Thoughts from Brandon Hill

bathe-yourself-in-birdsong

How to Make a Moss Shower Mat

Oh yes. Inspiration can take many forms. As can madness.

Imagine each time you stepped out of the bath or shower you felt like you were in a magical woodland. I liked the sound of that and having seen a photo on facebook of a moss shower mat, I thought I’d turn my hand to it. And share the results, as the instructions I could find online were rather limited. So here’s how to make a moss shower mat … A weird and wonderful cushion for your soggy feet.

Moss Shower Mat

What you’ll need: 

  • A father, or friend, who is a builder and who has lots of random scraps of useful things lying around. Failing that, a skip to rummage around in. If neither of those are available, put a shout out on Streetbank or Freecycle.
  • A spare couple of hours.
  • Some random tools, such as a stanley knife and a ruler.
  • Some glue (or sealant).
  • A friend to take photos of you and tell you when you’re about to make a HUGE mistake. (Optional.)
  • MOSS.

STEP ONE. Moss from the Boss.

Dad’s house. He had a lot of moss to spare. If yours doesn’t, try foraging in a local woodland for some. Just take what you need – ideally from different spots so as not to leave a hole in the forest floor, and also to give your mat some variation!

Moss-from-the-boss

Natalie-Moss

 

 

 

 

 

STEP TWO. Measure Up.

This is where the ruler comes in handy. Measure the size of your dripping area. Mine is quite large. More of a dripping platform. Yours might just be a foot or two wide. Either way, get the measurements written down.

Moss-shower-mat_1

STEP THREE. Attack.

For the base I used some scraps of ceiling insulation, to make a kind of tray for the moss. So it had a ledge (about half and inch high) to keep the moss and water in. Once I’d made the tray, I lined it with an old yoga mat, to give the moss ten or so years of nice vibes and also something squidgey to hold some water.

making a moss shower mat 2

STEP FOUR. Withdraw. 

At this point it might be worth seeking some advice. Or just remember to do the tray bit first. The thing with using old bits of scraps is that they are limited, so you can’t waste your materials. My friend spotted that I hadn’t made the ledge at this point, so it was time to get back in the kitchen, and get gluing.

Once I’d made the tray (out of ceiling insulation) and laid the yoga mat inside the tray, I needed to seal the edges and make it waterproof. I had some plastic sheeting to wrap around the outside of the tray. Then, to seal it, I used a bathroom sealant – again because it was leftover from a previous job. You could use waterproof glue.

This whole process took some effort, some open windows and a silly face.

IMG_4859

STEP FIVE. Wait. 

The hard part. JUST LET ME PUT THE MOSS IN ITS NEW BED!
My friend made me wait. The sealant had to be dry.
So we went for a roast dinner instead.

STEP SIX. Making Your Bed. 

Take your moss in your hands, welcoming the spirit of the moss into your bathroom (along with the woodlouse, the bugs and the beetles) before laying in its new bed. Or just whack it in. Water … and voila! Enjoy! Shower up and smell the forest!

Moss Shower Mat

** EIGHT WEEKS LATER **

Before posting this I wanted to make sure it didn’t just die the next day. It didn’t. I love my moss shower mat. It feels nice under my feet. But it’s very thirsty. It likes to drink more often than we can drip on it – even if we bathed and showered twice a day. All this watering may negate the environmental benefits of having a recycled, natural moss shower mat. But if you use the water from the bath it’s worth it. Happy moss shower mat making.

Need more inspiration? Or proper, actual instructions? Have a look here.

moss-mat

the everyday alchemy of … GoodGym!

I wrote this article last month for the Bristol Post (see below) after being super inspired by GoodGym! Here’s the full version, followed by the version that recently appeared in Bristol Post ‘Weekend’.

 

Happiness Matters.

Local Happiness Champion Natalie Fee tries out Good Gym and finds there’s more to exercise than ever before …

What makes a gym ‘good’? The quality of the equipment? The proximity to your house? Low monthly fees? Or can it measured by how good you feel when you’ve been? Strictly speaking, Good Gym isn’t actually a gym. It’s a very clever way of getting people to do things for the good of their community.

I first heard about Good Gym around six months ago at the Green Mingle at Bordeaux Quay, a monthly networking event run by the Green Capital Partnership. Chris Bennett, the local organiser, had moved down from London, where Good Gym has been running (excuse the pun) since 2010 as a not-for-profit organisation. Set up by a group of runners who believe gyms to be a waste of energy and human potential, Good Gym aims to redirect that energy towards the neglected tasks and people in our communities who would benefit from it. To be honest, it’s taken me six months to get with the programme. I helped promote the launch of Good Gym Bristol on Twitter as it seemed like such a marvellous idea – get fit, do good, meet people. In actual fact, it ticks all five boxes from the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ research that Cameron’s Happiness Index is based upon. More on those later.

