I love this time of year. There is a wonderful Anne Lamott line somewhere about the welcome of the cooler air gathering closer to your skin after the impersonal heat blanket of summer. However far that season may have been a disappointment, there is a ring of truth about this observation. You open the door first thing in the morning, and, oh, it’s there, not a slap in the face, more like someone who has just drunk a long glass of water unexpectedly bending to kiss you on the top of your forehead.
We were at a festival over the weekend. For four boiling days we wore nothing but shorts and watched people scurry for any available shade. Even the waste bins sprouted mini-festivals of their own as people sat under them fanning themselves. A friend joked with me that whatever the weather was going to do after Bank Holiday Monday, Tuesday would mark the unofficial start of autumn. For us this came earlier than expected. Our beloved van Aggie decided to blow her exhaust in the manner of an ailing Lancaster bomber, somewhere south of Birmingham. Two tow trucks later we limped home at 3.30 am feeling decidedly less fresh than the breezes now picking up round our knees. Naturally, the next morning, it rained.
We have picked the next crop of blackberries. We have become reacquainted with long trousers. While concentrating at work for long periods is something of a struggle, there are unasked-for bonuses. We are in the season when colleagues still have time to lean in doorways talking about the summer, their plans for teaching, the possibilities of the new year ahead. This is the real new year, they say. January is about survival. And marking. September is for dreaming, having new ideas, forging new relationships with as yet invisible students. I say, Shall we get a coffee?
The robin who has sung confidently all summer seems louder than before, growing into her mazy solos with full-throated abandon. Apples drop from the tree with loud thuds as we try to negotiate a gentler fall towards sleep. Some of them hit the garden table instead, making a hollow, wooden rattle. The in-between-season nights are oddly warm, catching us out with too many layers. Two nights ago I heard geese honking as the sun set.