By Marian Connor

I was thinking…

As autumn fast approaches it feels like a good time to try the gratitude exercise.

At our first 8 in the Universe event I read a piece from The Times by Robert Crampton which listed the things he liked. I used it as a starting point for an exercise to consider the things we like and by extension the things we are grateful for.

This makes me think of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music snuggled up in that bed in a thunderstorm with six children thinking of ‘nice things’ to help when things bother her and annunciating them so nicely.


As the onset of autumn is often accompanied by a little glumness at the loss of long balmy days and blue skies, I try to think of ‘nice things’. Things I like, to remind me of how much I have to be grateful for and how many simple everyday pleasures are available to me. I, like Julie, am partial to a brown paper package and a crisp apple strudel but I also like:

Good coffee in thin china cups.

Rich fruity red wine in oversized glasses.

Pink especially on peonies, big and blousy like women in their Sunday best and matching hats emerging from a church service.

Purple, deep and mysterious, particularly in velvet.

Hot roasted chestnuts and clementines, the perfect winter breakfast.

Full moon, like the recent super moon, resembling a giant Christmas bauble suspended in an inky sky.

Starched white bed linen, crisp, clean, enveloping.

Fluffy white clouds in cerulean skies.

I’m with Gerard Manley Hopkins; I love dappled things particularly the patterns through avenues of trees.


Glory be to God for dappled things

       For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

              For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

        Landscapes plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

                And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.


All things counter, original, spare, strange;

         Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

                With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

                 Praise Him.


(Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins written in 1877)


Trees, solid extensions of the earth, I like them wearing their green spring, summer finery or their pared back minimalist winter wardrobe.

Cashmere in all its guises, sweaters, scarves, socks.

New books, untouched pages, the smell of newness and ink so full of promise.

Music and dance in all flavours and the combination of both in Hollywood musicals, the type I watched as a child after Sunday lunch. All the worlds’ woes were put to right with a song and a skilful dance routine.

These two are fun

But these two are exquisite


Mirrors surrounded by lights unforgiving but glamorous.

Art galleries, museums and interesting shops, establishments filled with eclecticism wanting to be explored.

Stationary of any description, paper, envelopes, sticky notes, pens, pencils, I never tire of buying it.

Discovering streets unseen or forgotten, how wonderful to stumble on surprises in a place you have inhabited for so long.

That moment, suspended in time when you are with people you care for laughing and enjoying each other’s company and you step back to feel the energy generated and acknowledge, this is a good moment.

Smiling at strangers, they catch your eye as you walk down the street; they perk up, acknowledge you with a nod, a smile, a hello and continue on. An extra speck of light in the day.

Listening to heavy rain when I am sheltered and cosy.

The smell of pine trees, incense, wood burning.

Warm breezes.

The weekend papers big and full of stuff I did not know I was interested in. They are like the bookshops mentioned by John Maynard Keynes in his BBC broadcast on 1st June 1936:

“A bookshop is not like a railway booking office which one approaches knowing what one wants. One should enter it vaguely, almost in a dream, and allow what is there freely to attract and influence the eye. To walk the rounds of the bookshops, dipping in as curiosity dictates, should be an afternoon’s entertainment. Feel no shyness or compunction in taking it.”

New shoes.

Wearing them for the first time crease free, pristine soles.

Taking them off after the first wear. The relief when the newness has now creased your feet.

Having a drink al fresco on a sunny but chilly day wrapped in a warm throw. Before the need for thermal undies or overhead heaters kick in.

This is a very small selection of my life’s simple pleasures noted down one afternoon last week whilst partaking of good coffee in a street with dappled light. Why not give some thought to your favourite things?



Image Tile/Header  – 8 in the Universe – Clouds over the River Thames – captured by me.


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