Wanderlust calling! Advice from Bushbaby Travel

Liz Nicholls

Round and About

Farnham travel operator Bushbaby Travel are helping customers to holiday safely while abiding by Covid protocols. Check out their latest advice on where you can hope to explore…

Whilst we’re unable to take to the skies until at least mid-May – we can still dream of foreign shores as we await the Global Travel Taskforce report on 12th April. We can plan holidays too, with refunds guaranteed by most tour operators should those dreams not quite become reality this year.

This summer we could be scanning our ‘Health Passport’ app at check-in, holding details of our recent Covid tests or vaccinations. We don’t believe many destinations will insist upon vaccinations to enter. However, they could allow travellers to avoid arrival protocols such as quarantine or tests.

It’s not just the rules of other countries that are key, but also our own. Currently, those having to travel for non-leisure reasons must quarantine for 10 nights and take three tests when returning. Those coming from a ‘red list’ country must do so in a hotel.

Whilst adventure-seekers may accept this in their quest to cure their wanderlust, we’re hoping quarantine-free travel to some low-risk destinations will be allowed, with testing in place to screen for variants. Our hopes and ambitions for summer are outlined here but do keep in touch via our Coronavirus Travel Updates Group.

Europe

Dramatic Iceland has almost eliminated Covid and the expectation of travel corridors with Greece and Cyprus are growing. Turkey is also promising! But for other parts of mainland Europe tourism will depend on vaccination progress and ‘Green Pass’ roll out.

Indian Ocean

For those longing for tropical climbs, the Maldives should see their travel corridor returned. The Seychelles (currently red-listed due to its’ proximity to mainland Africa) have minimal cases and nearly vaccinated their residents. It may be autumn, however, before we can savour a Mauritian sundowner.

Africa

Cases are now low in Southern Africa, but we expect at least home quarantine to stay due to variant concerns. If you’re missing the Bush, a safari in non red-listed Kenya remains a possibility. The UK is assisting in the vaccination programme there.

Asia

Previously corridors were confirmed with many countries here, but arrival quarantine remains in place for most. The exception is Sri Lanka, the tear-shaped island that ‘has it all’. Thailand tourism has launched a campaign for our return from 1st July, perhaps wishful thinking.

The Americas

Whilst we remain hopeful for Canada, we don’t anticipate access to the USA until autumn. Holidays to Latin America are also likely to remain restricted – although a rainforest adventure in Costa Rica just might be on the cards!

The Caribbean

The islands have fared well and we expect to see some travel without quarantine permitted. For example, Antigua, boasting a beach for every day of the year. Bliss!

Visit the Bushbaby Travel website


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Dunsfold Village Shops 10th birthday

Liz Nicholls

Round and About

Dunsfold Village Shop has two reasons to celebrate – not only has it marked 10 years serving the community but it has also won an SW Surrey Community Hero Award.

South West Surrey Community Hero Awards

The award launched by MP for South West Surrey, Jeremy Hunt, acknowledges the shop’s contribution to the local community during the Covid-19 pandemic, going above and beyond to help others during these challenging times.

Lockdown posed a huge challenge but the shop has remained operational throughout the past year, in recognition of the importance of local shopping for the community. During the first lockdown, a successful online shop was launched for collection and delivery to vulnerable customers and in February a huge milestone was reached with the 3,000th order. Alongside this, the shop doors have been open for the vast majority of the time, operating within Covid-safe guidelines.

The most important thing is keeping our customers and staff safe

Mr Hunt said: “We have all been humbled by the numerous examples of individuals going the extra mile to help people in need during the pandemic. Thank you so very much for all you are doing to support those in need during this crisis – you are a true local hero!”

Owned and run by the community, the shop opened in 2011 and now provides a comprehensive range to customers, including everyday groceries, a richly-stocked delicatessen, fresh fruit & vegetables, freshly brewed coffee and hot drinks and other support services, including dry cleaning. It is a staunch advocate of Love Local and during Covid has continued to stock goods from many local producers including Rawlings of Cranleigh, Dylan’s Icecream, Taurus Wines, Flowers by Juliette, Sugar Party, Charlie’s Trout, Mandira’s Kitchen, eggs by Hallgate Farm and Lee House, Crafty Brewing Co, Firebird Brewery, Hogs Back Brewery, Hungry Guest and many more.

