There are some beautiful things to be seen still, though. The Albertine rose - she of the vicious thorns - is still blooming happily in a sheltered sunny corner, and one little tree is holding on to her golden leaves as long as possible, shining like a beacon on a grey day.
Look at that - isn't it like a bright lamp? Want to see it closeup?
Little pet, glowing to keep spirits high and remind us of the power still within the landscape at this time of year. Most of the rest of the trees have lost their leaves and every morning when I let the dogs out, we have a quiet and tranquil pre-dawn session of raking, sweeping and piling leaves to rot down into good mulch for the flowerbeds and fruit trees.
The fields are often beautifully cloaked in mist in the early morning now, and lovely little places like the lost bridge at Dooniskey take on a strange unearthly beauty,
while swathes of mist eddy and swirl around the hawthorn trees (it is considered most unlucky to move a hawthorn, which is why you often find them standing alone in the middle of vast fields as well as in hedgerows).
It's all very atmospheric and conducive to ghostly happenings. Perhaps that is why I'm experiencing something very odd with my Claudia Handpaint socks.
Here they are, looking perfectly innocent and harmless. As indeed the sock on the right is. Working down the foot just finely. But the one on the left.... Well -
You may recall (I think I told you) that I had got down to the heel on this second sock and then discovered unaccountably that there were four stitches too many. I couldn't understand it, but, swearing mightily under my breath, frogged back and started all over again. Halfway down the leg, the needle parted company with its cable. First time that has happened. Swear again, out loud this time, find a replacement, put broken needle on one side to be mended if possible. Work on.
Work the second heel, start on the foot. Now perhaps we can finish, yes?
Halfway down the foot, counting steadily as I go, I find what?
Four stitches too many on the sole.
Now how can this happen? The pattern on the leg is a four stitch repeat with no yarnovers, so it's not that easy to go wrong and increase a stitch. The heel is counted stitch by stitch. The pattern on the front remains the same. There is simply no opportunity for adding stitches on.
So how in the name of all that's strange did I end up ONCE AGAIN with four stitches too many?
This time I wasn't frogging back. I simply (shut your eyes, those with a persnickety nature) did a few quick pssos where the stitches had created themselves, and carried on.
But I have a feeling this isn't over yet. For some reason that second sock is trying to stop me finishing.
And again, maybe that was why I took out my much-read copy of The Dark Is Rising and started to reacquaint myself with its wonderful story. Do you know Susan Cooper's classic sequence? If you don't, get a copy now. It won all kinds of awards when first published in the 1960s, so you shouldn't have any trouble.
Be sure to get a copy which contains all five tales in the sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver On The Tree. These stories predate Harry Potter but to my mind are far better and far more powerfully written. I'd be surprised if a few of you didn't feel that strange stir of recognition when you read them, that feeling you very occasionally get of remembering rather than discovering, recalling rather than learning for the first time. The old knowledge is like that.
Oddly enough, I found myself in a shopping mall yesterday, next to a cinema complex. And what should they be showing but - yes, you guessed it - The Dark Is Rising, with a performance due in exactly five minutes.
It's not a particularly good rendering of the story, but then what film could be of any good book? The mind can create so much more than we could ever get from someone else's interpretation. And yet, the feeling was still there in the film, despite all the trendy special effects and fast-moving images designed to enthral the younger viewer, reared on TV. Do yourself a favour, get the book and read it for yourself.
And as a reward for your promise to go look for that book, I'll tell you the tale of that strange experience I had many years ago. At the end of this posting. A few other things to mention first.
Roggey had a lovely idea on her blog the other day, suggested to her by a friend as I recall. The idea was that you should undertake to finish 50% of your WIPs before acquiring any more yarn. Now this I think I could go along with. It's the same with any huge amount of work really, isn't it? The sheer thought of it all overwhelms you, and you end up doing none of it. But half - that should be achievable, shouldn't it? Well - if we only counted the WIPs actually in view, out in the open, this year's WIPs anyway. Not the forgotten disasters tucked away in the back of a cupboard. Roggey, would you like to start a Finish 50% KAL? Who'll design the button? I'm on board for one.
