The most wonderful season of them all…..

I love the autumn season!

It heralds so many wonderful things –

  • The winter season (if you are a December baby like me and cannot bear the summer….you will know what I mean!)
  • The festive season (Have you seen how most of the festivals all over the world, somehow tend to be around the Fall-Winter period?)
  • Most importantly, it’s Vacation Time (Especially the December holidays!!!!)
  • The creepy crawlies all hibernate
  • My hair does not look plastered to my scalp (summers with humidity)

So really….what’s there not to love about this season?

I love the feeling of getting up in the morning and wrapping up with a light sweater and warming my hands around a hot cup of tea, as I smell the wood fire in the air and see beyond the hills (remember I live in an apartment cut off from the city, whose only saving grace is the view!) the rising morning mist! Compare this to getting up in Summer, where you are drenched in sweat and everything is sticky and you just want to laze because, all your energy has been sucked out by the unrelenting and unremitting heat! Yuck!! I am sure you get the picture!

This is the time to explore, to rekindle old forgotten passions and go out and greet the world! It is the season of beauty, charm and outdoors – time for picnics and excursions! It’s a time to close old chapters and plan for new beginnings. It’s a time for harvest and celebrations!

I know I am waxing eloquent, but since this is such a lovely time, that I can go on and on about it! But then I think, there is somebody who has already done this in far more beautiful terms than I can ever fathom…..so I will just let Mr Keats do the talking –

Ode to Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Do let me know what your favorites/plans for this season!

A philosphical debate on man’s fate & the diadatics on action leading to equal and opposite reaction…aka Phew….saved by the bell!

There are some things that are simply fortuitous and in the very hackneyed way, one can say that whatever happens happens for the best. (Hang on! I will get to the particulars after I spend some time on general rhetoric’s) I am strong adherent of this school of thought, though as God be my witness, I am sorely tempted in abandoning this principle of goodwill and sanguine hope many a times. In fact, there are a couple of incidents in my life about which, I am still waiting to find out what this best is/was???? But then, such things do happen that kind of restore your faith and make you realize (albeit kicking and screaming) that there are greater forces at work between heaven and earth and there is a reason behind almost every action.

Now for the particulars –

I realize that I have been off the blog for some time and it is kind of hilarious, when on my Aug 1 post, I claimed that I was writing more this year. However, irony aside, I do believe now that there are some matters that one should never talk about because that invariably leads to tempting the faith! For instance, last year, my mother was getting her house renovated and while clearing the house for the carpenters and decorators to work on, she came to realize that she had over the years collected a huge amount of crockery and cutlery. I do mean huge and not just you more than general, but something to the effect of 77 serving trays!!!! She called me and said that she had no idea when or how she bought so much of stuff and there was a sneaking pride in her voice, when she said that my aunt (a very weird woman who is actually obsessed with material gains) also could not rival her sets. I know I am resorting to clichés, but sometimes they do have a lot of truth in them – in my mother’s case pride did come before a fall!! After the renovation was done, she went for a small vacation with her sisters and yes….the inevitable did happen! Her house was broken into and among the various items that were stolen were her prized crockeries including 52 of her 77 serving trays! My mother is now adjusting to the life of simple living and high thinking while spending hours practicing how to keep her mouth shut!

You know how they say, that as time passes by, daughter’s become more like their mothers! Well there is a lot of truth in that as well! Having philosophized and lectured my mother about her lack of circumspect  and failure at being humble, I declare to the world, that yes…I am indeed writing more! So the fates decide, that this mother daughter pair are really thick-headed and they SO NEED A LESSON! Therefore one fine evening, I come back from work, make myself a cup of coffee and sit down to write. My guilt conscience was at its paroxysm, because, I had not touched my novel in more than 2 months and I was determined to make up for my slackness. I switched on the laptop and then DISASTER stuck!

My system had crashed. I do not know when and I do not know how, but it had crashed. All my files, notes, music…everything was wiped off from the damm system. After getting hysterical and hyperventilating for nearly 3 hours, during which my flat mate tried all recovery recipes from smelling salts to chocolate ice cream, I called the system repair guy. He gave the laptop back to me last night with a I-have-no-idea-what-you-did-but-there-is-nothing-I-can-do look. Oh! Wail! Oh! Horror! Why has the Lord forsaken me???

