Those who know me well, know that I am not a lover of this time of year. I don’t like the clocks going back, the short days and saying goodbye to summer always depresses me. However, I do appreciate the physical beauty of the seasons and the memories associated with them, even autumn and winter, and the approaching bleakness does appeal to me. Possibly, because I have a rather bleak outlook on life a lot of the time and am not always an optimist about things.
Anyway, as it is a rainy, late autumnal day and because I cannot be bothered to get the vacuum cleaner out, I thought I would do a piece on the seasons. Also, I have not blogged for a while now and I need to remind you all that I am still here!
So, let me start with autumn, as this is the season we are still in.
On a bench in Blackheath
The trees are absolutely beautiful at this time of year; gold, yellow, bronze, red, copper and if the sun is out, walking through a carpet of freshly fallen, crunchy leaves is a joy and takes me right back to my childhood, when it was mandatory to do this. It was the also the law of the playground that you threw bunches of leaves at your friends, and tried to outdo them by finding the biggest and the best and the most number of conkers. I used to love finding one still in its spiny shell, and enjoyed prising it open to see how big the shiny brown nugget inside would be. I played conkers but I was crap at it and always had bruised knuckles! We also went blackberry picking in the hedgerows and ate as many as we picked, our lips and fingers stained with the juice.
Autumn also had Bonfire Night with grubby little boys pushing their makeshift Guy Fawkes around in a wheelbarrow shouting ‘Penny for the Guy…!’. And there were the garden fireworks. Mum made something yummy to eat then we went out to watch Dad try to light the fireworks, not always with success and he would have to go back to the reluctant collection of colour, gunpowder and twisted paper to try again. (Remind me to tell you the story about the Christmas pudding and my sister when she was about 18 months old…).
Of course, this was in the 1970’s and Health & Safety was not so strong as it is these days, where you are told not to go back to a firework once lit, for obvious reasons. Then, we just did it, and luckily, we never had any accidents.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus.
Bleak, very bleak. especially when the sun doesn’t shine and the sky sits upon our heads, because it is so heavy with rain or the possibility of snow.
My least favourite season; an oppressive density of quiet because the countryside has gone to sleep. The repose of the land punctuated by the cawing of crows on the still air or a cow mooing in the distance. And when it snows, the silence is deafening, and everything takes on another dimension as there is nothing to see but a white counterpane, with the black/brown stalks of the naked trees sticking out of it. Of course, I am describing scenes from my childhood in the countryside, where winter was beautiful to look at, where we built snowmen and pelted each other with snowballs. And there was a roaring fire in the lounge and hot, comforting things to eat. Oh, and there was the fun of bunking off school if it snowed, because I lived so far away and the bus could never get up the hill into the village and beyond to Tunbridge Wells and my school!
I am an old, farty cynic now and snow in London is a right royal pain to negotiate and I don’t enjoy the cold, and the wet. Yet, I do love the bleakness of winter; the anticipation of what is to become and after the 21st of December, the days start getting slowly longer, which always pleases me!
I have deliberately left out Christmas as it does not give me much joy now, but the Christmas’ of my childhood were wonderful and are worthy of a blog post of their own.
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.” – Andrew Wyeth
My favourite. The bringer of optimism and promise of new life. The explosion of colour in nature that never fails to put a smile on my face. When I see snowdrops growing, even though it is still winter, the tiniest of sparks is lit inside me and I know that I will only have to wait a few weeks until the riot of yellow and green of the daffodils will be screaming for my attention again. The horse chestnuts will start to slowly unfurl their leaves until each branch is groaning with the weight of new leaves and flowers.
Yes, yes, I know I am coming across all Wordsworth now, but just close your eyes and see all that vibrancy that smacks you in the face at this time, even if you live in a city. I think of the gardens of my childhood and the London parks now, and the colours inspire, uplift and make me happy. It is new life in what ever shape or form and sort of balances me again. It also helps that the clocks go forward now. That helps me. A lot.
The weather is temperamental at this time. Oh, who the hell am I kidding?! The weather gives us a two-fingered salute at anytime of the year, but you know what I mean. My optimistic side taps into the thought of warmer weather, but let us not forget that we have also had snow in April before!
Then we have Easter. Chocolate eggs, cards with fluffy bunnies and lambs on them and Hot Cross Buns. Loads of them. Whole packets at a time. Toasted and slathered in butter. Three times a day. Nothing else. And bugger your ‘5 a day’ nonsense.
“The force of Spring – mysterious, fecund, powerful beyond measure.” – Michael Garofalo, Cuttings
OK, I know that our summers have been *cough* very, shite of late but let’s pretend that they’re good.
Because when they are, they bloody are! Long, long days of warmth in the sun, picnics in parks and glasses of Pimms etc. I love being able to sit outside a cafe or in a pub garden until dusk, being able to eat al fresco and just enjoy life. Being invited to BBQ’s at a friend’s house and watching the men (because it is always the men!) hold a bottle of beer in one hand and the tongs in the other, valiantly poke, prod and turn the sausages and burgers over until they are burnt on the outside and raw in the middle.
As a child, looking forward to the summer holidays and going to the seaside. Tumbling and rolling in sand dunes and puddling about in rock pools. Sand castles and 99 ice creams.
The season is in full bloom, the grass lush and fat and green. We would try to find the fattest blades to press between our thumbs to make that weird sound when blowing through them. Making daisy chains and tickling our chins with the buttercups to see who loved butter. Strawberries and cherries and the abundance of fruit and vegetables that are ripe at this time. Carefree and innocent was my childhood then.
Now, if I can get away with not having to wear a coat during the day, then I am happy! There is the anticipation of your holiday; two weeks of freedom away from responsibility and routine with the annual race to see who will get the best tan. And when you return, you hope the weather will be good so you can show off how brown you are…
“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” – James Dent
So, that was my not so brief look at the seasons. You know my favourites, what are yours?