Sunday Musings For The First Week In November

An uneventful week that began with me coming down with something on Tuesday that I thought might be Flu. Sore throat, persistent cough, and aches. I spent three days taking various tablets and going to bed early, and by Friday afternoon it had gone away.


The weather changed, and became ‘changeable’, according to the BBC forecasters. This meant some very cold and crisp days accompanied by eye-blistering low sunshine, followed by others when it was stil dark at 11am, and pouring with rain. The shorts went back into the cupboard, and we have had the heating on for 2-3 hours each day. This small house is well-insulated, so at the recent temperatures those few hours are all we need for now. We have just had almost 17 hours of torrential rain, and it is still raining as I type this.


One positive about that rain was that it reduced the number of Firework parties on our traditional ‘Guy Fawkes’ Night’ 5th of November, also known as ‘Firework Night’. Unlike many pets, Ollie is not disturbed by those, but last night was the least celebrated I can remember since moving to Beetley.


My SAD lamp has also been used most afternoons in the office room, to combat the early onset of night-time darkness. It seems to be working, as my mood has been chipper.


Ollie has also had a quiet week. No need for him to visit the Vet for once, and his walks on Beetley Meadows have been enriched by the company of numerous dogs during the dry days. At home, he has recaptured some of his puppy youth, and gone back to playing with his toys in the evenings. That is very nice to see, and indicates that he is free of any illness for the time being.


Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you have a happy (and dry) Sunday.


Christmas Dinner In November

With people starting to prepare to celebrate Halloween in late August, and Christmas cards on sale in September, we thought we would jump on the ‘earlier is better’ bandwagon, by enjoying a Christmas meal on Friday the 15th of November.

The decision was prompted by having to de-ice a freezer in the shed. The drawers had frozen solid, and I broke the front off of one of them with a near superhuman effort to try to get it to slide. That left me with no option but to get up the next morning, and attempt to deal with a wall of ice that would not be out of place in the South Pole.

When the freezer saw me approach with a plastic scraper, it must have laughed out loud, and said “Do your worst, chump”, in freezer-speak.
Undaunted, I returned with this, usually used to scrape weeds from between patio cracks.

Solid steel, with a sharp point at one end, and a serrated edge at the back.

Ten minutes later, and I had just enough ice to chill a gin and tonic. More importantly, kneeling on the damp stone floor had all but crippled my knees. Technology was required, in the form of a hair-drier. After another twenty minutes, I had managed to free one of the three drawers, but the other two were grinning happily at me, knowing my task was hopeless. Unable to tolerate kneeling or crouching any longer, I utilised an old baby car-seat, now too small for our grandson. I barely managed to fit my bum-cheeks into it, but at least I could now stretch my legs.

Round three began with a change of tactic, concentrating on the edges of the drawers. That shifted another drawer fifteen minutes later, but I had to have a short break for fear of burning out the hair-drier. Energy renewed, and drier cooled, I set about drawer three like a man possessed, feeling ridiculously pleased as it (albeit reluctantly) slid free. Any moment of triumph I enjoyed was short-lived. Inside the now empty chamber was ice as thick as my wrist, covering every surface.

To cut a long story a bit short, I was sat there for another two hours, heating and chipping, scraping and heating. When I had finally cleaned the thing up, and was about to replace the drawers, I realised I couldn’t stand up. The backs of my legs had seized up from being perched on the baby car-seat, and I eventually had to ‘fall over’ onto my side, before dragging myself up by clinging to the side of a workbench.

The culprit that had jammed the final drawer in so solidly turned out to be a long-forgotten frozen turkey. It was left over from last year, as we had gone to a restaurant on the 25th. There was no chance that I was going to put the jumbo fowl back to do the same again, so it was decided to thaw it out, and cook it.

The thawing took two full days, and the bird was cooked on Friday, along with sausage meat, stuffing, roast parsnips, roast potatoes, and carrots.

So that is how we came to eat Christmas dinner in November.

Swallowing flies

I had to take Ollie out early yesterday. My car had been recalled for a manufacturer’s safety adaptation, and it was booked in for Ollie’s usual walking time. So I headed out much earlier than usual, at 11 am.

It was unusually warm for November, with real heat coming from the low sun that could also temporarily blind you, when walking in certain directions. At that time of day, there are few other people around, but Ollie was very lively, and rushing around smelling and marking as always. By the time we got to the river bend, I was regretting wearing even a light coat, and my legs and feet were hot, in my heavy rubber boots. But despite the warmth, I needed the boots for the damp grass, and the mud that remains from the last rainfall.

Turning along the riverside section of the path, It was hard to avoid the harsh glare of the reflections of the sun from the water. As I shielded my eyes, I was rather startled to see clouds of insects ahead, small gnats or midges, no doubt revitalised by the unexpected heat of what should have been a cold November day. Walking into them, I flapped my hand around to disperse them, and at the same time, I sneezed unexpectedly. A few steps further on, and I could feel something peculiar in my throat, a strange tickle that was completely unfamiliar. My natural inclination was to swallow.

As I caught up with the scampering dog, it dawned on me that a lot of those flies must have got into my mouth when I sneezed, and it was not at all pleasant to realise that I had swallowed them.

Today it is dark, cloudy, damp, and raining intermittently.

I doubt I will have to worry about swallowing any flies this afternoon.


Last week, a friend sent me a poem. I am showing it here, as it resonated with me, and I rarely feel that inspired by poetry. (With some notable exceptions) It made me think of Novembers that have passed, Autumnal days, and my youth.

This was written in the Victorian Age, probably in the 1840’s. It is interesting to compare the foggy murk of Victorian Britain with the changes in the weather today. As I type this, the sun is blindingly bright. Fogs, especially those that crippled London annually, are now something to generate warnings on the news, not part of everyday life, as they were in my childhood. Travel was obviously exceedingly difficult at this time of year during the Victorian era, as we can see from the references in the poem.

Last Saturday, we visited friends in Oxfordshire. Leaving their house, past 2am on Sunday morning, we were treated to a stellar delight. A beautifully clear sky, a crispness in the air, and every constellation visible, as if we were visitors to a Planetarium. We stood looking for some time, unwilling to leave this display of natural wonder. How rarely we look up. We should do it more often.



By Thomas Hood

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–
No road–no street–no “t’other side this way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–
No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all–no locomotion–
No inkling of the way–no notion–
“No go” by land or ocean–
No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds–

The Novembers of my youth meant Firework Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, whichever appellation you used. Excited children, waiting for adults to start bonfires, set off fireworks, and serve food only ever eaten on that one day. The sky was always clear, the night invariably cold. We wrote our names in the air with sparklers; their white trails lingering just long enough to read our scrawls. When the fireworks were all gone, we would put our Guy onto the bonfire, and watch him burn, singing the song, ‘Remember remember, the fifth of November’, oblivious to the real historical significance of the whole event. When I was a child, the Autumn leaves were dry, stacked in huge piles in the park. We would rush through them, kicking and scattering, making the most of something that would last too few days. The leaves are wet nowadays; congealed and impacted, no fun to run through.

The frosts are late again, despite a growing chill in the air. Showers and sunshine, sunglasses and windscreen wipers at the same time. More like April, than November. Christmas is hovering, like someone outside the door, waiting to use the toilet. November more or less finishes after the fifth, as the rush towards Christmas grows too strong, and overwhelms it. Then this month is hurried through, an inconvenience delaying the anticipated festivities to come.

We should take time to appreciate this lonely month, and to note the changes it brings.

As Thomas Hood did, all those years ago.