So what’s bright side, you ask??? Well, music and photographs I can recover…..thanks to iPods and Picassa. But more importantly the writing….well remember, how I said that I had not written in well over two months, well …..the last cut that I wrote, I had mailed it to a perspective publisher….so ITS ALL SAFE….in my Gmail. All my short stories are uploaded on Goodreads and thank the blog…well you know is a web-based portal……so really….no loss!!!! While I was bemoaning the fact that for 8 weeks, I was neglecting my craft, there seems to be a greater plan at work. Had I written in those weeks, after sending the work so far to the publisher, all would have been lost! For whatever reasons, not writing during that time was definitely fortunate incident!

Hence, enlightenment came to me and I decide –

  1. Keep my trap shut…especially if I am doing good stuff.
  2.  Hang in there…there is a reason behind all that happens, even if it’s not apparent immediately.
  3. Get a backup for your system….do not save everything on your desktop!

Austenian Manner at the Manor

I have always been a creature of impulses – going mostly by what my heart dictates and not my head with inevitable disastrous results. But there are times when things turn out quite unexpectedly successful even when you have not used an iota of rationality – I think it’s the law of averages …I mean there can only be so many calamitous outcomes without some being extraordinarily successful. But as usual I am digressing from the core to the periphery!

An unexpected three day weekend came our way (My best friend and mine) late Thursday evening. A three-day weekend at any cost is a rarity in the gulag that we both work in…so it was far too tempting to let go of this opportunity and spend it in mundane tasks like – electrical fittings (Our bell as well some lights have gone bust requiring some serious electrical rewiring), going to the library (my books are a week overdue) and visiting the parlour ( I hate going the parlour…yes I know I am a weirdo and all women love to indulge themselves but I do not like it and consider it a task that needs to be performed so that I can fit into  the stereotypical idea of womanhood….said I was a weirdo)…Anyways this and grocery shopping (we are out of everything!) needed immediate attention and had I been a sane and rational creature, I would have gone ahead and completed my to dos. But instead my best friend and I quickly looked up weekend gateways and booked a room for two nights three days …all within 20 minutes of realising that we have a Friday off along with the weekend!

We left really early in the morning, making only one pit stop at McDonalds for a hurried breakfast and reached out destination in just under 7 hours of drive. Our destination was a 170 year old manor house nestled high up among the hills. (Read my earlier post – I LOVE MOUNTAINS!) The Manor built in very British colonial style is a huge affair of wood and red bricks with traditional and clichéd red tiled roofs, large French windows and fireplaces. It was owned by several illustrious personages who used it as a getaway before being turned into a private boutique hotel.  Our room is an affair of oak and teak wood with some lovely woodwork and a magnificent view of the mountains. I believe the first viewing of the room is important and I fell in love with this room as I opened the balcony door and the mist from the mountains wafted in the room and I could catch the very clouds in my hands. You can spend hours looking out of the balcony or the windows to the distant mountains with the mist floating in and out sometimes covering and sometimes when the mist clears, you can see distinctly the view across the ridge where stand the red roofs and the white ionic columns of the local Christ Church Cathedral. Fortunately for us, there were not too many guests at this time of the year and we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

After a quick shower and sumptuous lunch, both my friend and I agreed that we have earned our right to a siesta after the long drive. Post the siesta, in the spirit of the place, we had high tea, after which we indulged in some completely mindless and bizarre television watching.  I had previously mentioned that I do not own a television nor am I tempted to get one. When out on vacations I usually catch up with telly watching quota, but it just convinces me more and more that it’s a good thing that I do not have an idiot box!  After a light dinner, we turned in really early…I mean back home I would never sleep at 23:00 hrs…not here…oh! Well

