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The Library

Kathleen Baird–Murray

Editor’s Letter

It’s those small things we do that are grounded in reality – washing up, taking a bus, weeding – that sometimes bring up the most profound emotions. And so it was that the other day, hunched over the kitchen sink living my best life, it occurred to me that a fair few of my nearest and dearest might be described as being mildly odd, somewhat eccentric, or “complicated” at times, all euphemisms for the kind of conditions that sit at the less severe end of the mental health spectrum – OCD, anxiety, ADHD, depression and so on and so forth. I’m fairly sure they would probably attribute the same sorts of names to me; we are all of us a little “out of sorts”, over-emotional, and overwhelmed at times, which of course, doesn’t necessarily render us ill if kept in check. But bar being able to wave a magic wand and make any undue suffering go away, I wouldn’t want to change anyone, even if I could. Gandhi sums it up rather more eloquently: “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at his feet.”

So it is with mental health – for which a “week” has been allocated this month (13-19 May) here in the UK for us all to be more aware. Mental illness can be scary, unattractive and downright ugly. It’s objects hurled, obscenities shouted or worse still – silence, never ending, as the person retreats more and more into themselves. But it’s also a part of the daily struggle in life, and if there’s any beauty to be had in struggling, it’s that it’s a huge part of what makes us human. Mental health touches all of us, affects our ability to be in balance, cursing us and blessing us in equal measure.

It’s such a vast topic that I’m fully aware we are barely skimming the surface in this issue of The Wildsmith Papers, but still, we thought it worthwhile to pause and contemplate the incredible power of the mind. We’re thrilled to introduce three new (at least to The Wildsmith Papers) writers: Kevin Braddock, whose tips for handling the stresses of life are based on his own experience and research into the thorny world of depression and anxiety; Nicola Moulton, who looks at the connection between how our mind perceives beauty and how our skincare works; and journalist and author Kate Spicer, who takes the star turn in our questionnaire. Spicer’s book Lost Dog went straight into the bestseller charts, despite the fact that – plot-spoiler alert – she finds the dog in the end so you’d be forgiven for thinking that might be quite a short book. Losing her dog almost drove her crazy, but having the dog in the first place is, by her own admission, what keeps her sane. And finally, perhaps the cruelest trick the mind plays on many of us as age advances, is to take our memories away. David Annand returns to The Wildsmith Papers to track down a charity that creates videos of memories for dementia sufferers to help give them back their dignity.

We wish you a beautiful May, an enjoyable read, and most of all, we wish you calm. Lots of calm.

Lots of love,

Kathleen Baird-Murray

Sustainable Beauty has Come of Age

Paper I Beauty Matters

As a baby, Josephine Fairley loved to create her own natural, home-made skincare; as an adult, she would go on to have a stellar career as a beauty editor in a world of high-tech beauty. But what if these polar opposites could meet?

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Wild Swimming in the UK

Paper I The Wild Side

Ice cold shivers, furry rocks underfoot, nipping minnows… for fans of wild swimming, nothing beats the thrill of leaping into a natural pool. Charlotte Sinclair says it’s time to dip a toe in the water

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Wild at Heart Foundation

Paper I Good Deeds

When society florist Nikki Tibbles embarked on her third dog rescue mission to Puerto Rico, she thought she knew what to expect. But as Fiona Golfar discovers, you’re never quite prepared for the heartbreak and inspiration

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Wild Grass: A Poem

Paper I Wise Words

My love, the red bricks are still here and so is the sense of loneliness. It is strange to think my roots grew here but I ripped them from their beginnings and tried to plant them elsewhere

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Be More… Skye Gyngell

Paper I The Wild One

Real dilemmas; real solutions. From our real-life super-heroes. This issue: Skye Gyngell, head chef at Spring, votes to take her brother-in-law Jeremy on a life raft and safeguards the fish in the ocean

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The Bitterest Pill

Paper II Beauty Matters

Taking a daily dose of supplements to boost your health and wellbeing is good for you, right? Not, it turns out, necessarily. Sharon Walker investigates what we’re really swallowing

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How To Go Off Grid in the City

Paper II How to Live Wild

Going off grid in the city is a really wild way of reducing your carbon footprint, your bills and probably your circle of friends, as all your time will be spent either trying to grow your food or praying for the sun to shine in order to dry your hair. It’s also a brilliant way to ease anxiety because if that rather dicey situation in North Korea or Russia, or indeed anything to do with Donald Trump, ever escalates, you will be apocalypse-ready. Clemmie Hambro tells us how it’s done. Artwork by Michalis Christodoulou.

