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Autumn weather

Here in England children have mostly started the new term at school.  Some independent schools begin a few days later.  The term is mostly referred to as the Autumn term, although there are places (some universities, for example) where it is the Michaelmas term and others where it is the Christmas Term, being the term leading up to Christmas.  Michaelmas is the feast day of (the Archangel) St Michael and All Angels, which is September 30th.  Christmas (in case you need reminding) is 25th December and is always in the school holidays here.

In autumn the weather is as unpredictable as in any of the seasons.  It always becomes damper (Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness as the poet, John Keats,wrote) with less sunshine than we expect in summer.  The leaves change from shades of green to yellows, reds and browns and begin to fall to the ground (before the end of August this year).

Sometimes there are gales, which speed the process of trees shedding their foliage.  In October there may be a spell of warm sunny weather, known as an Indian summer.  Although Great Britain is a relatively small country in terms of area, the weather varies considerably from North to South and East to West.  Altitude and the proximity to the sea also have a strong influence on the weather.

One result is the difficulty of selecting suitable clothes.  It may be very chilly on a misty morning, but almost like a summer’s day by lunchtime.  Some mornings may be sunny and calm, then, by midday, a cold wind is blowing.

Sometimes people on Twitter highlight the variation in weather between nearby places.  If it is misty by the coast it may be sunny and warm a few miles inland.

The weather forecast is improving in accuracy, but some areas have a microclimate, which is very difficult to predict.  If there are rainclouds about, a weather app forecasting dry weather may not be completely trustworthy.

I am writing this in advance of publication after going for a walk on a day, which started with mist and has continued with cloud low enough that I walked up into it with a friend.   We felt the temperature drop!  I lost count of how many times I took my light raincoat off and put it back on.  Later in the afternoon the mist dispersed before a sunny evening.

I do not always post photos on this blog, but we found some welcome colour in the form of rugeosa roses in various stages of maturity.  It has been a good year for roses.

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What I read in June 2016

I have been reading fiction and non-fiction in June.

During Mental Health Awareness Week I retweeted a tweet from Lion Hudson and was surprised a couple of weeks later to learn that I had won a book.  The book I received at the beginning of June was Stress: How to de-stress without doing less by Dr Kate Middleton.  At least here in the UK The author’s name is memorable as it was also the maiden name of a young lady, who married into the royal family!

I reviewed Stress soon after I read it over on Sue’s considered trifles.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

I also read six works of fiction.  (Two before Stress and four after.)

Being Miss by Fran Hill is a light-hearted look at a day in the life of a teacher in a private school in England.  The link is to a kindle edition, but I read a paperback copy.

The Silver Chair is from the Narnia series by CS Lewis.  For some reason I have not found the story of this book as memorable as some of the others.  In the few days before writers met at Scargill House in Yorkshire, there had been a family event on the theme of The Silver Chair.  On my return home I reread it.  This time I enjoyed it more than I had previously.  Eustace (a character from my favourite of the Narnia series – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) features in this story along with a girl from the dreadful school he attended.

The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier is an earthy historical novel set in North America in the time of Queen Victoria’s reign.  I have read several of Tracy Chevalier’s earlier books and am going to look out for a couple I have missed.  She writes extremely well; her books are always well-researched and approach her subject matter from an unusual angle.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is not by the originator of the characters, Bertie Wooster and his man-servant, Jeeves, but by Sebastian Faulks.  This book is a tribute to P.G.Wodehouse.  It maintains the same light-hearted style and the scheming of the characters is likely to keep readers turning the pages.  The layout of the paperback copy I borrowed from the library has more white space between the lines than the Penguin books by P.G. Wodehouse on my bookshelf. One of the reasons for writing the book was to introduce new (younger) readers to the original.  This would seem to be an effective way of doing so. It is a very funny book.

Chosen? by Mel Menzies is the second of the Evie Adams books.  I was a little disappointed by the layout of this book, but once I became lost in the story I stopped noticing the minor irritations.  I reviewed the first of these books, Time to Shine, last year. This latest book looks at family relationships and has some unexpected twists in the plot. I enjoyed it.

Losing Face by Annie Try tells a story using emails with Word documents attached to them.  The authors of these are two teenage girls.  Although one of the girls has suffered severe injuries in a road traffic accident, she attempts to reassure her friend (and the reader) that nothing she is about to read will be too gruesome. It is a well-written book about peer-pressure, friendship and many issues of relevance to young people.  The unusual format keeps the sections short and makes it easy to keep turning the pages.  I found that it worked extremely well.  It is an emotional read, but well worth the effort.

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Dealing with shyness

When I was a child (before some post-40 bloggers were born) there was an attitude left over from earlier times that children should be heard and not seen and only speak when they were spoken to.  For a quiet child it was easier to stare out of the window, lost in thought than to join in with conversation.  In company, for example a family meal at which another family was present, I could not get a word in edgeways.  I just listened – and sometimes remembered.

I was shy.  To go an errand was an ordeal.  In those days it involved going to the shop and waiting in a queue, before asking for the items required.  Going with a message to a neighbour was no better.  Shy people are not likely to knock hard on doors and few people had doorbells then.  Whether an interruption was welcome or not was something I considered, while waiting for a reply.  If the door wasn’t opened quickly, how long did I need to wait before trying to make more noise with the door-knocker?

