October Day

This week has been generally frustrating and guilt-making – except for one glorious October day. Nothing went to plan. It was very exciting in one way but… Well, see what you think.

It started before dawn. I woke up to fog. Real Gothic fog.

Now, from my fourth floor window I normally look across a cityscape of roof and skylight and the odd church tower. The staircase of the nearest block of flats shows a searchlight beam all night. Fantasy-tall cranes in the distance carry a red warning light on skeletal antennae. In the pre-dawn, there are lights in a few attic windows.

But this morning early there was none of that. Just fog, swirling and eddying like sea fret.

I got up and went out. The lights were shifting and formless, like blobs of paint dropped in running water. I couldn’t find a lamppost I knew was there, until I was close enough to touch. It was cold; still and very quiet.

Gothic October Day

So, of course, I came home and wrote up a Gothic scene. A damn good scene, I may say. Good enough to  have had Wilkie Collins gnashing his teeth with envy.

Am I writing a Gothic novel ? No. Have I got the idea of one in my Current Projects folder? No. Not one of those five titles currently highlighted as live? Nope.

So – why?

The strange light, the slightly sinister sense of nothing being quite where you expected, the chill…

The feeling that I could do this,  that I needed to do this. All week I’ve been struggling with a book which should be speeding up and has actually slowed to glacial pace. In fact it’s very nearly stuck. And the fog had somehow set my imagination free.

Golden October Day

I banged out a very respectable number of words, made myself a cup of tea and went back to bed. Well, it wasn’t yet sunrise.

Only then I overslept and when I woke up, it was a different universe.

No fog. Mediterranean blue sky. The whole street, houses, trees and lampposts, bathed in golden light. The pavements had that sparkly edge like newly washed crystal. The shadows were sharp.

When I went out there were people everywhere, many in summer clothes. I went out in a tee shirt and it was warm. The sun, low on the horizon at noon on this October day, hit me straight between the eyes. I was walking east. I had to go back home for my sunglasses.

Poetic October Day

And yes, I came back home, sat down at my desk and wrote about the light and the trees and the sun in my eyes until I ran out of steam. No time spent on my current and difficult book while I was doing that, of course.

In fact, I started hearing snatches of half-remembered autumn poems in my head. I looked them up. Well, I was sitting at the laptop, wasn’t I?

O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.

Was that someone feeling the same gentle warmth, the same faint guilt about playing truant from the business of everyday as I did? But not wanting to stop?  Who wrote it, anyway?

 Answer Robert Frost (he of the The Road Not Taken). Oddly enough it was first published in England (1915) before he returned home to the USA.

While here, he had been  welcomed and encouraged by Edward Thomas – of Adlestrop, another wondrous poem about an brief, unexpected and lovely interruption of life.

And then there was “the sun of October, summery on the hill’s shoulder”. That turned out to be Dylan Thomas, writing Poem in October on his thirtieth birthday in 1944. You can hear him reading it, too.

Waste of an October Day?

Well, all the walking in the sunshine and writing stuff , looking up poets and then zooming with fellow writers, I had done nothing, not one word, on the book that needs an ending. So yes, I feel bad about that.

And no, the words I did write, don’t really count because they aren’t going anywhere. Yet, anyway.

But the sun, the golden light, the mirror-still lake in Battersea Park! The silent swirling fog before dawn! Oh yes, they were worth it.

Sophie Weston Author




11 thoughts on “October Day

  1. Elizabeth Hawksley

    I enjoyed this very evocative post. I also loved the photos – especially the second one with the fog and the skeletal street light sticking out of the wall. I would add Keats’ ‘Ode to Autumn’ to your collection of great autumnal poems: ‘Season of mists and mellow fuitfulness’.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Thank you, Elizabeth. Yes, I love Ode to Autumn too. Oddly, I have always thought that was a bit earlier in the year, when it is warmer. But after my golden October day, I believe I should reconsider.

  2. Jan Jones

    I firmly believe that a Day Out Of Time doing wondrous stuff that is the same, but different, is the most bolstering present a writer can give herself. Go you!

  3. Sophie Post author

    You are so right, Jan. Of course, I now realise I ought to have included the lovely poem An Autumn Day by R S Thomas, which is a long time favourite of mine. “Something to wear against the heart in the long cold.”

  4. lesley2cats

    Thank you, Sophie. Not least for Adlestrop, which I’ve loved since I found it. And coincidentally, I woke this morning to thick fog…

    1. Sophie Post author

      Fascinating. Fog really does do something to my imagination. Maybe it was too much Dickens at an early age. But I actually like it, in a half-scared-seven-year-old sort of way.

      You might like the RS Thomas poem too. Here is is:

      It will not always be like this,
      The air windless, a few last
      Leaves adding their decoration
      To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
      Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening
      In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
      From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
      Let the mind take its photograph
      Of the bright scene, something to wear
      Against the heart in the long cold.

  5. Sarah Mallory

    Thank you for that, Sophie, what a delightful and uplifting post! I loved your descriptions, they were so clear I could visualize the scenes quite easily. You really seized the moments, didn’t you? And I am so glad you did, I am sure it boosted your mood and helped to refill that creative well that authors need.

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