Let’s talk mental health

Liz Nicholls

Surrey

Happy Friday, everyone… but, perhaps you’re feeling less than sunny today. We have teamed up with Surrey mental health charity Oakleaf Enterprise to offer you a friendly hello.

The Oakleaf team offer work-related training, wellbeing activities, counselling, and emotional support both in-person and virtually. They are  providing dozens of virtual activities and support groups over lockdown including art therapy, cooking & nutrition, fitness classes, choir, yoga, anxiety management workshops and many more.

We are also joining forces with them to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness because a lack of awareness, and limited access to professional help, can mean mental health is still seen by some as a taboo subject.

What can we do? According to NHS England, one in four people will experience a mental health problem, which means someone you know may be struggling. Having a mental illness does not mean that you are “crazy”. It means you are vulnerable. It means you have an illness with challenging symptoms. While mental illness might alter your thinking, destabilise your moods or skew your perception of reality, this simply means that you are human and are susceptible to sickness and illness, the same as any other person.

Many of us are unaware that we can be daily reinforcers of stigma. Whether it was that time you told someone to “cheer up,” “snap out of it,” or “be more positive” when you didn’t know that they were struggling with depression? Let’s be kind and change our behaviour in small ways. If someone you know is struggling, perhaps:

• Offer support to people who are struggling with their mental health, whether that’s from yourself, a healthcare professional or in-person and online support groups

• Be an active listener and let them tell their story

• Show empathy, even if you don’t fully understand their experience

• Talk openly about stigma and challenge misconceptions when you hear them

At times like this, open conversations about mental health are now more important than ever. Mental illness is not something shameful that needs to be hidden. Click here for some inspiring testimonials to show that we can all recover if suffering from a dip in mental health, and how helpful support can be.

Also check out Oakleaf’s gardening and upholstery departments that create skill-based training for clients and generate additional income oakleaf-enterprise.org/social-enterprises

Read about Inside Out – an education charity based in Reading focused on improving children’s wellbeing.

Star Q&A: Raymond Blanc

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls asks star chef Raymond Blanc about feeding the soul in isolation, finding your calling & his surprising favourite foodstuff…

Q. Many of us parents have been home schooling, or stressing about home schooling over the last few months… Being self-taught, do you have any encouraging words about how youngsters can find their calling, school or no school? “The key is to find your passion and follow it. I am self-taught in the sense that I didn’t ‘study’ my craft but I did ‘learn’ my craft from the best. This includes my maman who taught me so much as a child about taking the best local, seasonal ingredients and turning them into wonderful, hearty, family dishes. I learnt from great chefs who I worked under – I paid attention, I practised, I pushed forward and made my own way into a world that inspired me so much.”

Q. Your childhood sounds idyllic. What’s one thing parents can do to nurture their children’s love of food? “There is nothing that will inspire children more or make them want to try new tastes and textures than to have been part of the creative process of preparing and cooking the dishes. To this day certain dishes like a simple and delicious apple tart evoke such strong and joyous childhood memories of being in the French country kitchen, cooking with my mother.”

Q. Is there anything you don’t eat or drink? “I do all I can to avoid processed food. I once bought a processed loaf and could not believe that after two weeks there was no mould on it! In France, every little village has a boulangerie and the French buy fresh bread sometimes three times a day. Today there are a wealth of wonderful artisan food producers in the UK and they must be supported.”

Q. What’s the one food or drink that you just couldn’t do without? “Not a food I can’t do without but one I have only recently discovered – brown sauce! Yes, who would imagine a Frenchman loving the humble brown sauce. I had been Living in England for almost 40 years when one day a friend offered me a bacon butty with brown sauce. I can tell you now, it was a revelation. I cannot believe I waited so long!

Q. What’s the most useful kitchen gadget or kit no kitchen should be without? “I think most chefs would agree when I say a great set of kitchen knives. Having the correct sharp knife for each and every task in the kitchen will make everything so much easier and so much more enjoyable. Good knives are easy to handle, they are well balanced and, looked after properly, can last you a lifetime.. Another piece of kit I love is my Kenwood Chef kitchen mixer. I’ve used these machines for over 30 years, in my kitchens and cookery school, and the precision and durability is fantastic.”

