Monday, 5 October 2009

Autumnal ramblings

I'm warning you now – this blog is going to be a jumble of thoughts and musings! My mind is leap-frogging from one thing to the next but is totally reflective of the way I'm feeling right now.

Last month, I went to the Brompton Hospital in London for my routine check-up and had a CT scan of my lungs to”update your records”. Nothing to worry about, I was told, it was just that it had been over 5 years since the last one. I haven't the energy to bore you with the details but the upshot is that I have some marks showing on my lungs and they don't know what they are. More scar tissue from the fibrosis caused by my Scleroderma? A pneumonia-like infection? TB? …..... and the dreaded question: cancer?

Further tests were quickly carried out: a bronchoscopy with lung wash and biopsy. The results: inconclusive. Negative for TB. Negative, currently, for cancer which should make me jump up and down with elation but, as they can't say what it IS, they won't rule it out. I'm popping antibiotics and steroids and have to wait until 10 November for a repeat scan. If it's still there, I shall have to have a needle biopsy, which carries the risk of deflating the lung – great. Limbo....... fear and dread and, above all, a kind of numbness.

My usual exuberance as my favourite season, Autumn, arrives is not there. I'm still doing my normal things: hedgerow foraging, preserving, gathering in the wood, lighting the Rayburn, putting throws over chair backs and changing cushions, but there's something missing this year. I'm doing it all on auto pilot and it makes me feel sad.

Normally, there's nothing better than picking the last of the blackberries in the autumn sunshine, listening to the buzzards calling over head and smiling as the robin lands on a nearby branch to make sure I leave some for him, cocking his head at me to show his button black, beady eye. I talk to him and he chirrups back at me before he flies off. The woodpecker flashes by – a streak of green and red and then all falls still, save for the gentle chomping of the cows over the hedge as they tug at the grass. They are Gloucester cows and belong to my neighbour, Charles Martell, who milks them for his cheese. He is most famous for Stinking Bishop, but I prefer the single Gloucester and Hereford Hop – and so does my fridge!

Returning home, the kettle is gently steaming on the Rayburn and I make tea as I sort out containers to freeze this last picking of blackberries. My cupboards already hold jars of jam – damson, strawberry, blackcurrant and plum, alongside kilner jars of chutney which will be ready at Christmas. Christmas: it seems a long time away in my mind at the moment but, in reality, is just weeks away. By then, I'll know, won't I? One way or the other. Part of me is terrified at finding out, the other part just wants to get on with it. Is ignorance really bliss, when it stops you “feeling” properly; when it numbs your senses?

The logs are chopped and stacked in the porches as well as the log store. This is the first year we have been properly self sufficient in wood and we are so excited. We have a proper “tree coppicing timetable” now and our next session will be in November. The oak, ash, hazel, holly, plum and apple trees are all ear-marked for attention and the pruned limbs will provide next year's wood. And, of course, nothing beats the smell and sight of wood smoke curling up from your chimney and the anticipation of walking into a room with the fire or log burner on. We collected our first batch of sweet chestnuts from down the lane at the weekend – small and sweet, roasted over the fire and then the sound of cracking as J throws the shells onto the flames and all traces of our snack are gone.

Outside our bedroom window, the hawthorn berries are turning darker red – not yet their final ruby red colour - and each morning I watch as the birds dance along the branches. They haven't started eating them yet (they're not quite ready) but, when they are, I love to watch the blue tits hanging upside down as they pull a luscious berry into their beaks and gobble them down. The blackbirds love them too but they are too heavy to get at the ones on the end and, sometimes, they try to fly like they are treading water, hovering near the end of the branch to pull the last ones off. The finches (green, gold and chaffinch) love to eat the rose hips from the roses growing by the gate.

The other weekend, it was the monthly flea market held at the Malvern Three Counties Showground. We don't go every month but this time I came back with a gorgeous “granny blanket” - a bargain at just £12. It's huge and more than covers a double bed, but I use them over the backs of chairs and sofas for when the evenings get really chilly. I love to light the fire, make a mug of tea and curl up at the end of the day with a good book and a blanket over my lap, especially on those damp, misty days when all you want to do is retreat indoors. J bought some medals and military buttons and I also got a lovely old oak framed picture (I am going to change the actual picture inside) for £5 !!

This weekend, apart from the blackberry picking, I made lots of tomato and basil soup with the left over ripe tomatoes, and froze it down ready for warming lunches. Oh! And I made banana cake with the 2 dead bananas in my fruit bowl! My neighbour popped in to say “Hi” and commented that the smells were wafting down the lane from the open windows, making him so peckish he had to come and investigate! That's a first!

Until next time......... enjoy the autumn sunshine.xx