Dear Readers, I am still catching up with Nature’s Calendar (this is the topic for 23rd to 27th October, oops), but I was intrigued to hear that Vita Sackville-West, garden writer and poet, had a phrase ‘top-note through leavery’ – this meant the simple pleasures to be had on stomping through leaves in the autumn. She was very definite about what this meant though, as Lulah Ellender describes in the book:
‘the small but intense pleasure of walking through dry leaves and kicking them up as you go. They rustle; they brustle; they crackle – and if you can crush some beech nuts underfoot at the same time, so much the better. But beech nuts aren’t essential. The essential is that you should tramp through very dry, very crisp brown leaves’.
Well, it’s all very well and good, Vita, but clearly autumn was a bit drier in the 1930s because when I went out for today, what we basically have in the County Roads is a kind of leaf paste. We have just finished Storm Babet (though people in the north-east and Scotland are still suffering) and later this week it’s our turn as Storm Ciaran comes careering in from the Atlantic and wreaks havoc along the south coast. Not much chance of a rustle or brustle around here, more of a squelch.
Still, there is something rather fine about the leaf fall in autumn regardless of the weather, as all that now unneeded biomass falls from the branches and ends up in the gutter. Along the road there are shades of chestnut and copper, ruby and saffron. The crab apples are a bit of a trip hazard, but no doubt they will soon mulch down and disappear. The clocks went back yesterday, and the sun won’t set after 6 p.m. until 24th March 2024.
And so, if the leaves aren’t as pleasing to scuffle through as maybe they used to be, what sensory pleasures can we look forward to? Here are a few of my favourites, feel free to add your own…
- Drawing the curtains and putting on the ‘little lights’ – my Mum was a great believer that every room should have a ‘rosy glow’ in the corner somewhere to make it a bit more welcoming
- Snuggling up in front of Masterchef the Professionals, and laughing uproariously at Gregg Wallace every time he says exactly what Markus Wareing said 10 seconds earlier.
- Reading! When it’s bright and sunny I always feel as if I should be out and about doing something energetic, but autumn and winter mean that I can get stuck into my book mountain. I’ve just finished Emily Wilson’s translation of The Iliad (I don’t know why I love this brutal tale of a bunch of men-children, but I do) and will shortly be getting stuck into a book about art in Venice.
- Knitting – I have lots of projects for friends to complete and I have been a bit lax lately, so it’s time to pick up the needles again
- Watching the birds on the feeders, and hoping that some actually use the teasel heads that I’m leaving on until next spring. I usually cut everything back about now, but I’ve decided to take my own counsel and leave it until early spring next year. Let’s see what happens.
- Hot chocolate! If you can’t drink hot chocolate in November, I don’t know when it’s permissible. No skin on the top though, please. That’s an abomination.