The team

Run by manager Gary Halls and his five staff, the shop operates with a team of local volunteers who help stock shelves, serve and compile and deliver orders. Gary said: “We are delighted to receive this award. 2020 was extremely challenging but with teamwork and a lot of creative thinking, we transformed the way we operate and are stronger for it. The most important thing is keeping our customers and staff safe, whilst at the same time, continuing to provide our community service, arguably more vital than ever during Covid.”

Dunsfold Village Shop Committee Chair, Karen Thurston, said they were extremely grateful for the hard work of the staff and volunteers, adding: “The benefits of the village shop have shone through during the last year – it is central to village life and has been a lifesaver for many locals – and it has been a huge pleasure to be part of it.”


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What have you missed?

Liz Nicholls

Round and About

Here we are, a full year after lockdown was announced. Let’s face it, tempers feel a little bit frayed this week, which is natural, really, as we approach the final furlong towards (hopeful) freedom!

So we were wondering… what have you missed most over the last 12 months? Maybe it’s something you took for granted BC (before Covid). That coffee & cake break with workmates… Your routine hair appointment… Saturday sport.

Hospitality

As you know we’re raising a glass to our hospitality heroes with our R&A Good Cheer awards because eating & drinking while supporting our local pubs, restaurants, delicatessens is right up there at the top of our list. Watch this space for news of the winners soon!

Entertainment

Entertainment is another industry we salute, as we remain hopeful of the roadmap to freedom allowing us to enjoy theatre again. As Louise Chantal, co-director of The Oxford Playhouse puts it: “We miss our friends. I think of the scores of youngsters in our 17-25 Young Company, who were in their last week of a year’s preparation for their showcase production when we closed [in March 2020], and our long-standing amateur partners – Oxford Theatre Guild, Oxford Operatics and Opera Oxford – whose yearly extravaganzas at the Playhouse bring together hundreds of local people, from every possible background, to put on a show.

The Oxford Playhouse team, intermittently furloughed and each covering several people’s jobs, transferred all the participation and artist development programmes online (leading the march to digital nationally) and have worked with over 4,500 young people and community group members to ‘stay creative’ during lockdown. “We kept telling stories and supporting artists all through this crazy year,” says Louise.

Check out the Oxford Playhouse co-production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, starring Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley, and upcoming highlights.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve moved on from what felt like the world’s longest winter to all of the joys of spring

Festivals

With a summer of festivals shelved last spring, the idea of enjoying the pick of the area’s crop of get-togethers this summer feels like a dream… Boomtown near Winchester is tentatively set to go ahead in August, with tickets selling out this month.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve moved on from what felt like the world’s longest winter to all of the joys of spring and the collective excitement to reclaim the summer for hugging friends and family and dancing until our shoes fall off…” said the team.

“It’s still a long and rather complicated road to get there, but if we’re allowed to go ahead, words will never be able to fully describe the sheer love and energy that will radiate through this year’s fair.

The team behind Reading (and its northern sister festival Leeds) are also delighted to have sold out all tickets to eager festival-lovers, with Stormzy, Postmalone, Disclosure and Liam Gallagher ready to rock after a quiet year!

So…. what have you missed? Tell us on Twitter and we will be here to celebrate all of these returning joys with you!!!


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Book a plant clinic appointment

Round & About

Round and About

Plant or garden dilemma? Grab a free Gardeners’ Question Time Plant Clinic slot with garden guru & Miracle-Gro this week.

999: WHAT’S YOUR PLANT EMERGENCY? From black spot to drooping leaves, now you can self-refer your plant for a live diagnosis at the Miracle-Gro Plant Clinic

Being a plant parent isn’t always easy! Despite our best efforts, our plants aren’t always in their best shape, and there’s always lots to learn about how to care for them – but now Miracle-Gro (www.lovethegarden.com) is offering free virtual Plant Clinic appointments with gardening guru Kate Turner to help bring your plants back to life.

Kate has years of gardening knowledge at her (green) fingertips, with experience on ITV’s Love Your Garden, BBC’s Garden Rescue, as a horticultural tutor at The Therapy Garden and as head gardener at Charterhouse School in Godalming.

Each day of the Plant Clinic will have its own plant-specialism to suit whatever questions you may have.

Plant Parenthood, Monday 29th March:

Whether it’s your first-time gardening and you’re not sure where to start, or you’re going to grow your fruit and veg crop from seed this year, Kate can answer all your questions and give you lots of tips.

Nutritious Growing, Tuesday 30th March:

The second day of the plant clinic is dedicated to all of your grow-your-own needs. Kate will be able to give advice on the best ways to grow your own fruit and veg and diagnose problems that you might have encountered. If your tomatoes caught blight last year or your courgettes didn’t flower, make sure they thrive this year by booking in with Kate.

