May - even with mixed weather such as this year's - is surely the most beautiful month of the year. Out there beyond the frenetic, metropolitan world of media there are bluebells in full swing, tadpoles by the million, beech leaves in their finest green (there should be a Pantone dedicated to the beech tree in May), hawthorn - the May tree itself - in blossom.
It is so easy to miss all these things doing what we do: too busy, too urban, too ... uninterested perhaps? Most people claim to know nothing about birds or flowers or anything much of the natural world. As Simon Barnes, the chief sports writer at the Times, said in his recent book How to be a Bad Birdwatcher that's rubbish, everyone knows a swan, a blue tit, a pigeon, a crow. They just don't know they know.
Barnes is a busy, urban person, like you and me, but he understands the benefits of an antidote, of getting away from schedules, phones and meetings for a moment and sniffing the air, listening to the birds, watching spring spring.
WF Deedes, a stalwart of the Telegraph for about 300 years, picked up on this last week in a piece about Lord Grey, the foreign secretary at the outbreak of the Great War. Grey was one of the most eminent statesmen of his day, engulfed by the pressure and stress of a world slipping into war. He stayed sane by escaping to the English countryside every now and then and listening to the birds. The wonder and joy he felt was turned into his delightful book The Charm of Birds, published in the late 20s.
Wouldn't those who govern us now benefit from moments of peace with nature, Deedes wondered, and it's hard to disagree. Even the briefest walk in Richmond Park, Epping Forest or Hyde Park restores the soul. But don't take your BlackBerry, OK? You just need to look. And listen. Outside my office window in Paddington, a tern is flying up and down the length of the canal. He comes back every year in May and even the complete mayhem of the new Bishops Bridge construction hasn't put him off.
Sad old twitcher, you may think. Probably, but I have found even limited dollops of nature keep the soul fit and ready for another fray into what we call, without a trace of irony, the "real" world.
May is running out. Have you found the time to listen to a blackbird yet?