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Pets Corner: Preparing your pet for fireworks season

Every year pet owners of dogs, cats and other small animals will be forced to seek help because their animal has been traumatised by exposure to firework noise. Use of the word trauma may seem excessive but in my work I see animals that suffer debilitating noise phobia, sometimes after only one exposure to very loud fireworks or thunder noise. The saddest part is that fear of loud noises can generalise very quickly to anything that vaguely reminds the animal of the first scary event. These pets go on to require medication and extensive behaviour treatment. The animals suffer greatly and some harm themselves or run away in efforts to escape the noise.

The key issue is predictability. Forethought and widespread communication by licensed organisers of fireworks events enables pet owners to prepare well in advance- the Blue Cross advises owners of young animals and older animals with a known noise phobia to seek veterinary advice 6-12 weeks before firework season begins.

The greatest problem is the impromptu back garden fireworks show and, of course, irresponsible sale of fireworks. Neighbours should think carefully and find a way to alert the wider community if they are contemplating mounting a fireworks display outside the usual fireworks season.

Only a proportion of pets are genetically noise sensitive and many will never show the same panic response to noise in the way afflicted animals do. However, where young animals are concerned it is best to prepare well and assume the worst. It is not always clear which young animals go on to develop noise sensitivity. Be warned, older animals can experience changes in hearing and sight and for the first time develop a panic response to a range of loud noises.

Here is a quick and basic guide to preparing for fireworks season for any pet owner. For more information see advice by the Blue Cross.

No fireworks between 11pm and 7am other than by licensed organisations; it is illegal for anyone under 18 to own or handle fireworks; unlicensed retailers can only sell fireworks from 15 October to 10 November and 26 to 31 December;  it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal.

Visit your vet now and ensure you have their recommended calming products or medication to hand. ‘Thunder- shirts’ can help some dogs relax.

Ensure cats and dogs are microchipped so they can be identified if they bolt and escape during a fireworks episode.

If you know your animal has a major problem with noise seek qualified help 6 months or more before fireworks season. Seek guidance on noise desensitisation.

Provide dens and hiding places inside the home, with blankets and similar to block out noise.

Walk your dog in daylight. Keep all animals inside before dusk. Lock cat and dog flaps.

Before fireworks events shut curtains and blinds, turn houselights on, have the TV or radio on.

If your pet looks terrified you can cuddle or stroke them if they come to you but don’t pursue them to comfort them and don’t over soothe them as this can communicate to the animal that you are also scared. Allow your pet to hide, pace around or vocalise if they need to. Try to normalise the situation. If your pet is only slightly concerned you can try distraction, play a favourite game, look happy! Do praise your pet if they are calm.

If your pet has a first time extreme reaction- panting, shaking, drooling, howling, trying to escape, you need to see your vet and seek expert help as soon as possible. It is likely your pet will need medication.

Leonie St Clair

Garden Talk: Get into dahlias

Dahlias are back in fashion in a big way, sales are up and there are thousands of posts of these dramatic beauties on Instagram. Once only grown on the allotments or in a dahlia bed for flower shows and flower arranging, they’re now being used mingled amongst perennials, ornamental grasses and shrubs in borders. The darker, richer colours look great in tropical schemes, working well with lush large-leaved plants.

Dahlias come in an enormous array of colours from deep velvety purples to pale peach and corals, as well as hot and pastel pinks, whites, creams, yellows and reds (just no blue). There is also a huge range of forms from spiky cactus and anemones, simple single-flowers and stars, pom poms and massive dinner plate varieties. They can be very tall or for smaller gardens, dwarf varieties are ideal.

In terms of care, tubers are traditionally dug up in autumn, dried off and stored over winter to be planted out in spring. But you can leave them in the ground, mulched thickly, especially in London if your soil doesn’t get too wet. You’ll also need to protect them from slugs. Encourage side shoots by pinching out the top and feed every three weeks with tomato fertiliser. If you keep deadheading them, they’ll give you fantastic colourful blooms right through autumn when everything else is fading.

Some of my favourites:

Dahlia ‘Walzing Matilda’

This is a pretty fiery coral dahlia with relaxed slightly twisted petals, which contrast beautifully with its dark purple brown stems and foliage. It’s lovely with ornamental grasses such as golden deschampsia or miscanthus. D. ‘Labyrinth’  is another peachy pink dahlia, but more lavish and romantic.

Dahlia ‘Eveline’ 
A lovely white variety with large blousy creamy-white flowers with pink petal tips. For a more delicate white dahlia try ‘Honka Fragile’ with delicate, striking star-shaped petals also edged with pink – it can keep flowering until November if it’s deadheaded.

Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’
A large cactus variety with dark burgundy flowers this’s great for adding almost black accents in a border. The double D. ‘Arabian Night’ also has dark burgundy velvety flowers and works well with golden grasses and pinks.

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

An iconic single with crimson flowers, a yellow eye and dark purple foliage. Others in the Bishop Series include D. ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ with deep pink flowers, a golden eye and dark foliage. As well a simplicity that’s easy to incorporate into planting schemes, singles are also great for attracting pollinators.

Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Royal’

The vast dinner plate flowers of this are an edible-looking milky coffee colour with hints of dusky pink – gorgeous! Another whopper is D. ‘Otto’s Thrill’ , glamorous and spectacular with luminous pink fully double blooms. It looks great amongst verbena bonariensis.

Dahlia ‘Zundert Mystery Fox’

A neat ball-shaped orange dahlia – fab as a cut flower with looser- looking dahlias.  D‘Wizard of Oz’ is a super-pink pom pom that looks lovely toned down with cool blues and whites.


Roasted chestnut and mushroom pate recipe

Chestnuts are now in season, don’t wait for December, they are good enough to eat now. They are a great source of vitamin C as well as vitamins B1, B2, and B6 and folic acid. Choose firm, shiny chestnuts to create this delicious recipe.

Roasted Chestnut and Mushroom Pate;
This recipe makes a big bowl of pate, which will keep in the fridge for 3 days.


  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled & diced
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 250g cooked chestnuts, chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 150g shitake or wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 25g butter (optional)
  • 2 tbsps brandy
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • handful of flat parsley, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt


Pre-heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.

Roast the parsnip in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 20 minutes, until soft and beginning to colour. In a large frying pan, fry the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, until soft, but not browned. Add the garlic and fry for a minute.

Add the shitake or wild mushrooms and fry for another minute, then add the chestnut mushrooms and fry until the mushrooms are all an even dark colour.

Stir in the cooked parsnips, chestnuts, butter, brandy and lemon juice.

Gently fry for 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

Leave to cool and then puree in a food processor to a chunky consistency.

Season to taste and add the parsley just before serving.

Serve with rye bread, wholegrain or melba toast.

In season this month:

Fruits, Nuts & Fungi
Apples, blackberries, chestnuts, elderberries, figs, grapes, pears, quince, tomatoes, walnuts. Lots of lovely mushrooms; chanterelles, chestnuts, horse mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, parasol mushrooms, puffballs, giant shaggy ink caps and summer truffles

Vegetables & Herbs
Beetroot, borlotti beans, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, courgettes, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins & squash, rocket, salsify, scorzonera, spinach, turnips

Meat & Game
Duck, wild goose, grouse, guinea fowl, hare, mallard, partridge, pheasant, rabbit, venison, wood pigeon

Fish & Shellfish
Cod, crab, eels, lobster, mackerel, mussels, oysters, prawns, scallops, sea bass, sprats, squid, brown and rainbow trout

Going out of season
Aubergine, beetroot, butternut squash, chicory, cobnut, damsons, elderberries, fennel, fig, globe artichoke, lamb, mackerel, pear, plums, radish, raspberry, rocket, sweetcorn, watercress

Suzanne is a professional chef, wife and mother who has lived in South East London all her life.

This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of SE22 magazine.

Dulwich Picture Gallery – October events!

Exhibitions & Displays

Rembrandt’s Light
Until 2 February
Experience a cinematic retelling of the Dutch Master’s pivotal years… An enduring storyteller; a master of light – Rembrandt is one of the greatest painters who ever lived. This landmark exhibition celebrates 350 years since his death with 35 of his iconic paintings, etchings and drawings, including major international loans from The Louvre and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

Unlocking Paintings: Artists in Amsterdam
Until 12 January 2020
Included in Gallery admission

A new display that explores Amsterdam during the 17th century, when it became the new economic superpower in Europe, providing a wealth of opportunities for young painters to make their mark. This display explores the personal stories of key artists from our Collection; including works by Meindert Hobbema, Jacob van Ruisdael and Willem van de Velde II. Explores tales of invention, ingenuity, fortune and loss, all against the backdrop of an ambitious, fast-moving city.

Lectures & Talks

Contextual Lecture: Ageing Brains, Culture and Lifestyle
15 October 10.30am, Linbury Room
£12 adults; £10 Friends & concessions
With Professor Paul Camic. The importance and value of cultural engagement across the lifespan has begun to gain international attention, yet the interaction of culture, lifestyle and well-being is only beginning to be understood.

