That Late Summer Feeling

Heleniums, ©AngelaPorter |

Both warm, golden sunlight and a cool breeze flow in through my open windows. The combination ignites memories of the end of the school holidays and the pleasure of buying new pens, pencils, and colouring media ready for the new term. I remember trips to the local Woolworths, a department store chain now long gone from the UK, and a local stationer, which sadly closed just before the pandemic, to get these supplies, and a notebook of some kind to try them all out in.

I could barely wait to get home to try the supplies out in the notebook and the pleasure of writing and drawing. There were a couple of sets of encyclopaedias in the family home. No novels. No other reference books. Just encyclopaedias and a dictionary or two. I can remember flicking through one and finding an article about red squirrels. I delighted in carefully copying out the information about them in my best writing. Then I did my best to draw a squirrel with some acorns and foliage and added some simple colour. The same golden light flowed through the windows, and there was a gentle breeze through the open doors, just as I’m experiencing today.

The dappled light I associate with this time of year also brings back memories of reading a book about a boy and a dinosaur. The book’s title is long forgotten, but the memory of dappled light coming in through the car windows as the family returned from a day out at Southerndown is clear in my mind, as is how I went to lie on my bed and continued reading when we got home.

The balmy warmth always makes me feel like I need to nap, bringing back more autumn memories. I remember lying in bed, reading some murder mystery book, on a Saturday afternoon not long after my long-ago partner and I moved into this house, the house I still live in. Sunlight was coming in, warming the bedroom and along with a refreshing, cool breeze. I could hear the sound of a rugby match in the distance, where he was and wasn’t expected home until late that evening. So, I indulged myself that afternoon, cuddling up under the covers, safe, secure, and comforted, just like so many Saturday afternoons in childhood, and gently dozing off. And even now, in my late middle years, I still enjoy that comfort and safety and a nap, especially on these balmy days that presage the coming of autumn; “The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” as Keats wrote.

I’m focusing here on the happy parts of these memories, for they are what lift my heart at this time of year, and those feelings are ever-present.

My love of pens, paper, writing and drawing, reading and napping still remains, as well as of this time of year that leads to autumn.

There was a time when this time of year, the summer holidays ending, I’d be increasingly anxious and stressed about my return to school – as a teacher. But those days are now long enough ago that I just feel the excitement of the soon-changing seasons, the autumnal equinox, and the glorious fiery colours of nature preparing to sleep through the cold months.

It fascinates me how repeating a particular pattern of weather and time of year can bring up powerful memories that I never think about at other times. They trigger a journey into the recesses of my memory, and nowadays, only the good ones surface, mostly. Finally, however, the demons of the unpleasant ones have been put into demon jail, thanks to EMDR therapy; for that, I am very grateful.

It will be a while longer before summer’s dull, monotone greens start to be brightened with pops of the golden-fire colours of autumn. But I can feel the change in the air, and I long for it.

I hope that the feeling of autumn will ignite a sense of wanderlust in me, much as it did for both Bilbo and Frodo in JRR Tolkien’s writings. I do not intend to debate a dragon or cast a magic ring into Doom’s Fires. However, I hope it will encourage me to leave the sanctuary of my home a bit more often, local trips and visits particularly.

Small these journeys will be in terms of distance and time, but they will be the start of a long journey for me to work out how I can feel safe and calm in the big outside world in a way I never have. And preparing myself mentally and emotionally to do even the most minor thing takes some time; I have to practically sneak up on myself and just do it without thinking about it!

But there is no rush to start today, even if I had a burning urge to do so! I am waiting for a delivery, and the westward-moving clouds are gathering and filtering the gold and warmth from the mid-afternoon sunlight.

Until I and my schedule are ready, I can research to find places to visit close to me, both the familiar and unfamiliar. Then, I can practice hand lettering as I make a list in my ‘travel’ journal. Then I can try to find my set of multi-sided dice to roll to choose a destination as I can become overwhelmed by choice!  Though, to be kind to myself, I will give myself permission to re-roll if the original result overwhelms me. Or perhaps I should have some lists for how I’m feeling each day. Hmmm… this needs some thinking about!

Thinking about going forward

I last visited Curious Stops and Tea Shops and posted over two years ago. The past two and a half years have seen a global pandemic; for many, life has changed an awful lot. I am one of those people. I don’t get out and about as much as I used to. Living by myself means I have been able to finally know what it’s like to have very little or no anxiety; that is, once the fear of Covid had eased off. I’ve realised that being out around people causes me so much anxiety and stress, which I thought was ‘normal’, but now I know that isn’t the case.

