Imagine you lived in some remote rural village and you found, after years of searching, an elixir which really helped make people feel healthier and happier. What if the elixir was freely available and all around us? Imagine if that were so but the people in the village didn’t seem to notice it and the village elders chose to focus instead on creating other healing potions that were far more risky and expensive and would not listen to you. Imagine that you carried on nonetheless. Despite being told that you were either visionary, or insufficiently unschooled in the realities of the ‘real world’ to be of value. Yet all the time you could see that the elixir was working and the evidence all around you showed you that? Now imagine that one day you were invited to the capital city to meet with other people to talk about this elixir and found that not only did lots of other people in other places know about it but that they had known about it for years. There were lots of people who could show you exactly why it worked and knew without doubt that people who got access to it lived longer and happier lives. Imagine that the elixir was so accepted that even the man who is next in line to the throne of the Kingdom came to show that to the people there.
This was my experience of going to the Kings Fund Social Prescribing Conference. Everything I have been arguing here for 7 years now was supported by experience and evidence from others. What we were told is that this practice is possible now and has been for years. Those who look after the health of their communities in this way appeared to find it incredible that other GPs were willing to restrict themselves to pills, potions and referrals up the NHS when they could exploit a rich vein of other health giving and wellbeing enhances in the community around them. There was evidence galore that the best doctors are good food, sunshine, rest, exercise and fresh air and these are, largely free. This, to the ears of people round us here, apparently pink and fluffy view is rooted in the hardest possible scientific evidence of the effects of not getting these on the very stuff we are made of our DNA. Deprived of these life giving substances our telomeres become shorter. And the length of our telomeres directly relates to how we age and how long we will live for. More brutally put not being part of the natural environment we were evolved within kills us.
So it is gratifying that others are taking it seriously elsewhere. That there are local authorities who are investing in infrastructure which enables their GPs to socially prescribe and that there is a ever increasingly body of work which shows without question that we need to widen our understanding of how to stay healthy and recover more quickly when they we are injured or ill. That this is a complex process is not in question. We have to turn a system which treats illness to one which invests in health. Most of that investment needs to be made not in institutions but in places where people live and work and out here in the community.
Nor does that investment need to be expensive. Indeed done properly it would save money. However it means starting from a different place and considering first how to make the places where we live and work ones which make it easier for people to be healthy and GPS need to play their role in that. This requires them to work with others outside the medical profession, to invest in understanding (whether collectively or as a group) more about what is happening in their patients local community which, if invested in, would help achieve their health goals. It requires treating us with respect and as part of the solution rather than as none complaint, resource-less dependents who can’t understand and won’t do what we are told. What we need in Liverpool is a shift in the mind sets of those in positions of power and influence and we need it now.
‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?’ Lamentations 1:12
Thirty four percent of all registered voters chose not to vote in the last UK general election 2015, myself included. Lately, The EU referendum and the world wide pool of politics have for one reason or another, crept into a line of focus that many of us hadn’t been prepared for. Despite the concerning issues of new political candidates and abandonment of unions, the disturbance feels as though it has more weight behind it than just fear of outcome. The underlying issues seem more fundamental than that. It seems worth the effort of exploring the mines of latency in the hope of finding something a little less bleak than that which could easily be seen, as an epidemic of social indifference. (more…)
Here in Tree House Liverpool CIC we have committed ourselves to changing our world by starting where we are. We create as many opportunities in and around our local park as we can which show off the capacity, assets and resources we already have as individuals and as a community: how generous, creative, resourceful, knowledgeable, hard working, wise, clever and kind we can be as well as to remind ourselves how powerful and joyful it is when we are doing something purposeful together to enrich a world we share. (more…)
We are excited because our Wild Play project has been shortlisted to win a grant from www.tesco.com/bagsofhelp. Tesco teamed up with Groundwork on its Bags of Help initiative England and Wales which distributes the charge levied on single use plastic bags £!2.5 million in total. In our region (the north) three community groups and projects will be awarded a grant of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag charge. If you think our project should get the top grant and would like to support us you can vote in Tesco stores from the 26th September to 9th October.
I was fat and fifty and not feeling too good about myself. I lacked energy, motivation and my once positive outlook was slowly waning. A friend just happened to mention that she would like to learn more about mindfulness. I had heard that term before, but didn’t really know what it was about. I thought that this was something that Buddhist monks practised. Not being a Buddhist monk or particularly religious, I wondered how it would help me and other people in the real world. Being ever so sceptical but intrigued, I enrolled onto an 8 week Mindfulness course.
We went along to the University of Liverpool to hear a lecture presented by Professor Tim Parsons, a social historian at Washington University in St. Louis. He studies twentieth century Africa and his research to date has been focused on understanding how ordinary people experienced imperial rule. How did Africans, from diverse walks of life, navigate the shifting realities of repression and opportunity that emerged during the imperial and early national eras? He had come to Liverpool to look at the archives because he was curious to see how much of the thinking that had informed the administration of the colonies had come back to these shores. He wanted to explore the degree to which the imperial style of authoritarianism had manifested itself in the metropolitan west, both historically and currently. His expectation was that it would be that way round. That people returning to Liverpool from posts in Africa and Asia would bring ideas and practices back with them. He found evidence of that. But he also found something which surprised him more.
Way down here in Kent is where I am. It’s where I live my life. And way over there in London is where I work and choke on the fumes of traffic each day, which, ironically, allows me to live and breathe in Kent… I am a Londoner (with a cough) living in Kent, finding myself writing to you way up there where you are.
How do we all live lives as sentient beings, thinking animals in which we know, really know what it is to alive? We might think such aspirations are beyond us but they are the very instructions which lie beneath the 5 ways to wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give) which have been very influential in establishing what we do and how. Since everything that we do here at Tree House is a product of the generosity and kindness of others perhaps it gets us someway to that? Indeed the fact that people give so much continues to amaze and delight us. You will be hearing a new voice on our website and Facebook pages soon. He is a guy called Peter Jarman. He has never been to Liverpool, let alone Tuebrook, and we have never met him face to face. We actually have no idea what he looks like and he owes us nothing and yet he has already helped us lots. Years ago when we we were at the very start of this he – a friend of friend – not only give us practical help by setting up our first website page advice, encouragement and tips he also gave us confidence that what we were trying to do here was significant and worthwhile. And he is offering to help again now by writing a blog about his experience of growing veg and connections and life.
Aly and I went together to learn how to grow Vegetables. The day long workshop took place in a walled garden and was delivered by the Head Gardener. The gardens were saved for the community when the house whose grounds they were part of was demolished and the land sold for housing. For years they were maintained by volunteers but more recently funding was secured to refurbish them. They are now run by a CIC who are looking to raise revenue as part of their business model. The course we were on was part of that plan.