Keep Circulating in the Common Room or What Rosemary Did

I had planned on giving a pre-spring tonic Herbs for Resilience class at the second Common Room prototype day at St. Laurence’s church in Norwich on Saturday. I was going to focus on plants like dandelion, cleavers and nettles to wake up our systems after winter.

Only it really wasn’t ‘after winter’ on Saturday. It was after a week where the temperature never rose much above freezing and I’d had too many conversations with people who said they’d been feeling gloomy and low (including, unusually, myself) or who had had flus and colds that were taking an age to clear up – or both!

So on Friday I decided that the spring tonic was just going to have to wait. What we needed right now was something cheerful and warming for the End of Winter. Something that would clear our heads, lift our spirits and also keep us warm in the nippy air of St. Laurence’s church!

Welcome to Rosemary! Known since forever as a herb that warms, stimulates circulation, helps clear the head and improve memory AND cheers the heart, it had to be you, bold, resinous Rosemary!

I picked some sprigs from the garden, packed up my teapot, and took some dried thyme and lavender to add to the mix along with some Norfolk honey. The class would be based around a cup of tea.

Then on Saturday morning I sat down at home with a hot water bottle to tune in to the day and the class. The temperature was almost as low inside the house as out and I suddenly noticed my kidneys and hands were really cold. I placed the hot water bottle on my back to warm up my kidneys and carried on considering the class. Five minutes later I noticed not only was my back now warm, but so were my hands! Warming up my back and kidneys had warmed up my hands too. As my system was not just focused on keeping my organs warm, the blood was circulating further out to the extremities.

“THIS,” I thought, “is what I want to pass on to everyone at the Trade School today.” Keep your internal organs warm with a hot water bottle. And make a pot of rosemary, thyme and lavender tea with a small amount of honey to help clear those old colds and cheer the spirits!


Ten people turned up for a lively class and in the way of skill and knowledge share and Common Room and Trade School, I was rewarded with friendly people and some lovely gift exchanges: a pair of hand-knitted fingerless gloves, a diary, organic fruit and veg and a jar of homemade Seville orange marmalade, all of which are already being loved, worn (fingerless gloves on as I type!), written in, cooked and eaten!

So thanks to everyone for those and for joining in so heartily. And also for sharing your own knowledge about the virtues of Rosemary, which is also an antiseptic:

“When my brother was a teenager, he had terribly smelly feet,” said Sarah. “Our grandmother told him to bathe them every day in cooled rosemary tea. And that soon sorted it out!”


(i) For more on The Common Room in Norwich check out the website. There were all sorts of interesting and co-operative/collaborative classes, talks and demonstrations going on on Saturday, besides mine: from creative action for trees and grassroots media to origami and creating complementary currencies. The whole day had a great atmosphere with many people joining in in spite of the cold. And you can see some photos from the day, too!

(ii) I teach people in groups and communities to reconnect with the living world by taking notice of the plants growing right where we are and how that helps increase well-being. Here is some of what I’ve been doing recently:

Common Plants, Common Room

The Plants for Life 2012 Archive (a monthly series of talks, walks and workshops I organised last year with Sustainable Bungay)

Mark in Flowers 2014

I look forward to doing more Trade School barter sessions at the Common Room! And if you’d like me to come and give a  plant talk (always interactive and practical), or lead a walk or workshop with your group, do let me know:

For the latest updates on meetings and events, check the website at Common Room

Pics: Preparing the blackboard and the tea at St. Laurence’s Church (in an attic-like side room); Trade School Herbs for Resilience class, Feb 23rd Common Room, Norwich*; Lovely things people brought in exchange for the class Photos: Mark Watson & *Lucy Johnson

First published on the Transition Norwich blog 25th February 2013

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