Sunday, 7 October 2018

Autumn things

I confess I find this time of year trying: the first tendrils of chill creep up my legs, the colours fade, work gets busy after the calm quiet of summer, and the year slowly dies and darkens. I know some people love this time of russet leaves, woodsmoke and squirrels gathering nuts, but the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness doesn't suit me so well. The romance of autumn seems to me more of a Keatsean myth than modern high-speed polluted reality. So I keep my mind occupied if I can with fun things.

These last few weeks I've enjoyed several events. Foremost is the annual Great River Race here on the Thames where over 300 rowed or paddled boats of all sorts race 20 miles along the river from Greenwich to Ham (or vice versa depending on the tide). It's a fun thing but also important in keeping alive the traditions of watermen on this river and around North European waters. Boats from all over the British Isles, as well as from Holland, Iceland, Germany and other places take part. In addition to local familiar Thames skiffs and wherries there is a vast array of other boats - jolly boats, longboats, lifeboats, luggers, gigs, cutters, shallops, whalers, sloops, dragon boats, war canoes! ...  The rule is you must carry a passenger all the way. A small selection from this year's race...

Thames skiff rowed by sailors and mermaids. I like it!

The only barge this year.

Despite being commanded by Vikings this was the worst rowing I have ever seen! More like the rolling of a drunken spider than a water craft. Leif Erikson would have waved his axe in disgust!

Smart but hard work

I was also given a free ticket to Kew Gardens, which I haven't been to for some years. Kew Gardens is an important place for me as the very first trip I made as a woman out of my own front door was there. It was a beautiful day. Again, just a selection...

The landmark pagoda, now fully restored and open
The maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba). Kew's one was planted in 1762. I particularly like this tree as the species has male and female trees but this one was grown from a male onto which a female was later grafted. Gender reassignment by a tree surgeon!

The beautiful waterlily house
A new and very complicated feature called the Hive, an art installation which is supposed to give you notions of life in a beehive. I won't go into the complex explanation of how it works.

Cactuses and other plants from arid regions in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. I love these.

The famous old palm house and its pond

I am reading a lot, including trans or gender lit: Ursula Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness", about a planet where the inhabitants are each male and female, and Roz White's "New Horizons", the third in her Sisterhood series about modern trans women (see my post about trans literature a month ago).

I also make sure I go out for coffee every morning as I like to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the break, as well as some of the coffee shops themselves. When your cappuccino looks as good as this, it soothes you at once! Or when there's a fluffy pussy cat in the shop!

Perfect cappuccino in what is arguably London's best coffee shop, Vergnano 1882 on the Charing Cross Road

The deliciously bohemian Scooter Cafe in Lower Marsh by Waterloo Station. It used to be a scooter repair shop and has a Vespa in the window, Italian cinema posters (and music) and good coffee, pastries and (later) cocktails. And a cat.

Have a nice autumn, girls

Sue x


  1. I feel we have lost our way as a nation of seafarers :-)

    1. I think there are a few pirates around, though. Sue x

  2. Great pix, thanks for sharing.

    BTW, back in the day, I never got to Kew Gardens! :-(

    1. Thanks, sweetie. Kew is lovely, but expensive to get in nowadays, which is why I like free tickets! Sue x