Monday, 30 November 2015


Come, pensive Autumn, with thy clouds and storms
And falling leaves and pastures lost to flowers;
A luscious charm hangs on thy faded forms,
More sweet than Summer in her loveliest hours,
Who in her blooming uniform of green
Delights with samely and continued joy:
But give me, Autumn, where thy hand hath been,
For there is wildness that can never cloy —
The russet hue of fields left bare, and all
The tints of leaves and blossoms ere they fall.
In thy dull days of clouds a pleasure comes,
Wild music softens in thy hollow winds;
And in thy fading woods a beauty blooms
That's more than dear to melancholy minds.

~To Autumn by John Clare~

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I could taste the atmosphere and wished I could bottled it too. Autumn had swept across the country and left its texture and faded colours all around me. Trees were dressed in their full splendour with the colour of autumnal leaves ranging from gold, red, yellow to rusty burgundy. A tapestry of foliage colours formed outside my office. It was hard not to look and dream. I danced to the tune of an Autumn wind, still tinged with the vestigial warmth of summer days with crimson vine and fading hydrangeas in the garden.Brandon Marsh - November

I was looking forward to crunching through the autumn leaves as I enjoyed my walk during the lunch break. Whipped and strewn and rustled by the winds, banks of leaves laid against fences and kerbstone and on a blustery day, they twirled downwards raining on me as I walked underneath the trees. It was very tempted to kick the huge piles of leaves that were carefully piled by the grounds-men. They were enjoying it too, blowing the leaves away from the pavements with their blowers and sweeping them into huge piles to be sucked into the wagons and taken away to be composted.

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A woodland in full colour is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart

~Hal Borland~ 

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Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn

~Elizabeth Lawrence~

I also had our monthly dinner date with CC and this time we went to My Dhabba again. Since I was early, I went in to book a table. I’m glad that I went in because the restaurant was fully booked and they managed to squeeze a table for 2 between the door and the bar!!! I watched at least half a dozen people being turned away. I asked for water and read while waiting for CC to turn up. She arrived about 15 minutes later and we immediately ordered because we knew what we wanted. I’d a seafood thali while CC chose a vegetable one. We’d a wonderful time catching up while enjoying our crunchy poppadoms with a variety of dips.

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The restaurant was beginning to fill up when our steaming food arrived. We specifically ordered a mild dish because previously it had been quite hot. We also requested nan bread to soak up the delicious curries. We’d a wonderful time polishing our meals, trying to have a conversation above the overpowering Bollywood songs. We were literally screaming at each other and laughing our heads off when we’d to repeat what we’re saying a few times. It was hilarious. We didn’t linger after we’d finished our meals because the restaurant was getting a tad louder and warmer. Then it was a slow dawdle to the bus stop in the cold, dark night.

The next day, Babe and I checked out a public performances of an acclaimed futuristic sound by the award-winning ‘sonic artist’ and composer Ray Lee’s celebrated musical installation Chorus in University Square opposite Coventry Cathedral. Looking and sounding like something from a science-fiction film set, Lee’s Chorus was made up of a series of remote controlled tripod-shaped structures that produced music through motion. Standing an imposing five metres tall, the monumental metal sculptures had rotating arms that created a harmonious siren-like sound as they spun around. Flashing red lights attached to the end of the arms added a colourful optical dimension to the piece. Exploring aural, visual and physical forces, Chorus combined sight, sound and movement into a spellbinding sensory experience.Ipad mini images  24-10-2015 14-28-21

A big hit with audiences in the UK and overseas, Chorus had been presented at major musical events including the 2014 WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) Festival and this year’s Warsaw Contemporary Music Festival.  The production came to Coventry as part of the University of Coventry’s 2015 INTIME Symposium – a two-day conference that brings artists and academics together to discuss, practice and perform experimental music. Chorus creator Ray Lee was a keynote speaker at the Symposium. We stood in the rain trying to make sense of the installation which had been described like something out of ‘The War of the Worlds‘ and sounding like the work of an ‘alien symphony’. Unfortunately, it didn’t make us go WOW.

