Saturday, 15 September 2012
September has turned into the best month for riding – the shortening days however, impart an urgency as well as inspiration. Or perhaps it is just that the muse is more bird than goddess: she shakes herself and takes wing now, as the hills change tones and the leaves colour and no day is a settled thing. In September they are all kaleidoscopes of lights and moods.
If there is nothing so disappointing as a treat cancelled, then nothing so exhilarates like an unexpected pleasure. So farewell to the wettest summer in a century, good riddance to soaking, sodden August, and welcome, sweet September, time of colour, variety and invigoration. I am back from a ride of 20 miles or so, the air was warm and the sun strong if low. Nothing in the way of wind to worry me, just the happiness and freedom of being out.
September is a wonderful month. If years are rivers then the season’s turn to autumn is a widening, bubbling confluence, that point when currents mingle, reaches broaden, when the light flares like a candle before it gutters out. Now there will be new faces in classrooms and offices, fresh starts, new seasons of programmes and new films. Here come new clothes, new fashions and new books in the shops. Parents can relax while teachers take over. Airfares tumble, hotels have vacancies, beaches unclutter and lovers steal weekends and take city breaks. Weathermen can drop their apologies: suddenly the country is a mosaic of microclimates. Gardeners will tidy up, salvage what remains and burn the refuse. Between the flies dying off and the cold closing in, farmers can ease up for once. Here come days with suggestive scents and skies of many blues: pale azure and cool cerulean.
You might not feel like admitting it now, but if you really wanted to live in the land of the midday sun, where one screaming summer day is the same as the last and the next, where the nights are all sweat and mosquitoes, then presumably you would have moved there. Instead you choose to live in our temperate latitude, in a country of anticyclones, maritime winds, fleet brilliance and gallivanting cloud. Nevertheless, it would be very kind if we could have some more Indian summer weekends now, when the sunlight feels like the blessing it is. Lack of sun has bowed us a bit: a lady outside the chemist’s told my mother she feared she would get rickets. She is thinking about going away. That is one option. Or you could cycle - into our hills or out to the lakes, looking up to the sky and sun and tracking the year’s change as it comes.
The swifts are gone already, the cuckoos, chiffchaffs and nightingales will follow. Their departures are good signs, signals that the globe is still working. In their place the geese will come, the waders, redwings and fieldfares. Rooks will switch to their autumn roosts and starlings band together at dusk. The winds will rise as the light angles more obliquely: a sailor told me he has noticed many more gales around Britain in the past 20 years. There will be mad-flung days when children are as skittish as kittens, and there will be still, clear ones, with bonfire smoke streaming straight up.
If the Gods are jealous of us it is because we die, and therefore live more vitally. Watch people walk under tumbling leaves, observe the swallows gathering on the wires, see the strewn skies and feel the first pinch of cold in the wind. Life is not a summer of rains nor a winter of snows. But it might just be a jumbled, dappled thing like a September day, changeable, vigorous, blowing and tilting between one thing and another and full of sensation.
I'll be going out again tomorrow.