Q. We’re supporting our hospitality heroes – how important it is this industry? And do you have any words of solidarity for your fellow hospitality heroes? “The UK hospitality industry employs over 3 million people, many of them just starting out on the career ladder – young, eager and full of high hopes and expectation. For them, and for the whole of the hospitality sector I say try and stay strong. It has been such a hard year but we are all in this together and we know that once this if over our restaurants, pubs, hotels will be the first places people will want to visit to reclaim some normality and joy. We live to deliver those special moments of magic and will be back to doing what we do best very soon.”

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to start out as a chef? “One route is via apprenticeships. There are very many excellent apprenticeships that will give you a superb introduction to commercial kitchens. We run them at both Le Manoir and at Brasserie Blanc and can take someone with basic skills, give them the best training they could hope for and set them up for a successful career with no limits. Some of the best known chefs in the UK started this way, including Michael Caines and Ollie Dabbous who were both apprentices at my Le Manor!”

Q. How have you coped throughout the last year & what have been your go-to sanity savers? “I was at home, and isolated from most of my family – as well as my team of chefs at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Brasserie Blanc. My way of keeping sane was to cook and cook! I chose simple dishes that evoked happy memories and provided the connection to those who I missed so much. I used ingredients that were easily-available and needed only basic kitchen equipment and out of this came the inspiration for my new television series and book Simply Raymond.”

Q. Who would be your five dream dinner party guests, living or dead, real or fictional? “Other than friends or family, of course, what could be better, I think it would be amazing to have one big table with all the great chefs I have been lucky enough to train over the years. What great things they could teach me now.”

Q. Like me, you eat regularly at Brasserie Blanc… What are your favourite dishes on the menu? “Yes, I live very close to our Brasserie Blanc in Oxford so I am in there at least once a week. I help to create the seasonally changing menu with our Executive Chef Clive Fretwell who learned his craft under me at Le Manoir – we have worked together for over 30 years now – amazing! I know all of the dishes very well, every season I have a new favourite but some dishes are classics and stay on the menu throughout, including our very special cheese soufflé. I enjoy this as a starter but also on its own for a light lunch – it is so incredibly light in texture that you can almost imagine it is calorie-free!”

Q. What other exciting plans do you have on the horizon? “I currently have the new television series Simply Raymond Blanc running on ITV on Saturdays mornings. This will be repeated over the summer on weekday evenings so if you have missed any of them don’t worry! My new recipe book is also coming out any day now – Simply Raymond. Like the television series the book is a collection of my favourite, simple home-cooked recipes – nothing fussy or over-complicated. These dishes are the ones that mean the most to me; the ones that connect me to my dearest family and friends.”

Half term fun for families

Liz Nicholls

Surrey

Half term fun for families & children with Surrey Wildlife Trust

Half term is here: Hurray! We know it’s been tough times for parents this winter & that (whisper it) you might not exactly be jumping for joy at the prospect of filling extra time with your children.

But Surrey Wildlife Trust have some great resources to help you spot & encourage wildlife in your own garden or outdoor space, as well as activities you can enjoy online or in one of the 70 Surrey wildlife reserves the charity manages.

England’s most wooded county, Surrey is impressively diverse and possibly the richest of all land-locked counties in terms of numbers of recorded species.

This includes a stunning mixture of landscapes to explore in Surrey, from the beautiful chalk meadows and rolling hills of the North Downs, to the vast heathlands of the Thames Basin and sprawling wetlands in the east of the county.

Visit surreywildlifetrust.org & keep your eye on our social media feed to find out about courses & how you can identify nationally scarce mammals, birds, insects and reptiles that share this gorgeous county with us.

Another half term idea is building a family time capsule with the kids, read our tips here

Bramley Golf Club fund-raise for hospital

Round & About

Surrey

Bramley Golf Club members tee up a great fundraising effort for hospitals

Members of Bramley Golf Club have raised over £10,000 in less than a week to supply frontline clinical staff at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford and Milford Haslemere Hospital with individual well-being packs.

