Coal smoke and kippers

The farmers’ market is full of strange squash and gourds and pumpkins of every color, shape and size.

IMG_3870Autumn –  mists and melancholy, falling leaves and nostalgia – is a time for memories.

Mists that burn off by mid-morning and skeins of geese and migrating birds. Dark evenings when you can still play outside exhilarated by the chill, and the smell of coal fires and grilled kippers for Saturday tea.

Autumn is gathering baskets of hazelnuts in Savernake Forest,  sackfuls of conkers at Westonbirt Arboretum, and late blackberries everywhere. Harvesting late crops, garden clean-up and compost building and saving everything possible for the great bonfire on November 5th.

In school the harvest ritual includes singing:

“All is safely gathered in

Ere the winter storms begin.”

Yet outside – the reality of grain fields still unharvested. But it doesn’t matter. We have brought our parsnips, marrows and michaelmas daisies and placed them on the front table.

But of all these, one moment stands out and it’s London I remember. Off the Metropolitan line train at Westbourne Park and turn right onto Tavistock Crescent where the houses – long condemned and now demolished – loom over the street lights. It’s almost dusk, and a few dusty plane leaves scuttle along the pavement. It’s a Friday in late September and I’m in the big city and just starting my career as a teacher.

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