Summer leaves… and autumn sun

My favourite time of year is finally here when the shift in daylight is suddenly noticeable, along with the dip in temperatures and a sense of a slide into nature’s seasonal reinvention. It triggers me pulling-up a metaphoric drawbridge into the autumn.

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Whilst friends lament over the loss of another summer or chase extending their summer abroad, I am welcoming the changing hue of the leaves, the longer shadows and an inner sense of change – a new beginning. I get excited with the exchange of seasons and it hits a spot in the way transition into spring never quite does.

The change incites expectation, a promise of things to come, which leaves me energised and refreshed after the assault of the summer – whether it has been a hot one or a wet one.

I have often wondered why I savour this part of the year above all others so much. I was born during the second half of August – as this was when I took my first breath in life, perhaps there is a primordial connection so integral that I cannot, nor would want to, shake.

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Somewhere in #midWales

Of course autumn falls in line with the academic year. I generally didn’t enjoy school but going back in September was almost as good as the day we all said our goodbyes for the long summer break. Having new things was a treat as I grew up and invariably in September we would have the excitement of a new pair of shoes, replacement uniform, plus pens and pencils. Oh for the total distraction of a new pair of shoes; whether I was guilty of ignoring the conversation of friends as I surveyed my feet squashing the leaves on the ground, or day-dreaming gazing at my feet under my desk in the classroom, focus was on my newest acquisition until the novelty wore off.

The autumn brings with it the change of outdoor colours and many of us continue to reflect this with our attire. I savour the day I get my winter clothes down from the attic and do the exchange with my hardly worn beach clothes. I relish the first windy dry day when I freshen up all my jumpers and fleeces, watching them dancing about in the breeze from indoors.

As I delve through forgotten outfits, I sieve out what no longer fits or is unacceptably out of fashion, making a mental note of what I need to replace. This leads to more excitement as I give myself permission for a shopping spree. I retrieve newly heeled footwear from the cobbler which is almost as good a fix as buying a brand new pair of boots. I can feel the anticipation rising of covering-up my arms and legs, the pulling on of socks and walking around the house with a top to toe protective warm layer. I prefer my warmth delivered by fabric rather than having limbs exposed as the summer months usually demand.

This is before I even get to my hats, scarves and gloves. Unlike summer, autumn is the time I do not have to worry about my hair getting damp and losing its style, because I just cover it up. The seasons colour changes also sees me tossing out the blonde hair dye and bringing on the red hair tones. Boosted by the power of the summer, my hair gets a good cut, as do my nails, both of which seem to have taken on a growth-spurt over the last few weeks. I go through my makeup bag and relegate anything too summery like the pale shimmery lipsticks.

What we eat changes. I buy different foods. Goodbye salads, hello organically harvested root vegetables from the garden. The tins on my shelves suddenly strain under the weight. Just in case we get snowed in.

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#StratfordUponAvon #Warwickshire

Downstairs, the two woodburner grates have been cleared and the logs are ready. I start recording and downloading box-sets ready for the cold, dark evenings. #GoT Game of Thrones 2017 is top of that list.

As the light fades and the days shorten, for some it feels a bit like going into a tunnel with little sight of reprieve. For me, autumn pays homage to my inherently lazy streak – I gain great satisfaction from the comparative inactivity of cupping my hands around a hot drink in front of the television and wearing my ‘comfies’ (pyjamas) as my young nieces put it.

Not that being outside can’t be enjoyable in the autumn. Daylight  strolls with jackets buttoned up to the neck, collars turned up, gloves on, a warm hat to the strains of my boots crunching through frozen leaves on a sunny day, just does it for me.

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On one autumnal walk I spotted this greedy tree had ‘eaten’ the railings! #GrovePark #Harborne #Birmingham

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This particular September early morning sunshine brought these ghosts to us when we lived at our last house. Spookily this was where we normally kept the bench. They only stayed a few minutes and were created by light bouncing off our conservatory windows down the garden, but I was glad they came to visit.

Outside or inside, autumn is my time – time to pull up that drawbridge, catch up with some television viewing, read books; time to use the excuse of the lack of daylight to lie in with the newspaper; time to take stock, to reinvent myself – all the things I do not get time for or have the motivation for in the summer. But please DON’T tease me with those idyllic chilly starts and warm afternoons! Stay cool the whole day through…

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#Ullapool October 2016

 

 

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Big, beautiful, bold Scotland – one UK summer

WP_20170702_14_33_32_ProI don’t like the sunshine. I wilt and can become unpleasant company in the heat. Lazing around by the pool holds no interest for me any more nor does developing a suntan and parading it in bars in the evenings. I don’t enjoy flying nor sitting on coaches to do expensive day trips. I lost my lust for two weeks of hot weather on my annual calendar more than a decade ago, although my husband still requires some of his Vitamin D intake from warmer climes which I approach with an attitude of compromise.

My first trip to Scotland was in 2006. We visited places like Fort William, Isle of Skye, Oban, Isle of Eriska and Edinburgh. My second trip was in 2015 to Ullapool when my brother-in-law married a Scot. This year we were faced with making last minute holiday plans in June and decided we could spend two and half weeks touring the Scottish coast in an anti-clockwise fashion from Northumberland – most of their North Coast 500. In reality we made it up as we went along.