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Naturally I was up at 5:00, all fresh and active. It’s funny how I always struggle to get up on time to go to work but on vacations, my body seems to program itself to get up on time and do all things in a regular logical manner. Anyhow, I wanted my coffee, but this being an exclusive but a small establishment; I was told that the kitchen will be open only after 8:00 am. But when you get so early, your body requires sustenance and so I made myself some coffee from the electronic kettle with the coffee/tea ingredients that come in as complementary. After that, they day turned into a day in the life and time of Jane Austen heroines. I got up and got dressed. I wanted to go for a walk but it has rained constantly since yesterday so I kind of dumped the idea and instead explored the manor with its old furniture and some absolutely marvellous photographs and paintings. Following this I indulged in a hearty breakfast – again very English: Toast, baked beans, bacon and Eggs, coffee and juice. I love long and leisurely breakfasts and this meal turned out to be a pure pleasure. After breakfast, we read by the hour in the Manor Library and then moved to the parlour for some writing. In the afternoon, after a light luncheon, we went downtown and spent some time exploring the local locales and finished our promenade with yet another high tea. Back in the manor, we spent the evening reading and playing Mahjong (I know Austen was for card games, but let’s allow for some evolution!) Dinner was a 4 course affair and again it was an early to bed and early to rise affair! We left for the city after breakfast, bidding adieu to our much-loved and tranquil Regency lifestyle and embrace the life and times of the millennia….Sigh!!!! The upside, the drive was magnificent as the mist came down over the mountains and we literally rove through the clouds!

Goodbye Manor House, we will miss you!

Photo Curtsey: Mentally Nailbitng

On the banks of Thames……

I want to share an amazing piece of historical fiction that I have just read (Yes! I hear you groan and I promise to write about a modern-day set novel soon….I was about to say next week, but I have the Alexander Trilogy lined up…so it will be soon and yes too much of historical fiction does not fry anybody’s brain!) Now that I have stopped digressing, let me get on to core of the matter – I have just finished reading Edward Rutherford’s London and it its MAGNIFICENT!!!Edward Rutherford was born in England in 1948 and was educated at Cambridge and Stanford Business School. He worked as a publisher for couple of years before settling down to write Sarum that traces the lives of the Wilsons, Shockleys and Porters from the time of Stonehenge to the close of War of Roses, covering 10000 years of history of the land. It became an instant bestseller and this self-confessed disciple of James Michener settled down to write a couple of more such bestsellers including Russia, The Forest, New York and London

I liked Edward Rutherford’s writing ever since, one day generally drifting through a library shelf; I picked up his The Forest. It was a pleasant surprise and a wonderful read – written in the style of James Michener’s The Source and Poland; it traced the evolution of the New Forest from the Norman Conquest to the modern-day. I was impressed by clean, simple style of writing with amazing plots and well researched material, but nothing prepared me for the brilliant work of London.

We have all read pieces of writing that become an old friend that you are loath to part with. London is one such work – it’s an epic and a mammoth work (only 1300 pages), but I rushed through the whole thing and then somewhere at about the 700 page mark, when I knew that I had read more than half of the book, I began to drag it out, because I did not want it to end. The book covers more than 2000 years of history, beginning from the very antiquity and the life around River Thames, touching upon all the key events from the coming of Romans and eventually Christianity, to the rise and fall of various royal houses of England and the establishment of such institutions/buildings that give the city her identity – the Parliament, the Lincoln Inn, St Pauls and Westminster Abbey. Rutherford’s style is simple- he creates his six fictional families and tells the stories of their descendants entwining them in and out of historical situations that gave an impetus to the development and growth of London, making them intermingle not only with each other, but also with significant historical figures like Thomas Becket, Bishop Cramer, Shakespeare, Sir Christopher Wren and of course, a whole gallery of English monarchy. The story traces the rise of one of the greatest metropolis of the world from the Celtic era to the modern-day dockyards of London through the families of Duckets, Barnikles, Flemings and Bulls as their lives and fortunes intertwine with each other and the rise of London. The most wonderful part of this book is while this work is an epic saga, he never loses his grip on the plot and with the close of each era, I was left wondering, so what happens to Lord Bocton, what will Ducket’s son do now?, especially since today’s hero’s grandson can be tommorow’s villain and a minor incident that as a reader you glossed over could have unfathomable effects as you go down another 300 years.  It’s a well-researched work, historically accurate – I especially love such small curios like how the rhyme Ringa Ringa Roses or how the term Cockney came about and many such historical nuggets.