Showstoppers, Wednesday 31st March:

Some plants are just for show, so get yours looking their absolute best this season. The Plant Clinic is open for anything from how to grow stunning roses and ornamental flowers, to bold, beautiful houseplants that need a little bit of help. Kate can guide you to enjoy your own flower show.

GP (General Plant) Surgery, Thursday 1st April:

If your needs don’t fit within one of the above, or you’re just looking for general gardening advice, then book a GP appointment with Kate for a check-up.

Plant Clinic bookings are now open for one person and their plant-patient to discuss their growing grievances with plant doctor and gardening expert, Kate Turner. With 20-minute Plant Clinic appointments on offer over the four-day period, which can be booked here.

To find out more, visit www.lovethegarden.com/plantclinic


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Tips to overcome a needle phobia

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Round and About

A needle phobia is quite common – it’s thought to be a problem for about 1 in 10 of us.

People who experience this may have had a lot of injections in childhood, or had previous bad experiences with injections, but this is not always the case. It can result in sensations of panic or feeling faint – or actually fainting – because of a rise and then a rapid drop in blood pressure.

Phil Day, Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, the UK’s first and largest online pharmacy, gives us some helpful advice for anyone who is worried:

1.

It’s nothing to be embarrassed about! If you’re going for an injection, tell the person giving it to you about your phobia and they’ll take good care of you. They’ll be very used to it and will know what to do. They can help by distracting you, perhaps by talking to you during the process – which is over before you know it.

2.

There are things you can do to help yourself. There’s a process called “applied tension”, where you tense your muscles for 10-15 seconds at a time, then rest, and repeat 5 times. Doing this every few days for a week or so can train your body to prevent fainting. Then, whenever you feel anxious about injections, you can repeat the process and it should control your blood pressure quickly. Don’t forget that you should always relax your arm for an injection, though.

3.

Gradually exposing yourself to different situations relating to needles has been shown to help lots of people ease their phobia over time. Perhaps start with thinking about having an injection, and working up from there – and practising “applied tension” and deep mindful breathing when you feel the anxiety coming on.

Overcoming or learning to control a fear takes time and practice, including discovering what tips work best for you to help reduce the fear you feel. It is important if you suffer from a needle phobia to try out different techniques that can help with this so that it doesn’t prevent you from getting important vaccinations that can benefit your health.


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Spring has sprung so let’s celebrate!

Liz Nicholls

Round and About

Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining: spring is here!

We’ve teamed up with Wiltshire creative company eatsleepdoodle who are celebrating our springtime burst of wonderful wildlife waiting to be spotted. From butterflies to badgers, wild garlic to woodpeckers, there are so many things to look out for!

Butterfly watch

What wildlife can you spot this time of year? Well, we’ve been in touch with Butterfly Conservation, and they have kindly given us a picture guide as to what butterflies and moths you can expect to see in April and May.

Some have even appeared early this year! You’ll see on Butterfly Conservation’s Instagram account, that an Orange-tip (anthocharis cardamines) was spotted in Kent at the beginning of March!

Orange-tip butterfly photograph by Tim Bates and Joanne Fegan

A common butterfly to see all across Britain, according to the Butterfly Conservation’s research, is the Common Blue (part of the Blues family and similar to the Adonis Blue!). They enjoy sunny, sheltered areas, and some of the most common places to find a Common Blue include grass and woodland clearings, road verges and coastal dunes. The male butterflies are the most colourful; bright with a beautiful light blue upper-wing; whereas the females are more muted and usually have larger areas of brown.

Another common butterfly in Britain is the Peacock. The underside of their wings is camouflaged to be hidden amongst leaves, but their upper-wing has beautiful bright colours, which help confuse and startle any predators. They can be found across the British Isles and are most often found in gardens!

Also keep an eye out for the Large White, the winner of the 2020 Big Butterfly Count, these lovely butterflies enjoy a variety of habitats, but can usually be seen in gardens and allotments.

Common Blue

Peacock

Large White

Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation is a wonderful organisation, aiming to recover threatened species of moths and butterflies, increase numbers of widespread species, promote international conservation actions, and inspire people to understand and take part in conservation.