The members wanted to support the health and well-being of the hardworking and dedicated staff at this critical time. The packs are intended as a morale boost and a small token of appreciation and each contain a handwritten message of hope and appreciation.

Once the members’ collection reached £2,000 the club added its own donation to double the amount and from there the members just kept on giving to get to the £10,440 raised so far.

The first 250 packs have been delivered to the Royal Surrey with a further 750 on their way over the next four weeks.

Established in 1913 and located just outside of Guildford, Bramley Golf Club has members from around Guildford, Godalming, Cranleigh, and the villages of the Surrey Hills, an area of outstanding beauty.

The club is home to 900 members, 641 golfing members. The club boasts an excellent junior section with 44 junior members and an adult academy with 24 players learning the game. BGC Ladies section makes up 23% of the golfing members which is above the national average of 15%.

 

Read our Golf feature from this time last year to find out about local clubs and courses.

Hogs Back Brewery offers vaccination help

Round & About

Surrey

Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery has stepped up to the national COVID-19 vaccination drive, offering its Hop Hangar as a drive-through facility for people in the area to receive the life-saving jab.

The brewery’s offer is currently being assessed by the Local Resilience Forum, the alliance of councils, police, NHS and other strategic partners which is co-ordinating the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Hogs Back’s Surrey and Hampshire heartland.

By opening up the large doors at either end of the Hangar for vaccine recipients to drive through, and housing the medical staff and chilled vaccines in the adjacent Tap Room bar, Hogs Back believes the brewery site in Tongham offers an ideal space for the vital programme.

Rupert Thompson (shown in main image), managing director of Hogs Back Brewery, says: “We’re offering the Hop Hangar as our contribution to the vaccination roll-out, and we’ll work with the Local Resilience Forum to ensure we can meet its requirements.

“Our brewery is in a location well served by main roads, and we believe it would be very effective as a drive through facility.

“We have fridges for the vaccines, and rooms for the medical and support staff.

“We can even offer those who’ve been vaccinated a cup of tea afterwards, and for the staff manning the site, we’ll also provide a free bottle of our very own TEA – our flagship Traditional English Ale – for them to enjoy once they’re off duty.

“With the whole of the UK now getting behind the programme, we’re keen to play our part and support our friends and neighbours.”

The Hogs Back Hop Hangar opened in the summer of 2020 as a facility to process the harvest from the Hop Garden adjacent to the brewery, and at other times operates as a bar and function space.

Read more about the local business at their website www.hogsback.co.uk

Star Q&A: Andy Triggs Hodge

Round & About

Surrey

Three times Olympic rowing gold medallist Andy Triggs Hodge started rowing because he thought it would be fun, now he is sharing that sense of fun through Race The Thames 2021, we chatted to him about his career, the importance of sport and the event taking place in March

How did you get involved in rowing in the first place and why, what was it that attracted you to it?

I started rowing at Staffordshire Uni – not a typical rowing uni – because a friend suggested it would be fun. I had no idea what that innocent moment would lead to. From there I found something that sparked my imagination, passion and vitality in life as a whole, and I found myself getting better grades, improving my outlook in life, everything seemed to get better when I took up the oar. It really does conform to the saying, ‘the more you put in the more you’ll get out’.

Were you sporty generally?

I was always last to be picked for school sports, football, running, etc. I used to play a bit of rugby in the second row, but I never scored a try or flourished. I challenge everyone who thinks themselves as unathletic, I believe they just haven’t found ‘their’ sport. It’s why giving young people a chance to try all forms of sport through school is key to their development as well-rounded individuals. Sport plays such a big part in life, everyone will be good at one sport, they just have to find it. This also applies to adults.

Lewis Hamilton said winning the seventh F1 world title was beyond his wildest dreams, but that he had ‘secretly dreamt as high as this’, when you got into rowing was that your ‘secret dream’ to get to the top, winning Olympic and World titles?

I started rowing because I enjoyed it, and I’m lucky enough to say that I finished rowing enjoying it. Winning was always and only a by product of the elements I held dearest – self-improvement; enjoyment and being with friends in a common goal, the sacrifice; achieving one’s potential in anything is directly proportional to the sacrifices made.

Do you miss that competitiveness now you’ve retired or are you someone who has to win at everything you do?

