Autumn leaves and bonfires

Light fades and the evenings draw in after changing the clocks, winter sweeps towards us in the wind. Elevate artist Stephanie Jalland reflects on memories of autumn leaves and bonfires.


November smells

In a good way I think, the scent of the air changes. Sometimes damp and sometimes crisp and chilly. Leaves and bonfire smoke. The oak tree close to my house is spilling its leaves into the back garden. There is an old, old superstition, like touching or knocking on wood for luck, which comes from the times when we thought of trees as magical, powerful beings that could give us wisdom, blessings or shield us from bad luck:

“Catch a falling leaf and you will have good luck, every leaf means a lucky month next year.”

But it’s not easy to catch a falling leaf, they spiral unpredictably and swoop past just as you think it’s yours to grasp. A patient once told me of her childhood as a gamekeeper’s daughter: ‘I opened the back door and all the leaves blew in. I picked one up, it was my lucky leaf ‘til it crumbled into dust.’



Bonfire night memories

Do you enjoy the smell of a bonfire, what does it remind you of? Guy Fawkes Night maybe?

‘Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder treason and plot’

‘My brother would stuff a jumper and trousers with newspaper, and we’d draw a face on a piece of white cloth and always stole a cap from my Dad. Then we’d push the guy around in my old pushchair, door to door or wait outside the butcher’s and ask folk, ‘Penny for the guy?’

‘Bonfire toffee, sometimes it was so hard we had to smash it in the tin with a rolling pin to eat’

‘There was an organised bonfire on the recreation ground, not very big. I can remember my red wellies and Clare who lived in the big house on the green, called her mother by her name, Judy, not mother. Well she had sparklers and I had never seen them before, they must have been new. I thought they were a bit of stardust.’


I love the light of a bonfire and sparklers do seem like stardust and magic and even now, with gloves on, I like to hold a sparkler and try to write my name against the night sky before it burns out. Do you have bonfire night memories, traditions, favourite food or drink to keep you warm?


More from Stephanie and the Elevate artists

During the spring and summer 2020 Stephanie Jalland recorded her monthly reflections, sharing the sights and sounds around her home in Downton. You can listen to all of Stephanie’s monthly recordings here.

Download ‘Take the time’ Issue 3 – Autumn 2020 edition (pdf)

Send us your contribution

We love to include some of your own reflections in future posts and in our monthly print edition ‘Elevate your mood’ or quarterly printed tabloid ‘Take the time’. Why not write a few lines, try a poem or send us picture on the general theme of winter into spring? Email to ArtCare or send to ArtCare, Block 29, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury SP2 8BJ.