Suddenly, as so often happens to me, something happens that suddenly lifts my spirits.
This weekend is Harvest weekend in our village. Friday night it was Harvest Supper and this evening, our Harvest Festival service in our little church.
As the weather of late has been so wonderful, an Indian Summer in all its glory, it has been a joy to decorate the church. I have now been in charge of the flower rota for 18 years, and have so enjoyed all that entails. I love flowers, I love picking big bunches of cottage garden flowers, flowers from the hedgerows and verges, and now, branches of the berries that I hsve written about before.
I did my usual dog walk up the tracks past my house yesterday morning. The dogs were not too pleased with all the stopping and restarting that involved, but I had a ball. Great armfuls of glossy green ivy with the soft green ball heads of berries, sprays of the ripe hawthorn, rosehips and great tangled strings of the wild bryony, snaking up through the hedges, requiring all sorts of contortions to unravel them and keep them intact. Some of these berries were almost translucent, like a lipstick stain, bright red and glossy, some were still orange, and some pale green. They looked so pretty all on the same skein of tangled stalk. I also picked oak leaves, turning a lovely soft yellowy orange, and some long grasses with pendulous dried seed heads. My bounty was carefully carried home, and then onwards to the church.
It was so therapeutic to spend the afternoon in the church, filling big glass candle lanterns, to place on the window sills. The sun streamed in, and bathed the window sills in a lovely autumnal glow. I added some bronze green centred sprays of chrysanthemums and, stripping the skeins of wild bryony so only the berries were left, I draped them through and left them hanging down, to catch the sunlight.
I shall miss all this - there is so much pleasure in living in a small English country village. I am not a hugely social person, and enjoy my own company, and all the countryside has to offer. This autumn has been so magical, you almost want to hug yourself with pleasure.
This afternoon I went back up to the church to check that all was well before tonight's Harvest Service. The dogs had a run through the churchyard - it is a wonderful place, the church is quite plain, the churchyard is mown in strips around the graves, and towards the footpath that wends its way across the fields behind. There are a handful of Jacob's sheep who keep the longer grass short, and it is peaceful and redolent of a bygone less stressful age.
The dogs and I then drove off to the next village, to collect something, and I turned on Classic FM. Oh joy, oh joy, a programme entirely devoted to Handel. I love Handel with a passion. We bowled along, the windows open, Billy and Maud with heads lolling out of the back windows, me singing along at the top of my voice to Semele and Where Ere You Walk, and suddenly I felt immeasurably better, and able to better face the world. I listened to a singer called Richard Lewis, who apparently died in 1990, who was a true exponent of Handel. I had never heard of him before, but he had a marvellous voice. Also - Andreas Scholl - my day was made.
I am home now, the sun has suddenly broken through, the wretched jackdaws are squawking on the roof, the dogs are collapsed on their bed soaking up the sun on the terrace, and I am going to make myself a tomato, basil and mozzarella bruschetta, and sit in the sun and count my blessings. I shall also have a chilled glass of white wine and read the Sunday papers and continue to listen to Handel. Tonight after the church service, I have been invited out to supper, next door to the church, so no driving and I can walk safely home afterwards. All in all, I count my blessings. My future is sealed - I can do no more.
2 days ago