The view from here: a Tuesday in October

In a world of bustle and change there is always stillness

WP_20160709_013Outside, it has been a mild day: mild but moist.  The air scarcely breathes: a stark contrast to yesterday’s winds.  But whilst yesterday was wild and spirited, today seems damp and tired.  Listless.

As I approached the post box at the top of the hill this morning, I met Peter, our farming neighbour, and his son, Edward.  There was clear evidence on the road of their most recent task: the cows had been brought in.  Were they coming in for the winter?

Out of sight a cow bellowed mournfully.  If she has begun her winter incarceration, it will be many months before she and her sisters are once again on the valley slopes.  The view from here will have emptied.  Our view is never quite in harmony when the cows have gone.  

I walked on without seeing a single vehicle, even on the top road.  The world was subdued today after the dregs of hurricane Ophelia.  Silent but for the angry clamour of a captive cow.



Bernie lit the stove this afternoon: the first lighting of the season.  It blazed richly, the colours contributing as much to the sense of heat as the flaming logs themselves.  The cats were fascinated.  Jackson watched the flames and the glowing logs for several long minutes.



The logs in the stove reminded me of the fiery leaves on the maple tree.  A day or so back, after an overcast day, the late-afternoon sun appeared and blazed brightly: lighting up this tree with such radiance that I was breathless and stopped in my tracks.  So many colours, such abundance, such life, such energy.

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The recent strong winds have had little impact on the tree and its multi-coloured canopy, but today the light is once again dulled and the tree has stepped back, no longer centre stage.  The sun will come again, and I shall go out again and gaze at the fire in the tree’s branches until they inevitably disrobe and wait, naked and trembling, for Time to clothe them once again in freshest green.

Outside, the robin sings, after months of summer silence.  Its pure and plaintive song a farewell to the mellow months of sunshine; a forewarning of the shortening days, and a foretaste of what he will sing when the hours of light once more begin to lengthen.

And inside, we have the new yet familiar smoky smell from the woodburner.  It overpowers the scent lingering from the kitchen but I don’t mind.  I like the smell of the smouldering logs, and if I want to savour again the sweet spicy aroma that has been superseded, I need only to lift the cloth covering the mixing bowl.  I have been making mincemeat.

The peeling and chopping and juicing and pureeing happened this morning.  Under the cloth are fruits fresh and dried: absorbing juices, mingling flavours, enriched with the spicy scent of cloves, the pungency of ginger and the warmth of nutmeg.  Tomorrow comes the morning of gentle, almost imperceptible cooking; the stirring in of the ginger wine and the sloe gin and finally, the satisfaction of seeing a row of filled jars.

Making mincemeat is a therapeutic, gentle task.  It’s one of my favourite things – a ritual with added ingredients: a smattering of nostalgia, a sprinkling of anticipation, a dollop of love and a healthy dram of gratitude.


Outside again now, as I write, we have a single purple streak running along the top of the hills between their shadowy brooding mass and the expanse of the darkening sky.  The owls begin to call, as they will throughout the night; pheasants are startled and rise clumsily when roused.  Perhaps tonight, we shall glimpse the moon.

Indoors, the fire smolders.  In the bowl the mincemeat steeps.  And curled comfortably in their basket, drowsily dreaming, the cats sleep.


In this way, evening settles in.  And Time passes – on this extraordinary ordinary Tuesday in October.  The wind rises and falls.  The leaves glow and flutter softly.  The flames rise and fall, and flutter and splutter, and occasionally a cat’s paw flutters too, and flickers in some secret feline fantasy.


Yes, Time passes inexorably.  We talk warily of the speed with which it passes.  Yet it brings around again those small, much-loved rituals and happenings of a season – or indeed of a single day – which remind us that in a world of bustle and change there is always stillness.

Familiarity – if we permit it – can walk hand-in-hand with comfort.


54 thoughts on “The view from here: a Tuesday in October”

    1. Yes, it’s a pity. I can think of no reason for it. Rather like greengages. They always reminds me of childhood when they seemed to be everywhere – now I never find them.


