Thursday, 27 October 2016

Phooey to Halloween – Celebrate Autumn

The US-dictated Halloween colours are limited to black and orange.  But this Autumn season is so much richer than that - if you look at the trees, your eyes will be ravished by yellow, maroon, green, tan and ochre.
Halloween is about spooks, but Autumn celebrates not only the closing in of night, but also the satisfaction of a wild harvest, the lighting of fires and candles, kicking through golden leaves, watching blackbirds eating berries. 
Our kitchen has been steamy with apples being peeled and cooked for wine and crumbles.  Soon there will be the sloes for gin.   Hanging in the outhouse are bayleaves, hydrangeas and larch cones ready to make the Christmas pot pourri.

But it's late October which offers my favourite Autumn experience.  We go to a local wood and plan our walk so that the last place we come to is the grove where the chestnuts grow.  If it’s a good year, we know we’ll pick so many that we don’t want to carry them far.  If you touch the prickly cases, you get spines in your fingers, so we have developed a technique for opening the little green urchins between our boots.  There is such pleasure in picking out the plump, gleaming chestnuts. 
Focused on the ground, one becomes dazed and disoriented and we have been known to head off in entirely the wrong direction, losing the path.

And this year, we have a great harvest of chestnuts to roast bake and boil.

A welcome change from Halloween pumpkins.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Earning a Crust

Pascoe is at home this Autumn
All my life I have had friends a few years older than me.  It’s been great – they already knew how to get a job, plan a wedding, and that one must on no account turn down pain relief during the birth process.
Up until now, having older friends has been nothing but an advantage: the only chasm between us was that it was a different set of Top-of-the-Pops hits which made them dewy eyed with nostalgia.
However, the difference has now become significant – their children are through university, their family inheritances have been passed on. They are passing gracefully into semi-retirement.
And as the clocks change and bleak November draws in, they will be winging their way to exotic destinations such as the Philippines or Myanmar while I soldier on at school, trying to dodge the winter flu epidemics, getting home in the dark.
But wait, I am thoroughly enjoying my portfolio of jobs, teaching some of the nicest people you could hope to meet.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.

And I shall go on saying that until I see all those beautiful holiday snaps……….

Saturday, 15 October 2016

South for the Winter

Pascoe has come South, just for three months – he got a placement with The Government Office for Science – GO-Science.  Naively, I thought he might return to the parental home and commute into Westminster on the crowded train.
I went to enormous pains to make his bedroom welcoming – dammit, I even put the ironing board away.
But did he show any gratitude?
GO-Science offered to pay rent on a modest room in London and he seized the opportunity.  Well, what twenty-four year old wouldn’t want to live in the humming heart of London for a time at least?
So you would think that maybe I’d forgiven him. 
But no – I had resorted to sending him passive aggressive texts:
“Hope your new accommodation is lovely and spacious.”
“Hope you’re managing to cook delicious meals in the tiny shared kitchen.”
But then at the weekend, he appeared at our house, as he had said he would.
Standing next to him in church I felt both ridiculously short and stupidly proud.
And all was forgiven.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Blowing down the wrong end of a kazoo

Pascoe, Nigel and Nick with kazoos
Lying around on my kitchen surface has been a pink kazoo. 
Seems wrong to chuck it out, especially after all it has taught me.
At the Greenbelt Festival, Sunday morning communion was run by twenty children and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Thrown into the mix were several thousand kazoos to help out with the hymns.
Confidently I put the narrow end to my mouth and tooted.  Nigel shook his head at me. 
I ignored him.  After raising three children and presiding at many kids’ parties and school events I was confident that my kazoo technique was superior to his. 
Nigel had the broad end in his mouth – Loser.
Then Jennie nudged me and pointed at the hymn sheet.  There, in black and white were instructions for the use of a kazoo. 
It said to hum down the broad end.  My reaction was that the leaflet writer had it all wrong. But I was surrounded by thousands of people, all blowing down the broad end.
Was I a lone voice of sanity; was everybody else right, or were they merely acting as mindless sheep?
And more hauntingly –

How many other areas are there in my life where I am heedlessly blowing down the wrong end of the kazoo?