To wit, …

© Jonas Classon Night Hunter……………………………………………………………. A Swedish great grey Owl, allegedly

A Bird Photographer of the Year finalist with this image, we say grattis, Jonas Classon.

But what competition judges appear to have missed – as it simply wasn’t mentioned – is that a witch has trapped a person inside an Owl in ironic punishment for making his entire family homeless.

Do you see it: the thinking going on behind its eyes? That’s not an avian expression, nor are those slightly worse-for-wear eye-whites (who knew birds had white sclera?). That is a 37-year-old with a gambling addiction who’s just bet his house on the toss of a coin and lost. It seems he’s clenching his fist in dratted vexation at both his loss and transformation into a bird-who-preys by a passing, broomsticked witch.

Doubtless, ornithologists will howl in complaint of such anthropomorphizing: yet doesn’t this seem an avian wonder? Or, it is a clear demonstration of there being one life force to which all living creatures are subject? The possessor of this faculty – let’s call it consciousness – processes information pertinent to its needs, experiences environmental alterations and perceives with all five senses humans enjoy plus those we don’t.

To wit, let’s celebrate the nobility of existence in forms-beyond-number and ways-beyond-understanding.

Sloely does it

© Spirits Beacon Wait til they’ve gorn black before tweeking from stems

Up in North London where slugs have had a bonza year but the voles seem few and far between, it’s been a mixed nosebag, too, for the early risers. Too late for Haylage, Hay’s been lumped rather than baled for some reason and mounds lounge carelessly for anyone to settle into for a read in the rising sun.*

Unlike Elderflowers whose pollen benefits from a full day’s sun before picking, elderberries, redcurrants and cherries are most succulent after a drench by dew and before the sun has winked, warming their fruity boughs.

A complete washout for Blackberries; have you noticed? Ush. No bramble jelly this year alas. However … and this is the point … sloes are having something of prodigal return to favour. Previous couple of years were somewhat lean. But, but, but: suddenly great fat blackthorn berries burst out in the joy of last week’s Indian Summer.

With so much gristle on our plates with narry a crust to mask the grinding nature of getting through the next six months, it is really heartening to be reminded that so long as we can just hang in there, there’s hope for better. We can and will get through the testing times ahead. Sloes can do it: so can we.

* But this morning was the start of what is going to be a long, long … long haul to careless, cheerful Spring 2022. Dank and howling, crackling leaves dropped by age, crispend by warmth are soggy markers, reminding one that if we are to persist through and vanquish what lies ahead, compassion is going to be a strong weapon in the armoury of endurance. Remember: each thing gives birth to itself. Kindness builds muscles for kindness.

Emmancipating Tennis Stars

© WTA ….. Emma Raducanu, five minutes ago: before her future began

On a scale of 1 – 10, how sp-Lendidly happy is it Emma Raducanu won the second Grand Slam event in which she played? That’d be a 42?

Fresh as a daisy and fragrant as mimosa, the potential for her life to blossom makes it all the more important she’s given a chance to live privately. Remember when the teenage Rafa Nadal sat bouncing with excitement between the very retired Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe as the three of them were being interviewed at Queens Club some time in the v. early Noughties? And you just knew glittering prizes were destined for the smiling Mallorcan yet to win his first major tournement?

Well, the same could be said for the graceful 18-year old whose Bromley tennis development is the shot in the arm the country needs right now.

Wouldn’t be gorgeous if she were shielded from all the social mediocrity which seems to demolish so much of what is never really given a chance? By freeing herself from the emotional baggage which can journey alongside players in all fields, she will grow within the resilience she’ll need for her long, long … long career.

We hope this emancipated, hard-working tennis player continues developing emotional intelligence along with her game, winning all she blooming well deserves.


It is meaningful this shining, hopeful Hope won her first Title at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens on the day the world was paying attention to Manhattan, the Pentagon and Shanksville Field. Reshaping history, smoothing its edges. It shows dark evapourates in Light.

Perhaps they’ll listen now?

Vincent van Gogh’s heart-breaking metaphor expressed in 1889

The infinitely empathic Don McLean will perform at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Sierra Vista, Arizona on Eleventh September, the twentieth Anniversary humanity’s insanity reached that decade’s nadir.

It is fifty years since in Vincent, he distilled the idea of Listening (the skill we’ve been teaching since 1996 along with all its associated explicative reverberations ) as a thing that might never happen: could never happen.

