. Ben is struggling with understanding girls,

music, politics and race and the most puzzling, himself.

The students at the school he attends are equally worried about

their parents’ marriages, what the music press think about the

latest bands and are worried how their education might alienate

them from their loved ones. Then there are teachers and the

mysteries of the opposite sex to navigate. Coe uses a number of

different literary styles to show us what it was like to be a teenager

in the 1970s – which include school magazines, reflection pieces

from newspapers twenty years after the events and letters. The

characters are caught up in power struggles – through a debating

society and whether or not prefects are oppressors or role models.

Coe’s genius is to show the complexity of his characters whilst they

occasionally say things or behave in such a way that suggests they

have an understanding; yet their inexperience can lead them to

errors. The writer pulls off the trick of showing us that teenagers

can be hopeless dreamers, but that this is preferable to the

cynicism of much of the adult world.

When writers create the world of schools in their writings, we see

are a number of recurring themes. There are the students, who

often by their inexperience often do not really understand what is

going on between them and with their teachers. The best novels

show the complexity of the life of children and teenagers, showing

their certainties and their doubts, which causing them problems

over their identities. Then there are the teachers, who reflect many

different ages, philosophies and experience, which can often be ripe

for conflict, as older teachers find their ways questioned or even

underdetermined by new members of the profession. These are

often claustrophobic environments due to the discipline or the ethos

the school might feel that they need to survive or flourish.

Schools are a cross section of our society, bringing together a

diverse cast of backgrounds and problems that you are unlikely to

find anywhere else. This unique situation has made them the focus

of attention for politicians and social reformers who see that if you

could change this micro-world, you could make the society we live in

better. This is partially true, but it is also too simple as these novels

show. There are forces that are acting on students and teachers

alike that determine the success or otherwise of our schools which

are not necessarily under their control. The great school novels are

able to capture some of these complexities, showing the glory,

comedy and tragedy of humanity.

More about Cavan Wood
C:\Users\Cavan\Documents\Cav picture 2019.jpgCavan is a  well sought after writer, teacher and speaker based in Sussex of over thirty years experience. He has written about religious, moral, cultural and political themes , having written or contributed chapters to over twenty  books published by Bloomsbury, Oxford University Press , The Bible Reading Fellowship and Hodder amongst others. He is interested in politics, literature, cinema and is a leader in his local church. He is married with a wife, two children and a somewhat surly cat called Chloe.

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Post Date : 07/16/2021
Title : Sex, Love and death paradox or ingenious conceits in a poetical genre
Description :

 Why the metaphysical poets matter by Cavan Woods

Metaphysical poetry is a form that sought to explore faith and love. It was especially popular in the 17th century. Despite it being about two key human experiences, it has its critics. For example, Dr Johnson wrote:

“The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs and their subtlety surprises; but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought, and, though he sometimes admires, is seldom pleased.”

Johnson was shocked by the images they used and thought that they were too clever for their own good. It is a criticism that would be made of T.S. Eliot three centuries later, who saw himself in their tradition, combining their interest in faith and love.

We will examine three metaphysical poets and their work to see what they say to us now. They combine interest in sex, death and God: three great subjects for poems in any era.

George Herbert

George Herbert was born in April 1593, the fifth son of an eminent Welsh family. His mother was a friend of poet John Donne, who dedicated his “Holy Sonnets” to her.

George went to Westminster School when he was ten and then to Trinity College Cambridge. He received two degrees and was elected a college fellow in his early twenties. He was an outstanding scholar and was being courted by those in power.

By 1620, Herbert was a Reader in Rhetoric and public orator for the University, a kind of professional spokesman for them. This brought him to the attention of King James the 1st, who granted him an allowance and encouraged him into politics.

In 1624, he was elected the MP for Montgomery, but a year later left the House. He resigned his position at Cambridge University. Yet despite all this, his political career was not the success he wanted. He tried to become a senior adviser to the King, but the King himself suggested that George consider taking his talents elsewhere. Herbert felt a calling to the church. His life was not going to be about seeking power but a life of service.

