Insomnia: The Upside

For a number of reasons I am having a hugely stressful time at the moment and one of the symptoms is lack of sleep. Some days I feel very woolly headed as a result – forgetful, absent, confused and worried it might be dementia. Stress coupled with insomnia is not pretty.


So what keeps me from going round the twist in bed at night when I am wide awake, ruminating the list of problems and possible solutions, trying breathing exercises (I have had some joy with the 4-7-8 breathing technique which is definitely worth a try if you are also struggling to get a good night’s sleep) and maintaining the view that the worst possible thing to do is check the clock – ” 3.22am!!! I will be a wreck tomorrow”?

Insomnia words

I listen to the radio. Both my mother and father had radios on hand for their wakefulness, each with his and hers earphones. I listen to a mixture of stations and learn a lot along the way. This week I learnt about a very interesting Tasmanian-born New Zealand woman, Ettie Rout who was a very important campaigner on sexually transmitted diseases during World War I.

Coincidentally I listened to an entirely different programme about the NZ practice of using Rangatahi Maori Youth Courts to keep the numbers of Maori adolescents out of the prison system. Maoris count for 15% of the total NZ population but for 50% of the prison population. A similar scheme is being tried in Australia (NSW I think) for their indigenous youth and the results seem promising so far.

I also listened to a very interesting programme about the Battle of Verdun, which, I am ashamed to say I had little or no knowledge of (the Somme Offensive is perhaps more well-remembered here in the UK due to the loss of 57000 British lives in the first DAY). Verdun is still a complete wasteland: the soil is so full of bodies, arsenic and unexploded shells that nothing grows there to this day.

I listen to plenty of uplifting programmes as well. One of my favourites is Doctor Karl on Radio 5 Live’s Up All Night show. There is nothing that man doesn’t know about science – 99% of it goes straight over my head, but I love listening nevertheless.

Listening to the radio in bed

Forgive me if any of the information above is slightly shonky: sometimes it is difficult to remember exact details of things I have heard at 4.58am (“no point in going back to sleep now, I will be up in 2 hours”).

Hope you are sleeping better than me!

Annie Bee x

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Brilliant Idea: Free Fruit Bonanza

Sometimes you see a new idea which is so brainy, it makes your eyes water.

In the UK, Woolworths is sadly a thing of the past. Many of us still fondly remember Ladybird kids clothes and  Pick’n’Mix. It is a thriving supermarket chain in other countries though, and has recently successfully trialled offering a free piece of fruit to all kids entering all of its (961) Australian stores, from a complimentary basket of apples, pears, bananas and mandarins. The idea was originally put to the test in their New Zealand shops (which trade as Countdown) and seems to be popular. Woolies expect to be giving away about one million pieces of fruit a year and assures consumers that the cost of fruit will not rise to compensate.

If you have ever had a child in tow who could name 107 places they’d rather be than in a supermarket with Mummy (unless she is going to provide biscuits/sweets/chocolate/magazine and toys from the shelves at will) the offer of a piece of fruit sounds to me like a welcome initiative. Anything to help keep mum sane and Little Jonnie happy.  And of course this option is healthy, one of your 5-a-day, and it will presumably encourage the habit of healthy snacking when sitting in the trolley. Better than a packet of Wotsits.

Tesco has already trialled it here in the UK at one, forward-thinking store in Lincolnshire and have decided to roll it out to 15 Glasgow branches. Hopefully it will  prove popular enough to go nationwide.

It won’t end  the sound of the screaming kid in the trolley ~ and lord knows we have all been there. It might help though and I imagine it could be an incentive for parents to shop at that supermarket rather than another. Let’s see.

supermarket children

My own trips to the supermarket are a bit like Groundhog Day but without the humour. Or romance. I might not be screaming out loud  but inside my head there is often an ear-piercing silent yell. Perhaps the free piece of fruit will eventually be offered not just kids but exasperated shoppers in their 50s. We can but hope. Great if you are on a diet. Blood sugar dropped? Have an apple. Feeling rough after a long night at the bar? Help yourself to a banana. Bored with the duties of being the Fridge Fairy? Here’s a pear.

I think it could work.

Annie Bee x

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Tiny Libraries

You may have read one of my very first blog posts about a surprising find of mine while out on a walk with my BF: a book exchange in a disused phone box.

Kenwyn, Cornwall book exchange

Since discovering that, I have been attuned to this idea of books being shared in interesting places. A couple of months ago I heard a lovely documentary radio programme in the middle of the night, on the BBC World Service, about Tiny Libraries of New Zealand (listen again: The Search For Tiny Libraries).

More often than not, they are run by women volunteers; they are found the length and breadth of the country, but away from larger conurbations where ‘proper’ libraries are funded by local councils. The one thing they all have in common is they are small ~ sometimes open for just for an hour a week, or one afternoon, many have existed for decades. It is a charming and fascinating insight into the importance of books to people in communities. Have a listen. That link (above) definitely works at the moment (Sept 2015) if you are in the UK, and hopefully beyond too.

In the UK, volunteers manning Council-run libraries is becoming an increasingly familiar occurrence. It is thought there are about 350 libraries being run like this currently ~ the so-called Big Society at work. In many cases it is only this approach that is keeping the libraries open at all, with such deep cuts to our local council finances. Perhaps one of the benefits is that the library is taken firmly into the hands of the community, and locals have more of a say about how it can best serve the neighbourhood.

The Community Knowledge Hub website is a useful tool for anyone interested in exploring this further. Many of these libraries are now multi-purpose spaces, with art classes, workshops, a cafe, or even a cinema, thus increasing usage and income. Innovation and collaboration are the name of the game.

But back to the Tiny Libraries. I do so love the idea of a few books being available in rural areas, whether as a book exchange scheme in a phone box, or with a proper library card and lending system, run from someone’s shed or garage or the village hall.

Tiny library New Zealand

tiny library New Zealand

And for those of us who rather take accessing books for granted, how about this: For the past fifteen or so years, Luis Soriano, a teacher from La Gloria, in the state of Magdalena in Colombia has been loading up his donkeys, Alfa and Beto, with piles of books and heading off into the hills to spread the joy of reading to children who have never had access to them before. A tiny library on hooves. Love it.

Donkey library Colombia

Long live the library! Let me know if you have a book exchange scheme or tiny library near you.

Annie Bee x

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