Accommodation was booked the day before and we took advantage of online knocked-down prices. We stayed in guest houses, bed & breakfast places and hotels. Some had their oddities, others were superb but none were crazily expensive. We bought supermarket lunches and headed out to visit castles, stately homes, monuments and landmarks. There were coves and harbours to walk around, hills to climb and towns with pubs and restaurants to rest in.

There was history to learn, architecture to wow us, people to chat with, geology and nature to marvel at, breath-taking scenery and wildlife that surprised us. Seals played in the waters, a white owl nearly sent us off the road as it crossed in front of us one evening and two deer approached us strolling down the street to get their evening feed.

Travelling through Scotland was unpredictable but always fascinating, never boring and jam-packed with photographic opportunities. It was hard to believe we were actually on the same land mass as the Midlands (much as my homeland has great offerings too!) Here is just a selection of the highlights.

 

We all have impressions of places we’ve not seen. With the Scottish Independence and Brexit talks I’d forgotten the beauty and charm that lie beneath human disagreement. Summer 2017 was an unforgettable adventure; it was an enchanting, engaging and enlightening trip that I would wholeheartedly recommend on. I was deeply moved by the beauty of this land and I will be back – to do the rest.

 

Why I love the Victorians

The Victorian Slum was an emotive series touching those who know little about the era as well as those who know much more about it. As I tweeted at the time, this programme should be on the school curriculum.

I’ve long been fascinated with the Victorian era. For me it is the era where history starts. Anything since the Victorians is just modern day whereas anything before it stands as a Victorian gateway, guiding us yet further into our past.

Queen Victoria died in 1901, just seeing us into the new century. It was the century during which almost everyone I know (older than 16) was born. Somehow that connects us along the production-line known as the human race.

The Victorian Slum was a well-crafted insight on fast-forward across several decades into what life might have been like for the poorer end of society. I initially watched as an observer but got emotionally pulled into the trials of all of the inhabitants of the tenement building. I’d never before considered the connectedness and the intricacies of how one person’s bad luck then might be good luck for another inhabitant. I lived it with them.

And I was particularly outraged for The Victorian Slum-dwellers when the paying wealthy public were permitted to tour the slum homes and gawp at their misfortunes. Yet gawping is something we still do in this day and age at both the wealthy and unfortunate, yet perhaps a little more in the privacy of our own homes – via the internet, television or newspapers.

wp_20161205_11_06_25_pro-1During my lifetime I’ve met real-life Victorians. My maternal great-grandfather (a German – pictured) came to Sheffield, England in 1888 as young teen for a better life. He moved with family down to Birmingham where he married and settled into a new life, marrying in 1897. Sadly he died when I was a young girl in the 1960s and although I can remember him as an elderly gent in a tall Victorian front room sat in front of an open fire, I wonder what the younger man was like. What was going on in the world that made his mother pack him off to relatives in Victoria’s England for a better life when he was so young?

My paternal step-nan was born in 1899. She lived into her 90s into the 1990s. What a world of change she must have seen. She’d have been a toddler in 1901 on Queen Victoria’s demise so, strictly speaking she was a Victorian and we only lost her about 20 years ago. That IS recent history.

Victorian memorabilia surrounds us in abundance of what they’ve left behind – design, industry, architecture, monuments, commercial buildings and houses. Paintings, documents, books, crockery, fashion, events, a way of doing things. We see it, use it, live with it all daily.

This is the first era captured comprehensively by photography to give us clues as to what life might have been for them. The Victorian era can be brought alive by photographs – real pictures taken of our ancestors. Whether it is with formal photographs of rigid looking families all dressed up in their Sunday best or those less formal taken by the very wealthy who owned a camera or news enterprise. I stare in fascination into the faces of those caught on camera, time-travelling and pondering on what they did immediately after breaking their frozen pose. They walked our land.

For me this all adds up and contributes to the feeling the Victorians have only just got up and left our planet. They’ve left so much of themselves for us to ponder on or enjoy.

Life has changed considerably since the black and white world of the Victorians was here. But it’s important that we don’t lose this history nor stop making the connection that most of us touch these ancestors in some way.

Another of my favourites is back – Who Do You Think You Are? Tantalising series pulling us into the depths of someone’s ancestry and mixing in social information of the day. Invariably they transverse the Victorian times, sometimes they stay and explore awhile. Victoria came to the throne in 1837. A census exists from 1841 and every 10 years thereafter facilitating this research.

It’s important to know where we came from if not to stand back in awe at how far we have come and how grateful we should be for the advancements in science, technology, medicine that we are able to take common advantage of today. For the very fact we can sit in the warmth of our centrally heated homes, enjoying a journey into an often uncomfortable past on our flat-screen televisions; sustained by popping to the kitchen cupboards for a high calorie snack or hot drink – the things we take for granted are vast.

December is here. That means Christmas is not far behind it. I love Victorian-influenced pictures on Christmas cards, the kind I rejected first out of the box when I was younger. I savour anything with children, snow and frosted shop windows on it! Perhaps its time I got Charles Dickens out for a reminder of the grim reality of Victorian Britain. Although I can be effortlessly transported via the written word and pictures into a Victorian world, I suspect I only do it so readily because I can decide at the flicker of a few brain cells to return to be living more than a century later where we can decide to luxuriate in and spend time on pleasure, rather than the more immediate business of trying to stay alive…