The rowan trees are heavy with scarlet berries and the hedgerows are full of foragers gleaning late summer fruits for home-made jams and flavoured gin. The weather and the leaves haven’t turned yet but in the mornings I see mist rising from the river and I feel the coolness in the air. Autumn is rolling towards us faster than Knut’s incoming tide.
In the no-man’s-land between earth and sky, swallows trawl the evening air for the protein that will sustain them when they leave us to follow the warmth and the light further south. Starlings on a neighbour’s roof ignore the swallows and gossip among themselves until their inner timers all strike bed o’ clock and they throw their wings wide and head out over the fields in an exodus that leaves the, suddenly unoccupied, TV aerial twanging.
We’ve had a few autumnal days.
But mostly it’s been fine and warm and even an old, old man has found his way out to enjoy the sunshine.
The days are shorter, though, and there’s no longer the joy of looking out of my window at 4a.m to find a world bathed in light and the local badgers caught in the act of trying to break into the food bins. At night, I’m no longer beset with moths and daddy longlegs fluttering in my window and dive-bombing my bedside light. Instead, the cooler night air is a refreshing counterbalance to the huge, black, furry furnace that is Eric. A dog so tactile that he MUST stay in physical contact with me while he sleeps. Before too long, I’ll be reaching out to him in the dark to check the tips of his ears. It’s a sure-fire way of knowing if he’s cold – that and the theatrical shivering he’s learned from Floyd. And yes, if he is cold, I will get up and find him a blanket because I’m daft like that.
St Francis loves the winter and she loves Christmas, especially. If she sings Deck the Halls just once more this side of December, I may need alibi. Any time of year makes her happy. She has lived with a stunning view across the valley for more than ten years, now, and the change of colour that each season brings to that view reminds her how lucky she is not to be living in a high-rise in Brixton. (Other London boroughs are available.) And she’s right. And I’m mellowing. Normally I’d be sinking into a pit of gloom the day after the summer solstice but not this year.
This year I’m relaxed about the creeping darkness and the sudden scent of wood smoke from a neighbour’s chimney. Am I getting old? Or is it because I have spent so much of the summer being towed across the fields by Eric, Ernie and Floyd, with the clover brushing my bare legs and a swirl of butterflies leading the dance, that I feel I’ve wrung every last drop from the light half of the year? Maybe. Probably. I’d still rather live in June forever but, until my time machine turns up, I will take a leaf out of St F’s book, look at the view and watch the year change