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My Four Months Of Pleasure

Posted on Sunday 11th November 2007 at 00:00
If you meet me in the street and ask me what my favourite time of year is, I will probably say who are you? that I like them all equally. I know this, because that's what I always say.

Generally speaking it's true. The most notable feature of any time of year, in Britain at least, is the weather. Since I see as much charm in the wind and rain as in sun and blue skies, I am pretty content with all times of year. The obvious exception, as I'm sure is the case for most people, is the end of winter. Usually around February, when Christmas is a distant memory and spring is still not yet here, and there is nothing fun about the weather that simply refuses to improve.

Apart from that, I like all times of year equally.

This autumn however, I've begun to think that actually I like the evening of the year far more than any other time. This isn't specifically because of the weather, although there's a lot to be said for the coming of the wind and rain, the foggy evenings and the crisp, clear, cold mornings, with dew glistening from the cobwebs. All these things are fantastic, but what I like more are the social occasions. The Autumn is ushered in by the beginning of the school year. This always excited me when I was young. New uniform and brand new school supplies. New books, classrooms and teachers. Within a week the novelty of being back at school had long since worn off, but those first few days were some of my happiest in the school calendar.

Autumn, I think, has more celebrations than any other time of year. There is Harvest Festival, which although not widely celebrated by the community at large, still evokes vivid memories of church services, fresh ripe fruit and the glorious end to the hot, sleepy summer. Next comes Halloween, which I never bothered to celebrate as a child; trick-or-treating being far too tacky and American to be tasteful; but now dressing up has become fun again. Fancy dress parties really come into their own at Halloween and I can safely say that I was more proud of my vampire costume this year than of any other fancy dress outfit I've ever worn.

Almost before Halloween is over we are into Bonfire night. Remember, remember the 5th of November; gunpowder, treason and plot!As a child, this was the night when we all put on our coats and wellington boots (I tried to type 'wellys' and Microsoft Word corrected it to 'willies?; go figure) and stepped out into the dark and damp night to play with sparklers, whilst Dad lit rockets and catherine wheels by the light of the bonfire in the back garden. Later we'd retire indoors to enjoy the delicious tea Mum had cooked, with everything based on a bonfire theme. I wish I could remember exactly what it was we had...

By now the trees are mostly bare, and the leaves that scatter the ground are all dead. But throughout October, we are treated to the most beautiful sights nature has to offer. If this was special when I lived in Yateley, it is doubly so here in Bristol, where a dramatic increase in the number of trees serves to intensify the effect, almost to the point of distracting me from the road as I drive to work. The last week of October was the week when every year of my childhood, we'd holiday in a caravan on the Isle of Wight. What a perfect time of year for enjoying the outdoors one last time before winter! There is a certain weather - perhaps cool but not cold, with a fresh breeze - that reminds me of those holidays every time I experience it. In the same way that Christmas can be summed up by the smell of a Christmas tree, the Isle of Wight can be summed up by that fresh autumn breeze.

My biggest regret this autumn is that a combination of a dire work schedule (7 days a week most weeks between September and Christmas) and a bad foot conspired to stop me walking through Bristol with my camera on a sunny weekend to capture the magic of the season. The Clifton Suspension Bridge must have looked stunning at sunset, with the woods behind it aflame with yellow, orange and crimson. Oddly enough, the best sight I got of the falling leaves was in the car park at Tesco one afternoon, when I came out to find leaves falling from the trees onto all the cars. It was a picture perfect autumn scene, and had I had a camera with me, I'd have stopped there for an hour or more.

As the year draws on, the nights begin to come earlier and earlier each day. Some people, my mother included, find this very depressing, but not me. I love winter nights, snug and warm inside, with the heating on and the TV working its way through the BBC's autumn and winter schedule, and at this time of year, we are treated to tantalising tasters of what is to come. In summer, one can't really appreciate the coming of the night, as by the time it arrives, we are too tired to appreciate it, not to mention too hot and sticky. In winter itself, darkness comes a little too early, and it is already with us when we come out of work, but for a few weeks in Autumn, we bear witness to stunning sunsets and misty twilights whilst on our way home, or else just out and about.

In town the Christmas lights are already up, and in a fortnight or so, I too shall turn my mind to the cheer and excitement that is the festive season. For me, this has always been the climax and finale to my four months of pleasure; the last big celebration to finish Nature's end of year celebrations. Come January I will inevitably feel saddened by its passing, but for now I'm as content as any man in England.

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