As one of Bristol’s Happiness Champions, I felt Good Gym was well worth championing and promoting it online was a pleasure. But as is often the case when I hear of a good idea, it stayed in the realm of good ideas while my busy life raced on. That was until a few weeks ago, when I spotted a flock of lycra-clad gardeners, grazing on the weeds of Brandon Hill. Or at least that’s how it looked. I called out them to in good humour, ‘Is this the latest sport, extreme gardening?’ To which a familiar face looked up and replied, ‘Natalie, I was wondering if you were going to join us!’ Which is how I ended up at the Good Gym meeting place last night, outside Bristol’s newest cycle cafe, Roll for the Soul. I reluctantly chained up my bicycle; despite running my son to school most days I don’t consider myself a runner – I’d much rather be on two wheels than two feet. But I was glad to see the group of Good Gymmers gathering and I was looking forward to a new experience. I love exercise, I enjoy meeting people and I’d been meaning to do some voluntary, community action since moving to Bristol last year. Tonight the stars were aligned with my shoes and it all came together in one sweaty, sociable session.

We headed out from the fountains of central Bristol up Christmas Steps towards Redland, stopping for a much needed warm-up stretch en route. The pace was steady and the stitch in my side kept it that way, but nobody seemed to mind. The run was fun, people were chatting, getting to know each other and remarking on new sights – never before noticed trees, buildings … and a lot of quaint-looking pubs! About 3-4k later we arrived at the Metford Road allotments for our evening’s task: to clear an overgrown plot and dig over some new ones. A volunteer from the allotment met us with tools, along with food for the local foxes. Last week’s group had been happily distracted from the task in hand by the proximity of the local wildlife – two young vixens dropping by for some dog biscuits! We split up into two groups and for 45 minutes enjoyed some extreme pruning, hacking and digging. It’s down to the individual which task they take on, usually depending on how many calories they want to burn or simply which thing they like to do the most. I opted for the saw and spent my time rescuing an old apple tree from the grips of a feisty young damson. I think he’d of thanked me for it if he could.

The run home was, thankfully, mainly downhill, as by this point my legs were well aware that they’d run further than my usual distances. But that’s just one of the great things about doing things in groups, you spur each other on, distract each other, inspire each other to go that little bit further. I don’t think I’d ever run 6k before last night. The other benefits were becoming obvious too – by the time we got back to Roll for the Soul our spirits were high, bodies energised and the endorphins were positively dripping off us. Which brings me back to the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Good Gym really does meet all the criteria for ‘what makes us happy’. You connect with people, be active, take notice of new routes, wildlife and changing seasons, keep learning from each other, be that gardening skills, running techniques or wild food and give, by doing something nice for someone, just because you can. And all in under 90 minutes, with the added option of a refreshing local beer at the end if you choose! Good Gym is a brilliant model, getting people off the treadmills and into their communities, harnessing the desire to look and feel good with the genuine need for more connection with our communities. I for one will definitely be doing it again, from now on my Wednesday evenings are dedicated to the cause. Not because I should, or ought to, but simply because it was good, clean fun. And because happiness matters.

For more info about Good Gym visit goodgym.org

 

Natalie Fee is is one of Bristol’s Happiness Champions, a presenter and author of ‘The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook’ (Findhorn Press). Find her at nataliefee.com or twitter.com/nataliefee. For more info about Good Gym visit goodgym.org


But the Clocks (Seek and You’ll Find)

 

Exciting news. Apparently the Sun and Jupiter are in conjunction, which to some people mean it’s the most auspicious day of the year!

So I thought it a perfect time to launch the music video for my debut single. It’s the first song I’ve written for 10 years, I had it produced by an amazing collaboration of talented musicians and friends in Glastonbury … I then had a video made by an award-winning music video filmmaker here in my home town of Bristol.

