Thoughts By Candlelight

It has been one of those days where the soft autumn afternoon seems to melt slowly into the evening. The light becomes half light then twilight, gloaming quietly into dark. This is one of my favourite times of day; a quiet 20 minutes all alone in our little flat, a candle burning brightly, and everything seems soft. Oftentimes, I bustle and start to get dinner ready. Sometimes, I sit with a cup of tea and just think, or read.

Tonight, I did not even put the kettle on. Tiredness seems settled into my bones, and the thought of filling up the kettle and setting it to boil all seems too much. And yet I am not sitting here drained, I am sitting here replete somehow, filled with the day and ready for bed. I will be taking with me the book I am reading for Book Club. I have said before how difficult I find Book Club books, and indeed, I very nearly didn’t read this one at all. You see I was pretty sure I would be too tired to go out Friday, and I didn’t much care for the look and feel of this book. But then I had a phone call today to say the lady who was going to host the meeting couldn’t, and so as the unofficial leader, I suddenly had to agree to host it at mine…which meant reading the book. I started it on the bus on the way home, and after a bumpy first chapter, I am utterly in love with the book. It speaks to me deeply, and some of the ideas the writer has are ideas that are part of me. The turns of phrase are delicious. He uses a phrase which runs something like ‘the sleeve of the evening sky was embroidered with flies’ and I am so glad I discovered this writer.

Who is this writer? What is his book? Well he is Niall Williams, and the book is Only Say The Word. I fear I am not going to do it justice, but the narrator is trying to write, and we hear both the story of his boyhood and the unfolding story of having lost his wife. It sounds strange, but works beautifully. He has just gone to university to study English, and loves the same poets as I- especially Yeats. I want to read on and on and on, and am afraid I shall not be able to stop talking at Book Club!

It is not just reading I have been doing this evening but thinking too. We were eating some of the organic bread that we had in our Abel and Cole delivery, and I was struck by how filling it is, how heavy and rich it is. Not at all like ready sliced bread. It is made by hand, risen slowly, and baked in a wood oven. At around £1.50 a loaf, it is a touch more expensive than regular bread, but not much. I think it is easier to digest because it has been given time to rise, not forced to do it quickly to maximise profit through the aid of strange chemicals. Then it came to me, wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of labelling things with the price, we labelled them with the time it took to produce them? If chickens were priced in days not pounds, so we could better grasp how appalling it is to grow them faster than their legs can carry them. Dear Carl pointed out that people would want the fastest things because they are cheaper, but I like to think that not all of us would. That for us, those of us who love vintage things and cooking and knitting, even though it takes hours to knit what could be machine made in minutes, those of us who take little sips of tea, the things that take slightly longer are worth waiting for.

I wish you could be with me this evening. I would put my whistling kettle onto boil, spoon tea into the pot, and pick out my prettiest flowery mugs. We would sit here in the bright candlelight and perhaps work at knitting or crocheting, read favourite passages from books or poems aloud, and catch up with one another. Wherever you are, there is a cup of tea waiting for you here at my table!

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