Keats has a lot to answer for, if you ask me. His poem, To Autumn, is quoted so often – or at least, the first line is – that we all believe the hype.
‘Ah, it’s autumn,’ we say with blissful sighs.
‘Oh, I love autumn!’
‘It’s my favourite season.’
‘All those beautiful colours.’
I have only one reply to all those comments, but I’m not sure how to spell the written equivalent of blowing a raspberry.
Because, unlike just about everyone else that I know, I don’t like autumn. There, I’ve said it. Now I’ll just sit here and wait while you all shriek at me in horror and tell me I’m soulless and don’t know what I’m missing.
Finished? Good. Let me explain.
I didn’t always dislike autumn. When I was a kid it was a magical time. Autumn back then brought such magic into my life. At primary school, we would go out onto the field and collect pine cones and fallen leaves to make displays for the classroom. We’d paint pictures of trees, dressed in their russet finery, and play conkers. The boys, especially, took great pride in their conker collection and seemed to enjoy smashing their opponents’ prize specimens to pieces.
Autumn, back in those days, seemed to always bring fog. Some years it was so bad that the school issued fluorescent orange armbands that our mothers had to sew onto our coat sleeves. We’d trudge blindly to school, unable to see even the person directly in front of us, the fog was so thick. The cold would seep through our bones, and we’d arrive at the school freezing cold but full of excitement – because thick fog to us was exciting. I remember being disappointed on the days the fog didn’t appear!
Autumn was the time to look forward to Hull Fair. The biggest travelling fair in Europe (it may still be, I haven’t checked), it was the most exciting thing to happen all year, apart from Christmas. We’d get the bus into Hull and try not to feel sick as more and more people got on board the closer we got to the fair, and we couldn’t see out of the windows because it was dark and usually rainy. That was nothing to how sick we felt when we actually went on the rides, mind you.
One year, my dad thought it would be funny to take us on the waltzers. Me, my mum and my sister felt so sick and dizzy when we got off that he had to take us home. No chance to win a goldfish or a coconut. No bags of brandy snap or toffee apples or candy floss. No rides or visits to the various attractions. We didn’t see much of the fair that year at all. Cheap year for Dad. Maybe that was his cunning plan …
The fair ran from Saturday to Saturday, but closed on the Sunday. We always went on a Thursday because it was Dad’s payday, which meant I had to wait almost until the end of the week to visit, and was often one of the last of my class to go. I would watch enviously as my friends arrived at school each day, showing off with the latest “in” toy. There was always a different gimmicky “thing” that everyone had to have from the fair. One year it was clackers. Remember those? Hard plastic balls on string that eventually got banned they were so dangerous? One particular year it was a long crimped plastic tube that you swirled round and round and it would issue a weird wailing noise. I waited all week to get one of those and duly brought it to the school on the Friday morning, only to have it snatched out of my hand by some stray dog who ran with it onto the school field and completely destroyed it. Devastating!
Apart from the fair, we had bonfire night looming. Unlike just about every child in the kingdom, I hated fireworks. I was terrified of them and still am. My mum was scared of them, too, and so Dad used to give my sister and me a choice. We could go to the local bonfire party and watch the fireworks, or we could have some money and go to the toyshop at the weekend and choose a toy. The toy won, no contest, though one year we were exceptionally brave and had some sparklers in the back garden!
But the preparations for bonfire night and Hallowe’en were part of the autumn fun at school, and I have such fond memories of them. Not to mention the famous Harvest Festival. “We Plough the Fields and Scatter” and “Come Ye Thankful People, Come”. I loved those hymns and still smile when I hear them. Every year we’d have a service in the school assembly hall and sing them, and we’d each bring an item of food from home, which we’d add to the pile on the table at the back of the hall, so that the teachers could pack them into small hampers to be delivered to local pensioners. My mum always sent me with a tin of spaghetti! I hope the local pensioners liked it because they seemed to get a lot of it in their hampers, along with tinned macaroni, tinned vegetable soup, and tinned garden peas.
But I haven’t been to the fair – or a Harvest Festival – in years. I spend Bonfire Night reassuring my poor, shaking dog, and cursing the fireworks. You never see fog any more, and it’s been a long time since I played with any conkers. (Ooh, matron!) Autumn has long since lost its charm.
My husband, my friends, and just about everyone on Facebook seems to adore autumn. And I get it, I really do. Sort of. That is, I understand the idea of autumn. A bit like I understand the idea of snow …
You see, snow is all very beautiful and magical and romantic when it’s falling, and the pavements are white and sparkling and everything looks so clean and wonderful. But give it a few hours when it’s been walked or driven on and it’s all slushy and brown and wet, and you’ve fallen over a few times, and your car’s stuck and you can’t get to work on time, and people are beginning to get grouchy and cross, and your gas bill is going up and up because you can’t stand the cold and have to have the central heating turned up … Snow, to me, should only fall on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. After that, it should be illegal.
And the thing is, with autumn – like with snow – the idea of it is beautiful. All those gorgeous orange and brown and golden shades. All that crispness and freshness and crunchy leaves underfoot and shining conkers on the ground and clear skies and …
But the truth is, as I’m writing this, it’s pouring with rain outside. The skies are dark and heavy. I’ve drawn the blinds and put the lamp on and it’s not even teatime. It’s damp and miserable and gloomy. When I go outside, I see piles of dead leaves and they don’t look pretty and gorgeous. They look messy and annoying. Everything looks scruffy and seems to be decaying. I want someone to come along with a giant vacuum cleaner and hoover the whole lot up.
At least in winter it’s tidy. There’s a certain beauty to the stark, bare bleakness of winter. Autumn is just – grubby. And it means we’re a long, long way from my favourite time of year which is spring. Now spring is wonderful! Fresh green leaves, blossom, daffodils, lambs, chicks, new life. Spring is hopeful. A clean page. A fresh start. I just can’t feel the same way about autumn.
Autumn just reminds me that we have a long, difficult winter ahead of us. That the nights will get darker earlier and that we’ll wake up each morning to more darkness. I understand the tradition and the symbolism of autumn and I respect it, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about it, and no amount of pretty photographs of russet and gold leaves is going to change that.
Is it just me? Am I really the only person who can’t get excited about autumn? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. You’re going to tell me I’m alone in this, aren’t you … Oh well. Such is life.
Before I go, I must tell you in case you hadn’t seen it, that my latest book, The Other Side of Christmas, is out now and you can buy it for just 99p or read it for FREE with Kindle Unlimited! It’s a cosy, snuggly sort of read, perfect for passing an hour or two when you’re stuck indoors because of all that miserable autumn weather. Ha! You can buy it here.
Have a great week!