In 1630, he became priest of Bemerton near Salisbury. While here, he wrote a book about being a parish priest that is still in print today. Three years later, Herbert was dying from tuberculosis. He was just forty by the time he died.

On his deathbed, he asked that his poetry collection called “The Temple” be sent to his friend Nicholas Ferrar. He asked him to publish the poems if he thought “they might help any dejected soul.” Herbert saw his poetry as about inspiring people, not just an art form to entertain himself or others. Ferrar was the leader of a community at Little Gidding in Oxfordshire (This is the Little Gidding that would late give its name to one of T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.”)  Herbert’s poems were published and have been in print since.

Herbert often writes poem where he personifies a quality – love or hope for. They can be engaged, argued, accepted and rejected. Herbert’s poems have been given tunes, and then used as  hymns or as prayers.

He did play with form – a poem called “Easter wings” celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus by writing it in the formation of butterfly wings. A butterfly is used as an image of the resurrected Christ as it escapes from the “tomb” of the chrysalis. He wrote a poem that looks like a cup to recall the communion. There was both playfulness and purpose in what he was doing: the very shape of a poem could reveal or re-enforce its subject.

Let us look at his poem “Love 3”:

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

            Guiltie of dust and sinne,

But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack

            From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

            If I lack’d any thing.


A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:

            Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkinde, ungratefull?  Ah my deare,

            I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

            Who made the eyes but I?


Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them:  let my shame

            Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

            My deare, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

            So I did sit and eat.

The image of Love welcoming Herbert begins as the personification of the idea. Love can overcome that sense of personal moral failure that Herbert expresses at the beginning of the first verse.

Yet it becomes apparent that as the poem progresses, love is the creator God – he made the eyes. Then in the final verse, it is clear that Jesus is the subject – the bearer of blame of sin. The idea of “taste my meat”, of sitting and eating with Love recalls the Last Supper where Jesus offers the bread as his body. It is a beautiful poem, recalling for Herbert the depth of God’s love to him.

The next poem is a contrast: here the poet begins by wrestling with the will of God, feeling trapped by the power of the Almighty.

The Collar

I struck the board, and cried, "No more;

I will abroad!

What? shall I ever sigh and pine?

My lines and life are free, free as the road,

Loose as the wind, as large as store.

Shall I be still in suit?

Have I no harvest but a thorn

To let me blood, and not restore

What I have lost with cordial fruit?

Sure there was wine

Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn

Before my tears did drown it.

Is the year only lost to me?

Have I no bays to crown it,

No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?

All wasted?

Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,

And thou hast hands.

Recover all thy sigh-blown age

On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute

Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,

Thy rope of sands,

Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee

Good cable, to enforce and draw,

And be thy law,

While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.

Away! take heed;

I will abroad.

Call in thy death's-head there; tie up thy fears;

He that forbears

To suit and serve his need

Deserves his load."

But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild

At every word,

Methought I heard one calling, Child!

And I replied My Lord.

“The collar” recalls the psalms when the psalmist rails against God. There is a kind of prison, being trapped by following God like forcing a collar on a slave or an animal. The board he strikes is the altar, where communion is celebrated. This is a shocking image to his readers, as it seems like an act of desecration. He is fighting the will of God, seeing it as a kind of slavery until the last few liens where he sees through his raving and hear God call him “Child”, making realised that he is loved by God as a father loves a child. The struggle in the poem reflects the kind of difficulties of the believer with God and recalls in structure a number of Psalms from the Bible.

There is an element here of the kind of spirituality you find in Francis Thompson’s “ The Hound of heaven” – an attraction to God but coupled with  a desire to flee, to be free of restriction. Rudolf Otto, the theologian and thinker talked about God as “the numinous”, that which attracts humans and repels them at the same time. God’s holiness is a good thing, but it also makes the believer feel unworthy as they know they can never fulfil this for themselves. Yet when God calls to Herbert, he calls him child, making him realise that religion can be about a loving relationship, not slavery. 

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell was a vicar’s son, born in Hull. He was an MP from 1659 to 1671, starting as a Royalist but became a supporter of Cromwell. When the monarchy was restored, Marvell defended John Milton from possible execution by the Monarch. He managed to survive and adapt to the different politics and religious world, which showed a rare skill of personal malleability without arising suspicion that he lacked character or integrity. 