Glum news for us: glum for us all if it means we shut off flowing through eachothers’ lives with understanding, kindness and grace.

When blind focus meets deaf certainty, it is a moment to pause, breathe and consider if greater compassion might not be more productive than moulding others to our will in a forge of fury. A snowflake in the avalanche of Afghan woe is that the everlasting, starless night shrouding their future could entomb more than hope. #Talibanished from Freedom.

Starry Night, a surprisingly small canvas on view at MoMA, NY

Now, I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Vincent: © Don McLean, Songs Of Universal Inc., Benny Bird Co. Inc.



In 2015, a question was posed “so, if you’re so sensitive to the pulse of change, what’s the next shift in the focus of human relations?”

The answer surprised us both. Kindness, I said.

We were sitting in the basement café of the RSA. The BBC’s Religious Affairs correspondent, Caroline Wyatt was at another table in a thrillingly vivid cerise mac which would date the meeting at around 2015.

Since then, it has been something of a slow burn and a matter of impatient finger thrumming in anticipation of its rise up agenda items.

But it seems we’re approaching that happy moment when promoting acts of kindness is understood as a universal good, available to all. I don’t mean deliberate action designed to go out of the way to be kind to one another. I mean when the default setting of kindness informs the nature of actions.

Action designed to benefit others necessarily benefits the doer. It generates a sense of well-being, calms the viscera and extends agapé. The glorious validation that comes from being meaningfully useful rolls in, wave upon wave, when we give our higher selves license to spill generosity of spirit over our rim.

I say that but offer no scientific proof: yet.

Together with University of Sussex, the BBC’s All in the Mind is launching The Kindness Test “to explore our everyday experiences of kindness in different settings.”

Starting: that’s the hardest moment of anything as it requires peak energy. Starting the process to lift intentions over the hump of prudence (self interest) isn’t nearly as heavy a thing as one might think. And the benefits … well, you know them already and that they kick in with immediate effect.

Nourishing virtues like the capacity for kindness – thankfully limitless in us all – it’ll be so interesting to listen to how it impacts your mood, emotional resilience, well-being and vitality generally. Happily, business leaders are beginning to recognize the degree of power which comes if they have the courage to be kind.

Scroll back through these pages to search out plangent howls for compassionate Kindfulness: there are a few.

Materials of life


It comes as an exhaustive relief that making the voyage to Mars is not only my Daisy List*.

David Bowman‘s image of a Damsel Fly

[Written weeks ago under a baby blue sky, no vapour trails but cartoon clouds on the warmest day of the year.]

Sitting by a well stocked stretch of water with bees bobbing into every blackberry bud and the blue haze of damsel- & dragonflys billowing with each turn of a page, birds engaging in genial chatter and, too early in the day to bother much about anything, the geese resisting all inclination to honk their presence. This deep, restorative peace is almost overwhelming.

Yet, Life teams and pulses all around.

Contrast the earnestly eerie, empty silence of Mars?


NASA’s images which its roving lander Perseverance wafts across the 217 million miles separating the planets in 19 minutes (tiens, eh ben dit donc), make me weep.

Life, teaming gush of unending cascade, seems tangibly absent in desolation of shattering void.

If you squint amid the Red Planet’s ochre vibrations, are you also shaken by what absence-of-life looks like? No blue sky, no pulsing verdance, neither dawns nor dusks, never blossoms in blooms or birds in song. Nor can imagination, kindness, joy or wonder penetrate the dense, unyielding vacuum.

Exploration is in our DNA, the bold will go and stretch further filigrees of enquiry. Thank goodness their bravery allows me to remain here to gaze through the green at crushingly exquisite glory of this planet.

It makes me so thankful for the barely credible co-incidence that perfect distance from our star enables dark matter to manifest itself materially as Life: by which I mean consciousness.

* dismal expression of Bucket List more cheerfully captured as Daisy List.

Joy delights in joy

Twitter screen shot
@GurdeepPandhur, Suki & @DamienRobi, shining

There isn’t a single part of me that doesn’t empathize with the sporting world: Tokyo Olympics, Rugby League, village cricket, Outback Picnic Races and everything inbetween. All is chaos with whole lifetimes of effort burst in a single PCR test.

For each athlete nailed to the petard of decision makers, you are loved, admired and your potential immutably recognized. Your dedication is honoured.

The only means we have of putting a hand of comfort on your forearm is to share this Joy.

