I’ve been a bit quieter than normal around here. Nothing dramatic, just too many events and emotions getting in the way.
The weeks before Christmas are not my favourite. A show-reel of ‘the perfect Christmas’ plays on a loop in my head, with an accompanying voice-over insisting that this is the way it should be, and it is entirely up to me to make it so for my family, with goodness knows what consequences if I fail.
Completely daft, I know that – but I have to keep reminding myself, and I’m not always successful.
So forgive me if I’m even quieter for a while.
There are a couple of bloggers who I follow, who are living through the really difficult time of bereavement at the moment and to them I apologise for not leaving a comment with you, but send you my heartfelt thoughts and very best wishes.
We’ve had an anxious few days – Delinquent Dog has been poorly. Our quiet domestic routine has been disrupted and there haven’t been any woodland walks for a couple of days – funny how quickly that puts me out of balance. The days have felt much longer than they usually do, and by evening I’ve been happy to have a small single malt and early bed.
Hopefully he’s on the mend now and we should be getting back into our flow again soon.
Pictures from the Dallas Dhu Distillery – now a museum, which we visited back in August. I love the colours and textures associated with distilleries, old wood, copper and water – but for the smells, you need to go to a working distillery (naturally we went to a few of those too).
I was beginning to feel a bit cheated by Mother Nature this autumn – what had she done with all the traditional colours?
Around here, the reddy-golds have been in very short supply.
But today I realised there were other little gems to discover…
The bracken fronds were dripping with diamonds…
Hips were doing an impression of a firework going off…
And hiding among the shiny wet leaves….
were these little chaps – yes, they really are that delicate colour!
I have a bone to pick with Phil Rickman’s publishers. What do they think they’re doing publishing the latest Merrily Watkins novel at such a busy time of year? Now my poor family are going to have to fend for themselves and the tapestry is going to be neglected, while I immerse myself in the latest supernatural happenings at the vicarage in Ledwardine.
I suppose with an immense amount of will-power, I could have put The Magus of Hay on the shelf and waited for a quieter time, but come on – he’s not only given us the first Merrily book for two years, but he’s set it in Hay-on-Wye (my spiritual home). I mean really – how inconsiderate. I have no choice, I just have to read it…NOW!
Thanks Phil – please keep them coming…
We seem to be having an odd autumn around here. I watched our local avenue of horse-chestnuts change from green to dusty brown without stopping at all in any part of the yellow/gold spectrum. Red seems to have been missed out almost completely – except for the holly berries which are trying very hard to fill the void. There are a few trees attempting to play the game, but it’s a half-hearted effort.
Then last week, the acres of green bracken suddenly turned a washed out beige.
Already though, this has begun to change, as the first light frost, followed by hours and hours of heavy rain, has started to turn the bracken black. And now it is all beginning to sag. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I was excitedly spotting the tightly curled emerging fronds, and now the vast growth, taller than me in lots of places, is all about to sink back to the ground.
Melancholy is supposed to be the emotion of the month, but I try hard not to go down that road – it can be too hard getting back. Instead I like to enjoy the changes.
I can already sense the woodland opening up as the leaves start to fall in greater amounts and the floor changes from a green mattress to a scrunchy brown and gold leafy carpet. Soon we’ll have a heavier frost and wake up to a spangled scene. And in the meantime, I relish the mornings when the sun streams through the canopy…
Impossible to feel melancholy with all that going on.
Is it me, or do these school holidays seem to come around faster and faster?
Last week was a bit of a whirlwind. Number Two daughter was in Paris on a school trip until Friday, so Number One daughter and I went around and about. We managed a trip to London – culture and shopping again – we’re getting good at it. Then a visit to Stowe Landscape Gardens near Buckingham (I’ll post about that on Mists of Time as soon as I have a chance), and then we decided that we should carve a pumpkin, even though Number Two wasn’t going to be back in time to enjoy the trick or treaters.
And then, on Saturday, the highlight of our week – perhaps the highlight of our year – we went to Stratford, to see David Tennant in Richard II.
We booked the tickets so long ago, we’d had a lot of time to get excited about it, but in the event, it was even better than any of us could have hoped. I have absolutely no problem in admitting that it was the attraction of our almost all-time favourite Dr Who (I’m of the Tom Baker generation), that made us go along to what you’d have to say is not perhaps the top of the Shakespeare picks, but oh my goodness, how brilliant it was.