Winning has never been a driver for me, since I retired, I replaced my passion to achieve something (which only started when I found rowing) with two things: First, trying to be a good husband, to make up for the time my wife had to put me first despite the hardships in her life, and to my sons who saw a dad who was reduced to the knackered shell of a man each day as I returned from a training programme designed to keep the human body on the red line seven days a week. Secondly, to find a way to create something for the sport I love. Rowing needs new avenues and opportunities as the sport risks becoming obsolete. Now my focus is on Race the Thames – an event for London Youth Rowing. I’m very excited and can’t wait to see how it lands in March!

Tell us about Race the Thames 2021, how can people get involved?

The event is trying to be as open and inclusive as possible, primarily an indoor rowing event, but you can also contribute to the challenge on any indoor machine. There are two challenges for the teams of eight (male, female or mixed) to choose from; the Race the Tidal Thames, 72km completed in a week or a day, and the Race the River Thames, 342km completed in a week. The ‘field of play’ is an amazing online map that we’re going to bring to life in an exciting way. We’re looking for teams of rowers and non rowers alike: friends, families and colleagues, schools and places of work, across gyms, home machines, anywhere people can access a machine, and any time in the week of 19th to 26th March.

And it’s in aid of London Youth Rowing, what’s that all about and who does it help?

Teams choose their own charity to support, as well as LYR with proceeds split 50:50 – I’m really proud to be able to support many charities through this event. LYR supports young people from backgrounds and communities that would make it very difficult for them to find rowing. I had a comfortable up bringing and I discovered rowing through luck and my ‘privilege’, and it still had such an impact on me it’s hard to comprehend. So many young people who are trapped in the hardest walks of life won’t have that chance without LYR, and knowing the benefits it could have on those individuals, not necessarily to achieve Olympic success, but simply to improvements to life by just participating like I had at uni, is motivation enough for me to live through LYR.

The LYR website says one of the aims is to ‘help young people recover their physical and mental health in 2021’ – with the events of 2020 just how important is this for everyone and how can exercise play its part in this?

Sport is so important at many levels, lockdown has decreased sport across the board. Rebuilding that is essential to getting back on track to increase activity in young people and adults alike, but also to recover our sense of wellness and vitality in our communities. I hope Race the Thames is the motivation to our participants to keep our spirits up and the inspiration to those who LYR help to keep striving and pushing forward.

To find out more and get involved visit www.londonyouthrowing.com/event/racethethames2021

Star Q&A: Andrea Bocelli

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls asks Italian opera singer, tenor & record producer, 62, some questions for our bumper Christmas edition.

Q. What was it like to sing in the empty Duomo di Milano on Easter Sunday? “Each church is the house of God and inside it you can feel the comfort of His supernatural presence, which fills the place with beneficial energy where you are never alone. The fact that the Duomo was empty didn’t cause me any apprehension. From the beginning, I intended the event to be an opportunity to be joined in prayer by an unseen audience. I pictured a vast, interconnected crowd, united by that thin thread which is faith, and which is stronger than any physical distance. I was happy to be able to experience Easter in Milan, which was at the time one of the cities most affected by the COVID-19 virus, precisely on the day of a celebration which symbolises the celebration of life and the strength of the Christian message.”

Q. How important is your faith to you in your work, and this year especially? “It is the centre of gravity of my life, a gift that I cherish and that keeps me going me day after day. I think it is a crucial topic for everyone and I am happy to testify to its importance whenever the opportunity arises. Faith is not something to hold on to in difficult times. Nonetheless, it puts earthly events into perspective, even the most dramatic ones, and helps us overcome them. This year, the health emergency has led us to reflect on the fragility of our environment and on the arrogance with which we too often comprehend nature. However, I believe that, in the face of every unforeseen event, the challenge is always to keep calm and engage a heightened sense of responsibility and carefulness, without giving way to anxiety and losing our positivity and optimism.”

