I rather like the month of November, the hour goes back at the end of October and so darkness falls in the late afternoon and I can draw the curtains and light the lamps and create a feeling of peace and warmth. Dusk in the woods is really beautiful on the right sort of day - one which is bright and crisp bringing a vivid sunset - the black tracery of the tree branches against the sky is one of my favourite winter sights. Added to this is the raucus call of the rooks returning in their thousands to roost in the woods overnight, they come from all directions in large noisy flocks and the sight and sound is one I never tire of however often I see it. The whole performance goes on for a long time as they circle the roosting place, rising and falling and exchanging the day's news before finally settling for the night. I like crisp, cold, frosty mornings and equally well I enjoy the quiet,mysterious feel of a traditional English foggy November day. The weather this month in the UK is always interesting because you really have no idea what to expect - it can produce anything from balmy, springlike temperatures to heavy snow falls.
The woods in November can be very beautiful even on a grey day - the sort where you hear people say 'isn't it miserable?' - there is something about the quality of the grey afternoon light that makes the leaf colours positively glow, I've never been able to capture it with my camera but I've enjoyed seeing it.
November also heralds the approach of Christmas/Yule/Solstice and the beginnings of preparations for the holiday. Lists to be made of presents to buy, delicious things to be made and stored or frozen, cards to be bought and written - and at this stage there is no sense of panic or urgency, the holiday is still some weeks off and there is still plenty of time to do everything
Chocolate Crunch Christmas Pudding - not diet food! It's unbaked and is made of biscuit crumbs, dried and glace fruits,spices, chocolate and rum plus a few other bits and pieces. The recipe says to coat it in melted chocolate but that's a bit too rich even for my sweet tooth.
Melon and grapefruit in lime juice and sugar
Lemon cream pies, these will be decorated with sliced kiwi fruit on Christmas Eve.
I've always enjoyed the lead up to Christmas almost as much as the holiday itself and my children are all Christmas fans as well. Father Christmas continued coming to our house until my elder son was 16 and the younger one 14 - this was because they are several years older than their sister and as each one found out that the presents came from us - both were 11 before finally admitting to knowing this:) - I asked them to keep the secret so that Jules had all the pleasure and excitement that they had had. Both of them were great and kept up the pretence until Jules found out too, until then they never gave the slightest hint to her. None of them, even now, like to know what they are getting and this will be the first year they haven't had a stocking on Christmas morning. My mum did one for me until I got married and I've done the same thing. Each of them makes a very long list of things large and small that they would like to receive and then I choose from that. This way they don't know what is coming and I know they'll like what they get. Usually there are a couple of surprises too:) This is all part of November because I like my shopping to be done by the end of this month, I hate fighting my way through crowded shops and standing in long queues so I've always shopped early. This includes food shopping too, my organic turkey is delivered from a farm in Wiltshire a couple of days before Christmas, the greengrocer delivers all the fruit and vegetables, a lot of the rest of the food is made ahead and frozen, the milkman delivers cream and I do a major shop in early December for pretty well everything else. I fathomed this system out well over 25 years ago and the result is a pretty stress free Christmas Eve.
November is the month when I start spending a lot of time knitting, cross-stitching, poring over my family history, reading, writing letters - all pleasant activities for cold dark afternoons and evenings.
Ingredients for a pleasurable afternoon - clicking on the photo will enlarge it if you want a closer look. The cross-stitch is the beginnings of a tree ornament I'm stitching.
There is a definite difference to the way my body acts as soon as the light levels fall, it's harder to get up in the morning because instinct tells me it's too dark, I definitely slow down as well - I think I'm one of those kind of animals that is active if the weather is good but hibernates temporarily if it turns bad:) I don't get depressed or anything, it's just a natural slowing down in the rythmn of the year's turning and it's rather a pleasant thing, there's time to think and plan and remember.
Time in fact to stand and stare as in the words of this poem by the Welsh poet W H Davies :-
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.