Damien Robitaille, whose brain seems able organize he sings and plays three instruments at the same time as smiling, has done much to inject a glimmer to lighten hearts and battered souls. Together with his effusively buoyant Bhangra bud, Gurdeep Pandhur and hound Suki, they have softened my ice queen heart which gives thanks for all clever people whose generosity of spirit slops over the rim to shower us with their kindfulness.

Here at The Materials, all our efforts are focused on strengthening Listening skills so Understanding can flourish between and within human beings. When we see such direct communication as this, mebbie there’s hope for the world in an impenetrably bleak moment?

Pedantic or semantic?

Cruikshank’s 1819 comment on moral, social and intellectual vaccuity

Do you think if HeartMasters were as integral to schools as HeadMasters, mental&emotional health would be nurtured as with intellectual curiosity, so schools could flourish in ways wildly beyond current ambition?

We’d like to listen to your thoughts: @MBMaterials #HeartMasters.

While you’re thinking: here’s a tricky one. Does it matter that from this September onwards, these islands will officially shed Great Britain’s GB from motor vehicle license plates in favour of UK? First we heard of it was on the radio news at the start of July, followed hot on its heals by a vox pop MP referring to Global Britain.

Are Scotland, Wales and England (Northern Ireland has never been included in Great Britian for some reason … odd, considering all) being rebranded-by-a-thousand-teeny-cuts in an effort to avoid the process being noticed?

Evolution, that irresistible deliberate force of nature, serves most when many voices are heard. Mebbie never produces the best outcome but that with which the majority can live: the utilitarian option. Stealing autonomy by stealth is insidious and resultant impotent fury damages mental health, physical well-being and intellectual calm.

Is it pedantic to insist on an open discussion to thresh through how the 6,289* islands which comprise Great Britain should be known or should it be understood as mere semantics and trivial to national identity?

Does it seem to you this is the latest in a lengthening list of asset-stripping ventures? It’s almost as though these isles are being dismantled from the inside out on the trickling orders of a long-game player.

The Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport is the fellow promoting this September’s transposition. Think how proud his family must be.

* Source: Alistair McConnachie

Knowing wrong from write

Albrecht Dürer’s Knight, Death and the Devil

Mary Wakefield is married to Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former Civil Service syther. In late April 2020, she wrote and presented her Thought for Today on Radio 4’s eponymous flagship news programme.

Rather than elevating listeners’ minds to matters noumenal, the content pertained to praise of her magnificent and much maligned husband in what seemed a pre-emptive strike at subsequent complaints that howled through serious media on his oversight-testing, 30-mile drive to Barnard Castle.

Listening to it made one consider if a parallel universe had materialized for its 3 1/2 minute duration. The BBC said it was giving “the strand an occasion injection of personal covid stories”.

Having failed to right his wrong at the infamous Rose Garden press briefing in May 2020, Mr Cummings has recently attempted to justify his actions by virtue of criticising those around him at the time. Most puzzling.

What has any of this to do with emotional intelligence, mental health resilience or kindness? we hear you wail.

Well, in virtue of the gathering of the Globe’s seven, leading decision makers in St Ives at the weekend to thresh empathic wheat from political chaff, we send supportive wishes to help thoughtful Leaders drive events in a different, clear-sighted direction. It seems these islands stand in peril of writing themselves out of history if national institutions can be bullied into bewildered acceptance of wrongness.

The Family of a Man at the Barbara Hepworth Museum: all but a few steps from #CarbisBayHotel, host location for #G7 Leaders amid their weekend Summit in St. Ives.

No time for dithering

Chimera of Arezzo at the National Archaeological Museum of Florence

There is everything and nothing about which to write. The glory of a quenched Spring, finger-tapping impatience with Lock-down’s end, gloomful dread of looming titanic Depression, the cheerful hum amid birds’ conversations.

Is it just me or have you also reached the summit of indecision and know the next step you take can determine everything which follows?

In another life, I knew a person who seemed to have stopped living for fear of living. This perpetually seemed a crushing waste of their humanity: potential, kindness, hope, their glee in existential fizz.

And Lo: this spectre of threat appears to have raised its heads to glare threateningly at me.

It has been known that when demons have ambitions to pursue me, I stop, turn and with preposterous volume wail BOO. Without fail, they turn and flee. Well, I’m saying Boo to this latest chimera in order that genial intention which follows in its wake can glide up at a social distance and personally suggest a dialogue.

Madeleine Baird Materials is OPEN for business: fortifying mental and emotional well-being, both of which ventilate self-raising flourishing.