His work is influenced by the Bible and like Donne, he wrote about sex in frank terms.  Sex is something to be celebrated, a gift and not a “dirty” thing as some of the more negative approaches of the day argued. It is a gift from God.

Marvell’s poetry is not as overt about his faith as Herbert and Donne. He did not pursue their path into the church but his belief was no less reveal. He uses the images of faith to re-enforce his often very secular poetry.

His most famous poem concerns the reluctance of his beloved to truly commit to him and is a passionate argument to her to act rather than subject him to interminable waiting.

To his coy mistress

Had we but world enough and time,

This coyness, lady, were no crime.

We would sit down, and think which way

To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side

Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide

Of Humber would complain. I would

Love you ten years before the flood,

And you should, if you please, refuse

Till the conversion of the Jews.

My vegetable love should grow

Vaster than empires and more slow;

An hundred years should go to praise

Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;

Two hundred to adore each breast,

But thirty thousand to the rest;

An age at least to every part,

And the last age should show your heart.

For, lady, you deserve this state,

Nor would I love at lower rate.

       But at my back I always hear

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Thy beauty shall no more be found;

Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

My echoing song; then worms shall try

That long-preserved virginity,

And your quaint honour turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust;

The grave’s a fine and private place,

But none, I think, do there embrace.

       Now therefore, while the youthful hue

Sits on thy skin like morning dew,

And while thy willing soul transpires

At every pore with instant fires,

Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

Rather at once our time devour

Than languish in his slow-chapped power.

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball,

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Through the iron gates of life:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.


Marvell begins this poem with a sense of impatience – his mistress; her love is “coy”, slow to respond to his love. They have not “world enough and time” – they are mortal and need to get on with it. She does not have the opportunity to delay to the conversion of the Jews, which the Christians of Marvell’s day would be one of the signs of the Second Coming. “Times winged chariot” is passing quickly: the couple need to act, or else they will be dead. “The grave’s a fine and private place” but you can embrace a corpse. Many lovers have felt the frustrations of Marvell that their loved one is not seeing the urgency of their love and the need to commit. This is a poem that will never date, as it is true to the way the human heart works. Though the imagery might be strange to us, the sentiment is not.











The definition of love


My love is of a birth as rare

As ’tis for object strange and high;

It was begotten by Despair

Upon Impossibility.


Magnanimous Despair alone

Could show me so divine a thing

Where feeble Hope could ne’er have flown,

But vainly flapp’d its tinsel wing.


And yet I quickly might arrive

Where my extended soul is fixt,

But Fate does iron wedges drive,

And always crowds itself betwixt.


For Fate with jealous eye does see

Two perfect loves, nor lets them close;

Their union would her ruin be,

And her tyrannic pow’r depose.


And therefore her decrees of steel

Us as the distant poles have plac’d,

(Though love’s whole world on us doth wheel)

Not by themselves to be embrac’d;


Unless the giddy heaven fall,

And earth some new convulsion tear;

And, us to join, the world should all

Be cramp’d into a planisphere.



As lines, so loves oblique may well

Themselves in every angle greet;

But ours so truly parallel,

Though infinite, can never meet.



Therefore the love which us doth bind,

But Fate so enviously debars,

Is the conjunction of the mind,

And opposition of the stars.


   Defining love is not an easy task. It can be influenced by destiny and fate – which are forces that humans do not necessarily have control. It is not always rational.  It is the meeting of mind, people realising that they are “truly parallel.” It may make them blind to others. It can overtake what fate might wish. Despite seemingly impossible nature of love, it happens.



John Donne

Born in 1572, John Donne’s father was a merchant and the family were Catholic.  This devotion was to cause the family a number of problems. John was an outstandingly gifted scholar who went to Oxford University at 11 and then onto Cambridge. He had to leave there, which he left after he was not allowed to graduate due to his Catholic religion. 

