October has arrived and with it, the chillier days of Autumn. The golden and falling leaves provide us with a last flurry of colour before the greyer winter months set in, and although the season might start to signal that ‘all the world is on the wane’, as Christina Rossetti puts it, it’s a good time to get outside and breath in that autumnal air before there’s too much rain to dampen the enjoyment.
An October Garden
In my Autumn garden I was fain
To mourn among my scattered roses;
Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses
To Autumn’s languid sun and rain
When all the world is on the wane!
Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,
Nor heard the nightingale in tune.
Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,
You are but coarse compared with roses:
More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses
Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,
That least and last which cold winds balk;
A rose it is though least and last of all,
A rose to me though at the fall.
From Christopher Lynn, Volunteer Assistant
‘I must go down to the seas again,
to the lonely sea and the sky’
– John Masefield – Sea Fever
All of The Reader’s Merseyside-based volunteer projects joined forces for our ‘No Frills Fish and Chips social’ in New Brighton last week. The Big Lottery, Off the Page and Calderstones volunteers came together to round off the summer with the sea, a stroll and some tasty fish and chips. It was our way to thank our volunteers for their relentless care and commitment.
We were welcomed by the endless blue of the wide sea and sky on a beautifully mild, calm evening (phew!). After gathering at The Mediterranean Sea Fish Bar we set about ordering and serving our group of 40 or so volunteers, efficiently and swiftly taken care of by Big Lottery Manager Megg!
Whilst feasting, we had the opportunity to act as socialites; chatting, welcoming and spotting connections between our fellow volunteer colleagues.
After dodging a few gulls and conquering our mountains of chips, we eventually gave in to that elusive pull of the sea as some of the group set off for a full-bellied stroll. We settled to take in the evening sea view and were treated to an improvised reading of John Masefield’s Sea Fever from Emma – a stand-out moment for one of volunteers who kindly reflected her highlights in one of my admin sessions this week:
‘It was good to get together – meeting new people and staff you haven’t seen. I enjoyed when we did the poem on our walk!…Getting out and about. The Fish and Chips were absolutely beautiful!’ – Lesley
A special thanks to The Mediterranean Sea Fish Bar who prepared mountains of fish and chips and were very accommodating when our forty strong group descended on their shop. A real team effort from Gillian, Katie, Megg, Celia and Emma who planned the event, communicated throughout and arranged various meeting points to suit the different needs of our volunteers – many thanks everyone!
Find out more about our volunteering projects in Merseyside and across the country on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering
This week has seen an amazing milestone in the story of shared reading (so far), with one of our longest running group members celebrating a special anniversary.
Carol Munns was part of the very first shared reading group – a six-week pilot project at St James’ Library in Birkenhead, from which our hundreds of groups now operating across the UK on a weekly basis originated. After an initially reluctant start, Carol discovered a love of reading through the group, went onto obtain a GCSE in English and applied for a job at Bebington Central Library. Six months on from starting in the library, she decided to set up her own shared reading group for the community. In September 2007, the group at Bebington Central Library had its first session – and eight years on, it’s still going strong!
Each week, Carol reads with her regular members – there’s an average of 12-14 who come, and the group is proving so popular at the moment that there’s a waiting list of attendees. Most of the Bebington readers are older, living in sheltered accommodation or otherwise isolated from many social activities. Others have commitments of caring for their relatives and loved ones and don’t get much of a chance to have some time that is just their own, purely to unwind. In Carol’s words, “people come to switch off and relax with the love of a book”, and it is through this that lasting bonds and friendships have been formed. The accessible setting of the library – close by for group members – coupled with the opportunity to connect with others within the community makes the group something ‘unique’.
“The reading group saved me when my husband was sick”
“Everyone [in the group] has been kind to me when I lost my confidence” – shared reading group members, Bebington Central Library
There have been many highlights over the eight years the group has been running – a number of theatre trips have been embarked upon, showing how the group’s passion for literature goes beyond, and also participated in our Wirral Community Shakespeare project in 2008. Asking Carol about her own stand-out moments from the group’s history, she was quick to mention Mary, one of Bebington’s longest serving group members. Mary had led a full life, travelling across the world before returning to Wirral in her later years. Loneliness became an increasing problem for her before she began attending the group. Mary has since passed away, but Carol recalls how even with all the adventures she had experienced she called going to the group “the highlight of her life”.
The group celebrated their special anniversary by reading The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam as well as enjoying a spot of lunch and will soon be heading on an outing to the local cinema to watch a live theatre broadcast of The Importance of Being Earnest – another book they have read and enjoyed.
All of us at The Reader offer our biggest congratulations to Carol and the Bebington group – and here’s to many more years of shared reading together!
Some of us might be feeling slightly drowsy this morning, that’s if you were amongst the many sky-watchers who stayed up into the early hours to witness the ‘Super Blood Moon’. The lunar eclipse coincided with the Moon in its closest orbit to the earth, casting a red glow in a moon larger-than-usual across the sky – quite a sight to behold, and one that won’t happen again until 2033.
If you were too busy sleeping to catch the Super Blood Moon as it was ‘live’ in the skies, then this poem by Thomas Hardy might just do the job of helping to recreate the atmosphere – along with some pictures, of course.
At a Lunar Eclipse
Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.
How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?
And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven’s high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?
Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?
We’re still on a figurative high after the highest shared reading group ever at the summit of Mount Snowdon over the weekend, so for this week’s Featured Poem we’re staying with the theme of ascending mountains. Perhaps with the inspiration of Wordsworth, Helvellyn might be our next shared reading target – we’ll already have the reading material sorted…
On Her First Ascent to Helvellyn
Inmate of a mountain-dwelling,
Thou hast clomb aloft, and gazed
From the watch-towers of Helvellyn;
Awed, delighted, and amazed!
Potent was the spell that bound thee
Not unwilling to obey;
For blue Ether’s arms, flung round thee,
Stilled the pantings of dismay.
Lo! the dwindled woods and meadows;
What a vast abyss is there!
Lo! the clouds, the solemn shadows,
And the glistenings–heavenly fair!
And a record of commotion
Which a thousand ridges yield;
Ridge, and gulf, and distant ocean
Gleaming like a silver shield!
Maiden! now take flight;–inherit
Alps or Andes–they are thine!
With the morning’s roseate Spirit,
Sweep their length of snowy line;
Or survey their bright dominions
In the gorgeous colours drest
Flung from off the purple pinions,
Evening spreads throughout the west!
Thine are all the coral fountains
Warbling in each sparry vault
Of the untrodden lunar mountains;
Listen to their songs!–or halt,
To Niphates’ top invited,
Whither spiteful Satan steered;
Or descend where the ark alighted,
When the green earth re-appeared;
For the power of hills is on thee,
As was witnessed through thine eye
Then, when old Helvellyn won thee
To confess their majesty!