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Be More... Eric

Paper II The Wild One

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Back to nature

Paper III Beauty Matters

As the annual beach-body-ready season kicks off in earnest, Christa D’Souza celebrates her decision to have her breast implants removed and finds that for her anyway, natural is best

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Could a Shaman change your life?

Paper III The Wild Side

It’s not just in California that people are starting to regard a visit to a shaman as essential as medical check-ins with a doctor. But beyond taking the pulse of your aura and giving you a supercharged dose of TLC, are there any deeper effects? David Annand goes in search of the modern-day urban shaman to find out

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Be More... Paloma

Paper III The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This issue, just back from her world tour, Paloma Faith uses Tinder in entirely the wrong way and no longer chases idiots.

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Paper III Good Deeds

Bob Roth is the world’s most in-demand Transcendental Meditation coach with some 25.7k followers on Instagram, many of them celebrity devotees. He sat at the feet of guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1970s and today he dispenses wisdom to stressed-out, 21st-century souls, including war veterans, British school children and Katy Perry. By Kathleen Baird-Murray

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Be More... Bill

Paper IV The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This issue, leather designer Bill Amberg is murder on the dance floor and a murderer on a life raft.

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Every breath you take

Paper V Beauty Matters

Fancy cutting six months off your life? Breathe our deeply polluted air and you will, according to statistics predicting British city dwellers live six months less than in other parts of the world. Natalie Evans-Harding argues the time has come to take note of air pollution and its effects on our health. So why aren’t we?

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Into the Woods

Paper V Good Deeds

With as many as one in ten children and young people suffering from mental health problems*, it feels like the idyll of childhood has been lost. But, discovers Fiona Golfar, a charity supported by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex is using nature to help troubled teens heal their fears and anxieties

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Be More... Nancy

Paper V The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. One half of the band Babeheaven (“we’re the best band ever, so cool and so nice”), Nancy Andersen drinks from the Love Island cup and admits to being a bit of a Drake fan from time to time.

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Back-to-school books for grown-ups

Paper V The Wild Side

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Why sleep deprivation is as bad as smoking

Paper VI Beauty Matters

Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, obesity – it seems not getting enough sleep has a lot to answer for. David Annand, who is pretty sure his nightly, six (interrupted) hours isn’t healthy, finds out how much we actually need and, more importantly, how to make sure we get it

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Be More... Jan

Paper VI The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. A model now, a model back then, a model citizen always – American-born Anglophile Jan de Villeneuve believes wishes can come true and just might be related to Spike Lee.

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One step at a time

Paper VI The Wild Side

From a daily constitution to an epic trek, a meander through city streets to a bracing, headland hike, stepping out on foot has a way of bringing you back to yourself. Charlotte Sinclair explores the healing power of the humble walk

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These books will change the way you think about beauty

Paper VII Beauty Matters

Images of beauty bombard us. From the moment we wake up and put on our make-up (as Aretha Franklin so eloquently put it) until we go to bed at night, pictures of painted faces, glossy hair, bodies of all shapes, sizes, colours and ages pop up on Instagram, fill the pages of magazines, beam through our screens, and dress blank spaces in museums and galleries. But how often do we consider beauty from an intellectual point of view? Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable, and read these excellent books which in different ways, challenge our obsession with physical perfection and pose guilt-free, sometimes complex questions to make us re-evaluate the way we think about beauty.

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Lights, camera, action

Paper VII Good Deeds

#BeMoreMark. Last year cinematographer Mark Milsome was tragically killed while filming in Ghana which threw his wife, daughter and much of the British film industry into mourning. The man who was behind the camera for countless classics, including Game of Thrones and The Theory of Everything, inspired love, laughter and respect, and today a charitable foundation in his name hopes to spread some of his enormous goodwill. Fiona Golfar finds out more.