He then studied law in London. In the 1590s, he was travelling to places like Spain and Italy, spending his late father’s inheritance on wine and women. He seemed to be the embodiment of a selfish, sensual person but this was to change.

When he was 21, his brother Henry was convicted for his Catholicism and died in prison. This proved to be devastating for his family emotionally. He realised that as long as he was a Catholic, he would find his chances of advancement very difficult.

 John distanced himself from the family faith, becoming an Anglican, sufficiently successfully that Sir Thomas Egerton appointed him as a secretary. Egerton was the Great Seal, a senior servant to the King. He, like Herbert, was an influential adviser to people of power. In 1601, Donne became the MP for Blackley. 

At 29, Donne fell in love with Anne More who was 16 years old when they married. She was the niece of Sir Thomas More, who had been executed by King Henry the Eighth. This was done in secret in December 1601 which led to him losing his place in Egerton’s service as his patron was appalled by the age difference and the dishonesty that had been required. However, the marriage was declared legal in April 1602. 

In 1610, Donne expressed his Protestant faith by writing a defence of King James, saying that Catholics could be loyal to the King and the Pope, arguing it was possible to bring the state and the church in harmony.  Increasingly, faith was becoming central to Donne’s life.

 It was King James suggested that Donne go into the church, just as he had with George Herbert. In 1615, he was appointed a Royal Chaplain to the King, a sign of the high regard he was held in.

 In 1617, disaster struck Donne as his wife Anne died following the death of their twelfth child. Four years later, Donne became the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most senior positions in the church. In 1631, he died aged 59.

His friends decided after his death to publish his poems. Many of them are described as “Holy Sonnets” – a sonnet was normally a form used to express romantic love but Donne took it and turned it to express the depth of his faith.

The poems are about of faith and sex. He had no puritan embarrassment about writing about both. He could find divine presence in prayer and see God’s creative purposes in sex. He wrote with a great deal of wit and style about both.  How many people could see the connection between an insect and the act of love? Donne could, as this poem shows:

The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,

How little that which thou deniest me is;

It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,

And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;

Thou know’st that this cannot be said

A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead,

Yet this enjoys before it woo,

And pampered swells with one blood made of two,

And this, alas, is more than we would do.

Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,

Where we almost, nay more than married are.

This flea is you and I, and this

Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;

Though parents grudge, and you, w'are met,

And cloistered in these living walls of jet.

Though use make you apt to kill me,

Let not to that, self-murder added be,

And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since

Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence?

Wherein could this flea guilty be,

Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?

Yet thou triumph’st, and say'st that thou

Find’st not thy self, nor me the weaker now;

’Tis true; then learn how false, fears be:

Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me,

Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.



“ The Flea” is an extraordinary frank poem about sex. A flea is a blood sucker – and sex can often involve blood if the new married virgin wife has yet to be penetrated. The marriage bed is a kind of temple: something sacred happens here between husband and wife. Donne is not a dualist who sees something unhealthy or unspiritual in sex – quite the reverse. Sex is something to be embraced.


Death be not proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


   Donne’s own life had been marked by a considerable number of bereavements – his wife and five of his children. He could have easily given into despair. Yet here in this poem, he shows that from his Christian faith, death is not a total power and that it needs humility. It is the gateway to awaking eternally in heaven. Death will itself die. This poem is much influenced by 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul writes that “The last enemy to be defeated is death.”



  What have the metaphysical poets every done for us?


  Herbert, Marvell and Donne were all men who had access to power and found it taken away. They were not destroyed by this but actually; they were able to turn away from personal disappointment to create great art. Had they been successful in the political careers, they would not have had perhaps the time to devote to their poetry. Both Donne and Herbert gave their life in service through the church, where they both found fulfilment that their other lives had not given.

   The metaphysical poets have a truth about them which is encouraging to us now. They were able to integrate spirituality and sexuality in a way that many modern believers might be envious. They were able to explore love, both heavenly and earthly in a way that challenges us. They knew that “Time’s winged chariot” demanded that we get on and live in the moment. The struggle to reconcile faith and sexuality is there in the work of Marvin Gaye and Prince. The metaphysical poets show that they do not need to be at war, but are two important aspects of the human story.



