Thursday, 6 October 2016


I get all excited when autumn starts and I'm not really sure why. I can be spotted (indeed was, this week) collecting conkers on the side of the road, running my thumb over their highly polished brown skins, massaging off the soft white vernix, wondering how long till they'll decay, taking photos of them in sunshine, still harbouring anger at the banning of conker fights in schools, circa 2002.

Some people think that seasons correspond to personalities; you can be a summer person, or an autumn person, etc., and there's a whole colour/fashion/make up course (Colour Me Beautiful) that's linked to this conviction (explored in a previous post

Maybe it's true that I'm an autumn person, but apart from having light brown-ish hair (with imagined copper highlights) and brown eyes, are there also character traits that accompany being 'an autumn person'?

I have applied some pop psychology to myself and reflected upon three reasons I might feel drawn to autumn above other seasons. If you feel the same, maybe you're an autumn person too, with your own fascinating reasons for being autumn-y. In which case, don't wear navy or scarlet. They're NOT autumn colours, unsurprisingly.

Why do I feel drawn to autumn?

1. School days.

Maybe the mention of school days makes you think of summer, those lazy hazy days in the playground, sitting under a tree if you were lucky, doing 'he loves me, he loves me not' with a daisy head (yes, this is what girls do). Or if they were bleak, your school days may remind you of winter. Spring brings to mind revision, so we instantly forget that season, and are left, therefore, with autumn.

In addition, if, like me, you became a primary school teacher, or had kids who were good at singing, you could well be drawn to autumn simply because of this one fact: that all time best kids assembly song, 'Autumn Days', with the smash lyrics:

'Autumn days when the grass is jewelled
and the silk inside a chestnut shell,
Jet planes meeting in the air to be re-fuelled (is that even possible, I'm now wondering)
All these things I love so well
Oh, I mustn't forget, no I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you, I mustn't forget.'

2. Conkers.

A memorable three years of my school life consisted of walking up an extraordinarily steep hill on both sides of which grew horse chestnut trees. My school memories are all bound up with those trees and their autumn fruit, stooping down to collect them, planning fights with my brother, feeling like they were so much treasure, a veritable free windfall of burnt umber. 

About aged ten, I went conker hunting with my grandfather in suburban north London. We took a bag, walked round the municipal golf course and loaded ourselves up with a modest but well earned brown shiny cache. One street from home, a woman came out of a house with a huge bag, on the way to the dustbin. The bag was full of conkers. Seeing our own, much smaller haul, she offered the bag to us and we took it, hesitatingly. It seemed to me, who had been brought up with a Protestant work ethic, something of a cheat, a benevolent bounty we had not deserved, which spoke of the mysterious, even risque. But we took it anyway.

3. Something ending, something beginning.

Here we get more metaphysical, but feeling drawn to autumn has to do with its being the season than most resonates with our humanity. Summer is over, stuff is going to die, and yet I find I'm often more relaxed about it than sad. One may as well be realistic. Summer is heralded by protracted ends of term, outdoor social events - in wealthy Thames valley, anyway - ever more splendid, and/or exhausting, depending on how you look at them; holidays away - more planning, travelling, angst about how to get sun, and for me, dreaded airplanes; ill fitting skimpy clothes and women's figures. I greet all this with less enthusiasm than the autumn back to school routine, children growing up into new classes, trees relaxing into brown and gold, a nip in the air. 

Because after something is ending, something new can begin. Out of all the seasons, autumn is the most like actual life: not always summery and happy, but it's not all bleak either. Such a life is viewed with what Richard Rohr calls 'a bright sadness' (Falling Upward, p. 117).

And so on this National Poetry Day, I concur with Wordsworth's admission to being:  

'a melancholy (...) that lov'd
A pensive sky, sad days, and piping winds,
The twilight more than dawn, Autumn than Spring' (The Prelude, p. 90).

School days, conkers, and endings/beginnings. Three reasons to wish you a happy autumn.

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