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Falling Leaves

I love Autumn despite the fact that the dawning of September gives me panicked flashbacks to my schooldays. Riffling images of black polyester blazer, mustard coloured Hush Puppies and the crack of Tracey’s nose after Karen hit her with the hockey stick that time. Her nose swelled like a vast purple balloon, an image that has stayed with me. Purple. Yes. Imperially so.

Autumn has the best colours and I love the cooling weather plus there is something lush about the name ‘October’. It might be the ‘ber’ at the end, reminiscent of bears and other predatory wildlife that roam the fictional forest that fills my skull. Oct, too has a sharp clicking sound to it and probably accounts for the fact that one of my favourite aquatic creatures is ‘octopus’. November is good because it has a ‘v’ in the middle and also the word ‘ember’ which reminds us that we can light fires in the crisp Autumn darkness to chase away the less welcome spirits or invite others in.

I was at the gym the other day listening to a boring woman drone on about bad weather. She hates bad weather because when it rains ‘You are stuck in the house.’ to which I replied ‘Why? Don’t you have a coat?’, which comment went down like a lead balloon but I was in that sort of mood. What sort of a sop doesn’t like bad weather? As Billy Connolly tells us ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing’. Cold? Put a jumper on. Anyone who won’t venture out into the rain is a hopeless write off, especially in this country with its daily meteorological smorgasbord. Seriously folks, the weather here is a breeze compared to the monsoons of Asia and the wild hurricanes of Tornado Alley in the US. Get your boots on. Knit a scarf. Get out there.

I visited California on my honeymoon and it was relentlessly sunny. After about five days my husband (Welsh) and myself (Northern) began to crave some clouds. Just a few puffy ones, possibly a bit of cirrus streaked across the unending blue. Then, after a week of sweat and squinting, even with sunglasses, we needed a fix of cumulo nimbus, a great towering thunderhead and possibly a bit of a chilly breeze, maybe a spot or two of rain. It was torture. I am not of a sunny disposition it has to be confessed. I don’t roast or bake on the nearest beach; when I’m on a beach I like to build a sandcastle, which is no small embarrassment to my now grown up children.

20161229_114607Eventually the skies opened and we were treated to a vast and monsoon like downpour just as we decided to visit the La Brea Tarpits. It was one of my favourite moments of the generally wonderful honeymoon, the rain trickling down my neck from the collar of my cagoule as I looked at the black gloop and its cargo of concealed mammoth.

So here we are at October with its recent harvest of pumpkins. When I was a girl the only pumpkin I had ever seen was in my Ladybird ‘Cinderella’ fairytale book. Pumpkins were the fruit of myth until I visited the east coast of the US and was  assailed by the pumpkin stands and general pumpkin bounty.

In more recent years the pumpkin has had a comeback in this country and I love their brightness and their fairytale aspect. The flavour isn’t half bad either, whether in a pumpkin pie or roasted with some walnuts and blue cheese. In case you were questioning my sanity I also love brussels sprouts and find it difficult to relate to those who don’t like them. What’s not to like? Green and tasty and like a fairy sized cabbage!

Autumn has all the best colours too, the vivid reds and umbers, burning oranges and the light held within the yellow ochres. There is the soundscape of the wind, of rustling leaves on branches and underfoot. You can’t beat it.

Flip over to the October page of the calendar, you’ll probably find it’s a squirrel or a dormouse armed with a hazelnut or dangling from an ear of wheat, although that’s probably a harvest mouse.

Harvest. Another lovely Autumn word. See, you just have to squint a bit at the season and you’ll be fine.

 

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‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge

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