Wednesday September 28, 2005
Autumn arrived today at 6:07 pm exactly.
The event is worth noting because it doesn’t happen like that too often. A more normal progression from summer to autumn is a miserable, crawling thing, damp, increasingly chill, and accompanied by a slow, oppressive darkening and shortening of the days.
I know the time because I was sitting in the car, waiting in a queue of traffic on the way through Boston back home, and was able to glance at the clock.
I marked the event because it was sudden, a blast of wind cutting across the park, whipping the branches of a line of sycamores by the road, and sending a shower of leaves and winged seeds across to ping against the car and, by chance, lodging one seed, complete with stalk and propellor leaf, behind the windscreen wiper directly in front of me.
Even inside the car I could feel that the temperature had dropped a few degrees just as suddenly as the wind had arrived. Looking up, over the trees and in the direction from whence the wind had come, I could see dark clouds following on. As I drove on, through the town, past the Pilgrim hospital and out on the main road towards home, those same clouds seemed to be tailing me, getting closer and closer and, when I pulled up on the driveway and got out to unload my provisions, they caught up with me finally, sending a sharp shower along with the growing wind. It was one of those moments when you clutch your coat to your throat and think longingly of a hot drink and a warm kitchen.
Once safely inside, I switched the lights on early, driving the gloom away, filling the kitchen, dining room and study with an electric yellow luminence that happens only on an autumn evening, and only for the short period while there is still daylight coming through the windows but it is of a colour and intensity that demands enhancement.
“Oh dear, Dolly,” I said. “I think that our lovely summer is over.”
She gazed at me solemnly, as though I’d made a remark of some significance.
“You think so, too, do you?”
Her response was to jump up on to the kitchen counter and to sit by the tap, glaring at me until I turned it on to produce a trickle of the exact strength to meet her demanding standards.
Normality was restored.
Thinking about it now, I realise that my body had told me a little earlier that the season was about to change. I was in Tesco’s and just about to reach for the three boxed mini-quiches and packs of salad that have been making up the bulk of my meals for some weeks now. My inner man rebelled at that moment, and I adjusted to meet his demand. What he wanted, and what he got, was steak pie and oven chips. I bought three times my normal quantity of fruit—apples, oranges and sweet white grapes—to balance things, along with extra fruit juice and ice cream to balance them further. More of this and the ice cream will make way for sponge pudding and treacle and my autumn diet will be fully established.
The memory of the sunshine, and the heat, remains with me. It’ll fade pretty fast, like as not, as the days shorten further and, before it has gone completely, I’ll start on the fluoxetine (Prozac) that keeps the darkness from invading my spirits each year.
And then, it’ll be winter.
I have a feeling that we’ll have a good autumn before winter roars in, though. One of those mists and mellow fruitfulness kinds of autumn. I’d like that, and I’d like it even more if I get the opportunity to go out and take some of those autumn landscape photographs I love so much.
Ye gods and little fishes, though. Don’t the seasons roll around?