Q. How do you take care of your voice? Is there anything you do or don’t eat or drink (for this reason or otherwise)? “Studying is a fundamental factor and training must be undertaken daily. I remember that my great teacher, Franco Corelli, used to say: ‘Even the precious Stradivarius violin, if you break it, you can always hope to buy a new one. But you only have one voice and once damaged, you will never be able to buy another one.’ I have always tried to respect my voice, by studying constantly without overworking it. As for my diet, I think that eating healthy and moderately is a useful rule for everyone! A singer – just like an athlete – should follow a more rigorous training when a musical event approaches: in the days before a concert or a recording, I lead an almost monastic life, forgetting about wine, coffee, pasta and other important joys.”

Q. Have you always loved Christmas? What’s your favourite way to spend it and your favourite indulgences? “I have always loved it. After all, our childhood Christmas is a great treasure of emotions that we carry around with us for life. We all waited for its arrival, experiencing that magical scent of mystery that spreads throughout the house, waiting for the gifts that will materialise under the tree while we sleep. This sweet promise is kept and renewed every year, for those like me who are believers in the festivities: even into adulthood, albeit with different nuances. I love spending Christmas at home, with my family. The Christmas tree and Nativity scene are both heartwarming traditions that and which cannot be missing in the Bocelli household! We inaugurate the holidays by celebrating with our extended family and going to the Holy Mass together. Once back home, we take turns opening our presents and wait eagerly for lunchtime.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I hope for a world without any wars, where people can live peacefully and are able to defeat pain through medical advances. We all try to do our part, within our means. I’m aware that even if good news stories rarely make headlines, those that do represent for humanity the only path that can really be followed.”

Andrea Bocelli’s new album Believe is out now. For details & the trailer visit andreabocelli.com/believe

Star Q&A: Chris Difford

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls squeezes Chris Difford, musician & founding member of Squeeze who turns 66 this month, for his thoughts on music, heroes, and reaching out on Zoom…

Q. You live in West Sussex now but do you ever miss your native London? “I love the countryside; it’s been my home for many years. I have no relationship with London. South London has been squashed and I can’t see my home there any more. I have happy memories for sure.”

Q. What were your favourite aspects of those days of grimy, vibrant London in the 1960s & ’70s? “Live gigs in pubs and clubs were everywhere in those days, less so these. There are so many venues that have closed and that’s so sad. I loved playing the Marquee Club, sweaty and fast, everything you need as a young lad.”

Q. You’ve earned so much love thanks to genius of your lyrics. I know you’ve said you were a fan of Dylan but are there any other formative influences?
“I feel attached to Joni Mitchell’s lyrics; they guide me to places I have never been before. Chris Wood is another master wordsmith, you must look him up.”

Q. What’s your first ever memory of music? “Hearing The Batchelors on the gramophone… now that ages me! My Mum loved them.”

Q. How did you feel about the warm reaction to Cradle To The Grave? And what’s the weirdest & most poignant fan mail you’ve received over the years?
“It’s great people loved that album and the TV show, it did many things for the band and for our songwriting. As for fans, fan letters are so great I love reading them, these days they are mostly about signing things.”

Q. You seem very zen – often the case when people have “lived” & come out the other side. But do you have any pet peeves – anything get your goat?! “No not really, I hate goats.”

Q. I was really moved by your words about Elton John & how he helped you when you were battling your addiction demons. Do you still chat to him now?
“Elton and I are on email from time to time he still reaches out, how wonderful is that?”

Q. Your writing workshops sound fantastic. Has there been a favourite moment?
“Each retreat is a treat, online it’s been a great way to keep a focus and try to mentor people in lockdown, I love my work on Zoom.”

Q. You’re passionate about saving our treasured local music venues, aren’t you? Do you have a favourite?
“There are many, I ask people to reach out to them and see what they need as they have to be there when the lights go back on, I support them all large or small.”

Q. What, in your mind, is the perfect pop song? “A perfect song is found in any Beatles composition.”

Q. Who would be your five dream dinner party guests? “Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Peter Andrea, Peter Owen Jones and Beyonce.”

Q. It’s tough for youngsters these days. What one piece of advice would you give your younger self on the cusp of adulthood? “Don’t look back, don’t look forward, stay in the moment.”

Chris Difford is bringing his new album on tour this month – visit chrisdofford.com for this & his writing retreats.

