a fine set of whiskers



a fine set of whiskers blog


"Hullo Clouds, Hullo Sky"

September 8 2016

At the risk of sounding a bit Fotherington- Thomas, the sea, the sky, the countryside and our wildlife have always had central importance in my life. The stillness, the quiet, the calm as well as the beauty have helped to keep things in proportion throughout my life. Whatever is happening wherever in the world, the sun will rise, the tides will change and the seasons move on and for me it’s reassuring that this will carry on long after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil!

From my earliest years sitting on the riverbank in Derbyshire with my dad while he fished, I knew being quiet, still and completely concentrated on the moment would bring its own rewards. At the very least a robin stealing maggots, on a good day a kingfisher and if I was really lucky the tell-tale 'plop' of a water vole entering the water would quickly reveal the v of water as he effortlessly crossed the river .

Mindfulness is such an industry now, when I googled what it actually means:

“a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”  

I realised my parents were way ahead of their time. These connections with nature have been a privilege and a delight. Throughout my life they’ve equipped me to deal with challenging times thanks to techniques I learned from my mum as early as the miners’ strikes of the early 70s. Because we had resort to candlelight, at the age of nine I developed a terrible fear of the dark and awful nightmares. My mum taught me to concentrate on visualising the places where I had been happiest and the feelings they evoked and it never failed to send me to sleep with a smile. At the time it was always rock pooling on the beach in Paignton or seeing a water vole with my dad, these days its otter encounters in Mull and endless Hebridean horizons.

For many years I think as human beings we have been losing our connection with nature. Andy Goldsworthy says:

“We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”

As lives have become more uncertain and stressful and we are digitally bombarded, there seems to be a growing understanding of the importance of this connection and a desire to be in the moment and part of creating things. We see it in the exponential growth in the “Countryfile” audience, National Trust membership and interest in gardening, baking and crafting.

I left Derbyshire for University in London thirty four years ago - in truth my choice of university was because I saw a water vole in the river on campus - which made me believe I could manage the transition from rural to city life!

After University I became a fashion-buyer and even on trips to buy designer brands in New York, my first stop would be the zoo in Central Park. For the last seventeen years - almost to the day - I have had the privilege of working at Bloodwise, the Uk’s leading blood cancer charity. I started as a volunteer following the tragic death of my eight year-old cousin, with a brilliant team grew income and profile as the Director of Fundraising and Marketing and for the last ten years as CEO have been driven by bringing the changing needs of patients to the heart of all that we do. Even in Holborn, Central London, there have been squirrels on the fire escape, wood mice in the car park and an especially friendly blackbird!

Through a wonderful but demanding and stressful career, my personal coping mechanism has always been to pick up my much-loved camera ( currently a Canon EOS 6D if you’re that way inclined!) and immerse myself in nature and wildlife experiences. There are more photos in my head than on my screen because very often I have to be in the moment and share the experience with the creature rather than taking the shot. I still only have one photo of a hare because it always feels too much of a privilege to be allowed into their lives so I am compelled to watch rather than “shoot”!

By helping more people to understand the well-being that connections with nature can bring, and by sharing special places and experiences, I hope to continue to have some positive impact on the world when I leave Bloodwise at the end of September. If that sounds a bit worthy, my retail heart continues to beat loud and strong and so I also plan to develop a shop with carefully chosen products with great provenance which will help to make life a little better through a positive assault on the senses or by providing little moments of calm. And so “a fine set of whiskers” is born. The name is inspired by my much-loved, now sadly deceased degu George who always had the finest whiskers and the many otters, seals, squirrels, mice and voles that have allowed me into their lives if only for a moment. I don’t need fame or fortune, although I’ll hopefully be taking on some more regular projects to pay for my Hebridean trips, most of all I want to be true to an innate part of myself.

I just hope that Robert H Schuller is right when he says “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation” !

I hope you sign up to share this adventure !

Thank you
Cathy