From an Idea by Keats
Autumn! Season of mists and mellow tum-ti-tum! Now heavy hangs the keats in the hedgerow, while on the Shelley strand the last deck-chairs are being put away for winter. Sir, sir, there’s a dead politician in this deck chair! What shall I do? Leave him where he is, lad – they’ll come and get him when they need his vote. Yes, it’s back to the Commons, back to the House, where some men are men and some are mouse, with star parts waiting for people with nous (lyrics by Thatcher, music by Strauss). The part of Cecil Parkinson will be played by Norman Tebbit. Other parts are as follows: one part Grenada bitters, one part wormwood, one part gall. I thought gall was divided into three parts? Think what you like, lad, but I tell you this: the warning lights are going on all over England, and we shall not see traffic doing more than 40m.p.h. again in our lifetime. Curse this fog, captain – I can’t see a single thing on the motorway. But wait a moment, what’s over there? Is it one of ours? No – it’s German! It’s a Mercedes – Benz with all the latest attachments – we haven’t a hope! Cones to the left of them, cones to the right of them, on rode the gallant five hundred into the valley of motorway mania, into the freezing fog where many are cold but few are frozen. Say what you like, you can’t beat the dependable old Austin Mitchell, as seen on television. Now fades the Robin Day, becoming knight, and leaves a sudden darkness on the screen, so I must go down to Channel Four and see the old movies I’ve never seen, Mourning Becomes Electra, Death in the Afternoon and All about Eve. And now it’s close-down again. Lighting-up time is at 4.48 and I’ve run out of cigarettes. Most of the fields in England have now given up smoking and stubble lies dark and heavy across the landscape, a five o’clock shadow, a carbon copy of the real thing. O to be browning abroad, now that autumn’s here! Cynthia and I have decided not to go skiing this year, owing to the recession, so we’re taking one of those bargain breaks, in a motel near Swindon. Yes. Quite unspoilt. They have a fancy dress ball in Ye Olde Tudor Disquo on Saturdays. I’m going as a politician and Cynthia’s going as my secretary. Wonderful fun. Then we put out the Do Not Disturb sign and see if we can recapture that old black magic, it’s got me in its spell, that old black magic, right here in the motel. If you were the only buoy in the world and I was the only gull. I wouldn’t come and perch on you. But I must go down to the see again (as the Bishop said to the actress) and do a lightning tour of the clergy – 30 Revs. per minute! April in parish, summer is called, but autumn is chosen, if autumn leaves can winter be far behind? Yes, the old cycle of the seasons, now with a flat tyre and the front light gone, but what the hell, Sturmey Archer, what the hell, once a lady always a lady. Personally, I can’t see what all the fuss is about; once you’ve seen one dead tree, you’ve seen ‘em all. Autumn has branches everywhere, stiff and stark against the sky, red clouds in the evening, shepherd’s pie. Sarge, we brought this bloke in for being alone and palely loitering. He’s got this banner with a strange device, or what we call an offensive weapon. Well, throw the book at him, then – personally, I’d suggest the Oxford Book of Autumn Verse. Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village drunkard heaves. The chestnut tree is stark and bare, but the drunkard is covered in leaves. News at Ten, Autumn. Now back to the studio. Over and out.