Tricky one this. There is so much I enjoy about autumn. I love the light, and the long shadows, the dew on the grass first thing and the intense and unexpected treat of sunlight and warmth. The contrast of cool nights snuggled under the winter duvet and still being able to dogwalk in a t shirt or sit and enjoy some late afternoon rays on the beach. I’ve even swum in October half term… but not recently.
I’ve also always loved digging out my winter coat, whether it was a comfy duffle coat or now, my happy purple velvety coat. Warmer clothes have some consolations: they conceal more. Varicose veins hide under boots and thick tights, layering up with cardis and scarves is kinder to the thickening middle aged midriff than vest tops and shorts.
Other autumn treats include soup for lunch. I’ve never been persuaded by summer soups and have had to gulp down gazpacho on more than one occasion while inwardly retching. But whether it’s leek and potato or a spicy beany soup or even Heinz tomato ( the advert makes my mouth water) I love them all. I could go on, macaroni cheese with leeks and bacon. Crumpets, spaghetti hoops and peanut butter – y u m.
However I used to enjoy autumn more. I did like going back to school. I liked netball and hockey and practising Christmas carols in September. When I was teaching I liked meeting new classes, though they never felt as friendly as the ones I had said goodbye to in June, I relished the challenge of establishing a rapport with my new and nervous students. I suppose I enjoyed the school year by proxy with my children – replacing their uniforms and lunch-boxes, marking out the year with concerts and sports events. A year had a predictable momentum. The structure was reassuring and in many ways I have kept to the same pattern through my adult life. I often start or feel the need to start a new course, class or project in the autumn. It’s not quite like New Year resolutions,there’s not the same rigour or guilt if they fizzle out before Christmas but strangely the activities I take up this time of year seem to be more easily absorbed.
Middle age has made autumn feel more poignant. If we were on a life timeline through the seasons I would be in autumn: time when growth slows and harvest time. And of course winter is looming. Time to take stock. There is a C.P. Cavafy poem called Candles which insinuates its way into my mind this time of year, bit gloomy but thoughtful.
But I was looking for autumn quotes and found this:
“It was one of those perfect New York October afternoons, when the explosion of oranges and yellows against the bright blue sky makes you feel like your life is passing through your fingers. . .”
—SARAH DUNN, SECRETS TO HAPPINESS: A NOVEL
Think that sums up the ambivalence pretty well. FYI no new classes this autumn but some intense cake making and a new Hugh FW cook book to salivate over.