  1. Oh, what a lovely, beautifully written and evocative post. Except for the feelings of guilt it induces. I haven’t made my Christmas cake yet. That’s normally a job for the end of October. Christmas pudding comes on Stir-up Sunday. Of course. And mincemeat normally only a few days before that. Still, my mulberry gin and sloe gin are macerating nicely, so I haven’t been entirely idle.

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  2. It looks like you are well on the way to being organised for the winter season. I love it! I don’t know how people can stand living in places that don’t have ever changing seasons.

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  3. Lovely, evocative observations, Sandra.
    Here , on Oxfordshire, yesterday was also one of those perfect, timeless Autumn days : still, silent, bright but cold. Everywhere I looked was gold. The birds returned to feed in all their varieties- finches galore, tits and the lovely woodpecker, plus the robin, too ,showed his winter colour. 6 pheasants and a couple of muntjac completed the lawn’s decoration. It was a delineating day – the Seasons had moved on.
    And our lovely feline friends graced the hearth in their winter baskets last night.

    As you say, timeless and comforting, as the Earth hurtles on it’s constant carousel in space.

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    1. Sounds perfect, Pat. I was talking to Bernie last night about getting a basket to put in front of the woodburner. Jackson likes to curl up there. They have beds; they have a basket – but nothing that quite works positioned by the stove. I like the idea of a winter basket 🙂 x


  4. I read that twice. I read that twice. And was lost each time. The rituals of Nature, the iterations of seasons, the unstoppable passage of time, deeply imbued in the mooing of cows, flaming up of leaves atop the trees and logs in stoves, the flutter of the paw of the cat.

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  5. Beautifully written and so clearly observed. Many points to ponder. It is so evocative that on this peculiarly chilly spring morning with a crispness in the air here in S.A. I almost started thinking it is autumn here too 🙂

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  6. Greengages- mm,mmmm.
    They were available briefly in the local village shop- harvested, I suspect, from a local garden. Some viewed them as under- ripe plums, so there were more of those sweet, succulent fruits for me!!

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  7. Oh, I can smell your gorgeous fire and the bowl of mincemeat from here! And I love your poetic lines about all things autumn. I adore those days which seem utterly still – sometimes with a sense of contentment; others with a sense of longing. Always changing and different, yet, as you say, familiar and comforting too. 🙂

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  8. I love mincemeat, but sadly I am the only person for miles around who does, so I don’t make it. My great-grandmother was English, so I suppose that is where my love came from. It’s pumpkin and squash around here. (How do you turn a pumpkin into a squash? Throw it up in the air and it will come down squash all right.) Sorry, couldn’t resist that very old joke.

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    1. It may be an old joke in your corner of the world, Elizabeth, but it made me smile 🙂 What a shame that no one around you likes mincemeat. It’s the same in my family with Christmas cake. I love it – and love to make it. But no one else eats it and although it will keep for ages so I could eke it out (if only I had the willpower), I really shouldn’t eat a whole cake by myself!!

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  9. You made an ordinary Tuesday, extraordinary with every word you added texture, light, color and spirit.
    I wish I had a change of seasons (well maybe not too much snow). Thank you for sharing your wonderful observations, and making me feel like I’m right there with you.xx

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    1. Betty-Ann, you are very kind 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it. I must admit I’m glad I live where there are four seasons (sometimes four in one day). But there’s always that hankering for endless blue skies and sunshine, especially when we are experiencing day upon day of unremitting grey!


  10. That WAS a beautiful post, Sandra. But it is amazing to think that it has been a year since your last making of mincemeat: I have not been looking forward to the coming winter months much, but reading your comments about the warmth of the fire, snuggling pusscats and red/golden leaves suggests it’s all going to be ok!!

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    1. I do love this point in the year when the evenings draw in, Sue. By February I’m yearning for those long, light evenings of June. Hope Mushroom & Crumble are well! x


  11. Such a beautifully descriptive piece of writing, I was lost in it from the first words. I could almost smell the mincemeat from here…

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  12. What a lovely post and wonderfully written. There is something truly special about the changing seasons and especially this time of year. For me, Autumn always evokes a certain feeling of nostalgia. You brought that out beautifully.

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