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Be More... Val

Paper VII The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. World-class make-up artist Val Garland, author of Validated, saves the planet one fleck of glitter at a time and talks to angels. By Kathleen Baird-Murray

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Banking on kindness

Paper VIII Beauty Matters

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Shaping the landscape

Paper VIII The Wild Side

When the eternal beauty of the natural world embraces the artistry of sculpture, something extraordinary happens. From Bronze Age man’s carved figures on the canvas of the countryside to modern day masters’ sculptural creations in parks around the country, Jo Craven explores the awe-inspiring alchemy of art in nature

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Be more... Sinéad

Paper VIII The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This month the Irish writer, academic and advocate Sinéad Burke champions climate justice and dances to the Spice Girls. By Kathleen Baird-Murray

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The Kitchen Prescription

Paper IX Beauty Matters

The research is compelling – from the common cold and depression to life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease, what we eat can help us heal. Writer and nutritionist Danielle Fox talks to the experts about what food we should all keep in our 21st-century medicine cabinets

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Be more... Solange

Paper IX The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This month jeweller Solange Azagury-Partridge tries her best while setting the dance floor on fire to Grace Jones

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Cut to the chase

Paper IX Good Deeds

How hairdresser Joshua Coombes’ desire to reach out and connect with people living on the streets launched a humanitarian movement with a pair of scissors and a hashtag. David Annand hears the story behind #DoSomethingForNothing

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Why we all need bath time

Paper X Beauty Matters

Ritualised in many countries – the Japanese onsen, Turkish hammam, Russian banya – the benefits of bathing go far beyond getting clean. Charlotte Sinclair explores the body, mind and soul-healing powers of immersing yourself in water

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Be more... Sam McKnight

Paper X The Wild One

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This month, fashion’s favourite hairstylist Sam McKnight is careful what he wishes for, but makes time for Good Times.

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That loving feeling

Paper X The Wild Side

Unfortunately, more often than not Valentine’s Day induces that sinking feeling, not the idealised love bubble presented to us at every turn. But don’t fear, the antidote is nearer than you think – Julie Hoegh goes on a literary quest for self-love

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Skincare 2.0

Paper XI Beauty Matters

Meet the high-tech (and one ancient low-tech) facial tools that promise to boost collagen, reduce puffiness, make wrinkles fade, and even prevent acne and soothe rosacea – all in the comfort of your own home. By Danielle Fox

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As nature intended

Paper XI The Wild Side

Writer and gardening enthusiast Tom Loxley on why we need to embrace biodiversity and start cultivating a healthier planet for all of us to live in – including the pests…

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Be more... Don

Paper XI The Wild One

Real dilemmas; real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This month, Don Letts, filmmaker, DJ and former member of Big Audio Dynamite, credits his education to the school of punk rock and wishes he’d said something a bit smarter to Lauren Hutton

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The magic breakfast club

Paper XI Good Deeds

It’s a shocking fact that some half a million children in the UK turn up to school too hungry to learn. When author and campaigner Carmel McConnell came face to face with this in her own London neighbourhood, she knew she had to do something about it. Here, she tells David Annand how, by the end of the year, she will have gone from feeding five schools to over a thousand

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Be more... Bobbi Brown

Paper XII The Wild One

Real dilemmas; real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This month, mother-of-three Bobbi Brown, who left her eponymous cosmetics brand after 25 years at the helm and now heads up a wellness brand, a hotel and a website,, loves drinking tequila in her spare time and wishes she could eat French fries without calorific consequences…

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The literary cure

Paper XII Wise Words

Need a tonic for a broken heart? Medicine for a numbed mind? Treatment for a soul looking to be renewed? It’s all in the written word. Bookworm Julie Hoegh curates a pharmacy of poems, essays and short stories to remedy your every ill

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Born to be wild

Paper XII The Wild Side

Mass rewilding programmes across the globe are seeing vast tracts of land being returned to their natural state, with indigenous “big five” beasts – from jaguars in Patagonia to red deer in Sussex – spearheading Mother Nature’s rebirth. David Annand explores a brave new world of booming biodiversity

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