These past few weeks of glorious sunshine have been an absolute gift and, despite being a pale be-freckled redhead, I have thrown myself into the joy of outdoor reading with gusto! Being unable to travel, and living in deepest Bedfordshire, my back garden became my reading room. Whilst it’s been largely blissful, it’s not been entirely risk free …
Bugs. Critters. Insects. B****rds 🤭. Whatever you call them, they’re prone to landing at will, without warning, causing the average reader to leap from their reclined position of calm into something resembling a human windmill, with a reactive speed that can only be marvelled at by any onlooker. To them, nothing is off limits it seems – on pages, in drinks, on that part of your back you simply cannot reach no matter how you contort yourself.
The most sensible of them will take one look at the mad banshee sharing their airspace and buzz off, quick smart. But there are others with a sick and twisted humour who linger longer, just to see what we’ll do next. And therein lies the next problem: Will swiping them off the page actually lead to a grisly and unintentional smearing of their insect guts across the page? If we leave them to move on, nothing to see here, will we forget about them and (again, unintentionally) squash them when we turn the page or close the book? And what on earth is going on with those bugs that hang on in there no matter how flipping hard you try and blow them away to safety – I mean, where on earth do they find the strength?
Now this may be a non-issue for many of you, but for the fair-of-skin among us sunburn is a daily hazard. In fact, I got my worst ever sunburn in Scotland of all places (whilst absorbed in a book, naturally), so that big yellow flame-ball in the sky whilst lovely, can be a nuisance too. But, I digress.
So, reader’s arm – let me explain. This is the term I have coined for the inside crook of your elbow which will stay white because your arm is bent whilst you hold the book in a position to read from. The rest of your arm will cook (pink if no SPF, slightly more freckles if SPF 30+) leaving a perfectly white triangle inside your elbow. That’s reader’s arm. Wear it with pride – rather like truck drivers who have one arm browner than the other, or gardeners who take of their t-shirt at night only to reveal a perfectly imprinted white t-shirt. Like both of these phenomena, you will not be able to even out this telltale pasty patch – it’s with you to stay now.
Nope – not an unintentional parp! This is quite simply the loss of your place in the book when the wind blows and you didn’t have your hand / phone / marker in place to prevent such an occurrence. However, if you get really lucky, said breeze will fill your chosen page with grass, twigs and other foliage just before it whips ahead seven chapters … so it’s not all bad.
The arrival of an errant foot/tennis/beach/cricket ball or an out of control frisbee is something there can be no preparing for. Unlike unauthorised critter landings, these hazards tend not to give any warning buzz, and are often heading towards you at enough of a pace for any warning signals to be too late to react to. Yelp! Before you know it, your reading material has been swapped from your hand and deposited unceremoniously at your feet. In the paper-page world the worst that will happen is a momentary loss of location and a few folded pages. Those reading from expensive e-readers play with slightly higher stakes. Unlike the intrusion of insects however, a good hard glare directed at the perp will convey how you feel about this particular interruption.
I’m not talking ‘bonus time’, I’m talking the priceless minutes early in the morning (summer sun permitting) when you can nip outside your door, sit on the doorstep even, and dip into your book … and enjoy those moments of weightlessness when you’re free of housework, shrilling phones, Zoom conferences, etc. It’s just you, a freshly brewed coffee, the characters in the book, some bird song, a distant milk float, and the sun in its infancy. Inevitably this tranquility can’t last, and you’ll soon be rudely snapped back to reality as the kids (yours / nextdoor’s) pick up yesterday’s bickering / water fight / trumpet practice where they left off … but for those precious moments you had some proper, genuine, delicious FREE time. This is the life-experience of my bestie 🥰, Jane Dove. I asked her what her outdoor reading trials or triumphs were and she responded with the speed and exclamation marks of a bookworm who’d been snapped out of her morning reading reverie only moments before.
reading outdoors is the new açai!
It’s another of my theories … hear me out.
Not so long ago, the blueberry was THE go-to super food, and then it was; ‘all hail the açai, apex of all goodness’. Well I’d like to pitch reading outdoors as the latest super thing. Because, in the writing of this blog I started thinking about all the well-documented health and wellbeing benefits of the great outdoors, and similarly of reading. They have an awful lot in common, and complement each other so perfectly that there simply must something in this theory …
Here’s what the clever clogs scientists and health bods tell us about spending time outdoors:
- cortisol levels drop which means we feel less stressed, and our blood pressure comes down too
- our immune systems and vitamin D levels get a nice little boost
- we feel more energetic, more creative, and more focused
- it’s good for our vision (Yay! All the better for reading our books)
- and it’s good for our short-term memory
- time spent outdoors can help fight depression and anxiety
And here’s what the profs and sages tell us about the benefits of reading:
- getting lost in a good book can help us relax, unwind, and instil feelings of inner tranquility
- stress levels drop when we’re reading
- regular reading has been shown to improve memory, focus, analytical skills, and concentration
- the promise of a good night’s sleep is increased after reading
- our brains perceive books as a form of virtual reality, believing they’ve experienced what we read about, consequently giving book worms superb capacity for empathy i.e. we make great friends ☺️
So when the sun comes back out again, I hand-on-heart urge you to pick up that book, don your sunnies, smother yourself in something suitably high factor and venture outside … even if it is just to sit on your door step to steal five minutes me time with a cuppa.
Where is your favourite place to sit and read outside?