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It was that time of year again when the leaves were falling and everyone was debating whether it was time to turn the heating on and at 2 am on the last Sunday of October. the clocks went back an hour. As we gained another hour, we say adios to British Summer Time, and finally given in to winter. While BST was introduced to increase productivity, every year most people found themselves in the same fate of confusion as the clocks changes. The phrase ‘ spring forward, fall backward’ were repeated because it was the only way to remember which way the clocks were changing. As for me, it was going to be dark and cold when I get out to work and dark and cold when I get home from work.

We said goodbye to summer by checking out Draycote Waters. It  was surprisingly quiet except for a group of weather-hardy yachtsmen enjoying the very blustery conditions. The wind was the core element to sailing. It was what that powered every sailboat.  When sailing, it was important to know the points of sail. A sailboat can’t sail directly into the wind as the sails will fluffed and flapped. We spotted quite a few novices doing just that. But, my attention was distracted by this Great Crested Grebe running across the lake. I wonder what caused it. Usually, in the face of danger, they preferred to dive and swim rather than fly because it needed to run a long way along the water before taking off, while performing rapid wing-beats as it does in flight.

Draycote Waters - October

 Draycote Waters - October

We continued walking along the pavement checking out the lake and also the grassy areas. There were still a lot of fishermen in boats quite close to the shore. I guess the fishing season was still on. I wasn’t happy when I spotted at least a dozen fly-fishing near the conservation area. When was this allowed? It was also confirmed that a non-native shrimp called Dikerogammarus Haemobaphes (DH) was found in the lake. To stop the spread, I hoped these anglers and fishermen followed the strict procedures laid down by the Environment Agency. We were hoping to spot Golden Eyes but they hadn’t arrived yet. Instead we were entertained by Goldfinches, Pied Wagtails, Wrens, Mipits and these adorable fluffy Little Grebes.

Draycote Waters - October

As we were walking back to the car, a juvenile and adult Little Egret flew in and landed on the rocks right in front of us. Whoop…whoop. We spent nearly an hour stalking these cracking waders. Their surprisingly yellow feet were easily seen in flight with the characteristically hunched neck and rounded wings with rapid wing-beats. As we got closer, the brilliant whiteness was overpowering in the bright sunlight with the black bill, black legs and yellow feet. The lacy plumes on the head and shoulder was very visible on the adult.Draycote Waters - October

The birds feeding along the shore were very skittish as people walked  and jogged past on the pavement. It was a shame that no one noticed them which was once rare on British soil  and only first recorded in 1974. These all-white heron, was one of the most successful colonists of Britain and was a possible beneficiary of global warming. We stopped to watch them ran rapidly in the shallow water, sploshing through the shallows in a balletic feeding balance, stirring the sand and stabbing left and right for small fishes, frogs and aquatic insects. Draycote Waters - October

Every time

but one

the little fish

and the green

and spotted frogs


Draycote Waters - October

the egret’s bamboo legs

from the thin

and polished reeds

at the edge

of the silky world

of water.

Draycote Waters - October


in their last inch of time,

they see,

for an instant,

Draycote Waters - October

the white froth

of her shoulders,

and the white scrolls

of her belly,

Draycote Waters - October

and the white flame

of her head.

What more can you say

about such wild swimmers?

Draycote Waters - October

They were here,

they were silent,

they are gone, having tasted

sheer terror.

Draycote Waters - October

Therefore I have invented words with which to stand back

on the weedy shore—

with which to say:

Look! Look!

Draycote Waters - October

What is this dark death

that opens

like a white door?

