27 Oct A Seasonal ABC
Autumn and the trees outside the house, the ones that frothed powder-puff pink with blossom in spring and sparkled claret-copper in summer, fall dark and damply amethyst. Especially on windy days like today. Something about the angle of the trees and how it plays with the direction of the wind makes the spilt leaves collect in loose piles along the front path and on the pavement beyond the fence – much more, it seems to me, than on other paths in front of other houses along the road. I try not to take it personally. Sometimes a spent leaf leaves an imprint on the paving stones that stains for weeks; eventually, winter washes it away.
Normally, I like autumn, the way the ground turns rich and, by turns moist or crisp and the air turns fresh but not yet too chilly. Imagined autumn days are filled with morning mist that pulls gently back under a big, blue sky, the sun sharpens each contour, leaves curl golden, stags bay primevally in the park, I get the woollies out. This year, bar the occasional sunny one, days have seemed so much greyer. I find myself checking the Met Office stats only to find there’s not much in it – warmer but, on average, not much wetter than in previous years.
Perhaps it’s my mood.
Brexit mood swings these days. On the Brexit March last weekend along with at least a million others I could fill my lungs with optimism. A Brexit March is anything but – loudly anti-Brexit and, given the numbers, short on marching. Snaking slowly through the centre of London under bright blue banners studded with bold yellow stars, the Anti-Brexit Shuffle felt like a dance to the music of hope. When you’re there it’s impossible to not think that you can change the world. You meet friends, you’re among friends. For a while you feel you have a voice. For a while, among the crowd, you feel cheered.
The sun shone for much of the day. Until it didn’t. Late afternoon, a passing, persistent shower. A week later, looking back, it seems apt, the way it rained on our urgent, spirited parade, umbrellas blocking the view of the star-studded blue. Try not to take it too personally. The mood swings again too easily, desperately, almost wearily. The cheer is hard to hold onto.
Clocks change. Early on the last Sunday in October, the clocks go back in Britain. The clocks change and we scratch our heads, working out once again how to adjust the cooker or the microwave, the clock in the car, the boiler. There are English people I know who think this clock changing is an unnecessary concession to that churlish minority that inhabits the winter-dark north of the island. Why can’t those Scottish bairns go to school in the pitch black so that England can enjoy longer afternoons? I try not to take that too personally either. Only this year it feels more irksome – a metaphor for our imminent Brexit moment, this going back in time.