Meet our writer Cavan Wood

C:\Users\Cavan\Documents\Cav picture 2019.jpg
Cavan is a  well sought after writer, teacher and speaker based in Sussex of over thirty years experience. He has written about religious, moral, cultural and political themes , having written or contributed chapters to over twenty  books published by Bloomsbury, Oxford University Press , The Bible Reading Fellowship and Hodder amongst others. He is interested in politics, literature, cinema and is a leader in his local church. He is married with a wife, two children and a somewhat surly cat called Chloe.

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Post Date : 07/02/2021
Title : Six best opening lines of a novel? King vs Dickens
Description :

 What are the best opening lines of a novel?

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,

The Gunslinger, Stephen King

“The man in Black fled across the Desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”

Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood, 1998
“Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.”

1984 by George Orwell

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

If you really want to

hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know

The Jane Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde 

My father had a face that could stop a clock.

This is Stephen King’s favourite opening line posted on facebook 26 March 2016



“The terror, which would not end for another 28 years-if it ever did end-began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.” - Stephen King's IT

John Fagan looks at two authors and compares the best opening lines from:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens vs It by Stephen King

It’s said by many that the opening paragraph, even the first sentence, of a novel is crucial in pulling the reader into a story. If a writer gets that right, they’ve won the first battle. 

There are many different ways to open a novel. You can start with the hero’s point of view, from the perspective of another character, or even just setting the scene with a shot at the setting. What’s most important is that it strikes a chord with the reader. They are offering to invest their time in the story, so it should be an appealing invitation from the start and this is not easy to achieve.

We can look at two of the most successful writers of all time, Charles Dickens and Stephen King, and their most memorable novel openings to see how this can be achieved. 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Dickens' most famous opening is a 119-word sentence that marks the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities. Published back in 1859, it’s a story set in London and Paris as the French Revolution is beginning to erupt.

Long sentences are risky as they tend to bore the reader but Dickens gets this one perfect. It’s poetic, contrasting opposites of the people caught up in the French Revolution, and sets the tone of what’s to follow.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

The opening works because the prose melts with ease into your memory. When thinking about the opening of novels, it is one that many people know, even those who have never read it. And that’s not by accident. There is a feeling of chaos as you enter the story and it pulls you down into its poetic sinkhole. 

Dickens loved to show the polar opposite sides in his Victorian fiction, mainly the poor working in the filthy factories and those who lorded over them. In A Tale of Two Cities, all it took was one long, meandering sentence to set the scene to perfection and the two polar opposite sets of people are portrayed.


'It' by Stephen King

Published in 1986, It is one of King’s most famous novels about a group of kids who are terrorised by an unknown evil that takes the disguise of a clown. The opening sentence is 39-words long, far less than Dickens’, but is equally as powerful.


“The terror that would not end for another 28 years, if it ever did, began so far as I can know or tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”

King admits that he worked on that opening line countless times to get it just right. And it’s one of the most memorable in all of fiction. Why? Well, you instantly want to know more about this story. What is this unknown terror? Why will it not end for another 28 years or longer? We are out in the rain beside a gutter and there’s a child’s boat. It gives out a feeling of uneasiness and like Dickens’ takes us into a world that has our curiosity. 

King says the opening should say to the potential reader: 

“Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”

However, this hook, for want of a better word, has to be honest. There’s no point in writing an amazing first sentence or paragraph that has nothing in common with the rest of the novel. The writer is making a promise to the reader and they have to uphold that promise or they will disappoint them in their expectations.

The opening is only one battle. The war is the story itself. But there’s a lot of power in an opening line when a novelist gets it right, like Dickens and King have, and captures the reader in one single sentence.

Come and Meet John Gerard Fagan 

A Scottish writer and Creative Writing Assistant Professor. He writes in both English and Scots and in a number of genres, including Japanese historical fiction and crime noir. He moved back to Scotland in late 2019 after being in Japan for the last decade.

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Reader’s Favourite first lines from Stephen Kings novels

Kelly La Rue, I'm a voracious reader “Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”—The Shining

“If you liked being a teenager, there’s something really wrong with you.”

