Tag Archives: september

Canal near Chivasso, Italy

Autumn resolutions list

Last week was blessed with plenty of perfect late summer/early autumn weather, with warm-but-not-hot days and brisk nights, and long afternoons with melancholy light. I had to travel to Milan for work twice, and both days I couldn’t stop staring at the view from the train window across the fields of eastern Piemonte and to the alps, which are still bare of snow this early in the year. These are the sorts of days I think of when you say autumn, which feels a bit silly because autumn here is mostly overcast days and drizzle. But even if my ideas of autumn are more often ideals than reality, I do love the season, especially in these early days before the winter darkness gets too close.

Here are some things I would like to do this year (this list is short partly to keep things achievable and partly because a good chunk of the weekend time I’d usually spend on planning/writing a blog post was spent on working on items 1 and 2 — at least I’m getting started on my resolutions early!):

  1. Continue eating gelato regularly until it gets too cold to reasonably stand around outside with a cup of frozen stuff in my hands. Once it stops being so hot I need gelato, I have a terrible tendency to forget about it, which is daft.
  2. Find a tea and/or tisane I like. More to the point: find a tea I can smell well enough that it doesn’t feel like drinking hot water. Experiments so far suggest fruity tisanes work, but I would love to find a more traditional tea.
  3. Get out of Torino at least on a day trip at some point. Maybe go for a walk somewhere? Go to Liguria and enjoy the beach without the crowds?
  4. Collect and press some leaves.
  5. Work on my stew/casserole skills. I don’t have a good go-to stew recipe, and it will be a challenge to find one without onions, but there must be something out there!

(I’m impressed with myself: only 60% of my ideas about autumn revolve around food, if you take this list as representative. I would have imagined more like 90%.)

Archway in Giardini Reali, Turin

Signs of autumn

I grew up with hot summers and mild winters; autumn in Perth mostly just means the evenings get longer and it becomes bearable to be outside in the middle of the day. For me, chilly mornings and hazy light and falling leaves still feel like something out of a story book, something I never quite believed existed.

Will I ever get over the 'let's make everything pretty' architecture? Probably not.

Also, will I ever get over the ‘let’s make everything pretty’ architecture? Probably not.

So I’ve been doing autumn things, like getting in as much gelato as I can before it’s too cold, and making plum jam. Buying fruit for that, I had the opposite problem at the market to usual — normally I’ll ask for half a kilo of something and the stall-holder will try to sell me at least a full kilo, if not two. Buying 4kg of plums, on the other hand, I had to hold up fingers and very clearly enunciate quattro chili, to the great amusement of the seller who probably couldn’t imagine why the strange foreign girl wanted so much fruit (I counted 48 plums went into the saucepan, plus those that I ate fresh).

Actually, most of autumn seems to be about food: plums and fichi d’india and mushrooms. One of my lasting mental images of Torino is from the first autumn I was here, walking into the fruit and vegetable market at Porta Palazzo in the middle of the afternoon, with golden sunlight that you could almost touch and stalls upon stalls of produce, with so much of it completely different to what was available a few weeks prior. It was one of those moments where I marvelled about where I am now, having done nothing to deserve any of it.

I had another moment like that the other night, it was a drizzly evening and I took the bus home, looking out the window at the lights from the shop windows reflecting off the paving stones of the street. I was listening to my “you listened to this as a teenager”  playlist on my phone, and I realized that actually, going home to my cozy apartment in a beautiful city was more or less exactly what I daydreamed of as a teenager. Which  was a good thing to realize, I think: it’s my birthday in a few weeks and I find it very easy to ask my self so, what do you have to show for yourself after this many years?? And this year I have an answer. I am literally living the dream! And it has nothing to do with achievements or goals met, which is a relief.

What was supposed to be a post mostly about jam-making has turned rather introspective… But then, autumn does seem to be the season for spending time thinking, doesn’t it?

Isle of Arran, September 2011

Another “where was Zoe?” catch-up post.

At the start of 2011, I’d planned to finish my phd by september. In july, we’d pushed the end-date back to early 2012 so I could write more papers. Which is great! Yay papers! But by september, the grey skies of a Glasgow summer and the apparent endlessness of my phd were getting to me, and  I was well and truly ready for a holiday. I don’t think my advisor was surprised when I emailed him one day and said, “I’m taking a few days off.”

That was pretty much all the prior preparation I’d made for this trip. The night before I was supposed to leave, I was madly researching places within a few hours of Glasgow, and had a gchat with a friend who had travelled in Scotland more than me, consisting mostly of me saying “where should I gooooo? I can’t decide anything and the weather forecast is bad everywhere :/” So, on the basis of a toin coss and his suggestion that “Arran is nice, it’s like a mini-Scotland, and it’s easy to get to”, I hopped on a train to the coast on a drizzly morning, with a backpack full of books just in case the rain kept up all week.

Arran turned out to be exactly the right place for a quiet few days away in autumn. Some things that stick out in my memory, in no particular order:

  • Seeing Goat Fell emerging from the clouds as they lifted a bit on my first afternoon:

    Goat Fell and lots of clouds

    Goat Fell and lots of clouds. I didn’t climb it, but the views from the top on a clear day must be amazing.

  • Not understanding more than 10% of what the landlady of my b&b said in the four days I was there. I thought I was ok with Scottish accents after several months in Glasgow, but not Aberdeen accents, it turns out. She was lovely though, as was her husband (who was in charge of cooking the full scottish breakfast every morning). They were both full of suggestions of places to see and optimism each day that the weather would surely clear up after a bit of morning rain.
  • Seeing plants and animals other than the pigeons, grey squirrels and rats that live in Glasgow: red squirrels! pheasants! sea lions! deer! those toadstools with the red caps with white dots! (true story, I had seriously thought they were fictitious, because they’d always been presented as the place where fairies live)
  • Sitting on the bus between villages on the west coast of the island, with the sea on my left and green hills on my right, and everything bathed in late-afternoon magic light. I was heading back to my b&b after an afternoon of hiking, and it is hard to imagine a more perfect autumn day.
  • Even getting some full sunshine one morning:

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    Blue sky, warm sun, green grass…

(In case you’re wondering: in the end, I only read 1 of the books I’d brought — a rather depressing Margaret Atwood novel.)