#YouCanAdopt

Round & About

Surrey

We’ve partnered up with PACT (Parents And Children Together) to highlight the #YouCanAdopt campaign and encourage you to consider adopting

The team and their celebrity patrons are on a mission to debunk the myths on adoption and highlight the number of children looking for a new family

Adoptions in England have fallen by a third in four years but almost 3,000 children in England are still waiting to find their new family. That’s why an emotive new emotive film featuring adoptive families has been released as part of the campaign alongside a podcast series featuring a number of famous voices talking about adoption. In the film, the adoptive families recite a poem written by comedienne, writer and adoptee Joy Carter, which brings to life the stories of each of the families: the highs, lows and realities of adoption.

Carrie Grant, vocal coach, TV presenter and mum of four, said: “Our adoption journey began over eight years ago when we adopted our son, Nathan. We already had three biological children, but we had room in our hearts and knew we had the opportunity to offer another child a loving home. Adopting our son wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do and a fantastic thing to do. He’s a Grant now, every bit as much as his sisters. I’d encourage anyone thinking about adoption to take the first step and find out more. It’s been such an incredible journey for our family.”

Sinitta, singer and mum of two, said: “I would definitely encourage others to consider adoption. I always knew I wanted children and I tried everything from IVF to surrogacy to have them. All of those journeys led to heartbreak, except adoption. The feeling of finally becoming a mother was almost indescribable; it’s just everything. It was everything I wanted and more. I love my children more than anything and I always say that love is thicker than blood.”

Joy Carter, writer, comedienne and adoptee, said: “It was a pleasure meeting all the different families and collaborating with them on this project. I was adopted when I was a baby, so the stories they shared with me really resonated. Every child needing adoption has a story and I hope by bringing some of those stories to life, people realise the difference they can make if they choose to adopt. I hope the poem and video will help encourage people to register their interest in adopting and help a child find a forever home. I’m really lucky that my parents gave me mine.”

Some of the biggest misconceptions around eligibility are that single people, older people, and those who are LGBTQ+ are not allowed to adopt, which is not the case. The new data revealed that participants felt the following groups would be either ineligible to adopt or were unsure if they were eligible to adopt; over the age of 50 years old 67% single 46% and LGBTQ+ 34%

The #YouCanAdopt campaign also aims to target potential parents from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, as these children traditionally wait longer to be matched with a new adoptive family. The campaign aims to encourage potential adoptive parents to also consider adopting older children, sibling groups and those with complex health needs or a disability.

The adoption process has evolved over the last few years; it is simpler and quicker than it has been previously and there is a lot more support available with over three quarters (76%) of adoptive parents finding the support and resources helpful.

Jan Fishwick, CEO of PACT, an adoption charity covering London and South East England, said: “The future of many children depends on adults exploring adoption and taking the first step towards becoming an adoptive parent. We need to address misunderstandings and outdated views to ensure that nobody is discouraged from taking the first important step towards adopting a child. Some people assume that because of their age or marital status they won’t be able to adopt, but that is simply not true, adoption is a choice for people who want to become a parent.

”It’s also important that prospective adopters are aware that they have a choice. They can choose to adopt through a local authority or a voluntary adoption agency such as PACT and we would encourage anyone thinking about adoption to explore all the options open to them.”

Visit www.youcanadopt.co.uk and begin your journey towards growing your family. To find out more about adopting with PACT, to download a free information guide or to book a place at an adoption information event visit www.pactcharity.org or call 0300 456 4800.

Star Q&A: Katie Melua

Round & About

Surrey

Liz Nicholls asks singer Katie Melua a few questions about her musical icons & more ahead of her new album No. 8 being released and a UK tour this month.

Q. Congratulations on your new album! How do you feel about it now it’s about to be released? “I feel like it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been working on it for so long and can’t wait to share it with everyone. When you’re working on it it’s always tricky to sort of be able to tell completely objectively how you feel about it or what you think about it. Now the dust has settled you start to feel like you begin to see it properly, and begin to hear it properly. There’s always like the excitement of a new record and that’s kind of bubbling in the team, so I just can’t wait for it to be out there.”

