With luck, mid- to late autumn can yield a real treat. The few weeks before the clocks go back exhibit an odd societochronological phenomenon (bless you!) whereby one can commute in the light of first a rising, then a setting, sun. Timing is all and by the grace of the gulf stream the weather has been perfect this year, giving us an Indian not-quite-summer, crisp with an admixture of the coming frosts.
Mornings have been yellow and green. Mists have clung to the hedges, occasionally venturing in the road to sting my cheek like an ephemeral branch. The air has smelt bitingly fresh and sometimes as verdant as early spring. Evenings, meanwhile, have seen the sun lower itself like a tired man into a bath, as the hills turn golden and the low light picks out the branchy hedgerows, carpets of leaves and occasional deer. Evenings smell of the day, countryside and earth, and their toasted, orange-brown cideriness balances the next morning’s thin, sweet perry.
Not for long, though, as the clocks go back this weekend. Already the weather seems to know it: clouds and rain have sensed the approaching annual hunkerdown, and are drawing in like the nights themselves, curtaining our view of the summer gone.
Late autumn isn’t as cheery as a good Christmas or a buzzing, cloudless summer’s day; but to merely tolerate it is a waste. Pack up the picnic sets, the cycling shorts and the barbecues, by all means. But bring out the lanterns and the spices, the cosy nights in and the walks through piles of leaves. Pour out the perry and cider, uncork the wine and the port, and ready the whiskies and brandies to come.