As I walked through woodland this morning amid a cascade of falling leaves, it was clear that Autumn is very much here again. September has been a time for harvest but also the last throes of summer-style travel and partying. I now see October as a time for buckling down for some rather delayed home-based administration and task tidy up before our next trip to Edinburgh in November and then the excitement of Christmas.
September was certainly busy and was capped last weekend by a long-delayed visit to us by my Dad and my sister. That was quietly relaxing and allowed my Dad to catch up with developments in our house since his last, pre-Covid visit, and meet up with a few other local relatives. It also allowed us to jointly celebrate Middle Son (MS) and his partner moving into their newly-purchased, pretty, terraced house in Bristol. A few days ago, that hard-won purchase suddenly seemed in jeopardy as the Government made a big misstep that caused interest rates to surge and mortgage deals to be pulled from the market. Our very happy afternoon with MS and his partner was blessed by Virgin Money’s forbearance and lovely sunshine.
Earlier in the month, not only did I manage to visit London and Edinburgh, but I also attended Long-Suffering Wife’s (LSW’s) college reunion with a bunch of her fellow physiotherapy students 40 years on from their graduation in Leeds.
The reunion was held in Buxton which I had not visited for decades. We stayed in a very comfortable and central hotel (The Buxton Crescent Hotel) which produced substantial breakfasts and very good evening meals for the group. The whole event over a long weekend was an enjoyable mix of free time, a long walk across the local Peak District, and organised eating, drinking and socialising both in the hotel and in nearby bars and restaurants. There were a few other (non-physio) partners of LSW’s fellow graduates in attendance so I didn’t feel too out of place. There was a wide variety of personalities, and everyone was interesting in some way. It was a nice thing to do and LSW really enjoyed the mass catch-up.
Buxton itself is a lovely spa town with many impressive Georgian and Victorian limestone buildings – like a smaller version of Bath, which we know well, and similar to Harrogate which we visited on the way to Edinburgh last year. The evening/night life was surprisingly lively and well catered for by a large number of busy and interesting craft beer bars. We sampled a couple of those with and without the reunion entourage.
On our ‘free day’, LSW and I went off for a fairly long but pleasant drive to Hardwick Hall. It’s an impressive late-Tudor building surrounded by attractive gardens that I recall – as I do Buxton – from holidays with my parents very many years ago. The weather was kind, the afternoon was lovely and it was great to get value from the life National Trust Membership that my parents bought us so generously when, I think, we got married.
Back in our home village, my schedule has been peppered by the normal smattering of walks, gardening, short shifts at the local Food Bank, my team’s football matches and Men’s Mental Fitness nights (which have helped salve the depression cause by the poor football results!).
LSW and I also went to a film showing – ‘Drawn to War’, a film about the life and work of the painter and Second World War artist Eric Ravilious. It was our first cinema outing together of the year and was very enjoyable due both to the content of the film and the novelty of the evening outing.
However, the recent Autumn highlight in the village was a substantial, superbly organised and hugely entertaining 50th birthday party of a friend of ours. The invitees were a mix of her relatives, long standing friends and more recently acquired friends from the village like ourselves. The entertainment was a combination of a bar, a wonderful buffet, an open sided marquee with a dance floor, a DJ, a couple of fire eaters (believe it or not – see below!) and varied, if increasingly inebriated, conversation. I’ve not danced so much for a decade and LSW and I both had great fun.
September has also been a time when I have reaped a harvest of onions and potatoes. Both have been surprisingly productive given the lack of rain during much of the summer. That shortage of rain hampered bean germination but judicious watering has saved some of the squash and chard.
Also, the dry, hot summer enabled me to grow a lot of tomatoes in an open vegetable plot for the first time since I left my allotment in London 25 years ago. Inevitably perhaps, most of the tomatoes are very green but, with our climate inexorably warming, I will try tomato growing again next year.
Finally, as I have in previous years, I find I have to comment on the late summer/early autumn flowering of our remaining two dahlia plants. I have simply never enjoyed cutting flowers and then displaying them in our kitchen/diner so much as I have these Café Au Lait dahlias. Their blooms are large, subtly coloured and, once they start, simply go on and on until the first frost. Now we are in October, those frosts will come soon enough but, for now, these dahlias continue to be a splendid echo of summer and a thoroughly rewarding aspect of Autumn.