Sunday, 2 October 2016
The Joys of Autumn
October, and uneven patches of the ornamental Japanese cherry tree are turning red, while other parts of it hold on to green leaves. The nights are turning cool and soon the first drifts of leaves will cover beds and lawns. It was already dark when I looked out of he kitchen window at half past seven this evening and there are still three weeks to go before we change the clocks. By eight the central heating had switched itself on.
Just when I was about to give a deep sigh and moan 'where has summer gone', I remembered that I like autumn, and even winter is not so bad when you think about all the advantages the cold season brings. For a start there is the drama of it, a foreboding of endings; of death, essentially. Spring and summer are much less sexy, simply too hot and sweaty, doing any kind of work is an effort and only evenings bring relief. Travelling to work on the Underground, the air thick with vaporised commuter sweat mornings and evenings, heatstroke, hay fever, discomfort, irritation and short-tempered exchanges with fellow commuters, co-workers, and other shoppers in the supermarket, that’s summer.
Give me the crisp months of respite. Winter clothing, doesn’t that sound cosy? Snuggling up in several warm layers, wearing big, baggy jumpers and coats which hide wobbly bellies and long sleeves to make flabby upper arms disappear. Bliss. And the food! Carbs are allowed again, stews and casseroles and soups! Forget about the lettuce leaf, the raw food salads, barbecues and picnics under vicious attack from wasps and other pests. The only meats are cold meats, semi raw chicken, charred sausages and mozzarella which has curled at the edges. No, civilisation reigns again, bringing hibernation food; there’s meat and gravy and potatoes, great piles of roasted vegetables, all eaten indoors, at the table or from a tray in front of the telly. and red wine tastes ever so much better in front of the fire than on a muggy night in the garden.
And what about the telly! In the UK all channels suddenly rediscover what they’re for: namely entertainment, and possibly education (good old Beeb, keep your hands off, Tories and Murdoch!), not endless repeats of programmes which weren’t interesting the first time round. We are spoilt for choice all of a sudden, from mid-September onwards. New series start, thrillers and costume dramas and must-see one-offs jostle for viewers. True, it’ll all be over when the Christmas Specials arrive, the crowd pleasers, game shows, unfunny comedians and sitcoms, but until then there’s a glut of entertainment to keep us quiet during the long evenings.
Bedtime isn’t bad either. In summer, after a day of the sun sitting on our South facing windows, the bedrooms are far too hot to allow for comfortable nights. Few private houses in the UK have air-conditioning and even wide open windows hardly lower the temperature. I like the feel of a covering but there are nights when even a cotton sheet is more than I can bear. Now, with temperatures back down to the low teens and under, the feel of a cosy duvet is perfect.
Thick socks, hot cocoa, guilt-free reading and TV sessions, baked apples with cinnamon and toasted almond flakes, box sets, walks in the woods while leaves are drifting, game stews and afternoon tea in front of a fire, hats and scarves and gloves, and the mists rising from the valley floor, these are my favourite seasonal things.
Soon it'll be time to dread Christmas but then, as many of us remind each other at the beginning of October: “In three months’ time it’ll all be over and we can look forward to a new beginning.
But for now and first of all, here’s to a happy autumn!