A couple of weeks ago I was out in my car - with the roof down, naturally - and all I could smell as I drove past a wooded area was fallen leaves. That and bonfires are the smells of autumn past for me. And the title of this blog, taken from the poem by Laurence Binyon, was one that appealed to me because Binyon was born in a house in Lancaster - my old stamping ground. The house still bears a blue plaque bearing his name as its claim to celebrity.
Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.
They go to the fire; the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into a weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin and bites
On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.
But despite this affection for the smell of the aforementioned fallen leaves, Autumn is not my favourite time of year for several reasons. The days start to shrink, so that by four thirty in the afternoon the light is definitely starting to recede. After this weekend, here in the UK, the clocks go back an hour as British Summer Time ends. Left to my own devices I’d shift the clocks half an hour and leave them be for the whole year. None of this Springing forwards or Falling back to remember.
Autumn is usually when you realise that all the things you were hoping to achieve during the summer are now not going to get done. When the first colds and sniffles hit you, when it rains more often than it doesn’t. When you never seem to go out wearing enough clothing, or find you’re wearing too much.
I have always liked definite seasons. Summers when you can actually bare some skin without it being covered in goosebumps. Winters when it snows rather than just raining harder and colder. I love the quality of light you get in winter, that clarity without the haze, the burr of frost. But at the moment the seasons are simply being indecisive.
I think that’s why I love travelling so much. You go to the Mediterranean or the Middle East in summer and you know what to expect. The same of Austria or Bulgaria in the winter. Perhaps I should be structuring my year around the weather systems and travelling accordingly.
What about you? What time of year is your favourite, and why?
This week’s Word of the Week is nerterology, meaning the lore that pertains to the dead, from nertero, from the Greek nerteros, lower, and in plural nerteroi, those of the Classic underworld, the dead.