Last year’s Big Butterfly Count saw the ‘lowest numbers recorded in 11 years’. The average number of butterflies logged by Butterfly Conservation in 2020 was down by 34% in comparison to 2019. However, last year a record number of people contributed to the count, ‘it seems that, in a very dark and challenging year, the opportunity for getting out into nature and helping as citizen scientists were very welcome to people who were able to participate in the Count this year. Butterfly Conservation is thrilled the event was enjoyed by so many people.’

More information on how to get involved with and contribute to Butterfly Conservation’s work can be found on their website here.

Other wildlife

It’s not just butterflies that Spring brings, soon we’ll see new life popping up everywhere! Badger cubs begin to emerge, mallard ducklings start their adventures and frogspawn can be spotted in ponds across the UK. The dawn chorus will get louder and more persistent as the fledglings take flight and more birds are looking to mate.

Spring birds are ready to be found in gardens and woodland across the UK. Cuckoos are calling, woodpeckers are hard at work (carving a nest hole in a tree trunk!) and blue tits can frequently be seen hopping around the garden in search of snacks.

Woodpecker – photo by Strong Fish

Blue Tit – photo by dfkt

The RSPB have a great article about common garden birds to look out for here – this can also help identify the birds you are seeing in your garden in the coming Spring months.

As well as birds and butterflies, other small wildlife venture out in the Spring, like hedgehogs! Did you know that hedgehogs roam an average of one mile each night looking for food? That’s a long way on little legs! Waking up from their hibernation, hedgehogs love gardens as they provide the perfect habitat.

How can you help wildlife?

Gardens provide them with plenty of food and potential nesting sites. Hedgehogs like to eat creepy crawlies, however, during dry periods these can become sparse. You can create a small home and supplement food for hedgehogs in your garden. A shallow dish of water will benefit them hugely and even meat-based dog or cat food can be left out for them. Springwatch suggests that logs, leaves, twigs and natural garden compost make an ideal home for these small creatures (and bumblebees too), if you keep a pile in your garden – visitors may start to appear!

Hedgehog photo by Alicja Gancarz

Another way you can encourage wildlife at home is by letting your lawn grow and trying to establish a flower-rich lawn. This is a great way to encourage bees. Something as simple as leaving a strip of long grass or planting wildflower seeds or nectar plants can help bees, and butterflies too! Recently, we’ve noticed a lot more places such as churchyards and village greens-leaving large sections of grass or lawns uncut as a safe place for bees and other small wildlife.

Don’t forget that if you see a bee struggling, you can gently pick it up (we recommend using a piece of paper!) and give them a few small drops of water with sugar or honey – this should give them a boost! Another great idea is a bee house – this is a collection of small (usually wooden) tubes that bees can use to lay their eggs in.

Plants & flowers

Spring sees a whole new world of colour from gorgeous plants and flowers! The start of Spring is when we see beautiful blossom and daffodils begin to flower, both of which create an instant atmosphere as they open up quickly in the sun.

Whilst these bold blooms begin the month of March, towards April we begin to see the bright hues of bluebells and smell the strong aroma of wild garlic (yum!). Head to any wooded area for your bluebell fix. Bluebells fill the forest floor with a cool blue tone, an added pop of colour to the regular muted tones. Did you know that over half of the world’s population of the iconic bluebells are grown in the UK? Bees love them and we have ants to thank for helping spreading their seeds!

Wild garlic is not only charming but delicious as well! Spending most of the time as a bulb underground, wild garlic then emerges with gorgeous white flowers that explode onto the green leaves during April and May with an amazing firework-like flower. It is the perfect plant for pollinating insects such as butterflies and hoverflies. You can also make your own pesto with wild garlic – scrumptious!!

What are you most looking forward to this spring? We’re excited to see some brighter days ahead and being able to take in the magical spring delights. And we’ll be making full use of our pond life tablecloth and tote bag and butterfly collection to keep track of what wildlife we can spot this year! With bird seed, butterfly references and a pesto recipe at hand, off we go into another enchanting springtime!

Win a Pond Life Tablecloth

We’ve teamed up with Wiltshire’s eatsleepdoodle to encourage you to notice the wildlife all around you and give you the chance to win a Pond Life Colour and Learn tablecloth. To enter to win, all you have to do is follow eatsleepdoodle on social media and tag eatsleepdoodle & Round & About in your wildlife pics on Instagram before Easter Monday (5th April). We can’t wait to see your creations!

Usual Round & About competition T&C’s apply.

So get outdoors and enjoy the nature around you this Spring!


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Get zoom ready with vitamins

Round & About

Round and About

As millions across the world continue to interact online, people are spending a record amount of time video chatting.

