This coming Friday morning before school, like many parents in England and Wales, I shall be rummaging around my kitchen looking for three suitable items for each of my children to take to their school’s harvest festival.  Last year there seemed to be a competition between the children as to who could take the largest squash-type vegetable, which resulted in some very small children with some exceedingly large vegetables struggling up the hill to Church. This year there is going to be three tins from my family:  not too heavy, won’t result in a big mess and lots of tears if dropped and easy for small hands to carry.

At two minutes past nine o’clock at night GMT on Friday 22 September, when most of the people at the harvest festival earlier in the day will be fast asleep in bed, it is the Autumn Equinox.  The Earth hits the turning point in its orbit when neither of its poles are tilted towards the Sun; day and night are the same length, hence equinox, meaning equal night (I know it’s right because I’ve looked it up). It is the end of Summer and many cultures have celebrated this for thousands of years and continue to celebrate, joining together in that brief moment of balance to give thanks for the harvest and to share its bounty before the coming Winter.

In Ancient Greece Hades took Persephone into the underworld each year to trigger the start of Winter.  In China they have the Moon Festival to celebrate the harvest, and from what I can gather it is an opportunity to stuff yourself with moon cakes, which I hear are quite delicious.  Pagans call this time of year, Mabon.  There seems to be some debate about where this name originates from – in Welsh Folklore there was a Mabon ap Modron, the son of Modron, the Earth Mother goddess, who features in the Arthurian legends as Uther Pendragon’s loyal servant and a follower of King Arthur.  There was also a female Cornish Saint named Mabyn.  Her festival is on 18 November which is half way between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.   I also assume that there will also be a number of Druids at Stonehenge on Friday night celebrating the setting of the Summer sun for another year.

In England we have been picking blackberries and apples like mad and have started stuffing them into pies and crumbles.  I am thrilled to announce that custard is once again a regular feature on the pudding menu.  Some people are making cider ready for wassailing later in the Winter.  Children pester their parents to stick holes and string through conkers so they can have competitions.  My son wanted to chop some conkers up for deer food. I counselled against this as unwise, but what do I know?  He cut his thumb and we went to A&E.  I thought the cut was deep, and the doctor (who admittedly who works from an entirely different brief as to what constitutes a bad injury) declared it not to be the case as the top of his finger was still attached….moving on…..leaves fall, animals prepare for hibernation….everything gets ready to go to sleep.  Except for the humans.  The humans have to stay awake all Winter.

As the days shorten, daylight becomes less.  We’ve all heard of SAD syndrome, which can make Winter a real struggle for some people.  Now the ideal solution to this would be to book a sunshine holiday.  However, funds and annual leave allowances may not allow this, certainly not for three months every year and particularly with the C word coming up in December.  There has been much talk and publicity about getting hygge – snuggling up with your family and friends, furry or otherwise.  I think we should get behind that.  Let’s all do more of that.  It doesn’t cost anything and at the end of the day, why else are we here?  To be rich?  To be famous?  Or to love and be loved?  One of the things we can all celebrate on Friday when the Earth shifts into that brief state of equilibrium is that in our tiny corner of the World, however dark the days themselves may be in the coming Winter, we are warm and we are fed, which are already two more blessings than most of the people who share our planet.



Photograph courtesy of carolinasimonorganics.wordpress.com

Summer’s Out for School


Oh thank goodness.  I didn’t think we’d get through it.  I honestly thought that I might not make it this year.  If someone were to utter the words “what are we doing today?” to me one more time not only was I going to cry, there was a very real possibility of me turning to drink at seven o’clock in the morning.  The words “what are we doing next?” after having got back from a day out of activity were pushing me so far towards the edge, that there was a real possibility that I could have tried to drown myself in the bird bath, if we owned a bird bath.  And from the sounds of it from the Summer lots of other people were having, not one parent I know would have blamed me for it.  In fact, some of them may have already beaten me to it.

One friend went on holiday for two weeks and all of her family caught a sickness bug.  Not at the same time, which would have been pretty awful.  But in succession.  So just as one person was recovering, another one started to become ill.  And just for good measure, my friend caught it twice.  What a lovely break that must have been for her. Another missed her flight because her son, usually a robust young man, became so poorly so quickly that she had to take him to hospital (he’s absolutely fine now btw). Another friend, supposed to be enjoying a lovely and rare lunch out with her husband at a nice restaurant was so stressed by the pre-school build (see Abacus blog) that she didn’t eat most of it.  I also presume that her husband had some difficulty in changing the subject of conversation as well.

I seem to have had a Summer of my children constantly bickering with each other and not paying the slightest bit of attention to me.  I spoke to them, they looked me in the face, they turned without answering and then they walked away.   I asked them to set the table to eat the meal I had prepared – they ignored me.  When they eventually set the table, I requested that they sit at the table to eat, it fell on deaf ears.  And when presented with the meal, at least one of them declared it to be utterly inedible, even if it was they who had asked for it in the first place.  It seems that a lot can happen with the taste buds of a five year old in the space of an hour.  I asked them to get ready for bed.  My request was treated as advisory only.  Twenty minutes later, when I started shouting, everyone would cry and tell me how mean I am and query why I had not asked before I started shouting.

Some people had a good time: my son’s godparents visited France, and from what I could tell, made a very good fist of testing most of the wine and cheese available.  My daughter’s godmother had a game of football on the beach and managed to do a most impressive face plant into a puddle of wet sand.  Naturally her family rushed over immediately to make sure she was unhurt.  My sister had a lovely week in Sicily.

I am not alone in finding the task of trying to keep three children occupied for seven days a week for seven weeks every Summer holiday a daunting task.   I usually have a challenging schedule planned – holiday, days out, a few days away with my best friend and her child walking everyone’s legs off, holiday club, bracing strolls – you name it.  This year was no exception as in addition to a punishing regime, I was also involved with helping to build a pre-school.  Not me physically building anything you understand – dear lord, no – I think the building control officer would have been most upset about that.  But helping where I could, usually with a dustpan and brush and appearing with the odd baked item. You can see that it added to my timetable.  And the timetables of the other trustees I work with.  It seems to have been a Summer to struggle through for lots of people, for the mostpart in a first world problem kind of way.

But now…..oh, hahaha!  Now they are clean; they are pressed; they have shoes that not only fit them, but for the next five minutes will be scuff-free.  All of their tops and socks are currently brilliant white.  At the moment everything is in the right bag and everything has a name label on it.  And until October, for six hours a day, they are out from under my feet and under those of a paid professional.  Someone who actually chose to have a constant headache from the noise for a living.  Well, as much as I admire that, after the last seven weeks, I am happy to admire it from a safe distance.  In my case that distance being about two miles.  School – they’re all yours.




Photograph courtesy of Pixabay