Suddenly, autumn is almost over. Those rich burnished leaf tones of copper, gold, brass, bronze and rust are all but gone, released onto the woodland paths beneath the trees. It’s that final burst of colour that we love to celebrate: so how odd of me to choose trees as my subject for Jude’s Photo Challenge this week, where she invites us to look at shadow and texture in black and white. I thought it might be fun to allow craggy, nubbled trunks and bark centre stage, and to contrast them with the leaves, glossy this autumn from the rain that’s so often beaten them to the ground beneath the trees where they’ve been since spring time. And at the end, just a couple of trees reflected in different ways, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
The High Ride at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
Two from the High Ride at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. The last image was taken a Kiplin Hall
It’s the same window I showed you last Monday, but now November mist has descended. I went downstairs. This.
It wasn’t raining. It wasn’t particularly cold. What’s one of the Commandments of Lockdown? ‘Thou shalt exercise daily’. So I did. I took my camera, and explored the local lanes: familiar sights blotted out, as others loomed out from the general obscurity. At just 11 o’clock, I stopped, just for a while: it was Remembrance Day. I heard what a rarely notice as I walk – the constant undertow of birds murmuring and chittering on more distant shrubs and trees. It reminded me of John Lewis-Stempel’s book – Where Poppies Blow. This wonderful account examines the restorative role of nature to those soldiers confined to the trenches in the First World War. For just a fleeting instant, this was a moment I could share with them. Except I came home to a glowing wood-burning stove and a hot cup of coffee.
Last month, I ended my chain of books for Six Degrees of Separation with Mudlarking, Lara Maiklem’s engaging account of uncovering London’s history through those artefacts she discovers lurking under the silt of the Thames. This month, I thought I’d go dredging too, and try to remember books I’d enjoyed several years ago. What had stuck in my mind?
Maiklem has her own personal museum collection, I’m sure. Twelve year old Clover Quinn is making a museum, in Carys Bray’s The Museum of You. She’s a sweet child, but a bit isolated from her peers. She likes her dad’s allotment, and museums. In fact she secretly decides to make her own museum in memory of her mum, who died when Clover was six weeks old. Gradually her story unfolds. Her dad Darren’s story unfolds, and her mum Becky’s story unfolds. A skilfully constructed tale.
Mary Lennox is a solitary child too. Surely, as children, most of us read about this orphaned girl who’s moved from India to England, and about the children she learns to think of as friends? We read about how their lives become fundamentally changed in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, set somewhere in deepest Yorkshire.
My next choice involves another isolated individual, and in Yorkshire too. Sanctuary. Robert Edric re-imagines the tragic and self-destructive life of Branwell, brother of the more famous and successful Brontë sisters in a book I haven’t forgotten since I read it maybe five years ago. Branwell is the ‘author’ of this book, and paints a sorry picture of his stumbling path, in the final year of his young life, towards illness, addiction and death.
Another life cut short: Simon Lambeau dies in a surfing accident, and his parents have to decide whether to allow his heart to give someone else the chance of life. The journey of Simon’s transplant organ explores the metaphysical zone between life and death, and remains one of the most breathtakingly engaging and unusual books I have ever read. Mend the Living, by Meylis de Karangal. Just … read it.
None of these is a light read. Let’s stay with a sea-related theme: The Penguin Lessons, by Tom Mitchell. I didn’t expect to like this book. The story of how Mitchell keeps a penguin during his days as a school teacher in Argentina promised to be a fey, sentimental read, I thought. But it wasn’t. Though light in tone and amusing, it highlighted the real challenges faced, and life-lessons learnt from caring for a wild beast in a thoroughly domestic setting. A somewhat thought- provoking and satisfying holiday read.
From a penguin in captivity to a fish in captivity: Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer. A goldfish falls from his usual home on the 27th floor of an apartment block (where he’s sort of looked after by over-sexed Connor) downwards to the pavement beneath. On his way he passes apartments in which small dramas are being acted out, lives becoming changed. A quirky read.
We seem to have travelled a long way from the Thames in London: to Yorkshire, to France, to Argentina and America. And I’ve rediscovered the pleasure I had from some books I first read quite some time ago.
It’s time for our day out again. Let’s go to Liverpool. Jude’s asked us to look for patterns, and to show them in black and white. Its public buildings, galleries and maritime landscape make Liverpool a good subject, so as it’s lockdown again tomorrow, let’s be off soon.
This is the view from one of our windows on a sunny morning, just before I raise the blind. Only the silhouettes of the wisteria give a hint of what’s beyond. To see what I see after that, look at the header photo.
My last photo in October should have been the moon – a full moon, a ‘blue moon‘ even, because it was the second one in the month, and the sky was gloriously cloudless. But I had neither phone nor camera with me.
Instead, I took my last shot the day before – and it’s not even a still photo. It’s a video of the River Ure surging, swelling, sweeping all before it near our house. It’s my first entry to Brian – Bushboy -‘s challenge, which you can read about here.
It’s Hallowe’en today. Time to carve those pumpkins into frightening faces, and then tomorrow … throw them away. What a pity. Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes, they’re good to eat, and it’s a shame you rarely see anything but the good old bog-standard Jack o’ Lantern here. They can be large, small, yellow, red, orange, green, even bluish or black, and on mainland Europe they’re much more appreciated.
Enjoy the pumpkins on display, many of them from Le Jardin Extraordinaire in Lieurac , near where we lived in France. And then have a go at the comforting recipe I offer here because you don’t really want to scare the neighbours with an evil orange face peering out of your front window do you?
#Kinda Square.Today is the final square in Becky’s month long squares project. Thank you Becky, and thank you fellow squarers. It’s been fun. I’ve met kindness, had my interest kindled and met – virtually of course – many bloggers-of-a-kind.
I decline to have anything to do with Christmas before December 1st at the earliest. I close my eyes to Christmas decorations in the streets, and scuttle out of any shops belting out Christmas musak. A three month long celebration ain’t our kind of Christmas at all.
There are just two exceptions. Christmas pudding has to be made on Stir Up Sunday. And since I was a small girl, October half term has been the time to make the Christmas cake. That way, it’s got time to sit and mature, have all those rich flavours get acquainted, and wait for us to feed it with frequent tablespoonsful of hooch. We made the cakes last Saturday – one for each family in the family – and today I’ve got them out again to pour a little whisky on the already sozzled cakes.
That’s the beginning of our kind of Christmas.
#Kinda SquareBe sure to read Becky’s post. She has some fine suggestions to make today a better day for you, and for others.