So, as I’m slowly learning how far I can push myself (or not) in re-engaging with the world outside my home, I need to think about this blog and where to take it going forward.

There are many ways to travel, and many curious stops can be made. Travel isn’t always physical; it can be intellectual, philosophical, emotional and spiritual.

I am inquisitive, and I often spelunk my way through some subject that has caught my attention, often with lots of mugs of tea to accompany me on my journey of discovery.

Books, novels and fiction are another way to travel, learn more about the world and experience things through other people’s eyes and circumstances.

Then there’s cooking. The easy-ish availability of foods, spices and herbs from around the world means that a journey through new recipes can be taken too.

I hope this will get me out more often for gentle local walks to learn more about my area’s history, nature, and much more. I hope this will get me to use my digital SLR more and journal more about what I discover, notice, feel and experience. I look forward to visiting places in different seasons, times of day and weather. There’s always a different story to be told, a different experience.

During the last two years, not rushing here and there has given me time to take courses in art and illustration, hand lettering and typography, and writing and journaling. In addition, I’ve watched documentaries and films, listened to podcasts and audiobooks, read books and taken journeys of discovery through blogs, websites and YouTube videos, to name a few. All these are journeys, in my opinion, as they have all led to a richer life experience.

This blog was always meant to be one about journeys of discovery. It’s taken a while for the penny to drop that some of the most meaningful personal journeys we take in life aren’t physical ones but ones that lead to inner growth on one level or another.

So, going forward, I’m likely to do blog posts here on all kinds of journeys that I undertake periodically. I hope these will be surprising and interesting, both for myself and you.

A little jaunt to Neath

Approximately once a week I have an appointment in Neath. I enjoy driving, but today I wished there were places on the way there and back I could pull over and snap a few piccies of nature.

The places I could pull over and stop were places where I lost the view I wanted to catpure.

So, instead of pictures, I’ll try to use my words to paint a picture of my journey.

My route was from Pontypridd, up the A470, past Merthyr Tudful to join the A465 which I then followed until I reached Neath.

Along the way I get to see the mountain tops of the Taff valley. They currently look like a rich tapestry of abstract patterns in a rich russet tinged with purple, dull yellow-greens and straw-yellow.

The trees that line much of the road are no longer the uniform green of summer. There’s flashes of yellow, brown, orange, magenta and purple along the way that break that unformity up. Rowans and hawthorn are so bedecked with berries that they already appear bright red-orange and red in colour.

Traces of morning mist lingered about the trees beside the A465 in the Vale of Neath, and low cloud wreathed the moutain tops to the east. Definitely an autumnal view.

I got the sense that nature is trying on her new wardrobe, working out what looks best in different places, what colours work well together.

I feel the anticipation of seeing nature in all her glorious, majestic, blazing autumnal colours in the coming days and weeks. All to celebrate the end of the year’s harvest, the warm, glowing colours clothe the world like a snuggly quilt laid down to help it ease into it’s winter slumber.

The colours also act as a memory to remind us in the cold, dark, bare days of winter the world will wake up once again.


Stokesay Castle and the drive home

Stokesay 03Yesterday I had to say goodbye to the Dales to make the long journey back home to Wales.

Liz decided that we’d travel back to Stokesay Castle in Shropshire as quickly as we could so that we didn’t get stuck in the crazy traffic on the motorways around the Manchester area.

The skies were clear with puffy clouds floating in them. The sun was warm through the glass of the car, but the wind was still a tad parky.

We made good time as I annoyed Liz a little with an app I’d newly downloaded onto my phone – iGeology 3D. It helped me to answer the questions I had about the underlying geology of the different landscapes we passed as we left the Dales and carried on home.

We made good time and Liz stopped for a bacon butty at a little caff in a layby; I think it was called Lone Johns or Long Johns, but I could be very long. She really enjoyed her butty. I enjoyed my mug of tea and a little piece of ginger cake.

Stokesay 01
Then it was on to Stokesay Castle for a break from driving. We headed to the tea room there for a comfort break and a drink and something light to eat. Liz had a chocolate pudding and I had a rather nice bowl of tomato and basil soup. Once refreshed (and I finished an an angel wrap I’d started knitting on Thursday with yarn I’d bought in Settle) we visited the castle.

