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~
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.
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.
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
Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
the little fish
and the green
and spotted frogs
the egret’s bamboo legs
from the thin
and polished reeds
at the edge
of the silky world
in their last inch of time,
for an instant,
the white froth
of her shoulders,
and the white scrolls
of her belly,
and the white flame
of her head.
What more can you say
about such wild swimmers?
They were here,
they were silent,
they are gone, having tasted
Therefore I have invented words with which to stand back
on the weedy shore—
with which to say:
What is this dark death
like a white door?
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 :-).
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.
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
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~
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.
- 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.
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.