Season of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…once upon a time I could recite that entire poem, but now I can only just about manage the first two lines. These lines have been going around and around inside my mind for the last few days, as a mist has descended on the South East of England. Outside of my classroom window, the beautiful red, gold and ochre trees that are blazing so brightly along the edge of the playing fields and out as far as the eye can see are just poking their heads above a swirling sea of pearly mist, and the grass looks like it is being fondled with icy fingers. It’s all making me feel like I am in a Dickens or Wilkie Collins novel; just give me a lantern and off I shall go to navigate the pea-souped streets of Victorian London!

I have indeed been navigating the streets of London these past couple of weekends; two weeks ago I popped up to visit some friends and we had a glorious time walking along the Embankment and enjoying the views. It has been a reasonably pleasant Autumn, all things considered; clear skies, warm(ish) sunshine and not too much rain, which is always something to be celebrated! Against the background of a piercing blue sky and framed by the red and gold of flaming foliage, the starkly modernist – some would say brutalist – architecture of the Southbank is shown off at its best. Glinting in the distance are the spires of the city’s oldest and most modern buildings, sitting comfortably alongside one another to demonstrate London’s proud longevity and its continued position as one of the most dynamic and important cities on the planet. There is no better view in my eyes! Southbank’s book market doesn’t often offer up many bargains, but I never can resist a browse. It has to be the book shop with the best view in the city, and it’s always crowded with people, which is a heartwarming sight to see. I made one of my friends buy The Death of the Heart, because I believe everyone should read at least one Elizabeth Bowen novel in their lifetime, and I also treated myself, with a copy of Few Eggs and No Oranges for a bargain £4. I’ve got plans for that book; I’m already subtly drip-feeding Persephone books into my English lessons, and Few Eggs is going to have its turn soon, once I’ve thought of a creative use for it!

After a hearty lunch at Canteen, we split off, with me taking my friend who has just moved to London from ‘up North’ to see the joys of Regent’s Street. I popped into Anthropologie and bought this amazing skirt on sale, and I was tempted by the fabric in Liberty’s, but then remembered that I don’t have time to make anything any more, so I put it back on the shelf! Once we had shopped ourselves out, I led the way to the National Gallery, which should be the first port of call for anyone visiting London in my opinion. Not only do you get a fabulous view of Westminster from the front balcony, you also get to see many of the world’s most famous paintings for free. Free! Plus the cafe is marvellous (though sadly not free). I always try to steer a visit to London towards the National Cafe; you can’t beat their chocolate and coconut muffins with a nice cup of tea while listening to the piano man tinkling away and watching the tourists mill around the lions at the feet of Nelson outside. I also always make a beeline for the 19th century gallery, and this time I was particularly struck by the beauty of Turner’s very autumnal looking skies, as well as the cosy tranquility of Constable’s pastoral scenes. These are very much the background of my life now, and I was reminded of them as I walked through the woods on my way home from the station later that evening, delighting in the Turner-esque pink sky that blazed above the Constable-esque landscape. Season of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness indeed.

This weekend I was back in London to stay with the gorgeous Miranda and her AMAZING mum Donna, who put on a magnificent spread for Simon, Polly and I. We ate pumpkin spice cake and brownies and scones and sandwiches and quail’s eggs (my first time!) and drank gallons of tea while playing fun games and doing lots of chatting. It was a wonderful afternoon and reminded me of how brilliant the internet can be at bringing together people who would never otherwise have met, but who have so much in common. After tea, Miranda and I went on to the Young Vic to watch their version of Three Sisters. I shouldn’t have had a glass of wine before the performance, because I was practically asleep by the interval. It really wasn’t our cup of tea – all a bit too ‘thesp’ for my liking – and I was ready to slash my wrists by the end. Still, not a bad night out for a tenner and I do enjoy seeing how different directors interpret traditional plays. I am not a fan of rewriting plays to ‘modernise’ them – we don’t feel the need to do this with novels, so why plays? I especially don’t like it when rewriting really means adding in loads of gratuitous swearing, which isn’t ‘edgy’, but just lazy. I’m all for making plays relevant, but I think this can be done without changing the original dialogue, and I don’t see why it was necessary to do so in this case. Miss says – 5/10.

After a lazy Sunday spent chatting with Miranda and Donna about books and life and teaching and all manner of things, and being fed and generally looked after, I got back into my car and drove back home through the Surrey countryside, marvelling at how quickly this landscape has changed from the lusciousness of summer that seems like it was just yesterday. Since I started teaching, the weeks have flown by, and in just a few days it will be November. November! This year has gone too fast. But with the nights drawing in and the cold beginning to descend, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book. I am determined to get the balance right with my reading now my first (half) term of teaching is nearly over, and I have decided that I want to have a re-read of the first Persephone book I ever read, Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. Does anyone fancy joining in, for the second week in November? I’d love to have you join me.