~Mary Oliver~

Anticipation mounted throughout the country as darkness heralded the evening of October 31st. The deep velvety night brought out witches, goblins and ghosts of all ages and sizes who gathered for their annual celebration of rollicking haunts and taunts.The Celtic festival of Samhain or Halloween, which dated back to 1745, marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the long night of winter. The word was taken from All Hallow’s Evening and transformed into All Hallows’ Eve or Hallowe’en. It was a superstitious period where the worlds of the dead and the living were seen as intrinsically linked. As such, people wore costumes to ward off any ghoulish spirits. I wore a witch costume to work and had my witch hat on. It was hilarious to see people stopped in their tracks when they looked through the window and saw a witch working :-).

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And off course, Halloween and pumpkins go hand-in-hand. Formerly known as Jack O’Lantern, carved pumpkins came from old Irish folk telling tales of Jack, a lazy farmer who used a cross to trap the Devil, and said he would only set it free if it didn’t take his soul. Jack’s life had been too sinful to go to heaven, but because the Devil had promised not to take his soul, he was also barred from hell, and so he’d nowhere to go. After asking how he would see where to go because he’d no light, Jack was given an ember that would never burn out. He carved a turnip to put the ember inside and wandered the Earth for a resting place. Pumpkin carving was taken to the US by the Irish, who carved turnips for their annual Samhain holidays. They later found out that pumpkins were  easier to carve than pumpkin.   

Shots from Home - November

Some people think of the pumpkin sitting on a window ledge with a scary face to ward away the evil spirits that may be walking round on the celebration of all hallows’ eve,

Witch and ghost make merry on this last of dear October days


Shots from Home - November

As usual, we bought a few pumpkins and I couldn’t wait to do another meal based on it. We started with a Spicy Red Thai pumpkin soup which was divine. We’d roast chicken with roast pumpkin wedges and feta as the main meal and ended with the obligatory pumpkin pie and cream for dessert. Yum…yum. I made 2 pies and one was still in the freezer. It won’t be long in there:-). Even our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) loved pumpkin.

As narrated by Anas who said,

‘I saw the Prophet being served with soup and containing pumpkin and cured meat, and I saw him picking and eating the pieces of pumpkin’

~Bukhari Volume 7, Book 65, number 348~

Shots from Home - November 

This month was my final cooking class with the Cook and Eat Well, a project funded by Public Health Coventry and delivered by Groundwork West Midlands in partnership with the Community Health Learning Foundation. It was a free 9 week healthy cooking course which centred around developing cooking skills, healthy eating and cooking from scratch. It was held every Wednesday at the Ribbon Court in Foleshill. Every week we tried something new and we completed the course with a banquet fit for a king. We’d baked sweet potato wedges with Jamaican jerk chicken and Caribbean-style coleslaw. We’d a wonderful time cooking and polishing off the meal. I am going to miss everyone and I hoped we would keep in touch. After receiving our certificates, it was time to say our goodbyes.

Ipad mini images  07-10-2015 19-45-54 Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  • 3 – 4 skinless chicken breasts cut in to strips; or 8 drumsticks
  • 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk seasoning mix
  • 2 tablespoon light soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salad leaves to serve
  • Place chicken in a shallow dish.
  • Mix all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl, and pour over chicken.
  • Leave to marinate for 30 minutes (or longer if preferred).
  • Chicken can be roasted in the oven for 20 minutes or fried in a non stick pan, turning occasionally for 20 minutes. If using drumsticks they can be grilled under a moderate grill turning frequently for 25 minutes and covering in marinate each time you turn.

Caribbean-style Cole Slaw

  • ¼ white cabbage  
  • 1 red pepper  
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn (298g)
  • 150 ml very low fat mayonnaise
  • 150 ml low fat salad cream
  • 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
  • hinly slice the cabbage and peppers, and peel and grate the carrot.
  • Put the cabbage and peppers into a bowl and mix together.
  • Stir in the carrots and drained sweetcorn.
  • Add the mayonnaise, salad cream and black pepper and stir well.

      From now on, until the Winter Solstice, we will lose hours, minutes of daylight as Mother Nature retreated for her winter slumber. As Autumn faded to full Winter the world became muffled as we returned indoors, away from the dark and the cold, shutting the world out. But then as we humans lingered indoors, we entered the silly season and go crazy planning Guy Fawkes night and off course Christmas and New Year parties. High street shops and online sites spilled over with goods tempting us out again. 

