I had a grand plan for writing today. I was going to tackle some of the big questions of the universe and solve some serious problems. But there is October rain pattering insistently against the window and out of the corner of my eye I can see the bright copper of the cherry tree leaves outside.
All I can think about is how much I bloody love this time of year.
There is something about the coming of October that feels intensely primal, the rising evening chill like a prickle of ancient magic. A time of pagan rituals to ward off the gathering darkness. A time to gather your people close to you, light the fires, and tell stories by candlelight.
October always ignites a little fanciful romance in my soul, can you tell?
But I am a big believer in honouring the fanciful in our lives, because adult life is bursting with the tedious and the terrifying. As I write this two builders are pulling apart the utility room ceiling because a slow leak has rotted one of our beams away to nothing. As there is every chance of our upstairs bath becoming a downstairs one until the repair is in place, this definitely feels like a time for fancy.
So with that in mind, here’s what I will be doing to bring a little light into the dark months of the year.
Enjoying a good scare
I love a classic horror story. Something dark and disturbing, a bit gothic, and not too gory. My favourite novel of all time is Dracula, closely followed by Frankenstein. Also among my favourites are The Woman In Black by Susan Hill and any number of ghost stories by M R James.
Come Halloween my favourite thing to do is curl up by the light of the pumpkin lantern and watch scary films. Again, I favour dark and disturbing over big visual scares. Something like Rosemary’s Baby or The Wicker Man (the original Christopher Lee version), which are both unsettling but not overly gory. This year I want to watch a new series on Netflix called The Haunting of Hill House, which I have heard really good things about.
Creating comfort and burning things
October is the time to dig out all the jumpers that were packed away last spring, and bring out any blankets and rugs that were hidden away in chests or at the back of cupboards. The same also goes for big woollen socks.
And every candle I’ve ever held on to “for best” will be lit at once and enjoyed.
Eating all the pudding
My October pudding of choice is apple crumble. Every time. Gather up those windfalls and dust off the biggest dish you can find. For a crumble to serve roughly four people (or two really hungry adults) you will need:
4-5 large cooking apples. This depends a bit on the depth of your dish, so I often peel and slice one apple at a time, layering them in the dish until it is 3/4 full.
Sprinkle your fruit with sugar and cinnamon and give the dish a shake to coat the slices.
In a separate bowl rub about 300g plain flour, 150g softened unsalted butter, and 100g caster sugar (to taste) together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Spread evenly over the top of the fruit.
Cook for about 40 minutes in the middle of the oven at 200 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling away nicely. Poke in a fork to check that the fruit is nice and soft.
Serve generously with cream, yogurt, custard, ice cream, whatever you fancy. Hiding under a blanket and watching a scary movie is optional, but highly recommended.