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Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe in October

PUBLISHED: 16:19 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013

Nurseryman Bob Brown at his Badsey nursery

Nurseryman Bob Brown at his Badsey nursery

October, says Lady Ashcombe, is a time for reflection and pulling in the horns

'Echoes fade and memories die; Autumn frosts have slain July.' I do not know the origin of this saying, but it seems to match my mood of the moment. Better now to say , 'August rains have slain July', but as it also seems to have rained most of July, perhaps this particular quote doesn't quite work. As I write this it is mid August and it is pouring with rain and my piece for October will be due by the end of next week to meet the publishing deadline.....and I am trying to think of an October theme with other matters on my mind.

Today we had an in-house meeting to discuss ways of cutting back on our overheads, which I'm sure is a subject being discussed and addressed in most homes throughout the land, with little but gloom, doom and the spiralling cost of living being shouted from every street corner. We have so far come up with: cancel Sky contract and certain magazine subscriptions, shop locally on foot unless absolutely necessary and when the time comes, which is likely to begin in October, turn the heating on only to minimum survival level.

This spectre conjures up memories of my earliest days at Sudeley, when the old heating system, having been installed by Emma Dent in the late 19th century, creaked and groaned producing at best a lukewarm radiator, with the supplement of an occasional bar on an electric heater. My mother-in -law, proud of her post war austerity and practical philosophy of waste not want not, could sniff out an electric bar left on in one's room from halfway across the Castle and pounce like a cat stalking a mouse on the culprit. The culprit was more often than not me, as I have never known anything like the agonising, damp, penetrating cold which clung to one's bones and could only be alleviated by getting into a hot bath, or wrapped up with several hot water bottles. Well, that was how it seemed to me at the time.

Over the years I have acclimatised and now actually can't bear over-heated rooms and always sleep with a wide-open window. However, some of the rest of my family seem to be shivering both summer and winter, and the half that live most of the year in Hawaii reflect pessimistically about the summer weather more often than is necessary in my opinion. In any case, I think I am doing October an injustice, as it usually isn't a very chilly month and can often offer some lovely autumnal days in the garden. I love the russet hues of the changing season and there is nothing more welcoming and warming on a late afternoon than a cup of tea in front of a crackling fire.

Still looking for an October theme, I consulted Mystical Months, and quote, "A time when the Celtic year, 'Lammas', draws to a close and people prepare for the harshness and impending darkness of 'Samhain', when the circle of the year closes and the sense of death and life is present. A time more than any other when the natural and supernatural are greatly enhanced, with many rituals taking place such as All Hallow's Eve. The belief in the need to prepare against the closing darker forces was essential.....the harsh winter, the darkness, were something to be feared, as not everyone who had enjoyed the summer, sown or harvested would make it through the long harsh win..."

Oh, dear! October is not brightening up as I had hoped. I continue to be in a bleak frame of mind and am running out of words, and the skies are still. But hold on a tick; the sun has just come out again and I hear the cheerful sound of grandchildren and their new puppy romping in the courtyard. I think I will hurry out and join them when I have finished this article.

I apologise for having written such a gloomy review of October, which is really a wonderful month and blameless for the world economic situation, Sudeley in the pre modern heating era, and pagan superstitions. I will try and write a more cheerful piece for November.

October advice ( from Celtic folklore): Blackberries should not be picked after October 11 as it was believed that this was when the Devil fell into a thicket of blackberries and cursed the thorns for eternity'


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