Why baking lockdown sourdough bread may taste restless


9 May

Ironically, watching this event on The Art of Rest was not very restful. Of course, I was typing away what I heard as I was committed to reviewing it so that was an important factor.

However, that being said Claudia Hammond knows so much that she wants to share and bases everything in her book (and perhaps her life) and certainly in this talk, on research so she is sure that is evidenced and henceforth ‘right’ or ‘correct’ if such phrases have any meaning for us here.

It amounted to a torrent of statistics and conclusions and life pointers, delivered as a bingo caller might … next, next, next – am I a winner? Am I resting in the right way?

Thankfully, for people who are choosing to rest by watching this YouTube version (and not reviewing it) and crucially not feeling guilty about spending fifty minutes screen-watching on the couch (a key mindset to note as later mentioned by Claudia as quality resting activity) Joe and Janet watcher thus will, of course, get much from this heavily researched discourse on the art of rest.

If we add the advantages of YouTube that one can pause, stop or re-wind at will so take the time needed to absorb the content as befits the watcher’s mood and other life commitments. I am confident this will stay as yet another gem in the Lit Fest List of Pearls of Wisdom.

Of course, it is all about a hard copy book (although I suspect that too will be on Kindle in time if not immediately) [other brands are available]. When holding the book one can take all the time and place in the world in the full knowledge that eighteen thousand other people, (according to research, of course) agree with you that reading is a worthwhile and popular restful activity.

Claudia proved to us what we here already know: that Swindon is the Centre of the World as she said she had visited our town several times since Swindon houses at least Five of the National Research Councils who manage the systems to agree research funding awards; since in her own words Claudia stated early on that “Everything I do is based on research”.

Reviewer’s note: From my own personal research I can verify that I drove past Claudia several times on our infamous Swindon Magic Roundabout!

We were treated to teasers to start – so yes, gardening was in the top ten, so get back in your seedbox Swindon and North Wilts Gardening Society members!

As we would expect, Claudia opened the session by defining that by rest she meant ‘wakeful rest’ not having a nap, so we septuagenarians can count ourselves out on that score with our alleged daily afternoon naps. (Take note Director of Swindon Festival of Literature and put away that deckchair in your farm garden!)

Is it okay to be currently engaged in wakeful rest in this my writing pursuit which I personally regard as restful on some occasions and certainly on this occasion since I have set myself the World Record Target of submitting a review within sixty minutes of the end of this event?

I presume that at least in the top twenty restful activities that ‘writing’ appears; of course I will not know until I purchase or borrow from a restful, still existing library, this book The Art of Resting.

To demonstrate that I have paid attention to the researched advice given I have even put meditation music on my earphones to help me concentrate or at least not be distracted during this piece of work that needs to be of a high standard for the educated readers and writers amongst the loyal fans, and new global ones, (now we are fully YouTubed) of the Swindon Festival of Literature.

Schoolteacher-like, Claudia was also clear early on, that her book was not a Charter for Laziness. Phew! That’s clear then – nor would I expect such from our guest who demonstrated throughout that she is a hard worker and even made me wonder whether she practices what she preaches and takes sufficient wakeful resting sessions herself? – I will need to research that.

Not by way of self-promotion but a detail from research, Claudia informs us that half of the sick days taken by workers are due to workplace stress showing just how vital and timely is this book.

We all have to-do lists and set sometimes impossible or too high standards for ourselves at work and at home.

Ironically, as well as Keep Fit the phenomenon of baking Lockdown Sourdough Bread we may have chosen to learn Mindfulness during our enforced Virus House Arrest so we need to be mindful that our rest times can get crammed with non-restful clutter.

“Give me a break Claudia!” I murmur to myself but she must have heard me because she immediately spoke about the importance for our well-being of planning and taking fifteen-minute breaks at times at work.

Lunch hours? I remember the lunch hours we baby boomers took in the heady Seventies when we Macmillan-esque, never knew we had it so good. These days Claudia informed us it seems to need to be a birthday treat to have a whole hour for lunch. And don’t get me started on zero-hour contracts for gig economy employees like Uber and Care Workers.

Busy-ness at work and home seems these days to be taken as a badge of honour! Instagram photos bounce from our mobiles of ourselves being busy. In the Nineteenth Century, affluent people had friends down to their country pile and revelled in being seen not to work but play in the countryside.

Claudia saying this made me think that I am sure the very rich today still do that but those in the middle like London City bankers are renowned for working long hours and boast about it; TV series and films have been made on the matter.

We heard of two identical research studies carried out in the USA and Italy: of two sets of workers one set had a great deal of free time and the other set had long work hours.

Americans thought the long hours workers were rich and successful but Italians thought that the workers with lots of free time were rich enough to do that so they were the successful ones. Cultural differences in what was seen as rest were shown in this example.

A hot tip came from Claudia that if we write ‘to do’ lists of next day things before sleep then the quality of our sleep is better than not doing making a list as our mind may be turning overwork and chores stopping us from resting and sleeping.

Eighteen thousand people filled in the survey and two-thirds said they wanted more rest with results showing that the average rest time participants felt they got being three hours per day. Research shows that the optimum rest per day that people need for well-being is five to six hours. The rhythm of lifestyle is key. Prisoners get more rest but are often restless.

Activities regarded as most restful include daydreaming, hot baths and sex/ The top five restful things all tend to do on one’s own. Doing things with others can be tiring and hard work.

The bad news is that resting is not always as easy as one might imagine; it can be frustrating or guilt-inducing. Walking and running are popular but if ruminating thoughts are spinning in our heads then rest gets restless of course. Doing nothing is quite hard.

How cute to reveal to a Literature Festival that, from the research of eighteen thousand people, ‘Reading’ is their number one choice for quality resting.

And on that note, having missed my target time that I set too high, of this review being submitted within one hour of session finish time, I need to get that pleasurable resting while reading activity to you, our waiting readers, and press the ‘send’ key on this laptop some ninety, not at the targeted sixty minutes from close of an informative, enjoyable and ultimately restful Art of Rest Swindon Festival of Literature event. Thank you, Claudia.

Words by Tony Hillier

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