time travelling

Does anyone else get to this point in the year and think ‘how has this happened so quickly?’. I swear it was only just April – maybe, at a push, May? And now, somehow, I’m supposed to believe it’s nearly the end of October – and believe that this happened naturally, without any time travelling sorcery being involved.

The signs of October are definitely all around. The nights are drawing in earlier, stretching out later; the leaves have swapped their bright, fresh greens for glistening bronzes and burnished golds, and are slowly, slowly raining to the ground; pumpkins are all over the place, speckling the world with splashes of neon orange; and I’m stocking up on chunky, oversized jumpers from charity shops like a squirrel after acorns in the forest (it’s an addiction, please send help).

I love the cosiness of the inside world and freshness of the outside world in autumn and winter, but spring and summer are my favourite seasons and I’m always sad to say goodbye. The urge to hibernate is real.

Lots happened over summer, as always. I smiled a lot. I cried a lot (don’t worry, crying is just one my main life skills). There were changes, big and small.

Here are a few high(and low)lights to my summer ’22.

29 going on 30. July marked the end of my third decade and the start of my fourth. I thought I’d feel okay about it, but it turns out I was only okay with it when it was a future thing and not an actually happening thing. Family and friends and a day spent by the sea distracted me from it all feeling too daunting, but I still do a kind of inner double take whenever my age comes up on a form or in conversation.

covid club. I was beginning to think I was one of the super immune, but it turns out I had just been super lucky and coronavirus finally caught up with me in June. And it got me real good! My lungs and immune system were very unhappy about being put back to work after a two and a half year cold/flu break.

hay there. The start of September saw me bankrupt myself and unable to stop eating Welsh cakes in Hay-on-Wye. There were so. many. bookshops and so much yummy food and loads of interesting independent, non-booky shops, plus the scenery around the town was beautiful – basically I didn’t want to leave, even if my bank account wanted me to get outta there pronto.

tenerife. Flight butterflies. The joy of being able to travel and of seeing clouds from above again. Sunsets across the Atlantic. Kayak trips spent spotting dolphins and turtles (and trying not to panic about the 50 metres of sea stretching down beneath us and the very big, dark clouds bubbling above us). Shimmering black sands. A looming, thankfully sleepy, volcano. Siam park (belly laughs, belly screams, factor 50 suncream, long queues, the ever present fear of a watery death, prayers to any god that might listen, very very very bad hair, body dysmorphia run wild, constant swimming costume worries, tears, more belly laughs, more belly screams – it was fun and traumatic all at the same time). Crazy golf, basically crazy hockey due to my lack of golfing skills. Souvenir shops filled with postcards and keychains and anklets. Bustling restaurants. Sea food paella, messy plates. Ice cream, ice cream everywhere. And siestas. So many siestas.

feeling hot hot hot. There’s nothing like the weather to keep British people entertained and there has definitely been a lot of it this year. This summer was the hottest on record, with temperatures of over 40C being recorded for the first time in the UK. I feel guilty admitting what I’m about to say because a) I’m fully aware that the heatwave fits into a negative and, ultimately, terrifying pattern of climate change and b) I know I’m very lucky to live somewhere I could make the most of the heat rather than just endure it, buuuuut I loved the crystal clear sunshine and long, lazy days and sea swims and blue skies and meals outside and the break from umbrellas, raincoats, wellies, mud, floods and grey, grey, grey.

new job. I started working for the National Trust in June and I love it. I get to work for an organisation I have always admired, at an amazing place with lovely colleagues and I get to spend loads of time outdoors. Plus there’s a secondhand bookshop! There are certainly hard days, but most mornings I feel very luck to work where I do.

So, cheers summer ’22. You were great (apart from the covid bit). I miss you already (apart from the covid bit. Always apart from this).

Here’s to a cosy, golden autumn.

colourful and moon lit

The last few weeks, I’ve been going stir, stir, stir crazy – stuck between going down with a cold that hijacked my entire body and being busy at work and being busy with random life stuff and the weather being unbelievably rubbish. But on Monday – finally *cries melodramatically* – I was able to get out and enjoy some autumn sunshine in the grounds of a local National Trust property.

In one of the outbuildings of the property, there was a pretty display with the question: what does autumn mean to you? and little paper leaves for people to write their answers on.

I stood in front of the display for a good couple of minutes – tapping a mini pencil against my chin, rolling a paper leaf backwards and forwards between my fingers – and thought very seriously (seriously over thought) what does autumn mean to me?

A million and one clichés came to my mind, but, dammit, I wanted something original to write, so I waited a little longer.

And waited.

Tapping, rolling. Tapping, rolling.

Apple crumble soaked in cream and sitting in front of the woodburner and too much night and not enough day and Bailey’s hot chocolate and oh my goodness golly gosh Christmas is coming and oh my goodness golly gosh my car’s MOT and ah god holy crap will it actually pass its MOT and ah god holy crap how much will it end up costing and wait you’re supposed to be thinking about autumn. *takes a deep breath* Chestnuts roasted on an open fire (ahem, in a microwave) and gold, grey, sepia and I LOVE SCARVES and baking yummy food and eating too much food and I REALLY LOVE SCARVES and making plans for the New Year and fighting off the blues.