      Shots from Home - October

      I also want to wish a very happy birthday to the man, whom I love most. This is for giving me so many wonderful memories and I believe that there are more yet to come. Darling, you are my not only the best husband, but also my best friend. Happy birthday.

      Brandon Marsh - November

      Sunday, 22 November 2015

      October Awakening

      “It was October again … glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of Autumn had pored them in for the sun to drain –amethyst, pearl, silver, rose and smoke blue. The dews were so heavy that the fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed woods to run crisply through”

      ~L. M. Montgomery~

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      The Indian summer screeched to a halt as icy winds blew in from Russia. The Beast from the East brought cold winds and frost. Very cold air blew in from Russia and moved across the southern flank of high pressure over Scandinavia which meant chilly easterly winds. Night-time frost and fog became the norm along with chillier day-time temperatures. After the lovely warm September slipped off the calendar, it felt chillier and markedly colder. A few extra layers was certainly needed to ward off the chill.  Shots from Home - September

      I’d an awful start for October. My eyes flared up again and it was worse than before. I’d another attack of Allergic Conjunctivitis which was an inflammation of the membrane covering the white part of the eye known as the conjunctiva. It was very bad because my skin started blistering around both my eyes. We went straight to the walk-in health centre on Sunday morning and was informed that the waiting time was 3.5 hours!!! I’d no choice but to wait. Babe went home because he wasn’t feeling well himself.

      I sat at the furthest end in a corner hiding my very swollen eyes behind dark glasses. I don’t want to frighten the other patients. I wasn’t able to read anything and spent the time people watching. After about an hour, I went to the nearby cafe for something to eat and had the most expensive mug of hot chocolate and a bar of flapjack. Then back to my corner where I was trying not to fall asleep. Finally, I was called in. I was seen by a nurse who assessed me and told me to continue taking the allergy tablets and also prescribed a balm to soothe the skin around the blisters. Although I’d to wait nearly 4 hours, I was seen by someone and for that I’m very thankful that the NHS was there for me. I took 2 days certified leave to recover from my ordeal.

      I spent the days listening to the local radio station and was shocked to hear advertisements for Christmas parties in October!!! That was too soon. Outside, on the bird-feeder, I could hear a commotion and when I looked out I spotted this beauty. A female Greater Spotted Woodpecker had scared off all the local garden birds away and having the place to herself.  I watched her dangling on the fat-ball feeder before pecking onto the fat-balls. 

      Shots from Home - October

      Zeus won’t in a hurry the sceptre restore to the woodpecker tapping the oak

      In times prehistoric ‘tis easily proved, by evidence weighty and ample,

      That Birds and not Gods were the rulers of men, and the lords of the world.


      Shots from Home - October

      In the garden, the world glistened  as the sun rays sparkled on dozens of spiders’ webs that had reclaimed every space. They had been busy every night stringing their intricate lacework from bough to fence to branch. It was impossible to walk out without walking into one of these long single threads stretching yards across the garden. With the cherry bird trees, overgrown elder bushes and Leyland Cypress at the top, and ivy winding their way throughout, it was ideal home for these master weavers. They were everywhere  like silky tripwires.

      Shots from Home - September

      Silk-thin silver strings woven cleverly into a lair,

      An intricate entwining of divinest thread…

      Like strands of magic worked upon the air.

       Shots from Home - September

      The spider spins his enchanted web

      His home so eerily, spiralling spreads.

      His gossamer  so rigid, yet lighter than mist ,

       Shots from Home - September

      And like an eight-legged sorcerer- a wizard blest,

      His lace, like a spell, he conjures and knits;

      I witnessed such wild ingenuity wrought and finessed,

      Watching the spider weave a dream from his web.

