I began this blog in the Springtime as the little leaves were budding outside my room, the daffodils formed a carpet in the shadows of the trees in the garden and the days grew longer and milder and promised a warm and bonny summer ahead.
This morning we turned our clocks back an hour and now we see out the summer with all the crazy commercial madness that Halloween has turned into over the past few years in the UK. Outside, the leaves are yellow and red, orange and brown; most days there is rain. The skies are often leaden, but the oppression of the grey is still elusive. There is still enough daylight and warmth to keep those sensations at bay. For now amidst the excitement of tricks and treats and then fireworks next weekend for Guy Fawkes night, then the (7 week) rush to Christmas, it will be some time before the winter really gets us down.
More significant perhaps than the details of the festivities of this particular season - the costumes, the pumpkins, the sweets - is the passage of time; the never-ending cycle of our lives that brings us once more to an Autumn.
There is a magic in the showers of rain that impede our outings. There is a frisson in the morning air. The crunch of leaves and the peril of uncollected dog droppings squelching beneath them is always exciting. The fairy lights and Christmas lights herald a joyful anticipation (and a huge anticlimax) as we approach the "holidays" and no matter how nostalgic or sad the short days and chill evenings may leave us feeling, we can always head to the shops for our fill of commercial and capitalist glee and purpose.
It is hard to be cynical when everyone else is so moved, so excited. The radio reported that 30% of the nation have begun stocking up on food for Christmas - spreading the cost - they said. (That's not all they will be spreading, thinks Springgirl.) The Off-Spring caught the Halloween bug in the communal garden some weeks ago. Long before October began, but shortly after the shops began selling the orange and black wrapped sweets and cards and faux spiders' webs (early September when the back to school shelves were depleted and the kids were off our hands once more), the collective imagination was seized by the notion of dressing as ghosts and ghoulies and asking the neighbours for sweets. Springgirl is not poo-pooing the occasion - hey, each to their own. It is just that celebrating without understanding the underlying meaning of an occasion always feels purposeless and wanton. Perhaps it is my convent upbringing....
So I explained to to two of the Off-Spring (well all three were present but one is not attending the trick or treating and sausage sizzle due to some naughty behaviour for which Springgirl is secretly grateful as she can also miss out...) that Halloween comes from the Celtic festival of Samhain (the end of the harvest and beginning of the "darker half" of the year) and the Christian holiday of All Saints' Day.
In that way the Off-Spring were warned that the sweets symbolised the end of the plentiful "light half" of the year and should thus be consumed sparingly (not all within 10 minutes tonight) and saved to cheer the dark days ahead.
"Oh come on Springgirl, lighten up," you may think. "You are always telling everyone to lighten up. It is just a bit of fun, some dressing up, some laughs."
I do have sympathy for our Parish church which sent a plaintive suggestion in the last two newsletters - a valiant attempt to shut the gate after the proverbial horse, firmly behind the cart, had strayed - that children might like to dress as saints.
Nevertheless, but for the communal garden, that richest source of community, entertainment and education in an urban landscape of anonymity and consumption, we would not be traipsing into this new territory. Unless one is constantly taking one's children shopping one can avoid much of the hype, after all. So I am grateful for this opportunity to inform them about times gone by and the union of the pagan with the Christian and the endless cycle of the seasons and man's courageous attempts to shackle and control the environment through marking such occasions, while I book a check up at the dentist.
Seriously though, I have always loved Autumn in the UK. The colours of the leaves and the crispness of the air are restorative and invigorating. The streets seem fresher despite the day's fall of leaves. The air seems purer despite the huddles of smokers drawing warmth from their cigarettes. The stars seem brighter, when one can get out of the city to see them. While much of the natural world prepares for sleep now, still more of it seems to teem with life and purpose.
So with renewed purpose and motivation I collect conkers and make apple crumbles and cobblers, soups and stews. I hunker down of an evening with rich pickings of programmes to catch up on. I baton down the hatches preparing for the storm of preparation for the seasonal celebrations at school (PTA busy season just around the corner) and I revel in the spring that comes into my step as the cool autumn winds blow out the cobwebs in my mind.
I have a new book idea to work on now, having finished "Tom's Dreamflight" and created a colourful and if I do say so myself, delightful, calendar of "Tess and the Seaside Girl". Turning to marketing them - well, what better to do on a cold grey Autumn Sunday than settle down with a good book (specially targeted at 8-11 year old boy readers). And how better to prepare the little ones for 2011 and all that lies in store than with a beautiful calendar of original prints depicting a little girl's seaside odyssey?
Best of all, it is raining now! As we prepare to venture to the country to visit friends we relish the prospect of donning the Wellington boots and splashing in puddles and squelching through mud (rather than dog-do), of sitting by an open fire perchance and sipping hot drinks brewed with love.
Alas, no trick or treating if it rains though...