I seem to always wax lyrical about October. Maybe it’s because it was always my favourite month. The vibrant colour changes and the fresh crisp mornings; the windfalls of fruits and nuts; the darkening nights and mornings.
At an earlier age, the walk (yes walk!) to primary school on such mornings was an adventure. Tramping up the steep tree lined hill that was Hillside Drive, kicking leaves and enjoying the different textures underfoot; mud, leaves, plums, berries, nuts, all manner of tree detritus. Then even at the top of the hill and onto Acrefield Road we (Susi Kayle and I) would enjoy the stroll towards Doreen Pownall’s the Newsagents (now a tanning salon!) picking up conkers, beech nuts and avoiding the gaze of the gargoyle on Woolton Lodge. (Do not allow the gargoyle to see ye lest ye be turned to stone which, although utter bollocks, is pretty powerful stuff to tell an eight or nine year old). Stopping briefly to purchase some sweets from old Doreen we would then turning up Mason Street past the Woolton Cinema, up the slippery leaf covered Yorkshire stone pavement and towards St Mary’s Church Car park. Beyond which, the Grotto of St Mary and school.
The walk home would take a similar route, though naturally in reverse (but this does not mean we were walking backwards). This time the journey would be garnished with a variety of odours. Piles of leaves, lovingly swept together during the day by elderly groundsmen and caretakers smouldering away; the rich and warming smell of coal fuelled fireplaces to welcome the better off middle classes home from their hard day at work; the earthy smell of decaying leaves. A most pleasant miasmal tapestry added to by the aroma of home cooking once through the front door.
The welcoming warmth of the central heating soon turned into an uncomfortable scramble out of school jumpers (not for use as goal posts) and I would often turn my attentions to the television set. Fuelling my imagination with all manner of Children’s TV (mostly British made) a splattering of cartoons and a healthy dose of drama and current affairs. You could set your watch by how dinner would almost always be ready just as Grange Hill or something equally as involving was about to start. Of course TV in the kitchen only occurred when my mother discovered Neighbours in the late 80’s and so conversation would flow with discussions of lancing Mrs Henderson’s boil, Mr Jones’ infected wounds (my mother was a district nurse) and other such tea time treats.
When ever I think of my childhood, whenever I think of autumn it is a mix of events during this period of my life. I have no idea why. Nothing major or unforgettable ever occurred then. Autumn now is nothing like it was then. I no longer have to walk to school; Susi Kayle, who I haven’t seen since she was 27, now drives a chunky people carrier; and most of the fruit and conker trees on Acrefield Road and Hillside Drive have been chopped down by incomers. But here in South Yorkshire, in the sleepy “village” I live there are some vague remains of similarities. There are fruit and nut trees in the back lane; People still burn coal round here; yet as each night gets darker, I get that comfy autumnal feeling. I long for a roaring log fire, a healthy sweater, a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallow floating in the top….treacle toffee…cinnamon and nutmeg flavoured thingies…:-)