The long, hot days of summer (just wanted to write that phrase because, for once, it was bang on) are fading from memory and all the autumn clichés are queueing up in the mind like anxious commuters as the train rolls into the station. Yes, it’s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness (what actually is mellow fruitfulness?), surely No 1 on any list of seasonal bingo. But aside from early morning moisture and ODing on vitamins, there are loads of reasons to love this most romantic time of year. Not least because it brings out the romantic in us…
Start of the football season
Ok, ok I know it all kicked off in August but who can take football seriously during the phoney war before the first international break. Even Harry Kane doesn’t bother lacing up his scoring boots till September, though he managed to let the side down this year. Now autumn’s here we can all look forward to long months of cold, rain, scalding tea, hot pies, savage tackles and the occasional glorious goal – whether you’re on the terraces or in front of the telly.
Start of the Rugby season
A game which properly eschews summer. The Southern Hemisphere giants can try to woo us with all that fancy footwork and furious recycling, but we know Rugby is at its best in the mud of midwinter, with two packs of forwards doing all they can to keep the ball from straying into the backs, and just a couple of kicks deciding the result. It’s enough to have you rubbing your hands in anticipation (or is that just to ward off frostbite?).
Force the kids to set aside those hi-tech gadgets, stand under a chestnut tree and wait for a spiky object to drop on your head, leading to copious amount of blood pouring down your smart new jacket-coat thing. Once you’ve mopped up, help to gather the conkers, shove them in the oven, then soak them in vinegar, bore a hole in them with a bradawl (yes, that pointy thing really does have a name), thread with string and off you go! God, it’s a lot of effort isn’t it, but well worth it. The childhood memories will come flooding back as you swing and miss, only for your six-year-old to smash your 16-er into tiny pieces with a well-aimed shot.
More outdoor activity. Grab a container, head for the nearest bramble bush and emerge covered in scratches and looking like an extra from Zombie Flesh-Eaters. What a great feeling, though, to head home with a big tub of juicy blackberries and the prospect of pies, puddings or even a bit of jam-making looming large.
In the absence of scrumping (more likely to end up with a criminal record than a kick up the backside nowadays), we can get our appley fix at the various jours du pommes nowadays. National Trust properties, village communities, inner-city markets – they’ve all bought in to Apple Day and it’s generally more fun than you could imagine having with a green or red spherical fruit. Always loads for kids to do, plenty of tasty products to buy and the chance to make an idiot of yourself in the apple-bobbing events which seem to have been appropriated from Halloween.
Autumn Colours and Falling Leaves
A fabulous array of orange, red and brown leaves can lift even the heaviest heart and you don’t need a heftily-priced trip to New England to join in. Just walk out of the front door and head for the nearest broad-leafed tree. Forests, woods, parks, tree-lined streets – any of them is worth a second, third and fourth glance at this time of year. And as for the leaves … it’s a joy to kick up piles of them with only the smallest chance of coming into contact with that hidden heap of dog poo. Worth the risk – you can always clean the wellies.
Old Keats and his ode – everyone’s romantic reference point. But if you’re up early enough (and, thankfully, by now that doesn’t mean in the middle of the night) the swirl of mist above the autumn ground or hanging over streams and rivers is a thing of beauty. You could just wait till November, when you might find yourself engulfed in a three-day fog.
There’s a particular pleasure in drawing the curtains on the gathering darkness and knowing a warm cosy evening awaits; even better if you happen to have a fire or wood burner. And, best of all, there’s 100 per cent more chance of getting the kids into bed before the 10 o’clock news because, well, it’s dark so it must be bedtime. Uncork that wine; here’s to a long winter!
Whatever you feel about us having embraced the American ‘trick or treat’ culture, it’s here to stay. So you may as well don that Frankenstein mask, hope that someone notices the difference and head out into the night in pursuit of your over-excited offspring. If the kids are veterans they’ll know which houses to skip, so the pain won’t last too long and there’s always the prospect of sneaking the best of the haul once the little darlings are snoring.
Hot on the heels of All Hallows’ Eve is this glorious celebration of, er, the death of someone who plotted the death of lots of other someones. Still, that was all a long time ago and gives us the chance to pick up second-degree burns by standing too close to the fire and risk a cricked neck as we watch the ever-more spectacular firework displays. Some might argue it was more fun when bonfires were unrestricted, you could cook your spuds in foil in the flames and your dad was the one with a slow-burning match who couldn’t quite get that Catherine Wheel to spin properly.
It’s goodbye endless weird salads and endless pieces of burnt – sorry, barbecued – meat and hello fabulous cold weather meals: casseroles, soups, roast dinners, curries, pasta mounds – excuse me, I’m off to the kitchen.
Everyone knows summer TV is rubbish because no-one watches it, and everyone knows the networks throw massive amounts of cash at the autumn schedules. Result = excellent drama series and loads of great documentaries for adults and kids. If you like ballroom dancing and making cakes, this is definitely your time of year but you’re on your own there. Or maybe I am.
Extra Hour in Bed
It may be only 60 minutes long but it’s something to be cherished. Yes, the daylight fades ridiculously early as a result, but that’s nothing compared to the glory of a late October Sunday morning lie-in. Shame no-one told the kids.
Rain, damp, cold
So we’ve had a record-breaking, sub-tropical summer. Forget all that and say hello to your true self – lover of drizzle and downpours, wet feet and sub-zero temperatures. Admit it, you were dreaming in July of those frosty mornings. Well, here they are and you won’t get sick of them till well into the New Year, when SAD will leave you yearning for the sub-tropical summer.
What’s half-term for? A few days away from the hustle and bustle etc. Center Parcs or a seaside chalet (really?), a cheeky trip to southern Europe or a bracing jaunt to the uplands of Britain … it’s a great way to stoke the fires before winter and it wears out the kids before you pack them off to school again for the pre-Christmas mania. If you’re unbelievably fortunate you’ll have well-disposed relatives prepared to pick up the reins so you and your Darling Partner can sneak off somewhere for a quick break. Just don’t expect them to do it again next year.