We have a busy week ahead on here so you might want to get the kettle on.
I think you will see that our theme this week is going to be the Great Outdoors, and with the emphasis later in the week on the Birds and the Bees...the actual rather than the euphemistic ones. I'm partaking of another blog tour which I couldn't resist and which will involve a bit of tweeting and twitching and with a great big prize draw on Wednesday, Team Middlemarch finally sets off on Thursday and then I know you'll get a real buzz from the other prize draw that will come on Friday:-)
But if December is approaching then it must also be time for John Caple's annual art exhibition, and though I am unlikely to make it to London to see this one, I have been spreading the word to those who might be able to go, whilst drinking in the pictures for myself via the catalogue...and my thanks to the John Martin Gallery for sending it. You can download an e catalogue here.
This year's exhibition (at 38 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4JG from 2nd - 22nd December) is entitled The Light, The Dusk, The Dark and features another beautiful selection of John's trademark work from the Somerset Levels.
I know I repeat this every year, but for those who don't know, I first discovered the paintings of John Caple via Nell Leyshon and the original cover for her novel Black Dirt,
and a copy of John's book Somerset, still a permanent feature on a bookstand near my desk and periodically I turn the page and gaze at a new painting.
Something twanged a huge and very harmonious chord in me the minute I set eyes on these paintings and I never tire of them
So I am loving the latest collection for its traditional Caple feel but also for John's description...
'...The meeting place for these two worlds is in the landscape at dusk, a place where the two worlds cross over, blend and blur, bringing meaning and enchantment to our lives...'
There is 'alchemical intertwining' here as John explores his timeless landscapes and 'real,metaphorical or spiritual journeys'.
I'm still doing a lot of walking, and getting out for at least two brisk miles a day but often it is late afternoon before I can finish work and get out along the lane. So with winter afternoons dusk-walking is becoming the norm, and thank you to Bookhound for the day-glo reflective waistcoat he bought me for fear I was going to get mowed down by the one car/ tractor/ school bus likely to pass me en route. I cut a dashing figure, somewhere between a lollipop lady, the Dyno-rod man and a refuse collector, but everyone thinks I'm the Police, and if I carried and pointed a hairdryer and pretended it was a speed camera ultimate power over the lanes would be mine....though I might look even more daft.
But dusk-walking is good at this time of year and John Caple perfectly captures the atmosphere in his paintings.The last notes of birdsong are fading as I walk and the night shift are taking over, much hooting of owls and if I am very fortunate I might catch a flash of white as the barn owl glides around the fields. The sky might be doing this as I set off...
and the moon will be rising soon...
And time and again I imagine the people that used to live and work here. I walk across to the old Methodist Chapel ('Just going across to the Meths') and back, that tiny building in the centre of this glorious summer's day picture.
and ponder what will become of it now that it has finally closed because of dwindling congregations and is to be converted into a holiday let, complete with graveyard which we are assuming has to stay put.
I love it when I get there (this was yesterday morning) and look back across to the white dot that is home.
We extend the boundaries of isolated rural living with 21st century amenities, so our experience can bear little resemblance to our forebears here, but we never forget the people for whom this little corner must have been their entire living and working world, and who may have travelled little beyond it. They would have walked and worked these lanes and fields every day, from dawn to dusk, much as the Gamekeeper still does. On those bitterly cold mornings, or the freezing afternoons as I walk out in my thermal layers, I often think how perishing the cold must have been for those people who lived here before us.
Somehow, with his range and tones of colour, John Caple conveys all that I imagine on my walks and much more. There is unspoken mystery and tradition, a certain atmospheric eeriness but nothing that feels malevolent or spooky. His communities feel close knit, and supportive and warm, doors you could safely knock on perhaps in that Lark Rise to Candleford way we talked about last week, and I wonder too what we will all make of the Middlemarch community we are about to meet.
As I walk back along the lane to home the lights are on, the birds are almost silent and I can smell the dinner cooking. This is the lovely Aga thing, you can't smell it in the kitchen, but it pervades the air outside and I am always filled with gratitude that we live in such a magical place.
So if you are in London The Light, The Dusk, The Dark is an exhibition not to be missed, and I'll leave you with one of my favourites from this year's selection ... Winter Evening (22.5 x 38.5 ins)
That could be me walking up the lane see... though John has sensibly omitted the day-glo reflective jacket.