Winning tip: ‘I could be the person I am meant to be’
This is about my autistic daughter’s hobby. She’s nine, and since last March has become an avid birdspotter and photographer. It’s been great to be outside finding nature in the city, and to see her thrive and grow, walking to and exploring local parks. She’s now got an amazing mentor – wildlife artist and photographer Alfie Bowen – and has been winning competitions and had her photos published. She told me: “2020 was the best year ever … less stress because of less school, and I could be the person I am meant to be.” What more could a parent ask for?
One woman and her dog
I didn’t have enough time to walk the dog and go for a run, so I thought I’d combine the two and try Canicross, the sport of cross-country running with your dog. The kit (waist belt, bungee line and harness for the dog) is relatively inexpensive and the only other thing you need is a good pair of trail shoes. It’s a wonderful way of being out in the fresh air and enjoying the countryside. My dog is a great companion and never judges me for running slowly! There are various Canicross groups across the country which you can join for company and support – Covid rules permitting. I run with One & All Dog Fitness near Helston, Cornwall.
All the world’s a virtual stage
Every weekend, my partner and I connect with friends in the US and Canada to enact a full Shakespeare play via Zoom. Project Shakespeare has been going on since March and has evolved to include a book club, elaborate costumes, and sonnet readings. We use the chat function to boost morale and discuss the play as we perform it. I’ve lived out my dreams of playing Macbeth, Juliet, and Mark Antony.
Bringing Lego figures to life*
* Entered on behalf of my son, Ethan
My lockdown hobby is taking photos of Lego minifigures in their natural habitat. I started because my mum and dad kept making me go on boring walks. While I was waiting for my little sister to catch up I took pictures, like a Lego fisherman fishing in the stream and a minifigure skiing over blossom. My mum said it made me notice the seasons. Since I started this project I have become better at taking photographs and it has earned me my Scouts’ photography badge. The high points were when I took a photo of a mask-wearing minifigure panic buying toilet rolls at Sainsbury’s (pictured), and when I started sharing my pictures on @legominifiguresinthewild on Instagram and @Lego commented: “We think it’s a great idea”.
Ethan Bowden (and mum Caroline)
A taste of my motherland, and my mother’s cooking
I moved to London from Algeria nearly 30 years ago and as I get older I get more and more nostalgic for my mother’s cooking – traditional Algerian dishes remind me of my frail and ageing mother. So since the first lockdown I have found that reconnecting with her food has been a blessing. I call her almost daily to ask about recipes and take notes while she digs deep into her memory, then start cooking and baking. Lockdown is tough for most of us, especially when one is far from one’s motherland, from family and childhood friends, but cooking has been the best ever hobby for me, a treat and a treatment.
Creating a local library
We created a Fairylit Little Free Library outside our flats in north London. It is a great way to stay in remote contact with the neighbours, circulate books to kids and make people happy. It got stolen once and vandalised twice, but we just build it back better (now with solar lights!). We love checking what books are in, doing special request deliveries (22 sci-fi novels on Christmas Eve), and seeing it thrive. It’s knowledge gardening while the real garden is dormant.
Painting on my allotment
When I was granted my allotment 10 years ago I had an idea that I wanted to paint its flowers and paint the plot. Ten years of normal life later and I’d harvested hundreds of dahlias, cornflowers and wallflowers … but not managed a plot painting. Enter lockdown and furlough. Not only could I tend my plot daily but also I could PAINT MY PLOT! Painting it has made me notice the interplay between crops and soil, humans, animals and insects and the effects of light and the weather. So now I am eight allotment paintings down the line and have joined Leicester Sketch Club as a result. This will bring new paintings, new friends and new dreams.
Writing in the woods
Spending lockdown in isolation is lonely on your own. To help me feel like I am part of a world outside of the four walls of my flat, I venture to the local woods and sit on a fallen birch tree that has become my spot. Taking my journal out of my rucksack and “writing wild” stops my mind racing. It forces me to notice, not just look. I check my senses: what do I see, hear, smell, touch? How do I feel? Every day is different; the forest fauna and flora ebbs and flows as the weather and seasons bring new light. The web of life here makes me feel alive. Fingerless gloves are a must though!
Inspired by nature
I have been collecting nature items in my local woods, everything from lichens to rosehips and leaves. Once home, I stick them in a notebook and try to find out what they are, writing their name on the page. It has helped me to notice my surroundings more when I am out, looking up, down and all around. I found so many intricate and beautiful snail shells when rummaging through the leaves which I would never have found had I not been searching. It’s so important to get out and notice the wonderful things still happening in nature around us. I have been inspired by Emma Mitchell, author of The Wild Remedy, who makes wonderful nature creations.
When lockdown forced me to walk the same streets and paths day after day, I began to notice subtle changes as spring unfurled and grew into summer. Muddy puddles dried up and tiny flowers grew in the cracks in the pavement. Previously, I’d enjoyed travelling quickly and widely, taking photographs of each new city and landscape to remember where I’d been. Now I discovered the appeal of taking photographs and video clips of the same thing every day, then compiling them to reveal how imperceptible daily changes cumulatively transform landscapes, trees and views over the course of weeks.