Alexander Averin

Monday 27 September 2010

A Glimpse into my Morning

Dear Diary,

Photo by John Ellis

Waste no opportunities.
  This is called following the light


The last few days of September have been so cold and there have even been some overnight frosts. I was hoping to delay lighting the woodburner until October but alas - no such luck.  Thankfully we had its chimney swept last week.  Now I must accept that wearing several layers of clothes will be the norm with a fleece on top for good measure.  Such is my life up in the hills!  We are trying to avoid putting any radiators on yet as it is so expensive and I never want to see such a high leccy bill again as the one we had last winter - and we are not the only ones. 

After a tasty breakfast of two boiled eggs and Marmite soldiers made with M’s gorgeous wholemeal bread I head out on my morning walk.  It is a still and quiet morning; gone are the roars of the Sunday bikers who always blight my weekends especially if there is a fatality or serious accident as there so often is in this dear country. There was an accident on Saturday.  Why do they, or more to the point why are they allowed to go so fast?

It is comfortably cool now after a morning which began with a hint of a frost and there is just the softest, lightest touch of rain when I take the dogs for their morning walk in the field.  Finn is sometimes reluctant to cross the wooden bridge now; he has grown a little anxious in his old age and being arthritic of leg he may well be fearful of slipping and falling into the river, who can blame him for being dog-sensible?  I sometimes take him the long way round on the lead but today I walk across the bridge with  him and he seems happy to do so, perhaps he feels safer with me on the end of his lead.  The sheep are as placid as ever and do not stir when they see us approaching, they are not frightened of the dogs and the dogs ignore them thoroughly as they have been very well-trained.  All sheep are standing except one who lies still just watching - there is always an individualist, thank God - while the rest just casually survey our movements from a distance and only edge slowly out of our way if we come too far into the section of the field where they are grazing. 

There are blessings to note, as ever.  The sound of birdsong for one and  the accompanying music  of the river running.  The sight of the river is beautiful too, it has a black sheen like treacle as it forms mini-waterfalls over the stones which flow downstream and give birth to baby rivulets.   Kitty always goes down the bank to drink from the river and sometimes goes in for a paddle, not today though.
M is indoors painting the study walls pretty pink, I am finding the white walls cold and draining and for once the paint does not smell which is a blessing.  Molly the cat is unimpressed though, the study is her ‘bedroom’ and being a proper nocturnal cat it is where she spends a good part of the day.  The cottage interior seems dark lately but I must get used to this as the days shorten and winter draws ever nearer.  There are still plenty of flowers in the garden to brighten it though - cosmos, roses, sedum, rudbeckia and other daisy type flowers. The buddleiae are in flower, better late than never.  Butterflies are still plentiful  too as are the wasps and the bees.

I am soon going to plant more bulbs and  woodland plants mainly beneath my Sitka Spruce pine trees now that M has tidied up their low-hanging branches and I am keen to plant lots of cyclamen, more bluebells, daffodils etc.   Already a mystery yellow flower has appeared and I have yet to name it.

A dear friend recently likened autumn to a terminal illness - death being winter I suppose and it is a fact that seasonal depression is such a serious sadness, indeed an illness for so many folk.  But I feel that autumn breaks us in to Winter everso gently and there are so many blessings of the season in its wake - along with the beauty of the autumn colours there is less weeding and grass cutting!  There used to be better TV programmes to look forward to but I have yet to discover them.

I am still getting over a cold, I can’t stop coughing and spluttering so am looking forward to cooching up with The Girl who Played with Fire, that one should definitely warm me up!  I have just finished The Marriage Bed by Regina McBride because of the Great Blasket Island connection that was an enjoyable read.  Our book group is reading People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks for October - I really loved her book March so am looking forward to that one.  Also on the go is The Glass Room by Simon Mawer which is another great read - I had better get on with it…..

So many books, too  little time.

Before I go here are just a few of my

Thoughts on Autumn

I have prayed for an Indian summer and I swear I caught just the occasional glimpse of her as she slowly crept across the mountain.  Autumn still works hard at wooing but her temper flares, she can be kind but she can be wild and wanton, throwing in all directions the placement that was summer.

But there is such consolation in her colours.  As they fall, as her leaves blow across the sun-brightened sky
their scents are all around, both underfoot and in the air carried on drifts of bonfire smoke or in a shower of rain. She can break us in gently for the harshness that will undoubtedly come, the coldness which we shall hopefully endure but her stay is all too brief, like Life She will not linger long.  So take all her glory into your soul.

Autumn is dressed in a richness of red, gold and ochre.  Loath to leave now, the leaves hang heavy but cling on as if life is so dear which it surely is.  I will not hang or huddle, instead I wrap her around me for all too soon she will be gone as Winter creeps in even more stealthily to undermine her foundations.

Autumn is a promise asking little in return.  As we part I look forward for Spring waits and is not too far behind, on Winter’s tail. But we should look for delight in the dark times too.  Sleep awhile, a little more, just like the squirrel.  There will be days when the sun can still be flirtatious in her moods.
Comforting us too, she lifts our spirits and we prepare again for rebirth amongst the season’s fadings.

Cait O’Connor

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Images and a few words

Dear Diary,

It has been too long since my last post, many apologies.
Of course I have excuses but won't list them, far too boring.  Just call them Life which we all understand because we all suffer from its many humdrum lamentations.

