Autumn – so soon?

The last few days have been strange and sad, as we try to accept the death of a dear friend. It is difficult to settle to tasks, but I find hard labour is as good a way to consume time as anything else. So I have been clearing the path, closely supervised by a young robin (who refuses to stay in shot). Though you can just about spot him/her taking time out for a bath (in the second photo).

IMG_0516DSCN6298 - Version 2The yellow (Japanese) quinces are all over the path and with my nose to the ground, they smell delicious. This scent, along with that of the lemon balm (a welcome weed in our garden) is very comforting.

In the nearby playing field, it looks as though autumn base already arrived. IMG_0514 While this Rhododendron Yakushimanum is convinced it is spring.DSCN6299 And the roses (Octavia Hill, Papa Meilland and Wollerton Old Hall) are making the most of the end of summer.DSCN6306 DSCN6308 DSCN6305 Meanwhile this fairy-like fuchsia (magellanica molinae)  has taken over the path.DSCN6304 - Version 3And two of the three martin’s nests are on their third brood – I don’t remember seeing quite such big piles of droppings in past years – with the house painters due in a week’s time. I expect nature will sort things out without any help from us.

(Apologies to photographers (you know who you are) for the rough and ready snaps)

Writing – the swinging pendulum

I have been feeling flattered that a friend across the country asked me to come and be quizzed by her reading group about my book, Unseen Unsung. This was published in 2008, so last week I started re-reading it. I was quite shaken by some aspects of the prose; too dense in parts, too many scene changes. I think if I hadn’t written it myself, I might have had trouble following the plot. I became puzzled, people I don’t know (as well as family and friends) have told me how much they enjoyed this story. Apart from one moment, when I forgot I had written it and the story brought me close to tears, I felt that this was not a book I would recommend to friends.

One outcome of this re-reading was an increased confidence in my new book, Border Line, endlessly revised and now going out to agents. Then, last night, I received an email from another writer – an old and trusted friend. She had been reading my most recent draft and she felt that the majority of my revisions were a disappointment and that I had thrown out what was best and unique about my writing.

Tomorrow night I will travel across the country to find out what a group of strangers made of Unseen Unsung. On Monday I will look at Border Line again and see if I can distil and replace the missing spirit.

Meanwhile Autumn is quietly going about its inevitable and beautiful business.

Acer palmatum Sengukako

Acer palmatum Sango-kaku

The approach of Autumn

A week ago I was depressed at the idea of the end of summer, today I am cheered by the approaching autumn. I have planted broccoli and spinach and the vegetable garden still looks amazingly orderly. DSCN4246The potatoes plants were all zapped by ants so we only had one colander full. The sweet peas fried in the heatwave, but everything else has been OK. The leeks are growing and there are plenty of runner and french beans, tomatoes, courgettes and salad to come.

The maples are beginning to turn.

Acer palmatum Sangukaku

Acer palmatum Sangukaku

From now on until leaf drop they provide me with almost daily excitement. Another happy event is the first fruit on the apple tree (sold to us four years ago as a plum!) We have no idea what sort of apple this is, so it has been a long wait. They look on the small side, but I like the green/orange colour, as I’m not a fan of red apples. I pulled off a tiny one and ate it today.DSCN4250





It has a lovely scent and is thin-skinned and crisp, but with only two tiny bites it was difficult to assess the flavour. Any suggestions about what they might be?

We still have martins feeding young, there have been at least three broods. I hope they have not left it too late to raise them before the cold weather arrives. I made a brave attempt to take a photo of them feeding.

House martins feeding

House martins feeding