Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rowan.
What a beautiful post. Happy waiting for Christmas. Happy advent!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post Rowan. You have inspired me to get myself moving toward completing my pre Christmas tasks.I love the month of November too, perhaps you are more in tune with the seasons than most of us, and your own body clock winds down and allows you to enjoy the shorter days.When my children asked THE question about Father Christmas, I told them I still believed, but if they knew anything different..please..tell me. They said nothing. To this day it is tacit, he exists..and continues to visit and bring us gifts. As silly as this sounds my grown children love this.

Anonymous said...

The poem is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it....I needed to read that.

I feel as if I've just spent the day with you! You always make me feel as if I've just knocked on your door and you've welcomed me into your life. The food all looks delicious! And I completely understand how you feel about gray days....I like them, too. But I also like to have some sun thrown in from time to time. But they do make me feel cozy and snug.

Angie said...

Thank you, Rowan, for sharing this post...just beautiful...I feel as if I've spent every minute right there with you...such a wonderful way with words, you have! And the poem--ah, yes, that's exactly what I couldn't say myself, but definitely feel. Thank you for expressing in words those thoughts/feelings that I share but cannot express in words. :D

Anonymous said...

A magnificent walk in the twiggy woods in November and a Chocolate Crunch pudding afterward! At this time of the year, we go walking and drink in all the pearly grey light - we watch for splashes of colour in the hedgerows: solitary leaves untouched by frost, hawthorn and rowan berries and bright red cardinals dancing about in the tattered shruberry. We return home later to pots of tea and biscuits, a fire on the hearth and warm golden beeswax candles - it's a lovely time of year and Yule is not far off now with its colors and its fragrance.

Anonymous said...

Oh Rowan, this is an extraordinary post. November is such a wonderful time of year as well as a very busy time. I too like it when the sky is grey...the difference in light gives everything a different look, a sort of dreamy feel.
Have a Wonderful Day, My friend.


Tea said...

Lovely post Rowan. I too love Christmas and the lead up to it. Cozy inside is my favorite spot to be though. That pudding looks yummy and did you say lemon custard pie? MMMMM I adore anything lemon. My Mum makes a killer Christmas pudding sauce. One year she forgot to make it and my brother and myself were so dissapointed!


rel said...

Your post is like a melody; a heart warming, friendly invitation to join you in sharing the simple delights of a crisp fall day, the warmth of a home, and the soothing rhythum of insightful poems.
You've touched a spot in me that radiates calm relaxation.
Fair-well my friend. :-)

VintagePretty said...

I love the pictures, both the gorgeous woodland and the scrummy food which looks absolutely heavenly. For me, November has never been a good month - quite the opposite, if I'm ever ill it's always in November and I lost my grandmother on rememberance day too. But you've shown the beautiful side of November. We've had such beautiful sunsets recently, I've been out every day capturing them on the camera.

And strangely enough, today we had a sleet-storm preceeded by an enormous, bright rainbow.

Lynda (Granny K) said...

What a delightful day you describe! Cross stitch is so soothing, I find. I'm doing a Beatrix Potter birth sampler for the new baby when it arrives. Just 3 more characters to do.
My Christmas cake is made and in the freezer, liberally dosed with brandy!

Anonymous said...

So much in here that resonates with me. Two highlights are the poem and this "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."

I love that sort of weather too and for the same reason - something about the colors become magical.

Anonymous said...

I love hearing about your life. I enjoy blogs from different areas of the country. I wish you'd give info about the relationsips of the names you mention. Kaitlin's Mom, is she your daughter?
Mama Bear.

Rowan said...

MamaBear - Kaitlyn's mum is my daughter-in-law. My two sons are Steve and Neil,Hannah is Steve's wife and Francesca/Cesca is Neil's wife. Jules is my daughter and her partner is Matt. Bilbo Baggins is my dog - can't leave him out as he's a very important part of my life:)

Anonymous said...

I too love the strange November weather, I love a good frost, it makes everything look Christmas card beautiful. You're so right about Christmas prep. If you get it done now then Christmas is a time of"comfort and joy"...noone should be having a meltdown on Christmas day because the blinis aren't as round as Delias!

rel said...

For American Thanksgiving, let me say thank you for your frienship!

Daisy Lupin said...

That was a wonderful posting. It actually made me think of the positive side to November. Yes I love the planning and the cooking in advance for Christmas. Snap, I notice you are reading the same book, 'The Winter Solstice' as I am.

Kelli said...

What a lovely post! The pictures are beautiful. I too, love a grey November day and I look foward to it getting dark earlier in the day. It is so cozy to me.
The food looks delcious, I love anything lemon. Thank you for sharing your day with us, I felt like I was right there with you.