      Shots from Home - September

      ~Jonathan Platt~

      Shots from Home - September

      We went to Brandon Marsh to get a bit of fresh air and stretch our legs after toiling indoors for a couple of days. We walked through the forest and was assaulted by the musty smell of autumn, rotten wood and decayed leaves. The carpet of fallen leaves were under attack and broken down by lots of fungi. The berries and apples, wet and rotting from the late sun and autumn rain, enveloped a sweet, alcoholic aroma to the surrounding, like the dregs of an abandoned glass of wine. On the damp grass, windfall fruits were burrowed into them by late wasps. I bet the natives were having a whale of a time feeding on them.

      Brandon Marsh - October

      The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants -

      At Evening, it is not

      At Morning, in a Truffled Hut

      It stop opon a Spot

      Brandon Marsh - October

      As if it tarried always

      And yet it’s whole Career

      Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay -

      And fleeter than a Tare -

      Brandon Marsh - October

      ’Tis Vegetation’s Juggler -

      The Germ of Alibi -

      Doth like a Bubble antedate

      And like a Bubble, hie -

      I feel as if the Grass was pleased

      To have it intermit -

      Brandon Marsh - October

      This surreptitious Scion

      Of Summer’s circumspect.

      Had Nature any supple Face

      Or could she one contemn -

      Had Nature an Apostate -

      That Mushroom - it is Him!

      ~The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants by Emily Dickinson~

      Brandon Marsh - September

      We checked out Steely Hide where Babe had photographed the Kingfisher. I was hoping to see it today and we waited and waited but it didn’t get the memo. It was very quiet except for a dozen of Mallards upending and feeding while a young Heron was skulking among the reed-beds. We watched it standing motionless, its neck extended at an angle with only its head and eyes moving to locate the prey.  Suddenly, it slowly folded its neck  and the entire body unbend and its head suddenly plunged into the water. But came out empty handed, It then waded slowly in the reed beds and disappeared from our sight.

      Brandon Marsh - October

      After a few days recuperating, it was time to get back to work. My eyes were still swollen but at least, the blisters had healed. On the bus, as we drove past the fields in the mornings, dew settled on the grass, mist rose and wreathed in and out between the tree trunks that bordered them. By noon, the sun was high, and it was warm. I started peeling one by one the layers of clothing that I’d on and putting them back at 5.30 pm. The evenings were chilly and I needed to keep warm as I took the 15 minute walk to meet Babe at Canon Park. After sitting and facing the computer for more than 3 hours, it was a wonderful way to stretch the legs, clearing the mind and winding down for the day.

      I was also looking forward to have lunch with an ex-colleague, MM, who’d moved back to Estonia. She was here for a short holiday and after careful planning, we managed to meet. It was lovely seeing her again although we kept in touch via e-mails. I treated her to fish and chips at the Library Cafe where we spent nearly 2 hours talking!!! We’d so much to talk and laugh about. She gave me a bar of very yummy white chocolate and a hand-crafted butter spreader made of juniper wood. The aromatic smell of the juniper lingered on the butter as you spread it. Aitah* MM. 

      We ended mid-October with trips to Bradgate Park. In fact we’d been going nearly every weekend because we wanted to be there for the rutting season. Unfortunately, we weren’t alone because we came across dozens of photographers in camouflage armed with some very impressive cameras. As summer drew to a close, stags gained weight rapidly. Hormone increased in their blood boosted antler growth, neck muscles strengthened and a distinctive mane appeared. On the hill, among the bracken, we saw a herd of females feeding. From deep inside, the forest we heard the bellow, the call to thrill the females and browbeat rivals. His mighty roar echoing around the hillside. It came closer and closer and we stood there waiting and there he was, a very handsome male with an impressive set of antlers.

