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Autumn !

Yes, it’s the season of chests and mellow fitfulness again, with bonfire smoke in the villages and mists in the valleys, and a loudspeaker van in the lanes warning us to keep indoors if we are to avoid the deadly fumes of

Autumn !

For down from the north comes the deadly wind, with the smell of bagpipes on its breath and the chill of death in its smile - yes, the air is gradually turning chillier, and the leaves are gradually turning, and Chile is asking for the return of Pinochet, and just in case you missed it last year, the BBC is arranging for a repeat of

Autumn!

This black and white, brown and orange classic tells the age-old story of how summer, a lovely warm maiden, is lured out of the country and, while her back is turned, is replaced by an older witch of a woman, who puts the whole land under a spell whereby all the trees in the country are doomed to lose their leaves, and we all sit back in the cinema seats and prepare to enjoy it, though first we have to wait for all the trailers getting stuck in the mud, and then after that it’s Pearl and Dean, Pearl and Dean ! Niftiest ads I’ve ever seen, ads for willows, ads for sedges, ads for benson, ads for hedges...

Trees ! Are you suffering from leaf loss? Do you find that at this time of year your once glossy foliage is getting thinner? Then what you need is a good dose of Spring! Send a cheque now and we’ll guarantee to have things cleared up in six months time!. Yes, Pearl and Dean, Dean and Pearl, one’s a boy and one’s a girl, but first it’s

Autumn !

Even though we saw it last year and we saw it the year before that, that doesn’t matter as we dip into our choc box - Mmm! Delicious! Because who can resist the autumn selection chocolate box with its ever-popular flavours (mushroom, hazel nut, crab apple and cow pat)? - And as we settle down into the plush brown, lush brown leaf mould of our seats, there is a smell of anticipation in the air, and a faint whoosh as the entire swallow and martin population of Britain flies south for the winter...

“Where do you think you’ll be going this year?”

“Oh, I don’t know ... Egypt, perhaps? And you?”

“We’re trying Kenya this year - got a very nice one-up, one-down mud nest right in the centre of Nairobi! The traffic is dreadful but the insects are wonderful! See you next year!”

And meanwhile back in Britain it’s

Autumn!

And did you know that the hedgerows of the country are shrinking by 4% every year? Yes, 4%! Well, it’s nothing to do with me, but if hedges really are shrinking, I would have made them shrinkproof in the first place, yes, I would have, because there’s nothing worse than a tight shrunken hedge round your field, squeezing the chestnut trees till they go pop, leaving conkers all over the place, honestly, I don’t know, I try to keep the countryside tidy, I gave the place a good clean up this time last year, and look at it now! Same old leaf fall, same old mess, same old mellow fruitfulness! Same old

Autumn !

And here down the autumnal catwalk come next year’s fashions, reds and yellows, oranges and lemons, with the soundtrack playing that wonderful old song, “Where have all the flares gone?” Where indeed? Don’t look at me, ducky, I just work here. OUT go the long graceful evenings of summer. OUT go the warm soft days on the terrace, and IN come the hard-wearing autumn fabrics of heather and briar, because evenings are being worn longer and days are shorter these days, and the clocks are going back, and the calendars are appearing in the shops, and if autumn leaves, can winter be far behind?

Autumn !

Coming soon, to a hedgerow somewhere near you.

The Independent Tuesday Oct 5 1999