Footsteps approached.

I panicked about how embarrassingly uncool and serious I was being and then double panicked because there were about to be people to witness my uncool seriousness, so I gave up trying to be original and clever and smug and just scribbled something about walking and crunchy, golden leaves, and tied it up to the display. I took a quick look at some of the others as I did. They all made me smile, but one in particular caught my eye.

Colourful and moon lit.

(I’m guessing it was written by a child, so I’m more than happy to ignore the spelling/grammar issues.)

Colourful and moon lit, I mused all philosophically as I shuffled back out into the sunshine, trying to look cool and unserious and like I hadn’t just spent five whole minutes thinking about what autumn meant to me as I passed the other walkers, that is exactly what autumn is.

It is full of colour. Whether it’s the glittering golds and sulky silvers of nature, or the garish, flashing rainbows of mankind, there is colour everywhere at this time of year. Sometimes you have to look a little harder, sometimes it’s literally fifty shades of grey (clouds, clouds everywhere), but there’s always colour lurking somewhere. And although autumn is also full of darkness, that darkness is made a little lighter, a little more bearable, by the moon. Sometimes that moonlight is brighter than bright, sometimes it’s fainter than faint – but it is always there.

Four words turned three weeks of stir crazy on its head.

I hope all your autumns are full of colour and moonlight.

autumn leaves in Dorset, England, November 2019.
trees of gold

paper leaves
what does autumn mean to you? leaves (‘colourful and moon lit’ leaf is in the top left corner)

November full moon and tree silhouettes.
glow in the dark

October Scares – Three

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman.

Halloween and Neil Gaiman. They just go.

Like Mc and Donalds. Like the stars and the moon. Like hot chocolate and cream and marshmallows. Like cats and crazy cat ladies. Like thorns and roses. Like Cadbury’s dairy milk and me (though this is a fraught and abusive relationship, so is perhaps not a great example).

Basically, I couldn’t do a series of posts about scary stories for Halloween and not include something by Neil Gaiman. It just wouldn’t be right. Especially as his short story collection Trigger Warning fits the Halloween book bill pretty darn perfectly.

I love all the worlds and characters he creates in these tales. I love the wackiness, the I-wasn’t-expecting-that-iness, the fantasticalness, the humaness and unhumaness.*

My favourites – picking one was too hard – are Click-Clack the Rattlebag and Feminine Endings. They’re super quick to read and just the right level of creepy (though I still wouldn’t risk reading them just before bed), plus Feminine Endings made me realise that my instinct to run and hide when I see human statues is not completely irrational.

Are you reading anything scary/ghostly/magicky in the run up to Halloween? I’d love to know if you are, and recommendations are always welcome!

*sorry for being so recklessness with my ruining of the Englishness languageness.

October Scares: One

SAM_7616

So somehow it’s October.

You probably already knew, but just thought I’d say.

October. Totally here.

Leaves are caramelly yellow, fall to the ground like tree confetti; sunlight vanishes weirdly and disappointingly and offensively early; the air is really rather kinda chilly, surprisingly so; blackberry and apple crumble is back on the menu (pudding is a very very very important part of my life); and my scarves (again, very important) are officially out of hibernation.

And seeing as there’s a lot of Halloween stuff around already too, I figured I’d get into the spirit (no pun intended) of it and do a few posts on scary stories.

I only heard of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman last week – I read about it on the brilliant book blog The Orangutan Librarian – but there are some stories you know you have to read straight away, and this was one of them. It’s really short (#winning), really ahead of its 1892 time, and really really creepy.

Suffering from “nervous troubles”, the narrator moves into a colonial mansion with her husband and newborn son for the summer. The upstairs room where the narrator spends most of her time is covered in a horrible old wallpaper she is initially repulsed by.

‘The colour is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.’

As the long and empty days pass, she becomes more and more obsessed with the paper, convinced there is a woman – maybe even a whole group of women – trapped behind the pattern.

‘Nobody could get through that pattern – it strangles so.’

But, with a little bit of help, the woman does get out.

This is such a clever and compelling piece of writing that packs a lot of spooky punch into its 26 little pages.

And it’s the perfect remedy to the shock of realising it’s officially, definitely-can’t-deny-it, seriously and absolutely October.

Autumn

Autumn is both a relief and a kind of heartbreak.

It’s fresh and crisp and full of cosy comforts. I love the smell of apples, berries, spices and sugar that wraps itself sweetly round every room in the house, promising deliciousness. I love the glossy, metallic sunlight that shimmers through dying leaves. I love the bloom of condensation on windows in the morning. I love wrapping up warm, snug as a bug in a rug.

But it’s painful to say goodbye to summer and long, lazy days. It’s disconcerting that night starts earlier and earlier, then leaves later. It’s a shock to the system and a wake up call.

Heart made with shadows on an evening walk in the sunshine. Autumn walk in the sunshine, Badbury Rings, Dorset.

Autumn is the perfect time to reflect, take stock, make plans and – crucially, but too often the part I skip – set those plans in motion. That’s my goal for the coming days and weeks.

It’s also the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

And I’ll certainly be doing that too.