We had to go into the gift shop to get our admission, and we had a wander around. Liz spotted a cuddly raven, which of course had to be added to my little collection of things of a ravenly nature. Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a passion for corvids, ravens especially. So, to add a second cuddly raven to my little collection was something I was happy to do, as well as contributing a little more to the coffers of English Heritage.

Stokesay 02The castle was nice, a bit modern for my liking, though the textures and patterns in the many carvings caught my attention for sure, as did the lovely flowers and foliage in the gardens.

I baulked at going up a narrow, dark flight of uneven steps to the top of the tower, however. My panic attack in a narrow and short entrance and increasingly narrow corridor/tunnel at Forbidden Corner was still very much with me, so I went and explored the flowers instead.

Liz said, ‘ I couldn’t believe it; we stop at a castle and you’re more interested in taking photos of plants than looking at the castle’.

Stokesay 05I’d looked at the castle. I’d taken lots of reference pictures to use to inspire my kind of art in the fulness of time. But I like plants as well!

Stokesay 04We looked at the church next door to the castle, which was nice too, a lovely arch on the way in.  Well, I think it’s lovely and interesting, but then I do like a nice well rounded arch! I like pointy ones too, and the more ornate tracery filled gothic arches as well, but there’s nowt quite like a sturdy, well-rounded arch.

After a wander around the graveyard (I find them rather interesting too, especially the older they are and the changes in fashions in the style of gravestones and the kind of information people put on them – these say more about the living left behind on the Earth than they do about the dead) it was time to continue our journey along the Welsh Marches then across towards the Brecon Beacons.

We stopped at the Honey Cafe in Bronllys. This is a lovely place for a stop, and it’s somewhere you can get tea and piece of cake until 9pm at night. We didn’t have cake this time, in fact, I didn’t have much cake this week at all! We did have a bowl of thick cut chips and one of curly fries to share between us as well as a big pot of tea.

It was nice to break up the long journey home this way. I think we were both tired from our busy days in the Dales and the journey home felt longer than it really was.

After leaving Honey Cafe, it was down towards Brecon, to Storey Arms, Merthyr Tydfil and finally back to Pontypridd at around 7pm. After dropping me home with my luggage, Liz made her way to her home too.

I really enjoyed my week away. I did miss spending time wielding pens and pencils and having to make do with my poor photography skills to try to capture glimpses of things that caught my attention on our travels. I have a lot more photos than I’ve shared so far. Before I share any more, however, I need help from Liz to help me name the places I’ve taken photos of!

I do want to go back there, maybe in the Spring when the new leaves are just beginning to show. I’d like to go back to Fountains Abbey with my sketchbook in hand and an ample supply of pens and pencils. I’d also like to visit Rievaulx, Ripon Abbey and other places of both man-made and natural beauty and interest.

I know that as our days were so busy as Liz wanted to show me as much as she could of her favourite places and things I’d find interesting, I often felt very much a sense of sensory overload where time was needed to just sit and let my mind digest and organise it all before adding more to it.

I’m an introvert, even if those who think they know me think I’m an extrovert. I have a very well practiced mask of an extrovert nature which developed to allow me to be noticed in a family of rampant extroverts.

Being an introvert a lot goes on internally and it can take a long while before I can make sense of emotions or experiences; writing is a way that I can do this, once I have had that time and space.

Having said that, I laughed a lot and there were a lot of vocalised, enthusiastic expressions of ‘oooh’ and ‘wow! look at that!’ and variations on the theme (sometimes with a sweary word or two in exclamation added in).

But, there’s a lot more going on inside me than I acknowledge outwardly.

It took me to write a blog about my experience of the Coldstones Cut to recognise what it was that had been internalised.

So, in the coming days or weeks. I’ll be adding blogs about my Yorkshire Dales break – and it’s a lot easier now I have my home superfast fibre internet connection rather than the intermittent, unstable wifi connection at the Devonshire Arms Inn or elsewhere this week.

I’d like to say that my stay at the Devonshire Arms Inn at Cracoe was lovely. The staff were fab, and their triple cooked chips and onion rings were divine! I rather enjoyed my meal there on my last evening, with Liz and Jack for company.

Last, but not least, I’d like to say thank you to Liz for doing the driving, putting up with my ambling pace, my achy joints and my weirdly silly outlooks on life and for indulging me with trips to Fountains Abbey and Settle and Coldstones Cut. I look forward to more shared trips in the future, day or a little longer in length.