I believe Lisa Jardine of the Times summed it up very aptly when reviewing the book – Rutherfurd’s is a marathon task… I think that he pulls it off. LONDON: the Novel could hook you on history for life.’ I so agree with that…read it…..the book will make you want to go back revisit your English History classes again!

The wind and the willows and the chimes…..

Photo Curtsey:mentallynaibiting

Nothing rejuvenates me more than going away from the city to the mountains. The sun shining on me, the gentle cold breeze, and the sound of the wind chimes mixing with the wild songs that the birds sing….heaven can wait, this is paradise.

As planned, my flat mate, her parents and I took off for a mountain trip mid this week. This unexplored…. well relatively unexplored and virgin out of the way cottage in the mountain forests is a bliss for all those who love quiet, dig communing with nature and spend hours on doing things they never get time for in the city – reading, writing, thinking, laughing. It’s a quaint out of the way place that reflects the glory of this mountainous land and provides some vintage glimpses into its 140 year old history. The rooms are clean and spacious with antique albeit simple and basic furnishings, the staff is wonderful and to state that the food is yummlious is an understatement.  (Yes, I invented that word and currently hold its sole copyright!) But best of all is its environs – surrounded by mountains on all sides, this 100,000 acre farm ((Yup! It’s a farm in the mountains)  has some of the most beautiful woods, that have been left to nature for their tending without human intervention (I hate pruned and planned gardens!) and have thus a natural and wild magnificence . We spend the days here watching the sun rise over the mountains, trekking up the hills (my flat mate and not me…me not particularly keen on physical activity and I firmly believe one can bond with the various beauties that the nature has to offer from one spot), writing oodles and oodles, listening to forgotten melodies, photographing (again my industrious flatmate) and laughing! In a nutshell, we are having a brilliant time.

Photo Curtsey:mentallynaibiting

 

Photo Curtsey:mentallynaibiting

Which is why, I do not understand the psyche of some of the people visiting this place. The farm’s website screams out loudly that this is not a regular deluxe a-la grandee establishment with disco and bar etc. It’s a place to come away from civilization but some guests simply did not get the point. They reach this place and demand to know where can go site seeing and why does the farm not offer pasta! They want to know if they can have a bonfire party and a night spent at the farm is enough to make them miss the city. I guess they never heard of Mark Twain – “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. These people undertake to travel to further their prejudices, re confirm all their bigotry and impose their narrow minded standards on the rest of the world!!Now don’t get me wrong, I love my city too…I love the home deliveries, the uninterrupted internet services (asking for God is easier than seeking continued internet availability in this place) and my all night parties. But then when I want to get away from all the madness and competition and the hub bub of the city, I come to a place like this – I come here because I don’t want any part of my city life to follow me here as I try and reinvent my thoughts and think about all the bigger and simpler things in life. I want to see the sun rising and hear the sound of the gushing stream water flowing from the mountains. I do not want to watch television or hear Eminem. I want to eat simple, but fresh and absolutely delicious home cooked meals and not Domino’s Pizza. Most importantly, I want to stand and stare and not worry about how I look or who is looking at me (or in some cases, why are they not looking at me!)

Therefore I want to know why people who want their pizzas and discotheques and bungee jumping opt for holidays in these places. I do not understand how one can look at the magnificent mountains (don’t believe me; just look at the pictures below) and say “But there is nothing here to see but hills and trees! Duh! What did you expect a dancing chimpanzee surrounded by 40 belly dancers all moving to Jennifer Lopez’s On the floor??!! Oh! Grow up! If you don’t like it, scoot! But don’t keep loudly complaining all through the dinner! Besides if they ask me, I would suggest that they take a page out my flatmate’s mother’s life – she is a 60 year old homemaker, who loves life and has kind off reinvented herself on this trip. At the age of 60, at this farm, she learnt the joys of a simple swing (yes! She had never boarded a swing before now…don’t judge her; neither did I before coming here!), she wants to try all the various alternative cuisines that this place offers and wants to go for a trek every day though she is not always confident about her walking abilities and her road sense and busts into songs whenever she sees a sight that enthrals her…..she personifies the very  spirit of a true traveller and if at the age of 60 she can still retain her enthusiasm, without the deluxe luxuries of a 7 star property,  the others can shut up and try and listen to the songs of nature!!