Every now and then I find that the pace and pressure of city living leave me reeling and feeling a little bit lost. And nowhere is this truer than in London, and I really feel it at the moment – racing around the urban jungle on foot, crowded tube or busy road; friends and family dispersed huge distances across the capital and no nucleus to centre around; more new concrete blocks going up every day and everything seeming to cost just that bit more as they do. How are we meant to relax in the middle of all this? The fight for success and stability can leave us inspired, incentivised and high as kites or drained, exhausted and gasping for peace and open air.
Luckily, Ben and I live – for the moment – next to Hampstead Heath. Its wild and rambling spaces have become a haven of fresh air and solitude over the past few years as our need to return to simplicity has proven ever more pressing: street food is hardly a calm pursuit. Nothing rejuvenates us after a gruelling day like a stomp on the heath, a swim in the pond, or just sitting on a bench and watching the moorhens bob along their placid lakes. Yesterday, that was literally all I could be bothered with, and it was perfect. And only this weekend we were lucky – and organised – enough to get out of the big smoke and visit some friends in Oxfordshire. I knew we had to get out, to breathe clean air, to remember a life beyond the bustling city. But we could so easily have cancelled and worked through the days instead. And here is our modern, connected, 24/7 predicament.
When you’re attuned to the rhythm and pace of the city, it takes a lot to get out into nature and just be. Drop the phone, the iPad, the to-do list, the mind – just return to where we came from and watch it do its thing. And there is so much joy there, so much celebration and rhythm. Suddenly we are not isolated in our brick-walled houses dotted among their tarmac roads with engines and clamour – we are all part of one bigger picture and I love remembering that. But what always strikes me as funny is how soon one of us will pull out our phones and jump headfirst back into the world we seek to escape – perhaps from habit, perhaps from necessity, but either way, can’t it wait ten more minutes? So rarely.
In the city, in any of our beautiful parks, heaths and gardens, or on the river, the noises of nature are there to remind us that we are part of a greater whole even if we can only scramble our way there for fifteen fleeting minutes. The fat little green parakeets sing so loudly, it is tonic just to stop and listen. And rolling on into the countryside proper, a whole new world of fresh air, green beauty and chirruping and humming is waiting to show us its wisdom. So next time you’re feeling a bit all over the place, try something simple first up: get to the nearest green grass you can find and let it show you its own simple beauty.