I picked up a copy of Country Life the other day in the library and was delighted to find a piece on Alan Cotton, one of my favourite artists (see above and my header pic).  I saw that he has an exhibition at Messum's,  8. Cork Street, West London from 15th September to 2nd October.  I also learned that he is a knife-painter (no he doesn't paint knives but he paints with knives) and that his paintings are influenced not only by my beloved west of Ireland but also by many other (warmer) climes.  There is a new book out by Jenny Pery, Alan Cotton: Giving Life a Shape.

Before I go,

I will leave you with a little poem.

Ange passe

I found them the day after the autumn solstice
in my favourite spot beneath the willow.
beside the stream
where birds and hedgehogs feed,
otters play and the fox and badger roam at night.
A place that is sacred and silent
on early morning strolls or night-time meditations.
Beneath my feet
lay a carpet of white feathers
(I felt the usual rush of love);
wondered had there been a party
on that warm September night?
I stood quite still and stared in wonder at the sight.
Was this a blessing of sweet angels at my feet,
gathered for the celebration of the season?
I still felt their presence and sensed there had been
much merriment, for joy hung in the air
and crowds of goodbye kisses were still blowing in the breeze.

Cait O'Connor

Thursday 9 September 2010


Dear Diary,

Roald Dahl writing in his shed

I haven’t posted any blessings for ages but here are a few heart-lifters, reasons to be cheerful this week.

There is a new biography out of my favourite children’s author, it is called Storyteller The Life of Roald Dahl by Donald Shurrock  and it’s being read on BBC Radio 4 each morning which is a treat for me as I am not working this week.  One of the wonderful things Dahl wanted to do was to instil in children not just the love of his books but also the habit of reading as well . Well he certainly succeeded, his books remain as popular as ever and children do seem to get into the habit of reading once they have eagerly devoured all his titles. 

I am reading another good book, it’s The Glass Room by Simon Mawer, it was recommended to me by my daughter and is also the Purplecoo book club choice for autumn.   I also have Kate Atkinson’s new one Started Early Took my Dog and the wonderful Fay Weldon’s Kehua  and Patrick Gale’s The Whole Day Through to look forward to.  Much reading ahead! 

I’ve bought a selection of bulbs for the garden,  two lots of tulips in the shades of pale pink and deep burgundy, giant purple alliums and smaller varieties of allium in different colours,  I’ve also bought crocuses and snakes head fritillaries, irises and a few species of narcissi.  I was also tempted by some bluey-purple heathers and another shrub. a dark misty blue Caryopteris.  Continuing the blue theme I would like to get some more bluebell bulbs soon.   There is something comforting about planting bulbs in the autumn, it sort of brings spring nearer into view, something to imagine and look forward to; the excitement of seeing those first bulbs coming into flower.  I have a fair number of snowdrops but may buy a few more, they are the very first signs of spring, they cheer so just when we need uplifting from the depths of winter.

I visited the local garden centre this week very early in the morning on my way home from an early appointment in Hay.  It is an excellent place, somewhere I love going to and I was (almost) the only customer -  it was quite magical wandering among the just- freshly-watered plants so early in the day, I always feel better just for being amongst plants and I was starting to feel very happy and relaxed.  I was suddenly heartened to hear a bird singing its heart out, just for the joy of singing, as they do…. and I came across a little robin perched above me amongst the displays, he was not afraid of me at all and carried on singing away.  Isn’t it funny how little things like that can lift one’s heart and stay in the memory?

I have been working on a family search for a friend and have been quite successful so far and quite by chance found (in Ireland) a bit of a link between us, that was a big surprise. This is the second time this sort of thing has happened to me and it makes me wonder if there is something bigger than us at work in the universe, (well of course there is isn’t there?).

What else has lifted my heart?  The weather has been kind, warm and sunny with only the odd shower.  Family members have been visiting from Norfolk and it is always a pleasure to be in their company.

I have been brushing up my French in anticipation of a visit to Brittany at some stage on the genealogy trail.  I must put a plug in for the language audiotapes of Michel Thomas; this man is a genius at making learning a language a real doddle.  He teaches other languages as well.  A borrower recommended him to me, a friend had recommended him to her and now I pass it on to you.  Word of mouth (or in this case blog) is the best way to spread good things.

There is so much that is going bad in this country at the moment, so much incompetence surrounds us that I have turned into a proper Grumpy Old Woman so it is even more important to seek out the good.

Thank God for music, M is playing some great stuff (very loudly!) downstairs as I write this.  Luckily we have understanding neighbours who love music as much as we do.

Thank God for poetry,  I have Philip Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings by my bedside.  I will leave you with one.


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin

And here’s another of Larkin’s  that I love.


Down stucco sidestreets,
Where light is pewter
And afternoon mist
Brings lights on in shops
Above race-guides and rosaries,
A funeral passes.

The hearse is ahead,
But after there follows
A troop of streetwalkers
In wide flowered hats,
Leg-of-mutton sleeves,
And ankle-length dresses.

There is an air of great friendliness,
As if they were honouring
One they were fond of;
Some caper a few steps,
Skirts held skilfully
(Someone claps time),

And of great sadness also.
As they wend away
A voice is heard singing
Of Kitty, or Katy,
As if the name meant once
All love, all beauty.

Philip Larkin

Bye for now,
Happy Days,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Friday 3 September 2010

A Fable For Our Times

The Ant Story : Working Life

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A friend emailed this to me yesterday, I think it should be set in stone.