I pad downstairs in the gloom, slippers quiet on the cold kitchen tiles. Tea, and the treat of a wheat bag warmed in the microwave for a minute or so. The quiet autumn mornings are darker now, but not the pitch black of winter just yet. As the steam curls from the kettle, the sky is lightening in the east, that October washed-out blue, hints of yellow and pink heralding the rising sun. Soon, that sun will struggle to make it over the valley tops until mid-morning, so I cherish this light, pale as it is.
As the tea mashes, I potter outside to the greenhouse to check that yesterday’s mammoth tidying session wasn’t all a dream, and to enjoy the deep red of the geraniums I moved inside yesterday. Satisfied that everything was still tidy, I wander back indoors, feeling better for the fresh morning air in my lungs.
Today is a day for the blog, so a relaxing ease into the day for me. I light a candle and take it back upstairs, along with my tea and almost-too-hot-to-touch wheat bag, climbing back into the warm spot under the duvet (the ultimate bliss!) and pulling another Welsh blanket up to my chest.
The candle flickers across the room and I watch it for a while, gaze unfocused, the light from the orange flame warming the crooked walls behind. Rummaging for my notebook and a pencil, I spend a little time writing as the day brightens outside, still trees and damp rooftops. The traffic noise, a low hum previously, begins to rise around 8am and I pop on a YouTube ambience to drown it out some. Currently I’m discovering a channel called ‘Nostalgic Atmosphere’, with real-life scenes. Today’s is rainfall in an English village that looks nothing like my own village – the streets deserted and the raindrops pit-pattering into puddles on the roads.
I think of the day ahead, and feel a fizz of excitement at getting to do blog things all day, although probably interspersed by a smidge of cleaning. Giving myself the time to choose to work on the blog is freeing – I’ve spent so long feeling guilty for not spending my time working on my university projects and it’s nice to have got to a space recently where I’ve changed the way I work and can feel comfortable about doing both.
The camera on my hand-me-down phone has finally succumbed to the google pixel curse, so I am using my husband’s real camera and I look forward to editing the pictures I took on our slow walk yesterday. But for now, the scratch of pencil on paper is soothing, so I write on into the morning. Happy mornings, all.
The chill in the air took us by surprise, in recent weeks. Those heady summer days of heatwaves and endless light snapped into an unseasonably cold September all of a sudden. The leaves, yellow from droughts, are now falling faster and faster each day. As September settles into October, autumn waves a gentle hand over the valley.
I’ve been quiet on here, I know. Summer, with its languid days, also had a dark side this year. Covid, a family illness followed by an eventual bereavement and alongside this, big decisions in the other part of my life, at university. This melting pot has meant the last few months have felt like a storm.
But all storms pass, or slowly move on, at least. I quietly accept the fallout, the grief, the recovery. I learnt some things about my brain and the way it thinks and sees the world which have also taken some adjustment. At 39, looking back, it explains so much. So I’m settling into an identity that’s shifted a little, bit by bit, but it’s not a bad thing.
As the year turns inwards, I feel the pull to do so too. To sow some small seeds in this season ad see how they grow and root over the darker months. As ever, Samhain approaches, bringing this turn of the wheel to a close, and I feel the urge to contemplate and look back over the last twelve months, good and bad , painful and joyous.
A seed I want to nurture is this space here, for sure. Now I know a bit more about how my brain sees things, I can begin to build a sustainable way of writing. I’m looking forward to it.
Otherwise, life rumbles on here in Yorkshire. We are clearing, organising and beginning to put the garden to bed. The fire has been lit and the blankets are out. As the nights darken here, I think of those in the Southern hemisphere and the light returning to them. Balance, as always. I’m not a winter person, but acknowledging that ebb and flow of seasons, the dark followed by the light, gives me comfort through the long, grey UK winter.
So, I will start to sow these word-seeds very soon, and nurture this space in coming months. Hopefully this space will soon bloom with cottage homeliness, small adventures, wanderings and wonderings. I send soft thoughts to you, this autumn, and if the days are also shortening wherever you are, I hope you are looking forward to kicking piles of leaves as much as I am!
What else does a day need when you have coffee cake? Here’s my favourite recipe, from the no-longer-there/now something else Cegin Llynnon tea rooms in Anglesey.
My little recipe book advises it was created by the proprietor Dilys Hughes, so thank you Dilys for many years of amazing coffee cakes. All in old school ounces, so you may need your conversion heads on. An ounce is 28 grams, apparently.
6 oz sieved self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
6 oz soft margarine
6 oz caster sugar
2 oz walnuts
1 tbsp instant coffee
1 dessertspoon hot water
2 oz butter
4 oz icing sugar
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp hot water
2 oz icing sugar
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tbsp hot water
Walnut halves to decorate
Pre-heat your oven to Gas 3, 170C. Lightly grease two 7″ sandwich tins and line the base with greaseproof (I use cake release and don’t bother with the lining!)
Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water, then place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, including coffee mixture. Beat well to creamy dropping consistency. Divide between the tins and bake for 25-35 mins until spongy. Leave to cool a moment in the tins, then turn out onto a rack to cool properly.
Buttercream – again, dissolve the coffee in the hot water. Cream butter until soft, then gradually beat in sugar and add coffee liquid. Beat well then use to sandwich cake layers together.
Topping – you guessed it, dissolve coffee in the water. Place icing sugar in a bowl then gradually add coffee mixture until the consistency of thick cream. Spread over cake and sprinkle your walnut halves on top.
Notes: I usually make 1.5 times the topping as the original is a bit stingy with the quantity! I also put more instant coffee into pretty much all of the stages as I love a strong coffee taste. Definitely remember to sieve the flour, it makes a big difference. Cake also freezes pretty well, if there’s any left…! Coffee beans in photos for hashtag aesthetic purposes only. Although you can munch on them whilst making the cake, of course 😉
I watch the bright flames crackle and dance in the soft early morning gloom and fight the urge to take a photograph. To document somehow this feeling of warmth, this primal fire in an 1800’s house, the otherworldly in the mundane. But for who? To sit with experience just for myself is increasingly hard.
This fire and me, we regard each other. Ancient connection, speaking to a part of me long forgotten, cells and sparks of millennia that I cannot put a name to. It is safety and danger, food and destruction. And mesmerising, always.
New flames settle with me, the fire burning well, and I struggle to write as my eyes are drawn to flame. The space between each flickering tongue. The dark charred wood a case of shadow. As flames die down the fire whispers “feed me”, and I do, entranced, as we are one, the house fading as soul and flame dance together somewhere deep in memory.
A cat slinks in and by fire she is tiny panther, orange reflected infinitely in huge dark eyes, and this panther flops down and melts into the floor, those wide eyes now closed in dreams of last night’s mouse hunt. The fire shifts in the grate and flames lick over a new surface, flaring and settling again. There is ebb and flow even in this.
The flames sing to me, to slow, to let go, to remember truths greater than myself. Orange glow, not harsh blue light. To peel away the layers of this world and let the flames devour them, leaving us as one, small fire, small human, and something bigger than us both.