|Swallows, taken three weeks ago.|
On Monday 28th I saw a great long line of swallows on the telegraph poles in one of the meadows where they seem to spend most of their days. Since then I've only seen three swallows, and that was on the 31st, and today I've not seen a single one. If they have left, they've left early, but then autumn is very much underway here: many of the trees are showing yellow and red leaves, and the green ones that are left are rusty around the edges. The meadowsweet, my favourite wildflower, has gone now and the thistles are also on the decline. The air is full of down from the thistles and the rosebay willowherb. Yet some of my garden flowers are battling through: the sweet peas, which have finally began flowering two months late (I have about 5 flowers) have been met with chilly, misty mornings, the phlox (which looked on the point of death a week ago) has revived itself, and my roses shrubs and climbers suddenly have new buds. The trees in my garden, with the exception of my twisted willow and bamboo, are still green more or less, though the bottom leaves of a weeping willow are brown. Berries are plentiful and we've suddenly got a load of butterflies (Red Admiral mainly, one or two Peacocks, and a Cabbage White or two). It's an odd time: part of me which loves autumn is excited for the change, but it is undeniably a melancholy time too and I do hope we get at least some summery weather before autumnal equinox (the weather forecast is fairly promising, and I say that tentatively and as one who will welcome any glimpse of sun I can get!). I will miss the swallows: those little tots go thousands of miles and yet can live up to the age of sixteen if they're lucky, so one cannot help but admire them. They usually arrive in April but this year didn't appear until May, and, as I say if they have indeed left they've left very early. I wish them well! Hard to believe it'll likely be seven months until I see them again. But, until then we've got a nice brood of blackbirds and robins: the young blackbirds have been hanging around the garden through much of the summer, and there's one I saw just this morning with a black body and brown head (I wish I could get a picture!). The robins have been around a little bit, until recently I would see one or two maybe a few times a week, but now the babies are growing up a little they're more visible. And of course plenty of young chaffinches, sparrows, siskins, green finches, gold finches, and a few others besides are around and seem to be doing well. They need some extra care, aside from being so young we also have several young sparrowhawks, so to help them out I have plans to make a shelter where they can eat but not be so visible from high up. Plus this will be helpful in wintery weather. And yes, I know the argument - the sparrowhawk has to eat as well, but it doesn't have to eat from my garden, there's plenty of other places it can go. It's not pleasant to go outside and find a pile of feathers. So, later today perhaps, I'll have a think about how this shelter's going to look. Hopefully this sunny weather we're enjoying this morning will last. One thing I must say, though: it smells like autumn no matter how sunny. It's the smell of the chill, and a mix of sweetness from the flowers and smoke from chimneys. It's a beautiful smell indeed. Every season smells beautiful, it's always quite a thing to suddenly notice the change.
As for the domestic birds - well, the budgies are well! Up until a minute ago they were on the windowsill having a bath but now they're on their little tree too wet to fly back to the cage. And the hens are well too, though I would note that Agnes is getting on a bit. I see she's a bit stiffer than she was and less inclined to run about. She's also moulting, and I expect Ruby to join her in a few weeks or so. Not so sure about Meg - her feathers, which have been slowly but steadily growing back since we got her a year ago, are on the whole new so she might not moult. Right now they're out and enjoying the sun and ignoring the fact it's only 5 °C - they've spent so much of this summer sheltering under their coop or in the aviary, so it's good to see them out and digging (I'll gloss over the fact that Meg was earlier digging some flowers I wish very much she'd leave alone!).
I do like September. I welcome the chilly and misty mornings that turn into bright sunshine later in the day, and the trees, all red and golden and brown, are very beautiful. It's quite touching to see everything slow down knowing that it's simply sleeping and will return in full vigour in a few months. And I must go back to the swallows - I've just seen another four. Less than usual, but they're still about! I'm pleased at this - wasn't quite ready for them to depart! But, as I was saying, autumn is beautiful. I'm looking forward to smokey days, carving pumpkins, blankets, and shorter days. Sunrise is about 6.10 and sunset 7.45; by the end of the month sunrise will be 7 am and sunset 6.40. It's funny that the days steadily get shorter but it's about this time of year one really notices it and it feels sudden!
As for books: for the first time I've actually managed to finish the 20 Books of Summer, though I will note I changed five of the books listed in July. But still it's an improvement from previous performances! Here's the list:
- The Golden Ass by Apuleius. ✔
- Ethics by Aristotle. ✔
- Confessions by Augustine of Hippo. ✔
- The Symposium by Plato. ✔
- Constellation Myths: With Aratus's Phaenomena by Eratosthenes and Aratus. ✔
- The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse. ✔
- In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus. ✔
- Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. ✔
- Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. ✔
- Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. ✔
- Monkey by Wu Cheng'en. ✔
- The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. ✔
- The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. ✔
- Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. ✔
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. ✔
- As You Like It by William Shakespeare. ✔
- Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare. ✔
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. ✔
- Selected Letters by Jane Austen. ✔
- All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West. ✔
As I said in August I won't be reviewing The Good Soldier or The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse, but I will say a few words on Jane Austen's letters in the coming week. Next year's goal - stick to the original list and review them all 🌝
Now, September plans: it's R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge XII! Usually I go for Peril the First - four books, but instead I've decided to go for Peril the Second (two books) and Peril of the Short Story. I'll begin after autumn's began, but here's a tentative list of two novels and eighteen short stories (I have the idea I'll read about three short stories a week in autumn):
Peril the Second
- The Nun by Denis Diderot.
- The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole.
- The Ghost of Dorothy Dingley by Daniel Defoe (1720).
- Mary Burnet by James Hogg (1828).
- The Tapestried Chamber by Walter Scott (1829).
- The Mysterious Mansion by Honoré de Balzac (1832).
- The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin (1833).
- Edward Randolph's Portrait by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1837).
- The Traveller's Story of a Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins (1852).
- The Squire's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855).
- The Lady of Glenwith Grange by Wilkie Collins (1856).
- The Blue Room by Prosper Mérimée (1866).
- Madam Crowl's Ghost by Sheridan Le Fanu (1870).
- The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde (1887).
- The Sphinx Without a Secret by Oscar Wilde (1891).
- The Dancing Partner by Jerome K. Jerome (1893).
- The Red Room by H.G. Wells (1896).
- The Mezzotint by M. R. James (1904).
- The Three Sisters by W. W. Jacobs (1914).
- Peacock House by Eden Phillpotts (1927).
Very exciting, and I'm particularly looking forward to Jerome K. Jerome's story. I got all these titles from Great Horror Stories, Great Ghost Stories, and Classic Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories. As for other reading plans: nothing definite for September other than Benvenuto Cellini's Autobiography which I started this morning, Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, and Politics by Aristotle. Do want to get started on Plato's Republic too, but other than that I'm just going to enjoy free-range reading! That said I wouldn't say no to a read of The Flowers of Evil - it depends on time, I do have a lot of things to do this month (all very uninteresting but necessary!).
Now, to finish, some pictures, some taken in August, some in the past few days.
|The sky this morning: exciting because it wasn't heavy grey clouds!|
|Near the church.|
|Autumn leaves in the river.|
|One of the meadows.|
|Read Admirals and a Peacock.|
|The garden in late summer (it'll be interesting to compare these shots at the end of the year).|
|Apples ready to be picked.|
|Pink rose, which has flowered steadily all season.|
|White roses having a resurgence.|
|New baby cacti.|
|Herbs planted in July, all doing very well and ready to re-pot.|
|A new miniature rose.|
Happy September, everyone!