Barefoot in grass

A few words about the title of my new blog. I love my feet. I love being barefoot. I was scandalised when a doctor told me, a few years back, that in fact these feet have a deformation…The second toe is bigger than the big toe. But I am undeterred. To me, they are my two favourite things.

When I was about eight years old, my mum, who was brilliant at marching me off to all things theatrical, took me to see a touring dance company in our local college hall. It was the standard ballet stuff in part one, all tutus and point shoes and frilly frou frou music. But part two was something else entirely… Two dancers came bursting on, one the Sun, the other the Moon, and did a wonderful, atavistic, stomping, earthy piece of choreography, set to loud, cacophonous, rambunctious music. I was thrilled. But the thing that mesmerised me most was their feet. They were BARE. Strong and determined. Connected, powerfully, to the ground. Something clicked in my child’s brain, and it was stored away for further reference. I forgot all about it for years.

But when I was in my late twenties, working as a freelance journalist, recovering from a debilitating illness, and about to embark on a new and demanding training in dance at the Laban Centre London, I felt the echo of this eight year old’s experience. To run, jump, twist and spin around a studio, to drums, to a pulsing rhythm, with loose swinging dance clothes and nothing at all on your feet, was pure heaven to me. (Walking down the streets of Brixton, where I then lived, with no shoes on, was possibly less inspired and just a little eccentric, but the point remains….) Feet. Earth. Connection.

There is a school of thought that says that standing barefoot on the earth has deeply nourishing effects on your health, physical and mental. I can believe that. Trowels and spades can inflict some unpleasant injuries while gardening – so I do wear sturdy boots then. But I try to remember to kick off the shackles, both indoors, and outside, as often as I can.

I came to gardening when I was 40. I’d lived in a top floor flat in London up till then. When I moved to Leeds and got a little front garden and a big rambling allotment, I felt entirely blessed. In 2005, a year after my husband Tim died, after a long struggle with cancer, I wrote an article for the Guardian Magazine about gardening. It was my return to writing after a long absence: it was also my entry into the green, and into a new nourishing cycle of life. The last line of that article remains true for me still, ten years later, barefoot or otherwise. “Let the garden hold you, and it will.”

from “Blooming in the Shadows”


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I am a writer and dance/movement practitioner in Leeds, West Yorkshire. I teach at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and when I am not there I am either writing freelance books and articles, or digging in my garden, or learning fiendishly hard Hungarian grammar. Hungary is my favourite place, after Yorkshire!

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