November is a neglected month. It starts with leftover Hallowe’en pumpkins, has some brief excitement with popping fireworks, then pauses for Remembrance. It never quite picks up after that. All the while, of course, Christmas is already barging in, making its commercial presence felt in shops and on television. On the first Sunday of November the lengthy ad breaks in ‘Downton Abbey’ were punctuated with suggestions that a new sofa or dining room suite would be ‘great for Christmas’. It’s as if we want to wish November away.
The other thing about November, of course, is the dark evenings. When I was working in teaching, we always returned from the October half term break singularly unrefreshed. Jetlagged by the clock change, we moaned about the darkness and rain, and then got on with the serious business of getting students through the exam hurdle before the Christmas lights and festivities. Drowning in marking and reports, I hardly noticed the month.
But since my retirement I’ve discovered November. In between the waves of Atlantic depressions bringing wind and rain, there can be sparkling days to enjoy. The main half term crowds have gone, but there were still plenty people out enjoying the Lake District yesterday. We walked round Rydal and Grasmere in perfect conditions; the November foliage glowed in the sun and the sheep might even have thought it was summer.
I intend to savour the rest of the month and put Christmas to the back of my mind. Christmas is for December. The second half of December, to be precise.
Continuing a tradition of cake pictures, my final photos are of our champagne afternoon tea at The Samling, between Ambleside and Windermere (http://www.thesamlinghotel.co.uk/). We’d been given a gift voucher for this and yesterday was the perfect day to use it.
We left after sunset. Through the trees we saw the Langdale Pikes silhouetted behind the silver of Windermere. Venus shone brightly to the south-west, and two deer stood still on the lawn in the twilight, watching our progress down the very steep driveway. It was a special November moment.
I really enjoyed your piece (and accompanying photos!) on November, a month that I’ve always felt got short shrift for being neither here (autumn colours) nor there (Christmas and snow). As a November baby, I almost felt protective about this month when I first read Ted Hughes’ poem “November”, starting “The month of the drowned dog.” Do you know it? Your reflections make a good antidote!
Christine Cochrane said:
Thanks, Marion! There’s a sense of wishing the year away now – it’s Christmas or bust from now on, I find, and a lot of weather grumbling! I revisited the Ted Hughes poem about ‘these worst days’ and, despite the beautiful writing here, I can understand how you felt. Have a very happy November birthday!
Thanks, Christine! The poem is rather fine, I must admit!