Our party included two fifty-something ladies, a seventy-something lady, two middle-aged men and four teenage girls, and each one of us came away absolutely enthralled. In my opinion, nobody does Shakespeare like the RSC – so many people think that Shakespeare is difficult to understand, but go to the RSC productions and they make it entirely understandable – if our teenagers knew what was happening, anyone could – simply marvellous.
So if having someone like David Tennant in the cast is what it takes to bring in the next generation of Shakespeare lovers – that’s fine by me. (Oh and he was incredibly good – of course).
Back down to earth now…
Well I admit it was only just a frost, nothing terribly dramatic, but the first of the autumn around here. In fact by the time the delinquent dog and I made it out this morning, the sun was blazing and the frost almost gone – it is a beautiful day now, a true autumn glory.
If Number One daughter emerges from her cocoon, we might make it to Stowe Gardens for a stomp through the leaves…
Some days are for sitting and looking out of the window… today may be just such a one.
Window at Tretower Court, Powys, Wales.
Hands up those of you who can honestly say you don’t sneak the occasional conker into your pocket at this time of year. I’m sure I’m not the only adult who still gets a little thrill finding a new glossy brown conker on the ground – a split-second regression to playgrounds and autumns past…
My dog-walking coat is currently playing host to a small collection – I start off intending to bring them into the house for a seasonal arrangement, but somehow the coat stays in the car for days on end and finally when I pull them out, they’ve started to shrivel. (There ought to be a message there I feel sure – choose your own).
But although I get very excited finding conkers, I really prefer acorns. There’s something about all that pent-up energy, sitting in its own, beautifully crafted cup, that delights me every year.
Annoyingly, acorns also appear to be the current weapon of choice of our bushy-tailed tree-dwelling terrorist friends (AKA squirrels). Once again the delinquent dog and I are having to sprint through the worst of the danger zones, checking overhead for any signs that the little devils are preparing to attack.
Who said walking the dog was boring…
I’m fascinated by the ways in which we visualise time, especially the passage of time. Although we’re used to seeing circular clock faces, with the hands turning round, ending up back were they begin, I suspect that many of us think of time passing as a linear progression – from now to then will be a straight line moving away from the start point.
If we think about history – do we consider that events happened in the distance – further away from us the longer ago they happened?
If we think about our lives, do we consider them to be linear progressions – and if we’re over fifty, do we think in terms of more behind than in front?
For ages now, I’ve been wondering about other ways to visualise time. The one that appeals to me is the circular progression. Here, instead of imagining life moving forward, I see it turning, through the four seasons, coming back to the start point, but now enfolding the experience of the events lived through those seasons – the good, bad and ugly. In this way, each new turn in the season sees us having within us all that which has already gone before – just as a tree adds a ring with each year that passes, some rich thick rings, some meaner, thin rings – but with the whole tree growing wider as time turns, containing within it, all that it has experienced.
I like to think of myself like that – embracing the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life, growing all the time and benefiting from everything that happens as I go round. And from this perspective, as we get older, we have more within to sustain us, who knows, maybe getting a bit wiser each cycle?
Of course if you take the analogy too literally, you see yourself getting fatter too – oh well…
First there was this little chap poking up in the hedgerow…
Soon he was joined by these little poppets…
And then, just a few days later, they looked like this…
That’s the original chap on the right. Now joined by all those babies.
Less than a week and such a transformation.
I walk the dog in and around woodland most days, and decided last year after noticing such a lot of different fungi popping up practically every day, that this year, I’d get myself a field guide.
I’m not planning to pick any – I’ve watched far too many Midsomer Murders etc, for that, and although I’m sure the Other Half loves me, I suspect asking him to trust my mushroom identification skills would be a step too far. (When we visited the poison garden at Alnwick a couple of years ago, he was very disturbed to discover just how many species I already grow in our garden, and how much I knew about their poisonous properties…) – poor boy.
No, I don’t want to eat them, but I would really love to be able to put a name to a cap, as it were, and know more about them generally.
So please, tell me which guide do you have? What would you recommend a beginner to use?
For the last few weeks I have been watching the blackberries ripen in the hedges as I walk the delinquent dog each morning.
On Friday, I could resist no longer. The poor dog stood around, looking just like small children do when you stop in the street to talk to people – that posture that says something like ‘Oh really, haven’t you finished yet’…
While I had my breakfast courtesy of Mother Nature.