It’s been so much fun. The song is twisted affair of my inner world finding a creative way out into the world … and I really hope you enjoy watching it.

xx

 

 

 

the everyday alchemy of cycling

 

I recently bought a new bicycle. Apparently it’s a road bike, but to me it’s a racer. That’s what they were called last time I had a bike anyway, way back in the 80′s. Back then I had a girl’s Raleigh Coco. An all terrain bike that saw me cycling no handed through suburbia, in the days before we all got too cool for bikes. So it’s been a good twenty years since I’ve owned a bicycle and judging by the ‘new’ one I’m riding now, it’s been a good twenty years since it’s been ridden too. I woke up one morning as the proud new owner of a bike I’d never seen, thanks to an overnight ebay swipe in which I won a vintage 1970′s Raleigh, for the bargain price of £77. Let me backpedal a little. My reason for having to buy a bicycle, after twenty years of not cycling, was that I’d just moved to central Bristol. My work’s a five minute drive away, but in rush hour that became 25 minutes. The five minute journey to my son’s school (in the opposite direction to work) became a twenty minute ordeal. So instead of a 45 minute commuter’s nightmare, we were going to go by bike. Ten minutes to school. Fifteen back to work. Time saved, money saved. Cycling was a no-brainer. Little did I know however, that my brain would soon have very little to do with it – I was about to fall in love.

Everyday-alchemy-cycling-Chris-WatsonThree months later and I’m still totally smitten. I’m having a whirlwind romance with a velocipede … and not just mine. The whole damn lot of them. I love my son’s bike. My workmates’ bikes. The whole kit and caboodle. I, am a cyclist. Please believe me when I say this is an extraordinary statement for me. Six months ago I scoffed at people who rode bikes for fun. I was baffled as to why people would choose to go on a cycling holiday. To me the words ‘cycling’ and ‘holiday’ categorically did not belong in the same sentence. Those people were mad. And yet, here I am just months after ‘having’ to buy a bike, with a cycling holiday to France under my padded lycra and new bar tape. I know. It’s astonishing. I’m mad. Or am I?

Actually I feel healthier than I have for a long time. The holiday was a complete revelation. Me and my semi-pro-cycling friend (to whom I owe the majority of my limited experience) drove to Plymouth, left the van in the car park and cycled onto the ferry. We were actually encouraged to jump the queues. No waiting in lines for us cyclists! The terminal staff in high-vis jackets – that you’d normally see through steamed-up car windows as they grimly waved you on board – became real human beings. They spoke. They smiled. I was ecstatic. I know it was only cycling onboard but to me it was the best experience I’d had getting onto a ferry. In fact the whole week was one ‘best experience’ after another. Ok, so there was one experience which I don’t ever want to repeat. Having spent the morning cycling south from Roscoff, we decided to hop on a train to the beaches and menhirs of South Brittany. We arrived late and in the dark. Buoyed by our first day’s adventures, we switched on our flashing LED lights and headed out of town to find the nearest campsite. ‘TOUTES DIRECTIONS’ said the sign. It said nothing about all directions leading to the motorway. By which point, we’d gone all the way down a one way slip road onto the hard shoulder. Turning back was not an option. I’ll admit that during those next 2.5k I prayed. Very Hard. The truck drivers were generous, giving us plenty of space. Somehow we made it safely to the next junction, pulled into the first garden we could find and pitched the tent. Not surprisingly, due to the amount of adrenalin I had still pumping round my system, I slept badly. But that really was the only hiccup. And best to get it out of the way on my first day’s cycling.

france-cycling

After that baptism of tarmac, the rest of the holiday was a wonderful adventure. It was sociable – people wanted to ask us where we’d been and where we weregoing. It was connected – I saw bees on flowers that I could actually smell as I passed them. Each day I grew stronger and started to see hills as fun instead of fearing them. I began to develop a sense of distance, understanding in my body (not just in my mind) that travel requires energy. Up until now I just had to put my foot down on the accelerator to get somewhere. Now I needed calories. I had a huge appetite and was blissfully enjoying being able to eat whatever I liked, whenever I liked, guilt free. In fact, since I’ve been cycling my eating habits have relaxed. Whereas I used to get bloated if I ate wheat, now I don’t. I would get tired if I ate too many carbs, now they don’t seem to affect me. And it’s not just my digestive health that’s improved either, my heart is stronger too. I suffered from daily palpitations, but since cycling regularly I’ve not had any. So when I said that cycling would become an affair of the heart, I meant it in more ways than one!

Cycling has become a way of life. A panacea for all ills. It’s ironic that our move from the rural countryside to the city has made us healthier – usually it’s the other way around. Our ‘commute’ involves wide cycle paths along the river, dotted with nods and smiles to the strangers we see each morning on their bikes, smiles that acknowledge our good fortune. We’re the lucky ones. We have bodies, bicycles and bells … and we’re going to use them.