      Bradgate Park - October

      I think it was just coming up to the beginning of the rut. The stags were still not competitive yet as there were no clashing of antlers or near confrontations. The few younger males soon disappeared. The stag strutted among the females The annual red deer rut was a truly impressive courtship ritual, full of danger and drama. In preparation for the rut, the virile male splintered off from the herd and moved to their traditional rutting grounds. During the rut, the larger mature stags round up as many hinds as possible into a harem, which they fiercely defend from rival stags, which gathered, competed and displayed in hope of securing an opportunity to mate. Rival stags displayed a great deal of aggressive, ritualised behaviour. They covered their antlers in mud and bracken, thrash vegetation, and started roaring, urinating on themselves and eyeballing each other. Competition was so intense that stags virtually stopped eating during the rut.

      Bradgate Park - October

      Evenly matched competitors walked in parallel, sizing each other up and charged and locked antlers in a dangerous match, which often resulted in injuries and even death. But at the moment, they were just content to bellow, groan and trash the vegetation. We also spotted a few young ones practising, clashing and locking antlers. As the females moved around, the stag followed the herd. These attendant hinds came into oestrus or sexual activity just briefly; a day in which they focused their concentration on the male they seemed superior. With a decent stretch of water between us, we settled on the opposite bank of the River Lin and took a bucket load of images.

      Bradgate Park - October

      It was great to watch them against the afternoon light. What an amazing sight to see the stag walk, strutting about in the bracken, with that regal sort of walk. The wonderful antler crowning his head, and the lion-like mane that grew around his neck dressed them well for the ladies!!! He was huge compared to the hinds, and nearby, the young stags with pointy antlers, looked comical. I bet they won’t get a glance from the ladies.

      Bradgate Park - October

      Lately, the forest is dank
      with mussed trees,
      leaves fussed and branches
      cast askew for better air.

      Bradgate Park - October

      I've been tiptoeing here:
      hoof stumping a
      crunch into stiffening
      snow, rutted in
      a gangling pattern: homeless
      seeking home.

      Bradgate Park - October

      Perhaps it's the sighing
      wet of this world
      that's caught my nose,
      tempted my tongue towards
      the bitterer brambles--

      Bradgate Park - October

      though the wind is high
      in the old oak trees and
      the fur of my
      neck still stands thick
      in the breeze,
      I find it harder now,
      harder to sink my snout
      into something real,

      Bradgate Park - October

      harder to differentiate
      in the substantial smog
      where my thoughts awoke.
      I breathe in fog.
      Or is it smoke?

      ~Pneumonic ‘Deer in the Woods~

      Bradgate Park - October

      We left when the herd disappeared deep into the forest. The bellows from the stag could still be heard as they walked off over the ridge. We made our way to the ruins but was distracted by this adorable puppy who was enjoying running around in the open space. She was such a friendly little thing and people stopped to give her a stroke and spoiled her with soppy words, When her owner called her, she would run over and stood on her feet as if to say, ‘I am here Mummy, don’t worry’ in doggie talk :-).

      Bradgate Park - October


      Bradgate Park - October  

      At the ruins, we met our warden friend and while they’d a chat. I was busy checking out the perimeters. Pied wagtails were were dashing about the lawns, frequently calling during their undulating flights. With so much food there, they indulged in aerial fly-catching  with their rapid twitter songs. Flocks of brightly-coloured Goldfinches were dancing and dipping to and fro over their favourite seed plants. But the flight call of a Green Woodpecker caught my attention caught my attention. I spotted it landing among the ant-hills and crept slowly. It was a beauty with green and yellow plumage and a bright red crown.

      Bradgate Park - October

      A herd of fallow deer thundering past spooked it  The bucks were in territorial mood, baying here and there. trying to attract the attention of the females. But the does weren’t in a mood and were more interested in grazing. We kept quite a distance away so as not to disturb them but a few so called ‘photographers’ were walking past us and trying to get as close as possible to get the perfect photograph. Unfortunately, these were wild animals and they could sense the encroachment and off they disappeared into the bracken. It was very frustrating when this happened. But cie la vie… 

      Bradgate Park - October

      I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers

      ~L. M. Montgomery~

      Brandon Marsh - October


      *Thank you in Estonian.