Ah – Autumn!

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Silver birch, off A830 ‘Road to the Isles’, a little west of Glenfinnan.

So that’s what autumn looks like. Now I remember!

One of the interesting things about island life is that there few trees make it to anything like maturity here. High winds are one evident reason – but sheep are, more prosaically, the more substantial other; new and fragile shoots tending to dislike the tender ministries of either.

Consequently, the usual seasonal markers – leaves turning red, yellow, gold and brown in autumn; and spring green in, well, spring – are absent. (Hallowe’eners, too, probably, although that’s a different story of which depopulation is one aspect; as indeed, and most sadly for me, is likely to be Bonfire Night: fireworks and the prevalence of strong winds doth not a good mix make.) Crofters clearly have plenty of seasonal work which occupies them at different times of the year, and they clearly know when it is spring and when it is autumn. But for us townies, with temperatures running if certainly not at a constant level but otherwise within a fairly small range, it can be a little disorienting – darker in winter, for sure; and definitely lighter, for much longer, in summer; and respectively somewhat colder, and then somewhat warmer (while, moving away from temperatures, the more keen-eyed of us can note changes in the constitution of the bird population) – but otherwise time passes with nature giving the casual observer few of the usual visual cues as to the point each year has reached.

Returning to the mainland for a couple of days at the weekend, I was struck by the autumn colours of Perthshire (and, here, Inverness-shire). (And, by the way, this does look to have been a spectacularly good autumn.) Within the good City of Perth, the North Inch (Why is Perth the smallest city? Because it lies between two Inches.) looked lovely, as indeed did the roads between Perth and Mallaig, from where we caught CalMac’s MV Lord of the Isles yesterday afternoon for a happy, if slightly choppy, return home. And to pretty much the same greens and slightly mucky yellows that we had left behind and which will, presumably, be the same colours for quite a bit longer. They’re welcome too – though I do miss the drama and the beauty of autumn: normally my favourite time of year as nature gets ready for the glories of spring’s new growth by claiming, in an all-consuming bonfire, what has already had its day.

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7 thoughts on “Ah – Autumn!

  1. Seasons of Mist indeed, although, looking out the window this morning, it’s yet another slightly less romantic Downright Foggy one!!

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    1. Thanks for the comment! That’s also what I love about this time of year: things are changing so much. And the season of mellow fruitfulness does bring cider 🙂

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      1. Interesting that a Google search of Season of Mist brings nary a mention of Keats on the first page, nor even of cider 🙂

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      2. No indeed! I don’t know what you get, but I get stacks of references to and for Season of Mist, an indie record label (yes) based in France (yes, yes) but specialising in… heavy metal. Oh. What is there lurking in my search history to give me that?! 🙂 No Keats on the first three pages for me, either – the only thing to break up the wall-to-wall heavy metal is a reference to a work by a US novelist (and good luck to him!).

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  2. I am sure you will remember Bonfire Nights (or an evening close to!) when we all went to Nanny & Grandad’s house at Winnersh for the spectacular Bonfire Night with plenty of fireworks and a good bonfire around which we ate jacket potatoes and other such goodies. I know you always enjoyed the evening. I had always been frightened by the noisy fireworks, even as a child when my Father used to love Bonfire Night (I know where you get your love of firework night from) I would have been much happier watching from the upstairs window than down in amongst the rest of the friends and neighbours who had all clubbed together to put on a good display. The bangers always made me jump, and still do, so I must admit I tend to stay indoors when there are displays going on. My favourite part of the evening was when all the fireworks had gone and we sat round the bonfire warming ourselves and eating the goodies supplied by Nanny.

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    1. I do, indeed: I always looked forward to Bonfire Night for weeks beforehand. I think the attraction would be a mixture of the cold and the dark nights; being allowed to stay up late; the bursts of light and sound as the fireworks went up (or round… or off); and then the flames from a sizable garden bonfire, aided by old wardobes and a splash or two of something from a plastic can, as it ate the guy which always sat on top. Dad would always light the fireworks, and mix them up to get a display of colour and noise better than any organised one; sausage rolls, and jacket potatoes, and your quiches; never tasted better; and I think I can remember a few unofficial viewers from the estate at the back, as well!

      And definitely, yes – at the end it would definitely get very mellow; Grandad would accept the jokes about the guy having worn his best jacket; and there would be plenty of chat about the (love) letters that had been found in the old wardrobe. There’d be few of us left in the conversation but I felt a part of it – the garden became my back room. And, now you mention it, I can remember watching the display one year from the back room when the weather was poor.

      Now, the traditions have shifted (the creeping dominance of US culture; and the need for retailers to sell us more things) and it’s all about Hallowe’en. I think the last time I saw lads collecting a ‘penny for the guy’ was in Gateshead and that would have been about thirty years ago. The last few years there’s always been a good display in Perth (on the South Inch, this time) organised by the Round Table, and we’ve always caught that but I suspect I’ll need to review some old pictures this year. But I’ll keep a weather eye open and report further!

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      1. I only remember the nights down the road from Nan and Grandad’s, at 432… and a certain cousin being incandescent with rage at onlookers in surrounding bedrooms daring to view “our” display… the tin that securely contained the fireworks that we were dared to open on pain of being banished indoors and the Catherine Wheels that often refused to live up to their names!! Happy times indeed…

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