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This last week has been a real mixture. I have enjoyed some beautiful Spring-like days, and loved seeing the progress of new growth, and even some delightful lambs born on the farm near me.

At the same time, we are now a whole year into the pandemic, and what an extraordinary twelve months it has been, and I think it is safe to say that all of us are feeling the strain at this point. The world will never quite feel the same again, but hopefully there are some positives to take from it – we have cared for each other a little more, looked out for our neighbours and understood, I hope, that we are all connected and what we do matters and has consequences – for ourselves and for the planet.

Above all, we need to remember that everyone has stuff going on in their lives that affects their health and wellbeing – and that applies more than ever in these challenging times. I have been thinking a great deal about mental health in the last couple of weeks, as it has been so much in the news. There is a need to change our culture and the way we think about how other people might be feeling.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what sort of life you lead, how much money and fame you have, the colour of your skin, your religious beliefs, where you live and what you do, everyone is simply human. Every human is entitled to respect and care, and when someone says that they are not feeling well, or worse, they are having dark thoughts, they deserve to be heard - not judged or dismissed but helped and supported.

Whether you agree with what has been written about Meghan Markle or not, she is as human as you or I and it takes courage, perhaps even more so in her very public position, to admit that she went through very difficult times, and needed help. This week, I watched the incredibly moving BBC programme with Roman Kempe about suicide in young people. Roman lost his best friend Joe to suicide and has his own mental health issues.

A Channel 4 programme about the life and death of Caroline Flack also highlighted that mental health is not easily recognised and is often not discussed – it can be seen as a weakness, something to be ashamed of. It is not – it is as real and as important to manage and treat as any physical illness or injury. Just because you cannot see it, it doesn’t mean it is not there – and we really do need to stop judging.

As Caroline herself wrote, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind” – and never has it been more necessary to understand those words and to live them. They matter – we all matter, now more than ever.

A year into lockdown, with the future starting to look just a little brighter, these are the things we need to take forward – kindness, respect, and the offer of a listening ear and the promise of help – and, in the not too distant future, hugs will be wonderful as well.

I hope you enjoy the image of fritillary and primrose, which I snapped near my house. More signs that spring is here. For now, I send you a virtual hug – stay safe, and keep well and be kind - Annie x

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