Q. What lessons did you ponder about love, and what do you feel is the most powerful lesson to convey? “I looked at it from the perspective of a record maker and a singer/songwriter who has sung great love songs. And so from that perspective I felt like I had to say and have lines like ‘I think we’ve given love too much airtime”’ which is about acknowledging these love songs, but as I’ve got older the reality of life has shown me that when records just celebrate the early love and the passion of love and the sort of that angle of love like it’s not enough. I think it’s important to honestly observe your life and to put that into your music and your words. Another song on the record – How’d you make a love like that last – is about being just honest and asking ‘what have I actually seen?’. What is the reality in all the relationships that I’ve observed – both mine and those around me? There is a real gap between what I’ve seen in culture to do with love and what I’ve seen in reality and I’m interested in seeing how much we can bridge that gap.”

Q. What activities have helped keep you sane during lockdown, are there any habits you will now keep up? “Well I think I’m going to keep up the habit of taking photos. But really meaningfully. I learned to use a film camera to take photos for the album and the promo photos, I never worked with one before, I’ve grown up with a telephone / iPhone camera. The photographer Rosie Matheson taught me to use a camera and I got to shoot the album cover. It genuinely changed my perception of how I view my visual world around me because I realised there’s so many possibilities of which angles you use and what you put inside a picture. It’s like my visual senses have been heightened through learning to take photos, and I’ve actually just bought myself a camera. So I think I will keep up the habit of taking photos and just being a bit more perceptive of my visual surroundings.”

Q. You’ve spoken poignantly about your mental health before, how are you now and how do you maintain good mental hygiene? “Thank you for asking, I’m feeling really good. You know I was sick in 2010, and I’ve had a really healthy recovering and I’m grateful for it, and I’m also grateful that it happened. And how do I keep my mental hygiene – well in a way the fact that I got sick is what keeps my mental hygiene because I’ve realised how the brain can break, basically, and I place a great deal of importance on my health, on not overworking, on just respecting my mind and my body, and my energy and really paying attention to it, and doing good things, things that I love and being kind to people.”

Q. I know you lived in Surrey for some time. What did you enjoy most about living in Surrey? “I used to live on Nutfield Road, up on top of that hill. I didn’t really used to hang out there much because we moved there when I was just starting Brit School, and so I tended to get the train from Redhill to Selhurst, change in East Croydon. I was always at the train station in Redhill! Because we were on top of the hill the view of the Surrey downs was incredible. Very close to our house there was a lake with water sports, and we’d go out on canoes and windsurfing.”

Q. And obviously you’ve played in Guildford quite a few times haven’t you? “Yes I have. And actually the shows we did there with the Gori Women’s Choir were brilliant. Mind you, my first show was there as well, supporting The Planets I think. Good memories, yeah, really good memories.”

Q. You’ve been compared to your namesake Kate Bush; would you like to work with her and are there any other dream collaborations or icons you’d like to meet? “Kate Bush is the ultimate icon. I would blow my head off if the possibility of working with Kate Bush came around. Are there any others? Yes, of course – I love Bob Dylan, I love Joni Mitchell. I think Laura Marling is brilliant, but you know what’s interesting is there isn’t a great deal of communication between artists, like we tend to keep to our own spaces, which is a shame really. But everyone works in their own cycles and I think that’s what makes it difficult. An artist can spend – years making an album and the work is very engulfing. It’s tough to form friendships because you could become friends one season, and then you could go off on tour for 6 months? And then you come back and then they’re on tour. And even at festivals the schedules are usually too relentless so you aren’t hanging out backstage.”

Q. What’s your first ever memory of music? “It is of my mum playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the family piano in Georgia when I was four or five years old. I can still picture it. There was a power cut so there were a couple of candles and I remember hearing that thing of beauty, you know in something that was so emotional and something that I couldn’t touch and I couldn’t see, and the melody just piercing me in the darkness, it was majestic.”