There were times, when my shyness did not really show.  One teacher in particular used to ask one of the best readers to stand at the front and read to the class from a book, of which we each had been lent a copy.  My turn came round very frequently and I enjoyed doing this.  Looking back, I probably read accurately, but without a great deal of expression – it was definitely not a dramatic interpretation.  I can’t remember which books we read.

If I really wanted to do something, which needed the permission of an adult, I used to talk to Mum about it first as a way of plucking up the courage to do it.  An example was the time I realised that I could play the recorder (having been taught by a member of my family) well enough to join the group of older children playing in the morning assembly.  I needed to ask the music teacher.  One day I left the line of children and stood by her side as she played a march on the piano for us to leave the hall.  She indicated that I might speak and gave me permission to join the group.  No-one seemed to notice that I was slightly behind my classmates arriving back in the classroom, so plucking up courage had been a positive experience.

There were ways in which I did not really change for a long time.  I was always happiest with one other person, rather than in a larger group.  To speak my own words to a group of people was nerve-wracking.  The persistence necessary to complete what I was trying to say with more than one person to interrupt (and put me off) was perhaps a reason I have always found it easier to write than to speak.

I can remember the first telephone being installed at home.  Sometimes I was told to phone someone – perhaps the person, who taught me to play the recorder or a family friend, who had kindly remembered my birthday.  I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say if they asked me questions.  Using the phone was problematic if more than one person might answer it.  A form of words was required to deal with this eventuality.  There are good ones and worse ones.  For example, “Is so-and-so there, please?” might result in the answer “Yes!” or “No!”  If the former, there would be an anxious pause while the person came to the phone.  Otherwise, an explanation and request for a good time to phone might be needed.  Embarrassingly, the phone was in the living/dining room so that anyone in the family might be listening and preparing helpful comments about where I had gone wrong!  Nowadays, I prefer to ask whether I may speak to a person.  Sometimes I even say who I am.  I am also fairly good at recognising voices, when I answer the phone, although my brothers-in-law sound rather alike.

The first time I phoned a new friend from my secondary school her mother answered.  I asked to speak to the daughter.  However, I must have sounded a bit like a niece, who phoned from time to time.  The mother, whom I had not met, began a long conversation with me, which I found it hard to extricate myself from.  Everyone has to learn these sorts of social skills, but it is more difficult for an introvert faced with a very talkative adult on the other end of the phone!

I used to talk to Mum a lot as she liked to know what had been going on at school.  She always seemed outgoing, never at a loss for words and has been a good friend to many people during her long life.  Dad was very quiet, with a soft voice.

A teacher pushed me into taking two examinations with the English Speaking Board.  The idea was that it would improve examinees’ confidence and ability in situations in adult life, where it would be necessary to speak in public.  (I have told this story before.) The first time I entered I prepared a speech about my hobby of collecting, growing and propagating cacti and succulents.  I took a container with some growing in it as a visual aid.  Reading a prepared passage from a book and answering questions from the audience of other entrants and the examiner also featured.

The first exam resulted in a pass at a particular level.  Subsequent entries were for the next grade.  The following year I really did not want to take the exam, which required more preparation and another ordeal.  I couldn’t think of a subject to talk about.  In the end I opted for holidays, but didn’t prepare properly and failed the exam.  It would have been better not to have entered!  On the whole I was not a rebellious teenager, but I did rebel against learning how to project my voice.  It was only in 2013 that I decided it was about time I did something about this!

Nowadays people do not regard me as shy.  In fact I habitually talk to strangers on railway stations and trains.  At coffee mornings, I circulate and talk to a variety of people rather than sitting in one seat and only talking to those nearby.  If there are people I have not met before, I try to speak to them.  I have met some really interesting visitors to this village.  A retired Cambridge academic and his wife and the parents of a lady, who used to sing in a choir with me, spring to mind among others.

My shyness reduced slowly over time.  I was a Brownie, then a Girl Guide and a member of a youth group.  These all involved mixing with people.  Aged sixteen I spent four weeks in France conversing almost exclusively in French, although my accent was very English due to self-consciousness about practising pronunciation.

I left home at eighteen for student life about two hundred miles away.  At the interview for a female hall of residence, I was shown round with another young lady.  We were both shy and did not make conversation with each other and not much with the person showing us around.  First year students had to share a study/bedroom.  On arrival at the beginning of term we found that we were near neighbours, but not in the same room.  Some more outgoing girls had been placed with someone they met at their interview.

At university I became involved in the Christian Union and found that I was able to converse with people from all over the world, possibly because I had developed good listening skills through being quiet.

By the end of the time I was a student I had gained a reputation for being able to talk to anyone!  I regarded it as a compliment.

Sometimes I talk too much!  I hope I am seen as a friendly person.  If you are shy, try thinking about the people around you and what they might like to talk about.  It only takes one person to “break the ice”; it could be the quietest person in the room.

This was written in response to a writing prompt from post40bloggers.