This means that you often spend hours every week seeing yourself far more than you did pre-Covid, often leading to you paying greater attention to how you look. With this in mind, Pharmacy2U, the UK’s largest online pharmacy, have compiled a list of the best vitamins to make sure you’re Zoom-confident!

Phil Day, Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, the UK’s first and largest online pharmacy, gives us which vitamins help with what:

Vitamin A

All cells need vitamin A for growth: this includes hair, which is the fastest growing tissue in the human body. It also helps your skin to produce an oily substance called sebum which helps to moisturise your scalp and keep your hair looking healthy. It has also been found that people that are deficient in vitamin A may experience hair thinning and hair loss.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can be found largely in both the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and the dermis (inner layer of skin). It has antioxidant properties and plays a key role in producing collagen, which helps to keep skin healthy. This is one of the key ingredients found in many anti-ageing skincare products. It helps to heal damaged skin and also has the ability to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, help to repair hair and prevent dry skin. It’s also great for healthy hair, again linked to its role in producing collagen, which is an important part of the hair structure.

Vitamin D

Typically we get the majority of our vitamin D in the summer months; the skin makes it when it’s exposed to sunlight. However, with most of us stuck indoors and with the gloomy winter weather many of us may be deficient at the moment. Vitamin D is used throughout the body, including the skin, where it plays an important role in skin tone, as well as preventing premature skin ageing. It also promotes healthy bone growth, with some studies showing that it can help with dry skin, eczema and psoriasis. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to hair loss, with research showing that vitamin D may help create new hair follicles.

Vitamin E

Similarly to vitamin C, vitamin E possesses antioxidant properties, helping to prevent the skin from sun damage. Vitamin E absorbs UV light, minimising the damage done by UV rays, preventing dark spots and wrinkles. If you have particularly dry skin, vitamin E can help to counteract a lack of sebum, as well as to help in the treatment of skin inflammation.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is vital in helping the body’s ability to form blood clots, which helps the body to heal bruises, wounds and any areas that have been affected by surgery. It is thought to help skin conditions including scars, stretch marks and dark eye circles.

Some vitamins should not be taken in large doses, and some may clash with prescribed medicines. Before taking any new vitamin supplements, talk to your pharmacist for advice if you need it.”


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Staying safe after COVID-19 vaccination

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Round and About

How the vaccination could make you feel and what to do after you’ve had it. Comments from Phil Day, Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, the UK’s first and largest online pharmacy:

“Like all medicines, there is a potential for side effects. These are generally mild and disappear within a day or two, and not everyone who has the vaccine will be affected. The most common side effects include fatigue, having a tender arm where you had your injection, and general aches and flu-like symptoms. These are common for many vaccines; the vaccine cannot give you Covid-19. It’s important to remember that if you experience mild symptoms after the first dose, you still need to get the second dose.

You must continue to take all recommended precautions to avoid infection

“It will take a week or two for your body to build up protection from the first dose of vaccine. No vaccine is 100% effective, and we still don’t know how much the vaccine prevents transmission of the disease, so you must continue to take all recommended precautions to avoid infection. In order to minimise any risks, for you, your family or other people you may come into close proximity with, you should continue to practise social distancing, wear a face mask, wash your hands frequently and follow the current government guidance.

“Although the fact that such a vast number of the population are receiving their vaccination is hugely positive, it’s important not to get complacent. By doing this, we can continue to alleviate pressures on the NHS. There is still a long way to go before life returns to pre-Covid normality and you can play your part in getting us all thereby sticking to the national guidelines.”


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How daylight savings affect your sleep

Round & About

Round and About

Three ways daylight saving affect your sleep — and what you can do about it

The clocks go forward on March 28th — marking the start of daylight savings. Unfortunately, this means one less hour in bed, so prepare to feel extra sleepy that day!

As it turns out, this lost hour can have a greater impact than you may initially think on your sleep cycle. To help you prepare, we’ve identified three ways daylight savings affects your sleep, plus three ways you can fix it.

It disrupts your rhythm

Our bodies use circadian rhythm, a sort of internal body clock, to keep track of the time. It takes things like sunlight, how often we eat, and other aspects of our routines to determine when we should be awake and when we should be asleep. So, the hour lost from daylight savings could throw us off track and impact our nightly rest.

Maintaining a routine is crucial if you want to fall asleep easily

Solution: don’t oversleep. Try and keep to the exact same routine as you would normally. It may be tempting to lie in an hour past your alarm to ‘regain’ your lost hour of sleep, or even to have a nap during the day to catch up. But, these may be more detrimental to your body’s natural rhythm than if you were to stick to your regular pattern. Instead, it’s better to simply mourn the lost hour and move on, sticking to your usual routine.

