Out & About · Poems · Thoughts


Everything was so bright,
But I knew it was all going to die.

I decided to capture the moment,
But I stopped halfway through.
I don’t know why.
I got distracted.

My heart aches. Was it really only last Sunday, that I walked here and was so happy? Or the week before, when I walked here and was so full of hope?


November should be the best month. It’s autumn proper, with real cold and falling leaves and dark nights. It should be comfortably sandwiched between Hallowe’en and Advent. But it isn’t. It’s uneasy. It’s empty. Bonfire Night, and then what? Simultaneously an anti-climax and a dull build-up. It has to be actively fought through.

Yet another of the pitfalls of being an anxious person is that I get terribly superstitious about Christmas. I squash into a grumpy puddle under any kind of pressure to enjoy myself (and all of said pressure comes from my very good self). And so I am terrified that Christmas won’t feel magical, and to alleviate this I refuse all mention of Christmas outside of December. I won’t buy any presents in advance. I certainly won’t listen to Christmas music, and if I get any stuck in my head I feel like I’ve dome something terrible. Even writing this now puts me on edge. And of course, none of this works. I wonder if I will ever be able to non-spontaneously relax and enjoy myself. I was probably traumatised by the Disney video we had when I was a child, in which the Donald ducklings wish for Christmas every day, and of course it is awful.

Memory, as I’ve discussed before, can me a difficult area for me. But here I am taking one out and looking at it, and as I’ve drafted and drafted this post it has become more and more tarnished, and this is why it needs to stay right here and be read again and again. When I was a very young child I was given a beautifully drawn Christmas card, that I believe played ‘Jingle Bells’ when opened. I can’t remember if the front had a picture of a teddy bear, or a shop front in a red-brick cobbled street (perhaps I’m getting this bit confused with that Tailor of Gloucester), or possibly even both, but it did have red shiny velvety font. And I mention it because I have an incredibly vivid memory (that in true Between Times style I am very reluctant to bring up) of going to watch fireworks with my parents and brother, and thinking about that card, and it was such a magical feeling I can’t really put it into words. The closest I can get is the vividness of the red font, echoed in the red sparks. So Bonfire Night has always been my assurance that Christmas is on its way. That all will be well. There will always be another autumn, and it will always have a magical feeling of anticipation that no other season, not even winter, can replicate. And the fireworks are so familiar. I could not describe all the different kinds to you now, but every single display I’ve gone to, in Cornwall and in London, I’ve stood there remembering all of them. And hoping still for the ones that I have not been reminded yet, but I know are just on the tip of my tongue, a climax, a finale, a triumphant return.

So why, then, do I clam up? Why do I complain about the shops full of red and green and the lights switched on already? I know it doesn’t work for me. It won’t help me feel more Christmassy, when the time comes. Year after year, I only ever end up feeling uneasy. It’s anxiety, all over again. What do I suppose will happen? And why am I regretting writing about that Christmas card? That memory is twisted beyond belief now, in the space of one paragraph. But surely it’s worth it, if it brings me some sort of relief, some understanding? Sure I might as well get excited for Christmas, since if I’m usually disappointed by it anyway, what have I got to lose?


I am planning, in the spring, a proper homage to Victoria Park, my local stretch of green. But Victoria is also a place I come to for November, for the antithesis to the swallows and blossoms in my poem ‘Heatwave’. For the red and the yellow, and for skies grey and blue and purple all at once. Victoria has always been here for me. It was there when last November was cut short. My granny passed away, and I had to leave London and go home, and by the time I got back, I’d run out of November. Before I left, I’d tried to soothe myself with Victoria. I tried to put it in a poem, and for some ghastly reason I decided on a Villanelle in order to box it up in rhymes, and I never finished the damn thing. I ran back to Cornwall before I had time, and when I got back here, the moment was lost. I’ve tried countless times to fill it in, but the hole is always there now. I’m too late. There are three verses that just about work together, which I will include in this post, but they are not a Villanelle. They are a fragment of what should have been a blissful autumn.

I paused too long, and now the shards are falling.
I paused, and they embedded into me.
Everywhere I look, the birds are murmuring.

Every day and night, the chill descending.
Every day and night I’m falling free.
The days are faded and the world is changing.

How do you all keep on turning?
How can I put my feet in front of me?
The days are faded and the world is changing.
Everywhere I look, the birds are murmuring.


Today, I went back and they’d emptied out the Regent’s canal by Queen Mary, so that there was just a stream at the bottom. I remembered last week the water was already sitting a little lower. It is gutting in every sense of the word, and the work will not be finished until after I’ve gone home for Christmas. By the time the water is back, nothing will be the same as it is now, because every week everything is different. But we push on. There are already plants growing down there, and herons and moorhens.

The park, meanwhile, was adulterated by signs and poles and fences from the fireworks last night. I’ve lost all the colours, or maybe they’re just not as bright as they were last year. I’m too late. The year has gone on without me again. Everything changes. It was impossible to get the clean empty pictures I’d longed for, so instead they are muddy and gloomy and blurry because I’m anxious today and my hands are shaking. At least they are true.

I tried to come back to London this year to keep my head down and be quiet, but I didn’t know what was around the corner. And now I’ve been blasted off my feet again. I can never just have a quiet semester. But perhaps I can pull through. Perhaps I can manage November this time. If the last one was cut short, this one stretches so far in front of me that I can’t see the end. And it is brimming with promise. It could be glorious.




2 thoughts on “November

  1. I understand your frustration with the way memories often seem to fade or warp. It is hard. I’ve been spending the past week trying to figure out how to express the way I try to look at these trials with little success. Then today, I came across this poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, by Wordsworth and realised that the final stanza said it far better than I ever could. I don’t need to always remember all the details from a good memory; sometimes it’s just enough to have that recollection of experiencing joy and happiness at such an occasion.


    1. I love that poem, and particularly that stanza. ‘They flash upon that inward eye’ – and maybe one day I’ll learn how to be content with flashes. It’s a funny old thing, memory.


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