British Sign Language Talk: Rembrandt’s Light
17 October, 1pm
Free, advanced booking essential

After Hours

Film Night: From Sunrise to Moonlight
30 October, 7-11pm, £5
Please note this event will be taking place at Peckham Levels, Peckham Town Centre Carpark, 95A Rye Lane, London SE15 4ST 

Discover how Old Master painters like Rembrandt influenced the world of cinema with this special double bill.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Moonlight (2016)

Adult Courses & Workshops

Oil Painting for Beginners
Ten Mondays from 14 October 
Join artist Rebecca Allen for a ten week introduction to oil painting, taking particular inspiration from Rembrandt’s practice. Across this course you will cover the fundamentals of working with this medium, from preparing tonal grounds to impasto painting.

Portrait Masterclass
19 October, 10am-3pm
£50; £45 Friends & concessions

Learn to paint portraits like Rembrandt in this masterclass exploring his techniques of proportion and chiaroscuro (light and shade). Taught by Ann Witheridge, founder of London Fine Art Studios, the workshop also includes a tour of Rembrandt’s Light. This workshop will explore the fundamentals of Rembrandt’s process, helping you to paint like an Old Master!
All levels welcome. 

Yoga & Rembrandt’s Light
27 October, Arrive at 8.30am for registration
Start your Sunday with yoga in the Soane Gallery, with morning sun streaming through the skylights. Each session is led by British Wheel of Yoga teachers and is followed by early access to Rembrandt’s Light. Suitable for all levels except complete beginners. Ticket includes entry to the exhibition and tea/coffee voucher for the Gallery Café.

Family Events

Art Sundays
Sundays throughout October
Free, drop-in sessions

Sunday is art day! Come along to the Gallery every Sunday for a drop-in family art-making workshop. Each week there will be a different theme for you to explore and something for you to take away as a momento. Suggested age: 4-12 yrs.

Making a Scene
22, 23, 24 & 25 October
£5 adults; Children free (drop-in)
Suggested age: 4-12 yrs.

Dramatic Dioramas
22 & 23 October
10am–12.30pm, £35 for two days

Suggested age: 6-9 yrs.

Illuminated Etchings
24 & 25 October
10am–12.30pm, £35 for two days

Suggested age: 10-12 yrs.

Early Years

Mini Masterpieces
1 October & 17 October, 10-11am & 11.30am-12.30pm
£12 per adult and child
Suggested age: 6–24 months.

Art Adventurers
25 October
£12 per adult and child
Suggested age: 2-4 yrs.


Society of Women Organists in Recital: Anne Page

13 October, 7.45pm, Christ’s Chapel
Free entry
The Society of Women Organists (SWO) is dedicated to celebrating female organists in all areas of music-making. Anne Page studied with Marie Claire-Alain in France, and with Peter Hurford in Cambridge  – teaching as his deputy at the Royal Academy of Music for several years. She made her London debut at the Royal Festival Hall playing 20th century masterpieces, and an international recital career followed.


Shadowlands (1993)
14 October, Bar open from 7pm, screening at 7.30pm
£10; £8 Friends

C.S. Lewis, writer and professor, leads a passionless life until he meets the spirited poet Joy Gresham from the U.S.A. This biographical drama explores the relationship between the Irish academic and the American poet and the challenge to Lewis’s Christian faith.

You can book tickets for all forthcoming events online at

Bell House – October events

Master the Fundamentals of Instagram – Saturday 12th October

Learn the basic steps to creating great posts for Instagram during this hands on course run by local photographer Sara Lloyd. Find out how to take effective photographs, how to post them on instagram, and how to make use of the app to edit them.

How to Write Personal Stories – Saturday 12th October

Come and learn to tell your own story with Maggie Smith. Whether you have begun writing and need a space to develop ideas, or want to start but have no idea where to begin, this day course will give you the space and time to spur you on.

Cooking Course: How to Cook Plant Based Meals – Sunday 13th October

Learn how to cook simple tasty plant based meals with Zita Steyn, using vegetables from the Bell House kitchen garden.

Her Lost Language: The Power of Voice – Thursday 24th October

An evening of inspiring poetry and conversation about British BAME history, including the launch of Jenny Mitchell’s new collection ‘Her Lost Language’.

Gardening Sessions 

We have two drop-in volunteer gardening sessions a week, and everyone is welcome. Our garden volunteers meet on Saturday and Wednesday mornings, from 9:30am – 11:30am. You will join a supportive community – the volunteers are a friendly group and they end each session with a group croissant and coffee. If you are interested in joining, please drop an email.