Q. What are your three favourite pieces of music? “Just My Imagination by The Temptations, because I think it is the most exquisite pop record. It’s like a sweet, divine movie that you see, and the vocals and the lyrics are done perfectly; they’re super subtle, they’re completely clear, they’re really bitter sweet, they’re about imagining a lover that the protagonist can’t have. And then the music just is draped around that in the most extraordinary way, and it’s got a great groove but it’s not too loud – it’s just perfect. My next piece would be Mourned By The Wind by Giya Kancheli, which is a classical piece of work, and I actually heard it live performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Southbank Centre. When I first heard it, it was an out of body experience, because it’s incredibly delicate in parts and then there are certain sections that are mind-blowingly – they hit you like the whole orchestra strikes. And finally I Remember by Molly Drake, Nick Drake’s mum. I just adored the philosophy in this song – it had the most beautiful lyric ‘I remember fire light, and you remember smoke’. You can tell her music and her songwriting influenced her son, it’s just perfect. I feel like her work and Nick’s work defines that sort of indescribable English quality, which is sort of subtle and delicate.”

Q. Your tour is due to visit Berkshire and Oxfordshire, do you know this part of the world well and if so any places you would like to visit? “I played at Blenheim Palace a lifetime ago, but I didn’t get a chance to explore much which is a shame. I just love the English countryside, and I actually worked for three weeks completely alone in a cottage in the Cotswolds. That’s where I completed a lot of the lyrics for the new record, and I think it’ll always be in my heart actually. I had an amazing time just being on my own for three weeks. I didn’t have a car, the nearest pub was a half an hour walk away, and I had a cottage that was generously lent to me by an old friend… for three weeks obviously, not forever [laughs].”

Q. Who would be your six dream dinner party guests, living or dead, real or fictional, and why? “I would say Virginia Woolf; her writing is a big inspiration to me. To The Lighthouse is my favourite book – how she describes life is I think one of the greatest things in western art. There’s a dinner scene in To The Lighthouse where she describes the fruit and the food on the table, and the light in the room and it’s just majestic. So, having someone like that who was such a keen observer of life is a must. I would also have Pina Bausch, a German choreographer who revolutionised modern dance. I love her way of working, how she explored male and female relationships and how she made commentary on it through her dance pieces. Her parents were restaurant owners, so she spent her childhood kind of hiding under tables observing life under the table at a restaurant, and then I think that’s where she developed her kind of – that’s what inspired her. She trained as a ballet dancer and then she was given the job of being the head choreographer at the Wuppertal dance theatre company. I saw her dance once. Maybe I Dreamt It on the new album is inspired by her. The third would be Bob Dylan. I love Bob as an artist – I love the idea of Bob, the character that we have of him on records. I especially love his love songs about women like Time After Time and Lay Lady Lay. I think it would be lovely if my guests are all at the same age that Bob might fall in love with one of my guests and might write a song about her. So we’ve had a writer, a choreographer, we’ve had a musician – let’s go for a painter. Levan Lagidze who is a legendary Georgian painter, a living legend. I know him, and I have a relationship with him where we converse about his work and the process of creating, and I find talking to him really fascinating – we talk about art, we talk about life, and I know the conversation with him will always be fascinating and funny. Next one, okay we should have a scientist! Let’s have… let’s have Newton. Why Newton? Because I loved physics at school, it was my second favourite subject at school after chemistry. His university life was interrupted due to the plague, and it was when he was at home he saw the apple fall and had a major discovery from that – I’m sure obviously that’s not what actually happened, I’m sure it was a build-up over years and years, so it would be nice to sort of hear the full story about his discoveries. And my final guest would be my grandma, Tamara (called her Babula; a Russian term for it) who passed away a few years ago. But she had a heavy influence on how I sing. From a very young age, she would always get me to sing for her in the kitchen – she was always the only audience. And at the age of six or seven, she’d give me proper critique that I could take like an adult, she never kind of molly coddled me – and she always told me to sing from the heart, and I think she really enjoyed doing that.”

Q. Do you celebrate Halloween at all? Is it a time of the year you enjoy? “I love Halloween! As a teenager I just adored Halloween, and I loved doing Halloween parties. I once did a Halloween party where I invited a ghost story teller, and around 15 friends and we listened to ghost stories – but we were about 23.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I think for all of us to pay attention to our moods a little bit more, and go easy on ourselves… yeah, go easy on ourselves as humans because I think we’re alright.”