17 comments

  1. It was a delight to meet you in person Rachel! Such a great Sat afternoon with bookish talk and games. You were all four incredibly patient about my scoring too, ahem! And you Rachel are every bit as charming and lovely in “real life” as you are on Book Snob – such a fun weekend all together.

    Definitely up for Someone at a Distance – brilliant idea. I am eager to hear how Few Eggs (very much enjoy dipping into that one myself) will feature in the classroom. Love the National Cafe too – and ofc never can resist the shop! Enjoy your half term – can’t wait to hear about the Paris fun!

    1. SUCH a delight to meet you too, Donna! You are so lovely, and I can’t wait to see you again soon!🙂

      Thank you – can’t wait to get to Paris now! And look forward to having you read along with me!

  2. It was so much fun to have you and to see all the other book bloggers too! I’m looking forward to your next visit already🙂 Maybe we could plan to see Uncle Vanya soon – which will hopefully be a lot better than 3 Sisters!! Oh, I do love Someone at a Distance- great idea to have a reread. Love all your wonderfully autumnal pictures. x

    1. oooh yes I’d like to see Uncle Vanya, definitely!🙂 Thanks very much for such a wonderful weekend – can’t wait to see you again soon and have a lovely, restful half term! x

  3. Funnily enough, I was luxuriating in Turners and Constables at the Huntington Library here in Los Angeles at about the same time you were doing the same in London. When, not if, you make your way to California, I should like to show you our version of “California English!”

    It’s a truism, but really so *very* true, about the internet bringing the like-minded together…only I wish it could do so in physical person too, as I can only imagine how nice having tea with you AND Simon, plus your other lovely friends, would be! (Love the skirt too, very striking…as the salesman said in Rose in Bloom about lavender gauze being “quite perfect for a blonde,” this is perfect for a brown-haired girl – as you are, and I was!)

  4. Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

    A post befitting to the beauty of the words it invokes. Why did it fill me with melancholy? Is it because I may never be able to breathe the air of those autumns and springs?

  5. Oh dear, your poor students, I think ‘Few eggs and no oranges’ must be the most boring World War II diary ever printed. Try Nella Last if you want to grab their interest of ‘Sand in my shoes’ or Frances Partridge or Mrs Milburn.

    1. Oh no, Jane, really?!?! I’ll have to have a proper look at it and make a judgement. I keep meaning to read Nella Last so maybe this will be the perfect excuse – thanks for the recommendations!

  6. I’m glad you’re having such a beautiful autumn, it must be so inspiring to be surrounded by such gorgeousness! You’ve made me want to pop into the National Gallery myself, but it’s a little too out of the way at the moment😉 I love the Impressionists🙂

    How disappointing about the play! I love Chekhov (being Russian that’s not really a choice haha) and it’s just painful to watch when people fiddle around and change the original text too much. I’ve been practicing my Russian more so that I can read more original texts and such, but my skills have deteriorated so much that now I can only read children’s books. I won’t give up though, the more I read, the faster it will all come back (hopefully).

    Here’s to more wonderful, joyful, and cozy weekends😀

    1. Thanks Lucy! Hopefully you’ll get to come to the National again one day soon!🙂

      You’re Russian?! I’m so jealous! I’ve always wanted to have Russian blood and learn to speak Russian…can’t do much about the first part but I can the second, so hopefully one day I will get around to it!

      I hope you’re having a lovely Autumn where you are! x

  7. Walking through the mist of Shadwell at 7.30am & seeing a colleague through the fog I really felt, & commented, that we were in a Dickens novel!
    Am currently reading Someone at a Distance so perfect timing for me.

    1. It was such a thick fog for so long, wasn’t it?! I wish I could have seen the lovely fuzz around the lamps that there always is in London with a fog…

      Oooh what a coincidence! I look forward to hearing your thoughts🙂

  8. I am in London and just returned from Alfriston and the Sussex Downs and the golden trees were amazing. I do love autumn. Have you ever been to Alfriston I loved the bookshop. It is absolutely wonderful. I have read the Whipple but will gladly reread it but I have bought so many books that I will have to make time. I have the copy of Ice which I won and thanks also for list of second hand book shops.

    1. Oh Enid, I’ve never been – I am jealous but delighted you’re having a wonderful time. Enjoy London and I hope you find some treasure in the book shops!

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