The nights are shorter

This is the time of year where nights start to get shorter. By this, we mean that there are more hours of daylight, which is great for packing in loads of fun activities during the day. But, it can make sleeping difficult when the sun streams into your bedroom at times when you’d usually be trying to rest and recharge.

Solution: separate day from night. Darkness is key for sleep, as it tells our bodies to produce a soporific hormone called melatonin. So, at this time of year, you may wish to try installing thicker curtains or blinds to keep the light out and closing them around two hours before bedtime, so you can start to get sleepy when you need to.

Additionally, it can help to try and get as much light during the day as you can so that your body produces enough melatonin to keep you asleep through the night (NIH).

The weather is warmer

Summer sun is definitely something to look forward to, and the clocks going forward is signal that warmer weather is on the way. Unfortunately, this can mean sticky, sweaty nights and disrupted sleep, which can certainly put a damper on things. According to experts, the optimal temperature for encouraging sleep is between 15 and 20 degrees, much cooler than you might expect (Sleep Foundation).

Solution: keep it cool. The best solution would be to open your windows, as not only will this let the heat out, but the circulating air can make it easier to breathe too. You should also make sure you have a breathable mattress, as well as a lighter tog duvet than you would use in winter. A good summer duvet is generally around 4.5 tog, or anything up to 7.5 if you prefer a heavier blanket.

“The clocks going forward can make you feel off kilter for a few days, but it can have an even bigger impact on your sleep if you let it. Remember that sleep is a cycle, and maintaining a routine is crucial if you want to fall asleep easily and stay out of it until the morning.

“I always think of daylight savings as the start of summer, but, while longer days and warmer weather are a definite plus, if you’re not sleeping well, you can’t even enjoy the sun properly. Fortunately, by taking steps to make sure our bedrooms are the perfect environment for sleeping, we can enjoy a good night’s rest and longer days at the same time.”

Phil Lawlor, sleep expert at Dormeo. For more info please visit dormeo.co.uk


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Jess Gillam chats about Investec 2021

Liz Nicholls

Round and About

Jess Gillam tells us about music’s power to connect us and looks ahead to the Investec International Music Festival which will take place in Surrey Hills as soon as safely possible.

Music is intrinsic to our humanity. It has been a form of expression since the beginning of time and it has the power to unite, to console us and to bring light in what often seems like a broken world. Music can provide us with a space in which to exist, a place in which to be renewed and perhaps a moment of solace – which is what many people have needed throughout these bleak and uncertain times. Music can offer us the thing we are all longing for most: connection.

When my diary was wiped clean of concerts, workshops and performances pretty much overnight in the first lockdown, I wanted to try to find a way to unite people and provide a bit of that sense of belonging, identity and hope that music often gives us. So, I set up the Jess Gillam Virtual Scratch Orchestra – an online project publishing parts for different pieces (Let It Be by The Beatles, Where Are We Now by David Bowie and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson) on my website.

Music can offer us the thing we are all longing for most: connection.

Anyone, of any ability, could send in a video of themselves playing along (with a click, of course, to keep us all in time!). We then created an orchestra out of all the videos and then I played along too. It was a big online party for musicians and we had just under 3,000 people aged between two and 95 participating over the three projects.

The response was absolutely fantastic from both participants and the audience, with many people commenting on how the project had given them a sense of community. Although technology can sometimes be endlessly frustrating, it really can (especially in these times) offer us a way to come together on a mass mission!

Thanks also to technology, I also released my second album, TIME, last year. We finished the recording four weeks before the first lockdown. The concept behind the album – to reflect the arc of energy in a passing day and to give listeners a moment away from a manic world seemed to become strangely more pertinent in the weeks to follow. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the album could not be toured but I will perform some of the music from this album at the Investec International Music Festival which I’m excited about!

As we start to move towards a world in which live performances become possible again, I hope we’ll all cherish the direct sense of communication music can provide and that we have missed in recent times. I’ve been lucky enough to give a few concerts to live, socially distanced audiences and in an odd way, these have been some of the most memorable performance experiences of my life so far; the heightened sense of anticipation, communication and sharing in the halls has been so special. Nothing can replace the electrifying energy of live music, which is why I cannot wait to perform in Surrey!

For more details & updates on the 2021 Investec International Music Festival, please visit iimf.co.uk


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