The Fire And The Teacup

It is a bit of a paradox. During the time of the year when we turn inward, we also turn outward, seeking light in the darkness. Every year, Heaton Park draws us in, on the 5th of November, following the trail of lights like breadcrumbs through the shadows, moving on like moths in thrall to a flame.


I had an aunt who claimed she could discern things just by looking into the fire. The fire and a teacup. I gazed into the flames and could see faces. If you gaze long enough you can see anything.

imageScreams and laughter; the clamour of the children. The fervour of the fair has a dirty, oily sheen to it. And an element of danger in the hungry eyes of strangers, drifting amongst the machinery with predatory stealth.

imageAmidst the smells of onions and burgers, a man lined up three cups of black peas on an illuminated shelf. They are not peas, of course. But who cares? Buffaloes don’t have wings.


Around and around the seasons change, the world turns, and we cling on, without getting dizzy. We left the fair behind, further into the night, further into the season, following the breadcrumb-light trail back out to the city street, the sky still fragmented by rogue rockets. Our clothes hung on to the stench of smoke.


Of Shadows and Sagas: A Time to Remember and to Read

As I write this in the comfort of my lounge, outside tonight the wind is howling, furiously, as though angry at its inability to gain entry into my sheltered refuge.

The odd, hunched figure can from my window be seen hurrying past, assailed by the calvacade of leaves and torrential rain.

The barely noticeable shortening of days, accompanied by the imperceptible shift in temperature from late summer into mild autumn, has definitely given way to the unmissable crossover point of autumn and winter.

Above the wind I can barely hear the fireworks exploding.

Samhain/Halloween…All Saints’ Day…All Souls’ Day…Bonfire Night…Remembrance Sunday.

It feels like this is the time for remembering. As the nights grow deep and long, just as we light candles and bonfires to hold off the dark, so we turn within to shine a light upon our own shadows, far within the recesses of memory.  Examining and reacquainting ourselves with the inner cast of our lives. Acknowledging those who have slipped from sight. We bring them out to breathe.

This time of year is also a great time for reading-armed with the fortitude of caffeine and electric or candle light, removed from the outside assault of climate and enveloping darkness.

I have always turned to stories around this time, without really analysing why, that can be found in books such as The Táin and The Mabinogion. Legends and tales told over centuries, losing myself in the storytelling of people long gone. Connecting with the idea of a people gathered around the hearth, imaginations fired.

When people ask me where my favourite place is, my reply is ‘North’. Scotland-the Highlands and the Orkney Islands, Scandinavia. You are never likely to see me sporting a suntan.

There is something in the landscape, the myths, the culture, born from the tummult of land and sea, that speaks to me.

And this is my time of year. The cycle has come around again.

I was about to start the Icelandic Sagas, but instead I have turned to East of the Sun, West of the Moon-Old Tales From the North.

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This is a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales that have had many interpretations over the years, but this copy is a reproduction of the 1914 version which has some fantastic illustrations in it by Kay Nielsen.

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The attraction of this book, as opposed to the Sagas, is that I can share it with my children. There are fifteen tales in it, so that is one per storm struck night, for just over a fortnight.

Wind, rain, darkness, a father, children.



Imaginations fired.

My favourite time.