“Humor is almost always anger with its make-up on.”—Bag of Bones

“When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”—Joyland

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”—On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“Reading a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and satisfying affair.”—Skeleton Crew

What makes a great opening line in your

first chapter?

Jody Lebel
author, teacher

So let’s talk about opening lines. The first paragraph, and especially the first sentence, is one of the most important things in your book. Whole classes are dedicated to it. You need a hook in the first line, on the 3rd sentence or at the end of the first paragraph, and one at the end of page one. When a potential buyer is in the book store they are attracted to your cover and your title. Then they turn the book over and read the back cover. It better have a killer back-cover blurb. If they like that, they will begin to read the first page. You MUST hook them right then or they will put your book back on the shelf and go on to the next book. It can mean the difference between a sale or a no sale.

Here are 12 tips to help you write a great beginning.

1) Resist the temptation to start too early. Telling us about your character waking up, taking a shower and eating breakfast is not compelling reading. If your heroine is going to attend a party, begin the story as she enters the party not getting ready in front of a mirror combing her hair. Start the page at the first moment of conflict. Jump into your tale midstream.

Also, avoid telling us what the character is wearing or eating or drinking unless it is important to the story or to character development. No one really cares, especially on the first few pages.

2) Choose a natural starting point and write your way into the story. A complicated tale may have many places it could start so pick the most interesting facet to begin. You need to hook your reader right to get the sale. If your story is about a man who is going to rob a bank, start with him handing the note to the teller. Don’t start with his problems in high school and how he married the wrong woman and how he recently got fired from his job and what let up to his decision to rob this bank. Those details are important and will flesh out your character, as well as show his motivation, but work them in a little at a time as back story. Avoid info dump; that is, flooding the reader with details all in one lump.

3) Choose your tense and point of view. Most readers are not aware of tense and POV but editors/agents are. Keep your writing smooth and consistent and try not to jump around. Although you will see well-known authors writing that way, they know what they’re doing. You want your readers to see the least amount of stitches in the fabric, so create as few seams as possible.

4) Don’t disappoint the reader by starting out with a bang and then going nowhere. You must fulfill your promise to the reader; the promise you gave him in that first sentence and paragraph. If this is purported to be a funny book, make it funny to the end. Don’t let it lose momentum or you’ll lose your reader.

Also, if your opening is strange or misleading, you will have trouble living up to the expectation. Never cheat the reader.

5) Don’t get ahead of the reader. The story has to flow with a natural sequence. You know the neighbor is a vampire but you haven’t clued the reader in yet so they may get confused. Few readers will continue a story they can’t follow.

6) Don’t start out with overt terror or overly gruesome details. Feed gore in your story in little pieces. A little goes a long way here. If you start off strong, you will have to stay strong and most people won’t be able to stomach 80 thousand words of bloody mess and heart-stopping fear.

7) Avoid writing long setting descriptions. This is a common error for new writers. Describing the sky and the clouds and the sunset is not going to grab your reader. Save all that for the poetry books. Fill in the necessary information and get on with the story.

8) That goes double for starting off with a dream sequence. If the reader gets involved with the story and then finds out none of it was real, it was all a dream, he will feel cheated.

9) Start out with a strong character. First time novelists often try to lure the reader into the story by holding back the main character. Establish your main character’s situation right away. If you manage to get your reader to care about your hero/heroine, the story line really becomes secondary as the reader will follow those characters wherever the story takes them. Beloved characters can turn one book into a series.

10) Keep the reader guessing from the start. While you don’t want to confuse your reader, giving them a puzzle or unanswered question is very effective. They will keep reading to find the answer.

11) Avoid starting out with pages of dialogue. You must build a relationship between your character and your reader. That’s difficult to do through cold dialogue on the first page when the reader really doesn’t know the heart of who is speaking. Dialogue mixed with a bit of narrative works well as it reads quickly, and readers like white pages but not in the very beginning of your book.

12) Once you reach the end, revisit the beginning. The original story line often changes as the tale unfolds. A new opening line may be necessary to fit the revamped story.

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Post Date : 06/25/2021

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