Speaking of the backs of cupboards, I decided to emulate Angeluna the other day, and emptied out an entire wardrobe (she's doing it to make room for more yarn, acquired in the Texas Hill Country recently, but for anyone with a stash-storing problem, it's always a good idea - as Angeluna says, who needs clothes, bed linen, towels, when there is yarn to be cared for?) Millions of discarded sweaters, forgotten cardigans, betrayed vests tumbled into the light of day. Among them I found this one:
It's actually in rich black, but I sacrificed the colour somewhat to allow the pattern to show up for you. Now I know I knitted this years ago - did one in cream wool as well - but for the life of me can't remember working that entertaining pattern. The leaflet has long since disappeared of course, so I am going to have to try to recreate it from the finished object if I want to make it again. What I liked, however, was that the shaping of the fronts was done at the side, in the moss stitch, so that the cabling would not be disturbed. Nice idea. I'll use that elsewhere.
OK, now for the ghost story, which doesn't have any real ghosts or clanking chains or icy hands, but was nevertheless an experience I never want to repeat. Go get your hot chocolate. Sitting comfortably? Right, I'll begin.
It was quite a number of years ago - I was still living in the UK at the time. I'd just finished with one job and had a few days to spare before starting the new one, so decided to betake myself up to Scotland for a break. It had been an exhausting time, and a complete getaway from people and places and everyday things was required.
The very far north west of Scotland isn't visited all that much, so although it was July, I had the tiny winding roads mostly to myself as I drove further and further out towards the coast. I remember that buzzards perched on the roadside telegraph poles like crows, barely bothering to move as I trundled past, keeping a sharp eye out for sheep lying comfortably across my route.
Accommodation isn't all that easy to find, so I was grateful towards evening when I came down a steep hill to this tiny fishing village. Yes, I remember its name very well - it's engraved on my heart - and no, I won't tell you it. There was hardly anything there - a few cottages, and a pub which doubled as a hotel. The old Scot who ran it was hardly able to move, due to arthritis, and gave me a key to check out the room myself as he couldn't manage the stairs. It was fine, looking out over the harbour, so I took it. Had a pleasant evening chatting with my host over a plate of haggis and turned in around eleven, tired and ready for sleep.
At this time of year in the far north of Scotland, it doesn't really get dark - you have what is called the 'glimmer dim' until morning. I left the curtains open and the window too, so I could enjoy the glowing skyscape and the cry of seagulls even in my sleep.
I don't know what time it was when I woke, suddenly, totally aware that there was someone or something standing over my bed. I couldn't look at my watch - firstly, despite the fact that the room should have been at least visible in the summer evening light, it was pitch black and horribly stuffy, as if all the curtains had been drawn close and the window hermetically sealed. And secondly, I was paralysed with an inexplicable terror, a gripping fear of something entirely outside my experience.
My sane mind tried to bring up the suggestion that perhaps my landlord couldn't resist the temptation of a woman staying alone upstairs - this was quite a few years ago, remember! - but I knew that such an easy solution wasn't on offer, even if his crippled limbs had regained their strength miraculously to the extent that he could climb the steep stairs. No, unfortunately, this was something much worse. I clenched my hands and dug my nails into my palms, a trick I usually try when I've woken from a nightmare, but the terror didn't go. I was fully awake, and something indescribably evil and malevolent was standing right over me, trying, it seemed, to - I don't know - take me over, suck me in. A sort of possession.
I couldn't move, only my mind was working frantically, terrified beyond reason. I knew I had to fight it, had to push it back, but didn't think I had the strength. Gradually I remembered the old words, the old speech, the phrases that you can use. I said them as strongly as I could in my mind, directing them against this force. I called on every good power I could think of - some from established religion, some from far older times - and asked them to help me. With every fibre of my consciousness I pushed against that terrifying presence and all the powers I'd called on pushed with me.
I don't know how long it took, but gradually I became aware that the room was lighter again, that the curtains were blowing gently in the breeze from the open window. It was cool again, and I could breathe.
I switched on the bedside light and read a very boring travel book for the rest of the night. I didn't dare to relax into sleep again and let my defences down.
I asked casually about ghosts at breakfast next morning, but the old landlord hadn't heard of any in the vicinity, other than a sailor who was said to haunt a lonely beach not far away. This was no drowned sailor, though. This was the most malevolent, terrifying, elemental force I had ever come across. I don't want to come across it again. I don't even want to risk opening the connection in any way. Which is why I won't write the name of the village.
I truly hope such terror never comes to you. Whatever it was, it was very very bad. The essence of evil. The memory will stay with me lifelong.