Falling For Autumn

It’s like in that movie Almost Famous – thousands of miles up in the air and I feel I’m about to die.  No, they haven’t asked me to pay for my drink, nothing so extreme as all that.  But it’s occurred to me that I’m bidding adieu to the sun.  It’s autumn now in the land of my birth.

One week away: it was nice.  No, it was better than nice – once again I thought to myself

“Bryson, why d’you live in the UK? It is warmer here on the continent; the food is better and cheaper too.  Why, from 1 shiny 5 Euro note one can procure a packet of cigarettes, an ice cold lager and a cup of coffee that bears only the slightest resemblance to that filth they serve in Blighty.  Add in some bacon for another Euro and you’ve covered the British-standard four food groups (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and processed meat).  One demurs at the thought of paying for the soothing balm of an afternoon in the arms of a representative of the oldest profession, but no doubt the kneecapping lawyers are less costly here too.”

Crass generalisation time, but no one worships the sun like a Brit.  We whine about the weather: it’s too cold, it’s too hot, will this rain never end, drought warning.  What can I say – we like to have our cake and complain about it.

But take your average Brit, stick him or her in a climate most would consider cool-to-moderate, and they’ll be out of their clothes quicker than you can pour their drink, fanning themselves ostentatiously and becoming irritated at the low standard of English spoken by the locals.

Variations on the theme of heavy cloud and ill wind – that’s what we know – insubstantial light.  The meteorological equivalent of a shrug.  But there’s one thing we traditionally have going for us.  We have seasons.

I’m a big fan of seasons, or at least the start of them, ringing the changes.  Winter is a time for heavy coats and natty jumpers, fires (which means splitting logs, one of my few ‘man’ skills) and euphemisms – ‘cozy’ being predominate amongst them.

Round these parts winter tends to hang on a little too long, although contrary to popular opinion January is in fact the bleakest month, not February, which is more like a houseguest that refuses to take the hint.  But when winter fades, the world comes alive again and we rediscover an emotion that other cultures refer to as optimism.

Mornings come with a dawn bombardment of birdsong, flowers happen and it’s lamb season, which is great for those who enjoy a side order of cruelty with their gastronomy.

Then at some point we all agree that it’s summer, ie it starts raining more heavily but us Brits are under starters orders to get out there in our shorts and undercook sausages in a perverted facsimile of a BBQ.  Summer is my favourite season, even if on average only about 2 weeks of it counts.

Or is it? Because then there’s autumn.  Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness as Keats would have it.  Before the leaves change colour when the UK is all lush greens – the one upside of our damp little climate – there’s a slight chill in the air, but nothing to get upset about.  There’s the smell of it, especially as the leaves start to change and then fall.  Regular season sports kick off in anger; school picks up again (ha ha, suckers).  Everything’s a little more alert, a little less sleepy before the long winter nap.

Autumn is traditionally associated with a kind of melancholy, with ageing; the possibilities of summer fade, and the depths of winter appear on the horizon.  There’s a final blaze of colour before all turns to greys and browns.  The nights draw in while the world packs up its things and turns in on itself.  Moody introspection rules the day.

Also, it’s back to school.

Personally, I don’t find it melancholy – that comes later when stepping on the scales in the post-Christmas period.  I’d hate to admit it, given my feelings towards the man’s predilection for the rhyming dictionary, but I’m with Keats on this.

For those who like their trivia trivial, autumn is the more modern word, not fall.  A certain type of Brit enjoys getting sniffy about American intrusions into ‘our’ language, ignoring the heavy influence of French, German and the like on modern British English.  Our rucksack is probably derived from a German word that is itself a conjunction of back and bag.  Other words we’ve purloined from abroad: disgust, manage, formidable.

As for autumn, there are some instances of its usage in the 12th century (it’s likely Latin in origin via old French), but it became popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Up to that point the most common word for the season August-October was harvest, similar to most of the rest of Western Europe.  The other word used was likely Norse in origin, via an old English word feallan, meaning to fail or decay or… fall.

But whatever one chooses to call it, and however others might choose to characterise it, it’s a fantastic (French via Latin) time of year (Old High German).

And I have a hunch that parents might agree.

__

PS: My word it’s my hundredth post. What have I learned? Nothing.

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11 thoughts on “Falling For Autumn

  1. I miss autumn. Here in South Florida there are no seasons…just two maybe: very hot and hot. This time of year the leaves do not change colors and eventually fall to ground. The trees and shrubs stay pretty much the same. The only way we know it is autumn is that I hang a flag with
    pumpkins on it over my garage and others may jumpstart he season with some Halloween decorations…but that’s it. No burning leaves, not rakes, not even a mug of hot apple cider.

    1. I feel your pain, but think I see a solution. You and your motley crew of buddies including Sean William Scott ditch college for a week and have a road trip to New England to see the pretty colour changes, during which odyssey you all get into some funny scrapes, possibly involving bodily fluids, and learn the odd valuable life lesson.

      Alternatively, Skype someone who does live in the cooler northern climes of your great nation, particularly when the weather is ‘orrible. Skype them outside while wearing a t-shirt and maybe eating some bbq.

      Say nothing, but laugh, slowly, at your respective meteorological fortunes.

      That’s what I’d do if I learned Skype and lived in Florida. It would be that or wrestle an alligator and between you and me I don’t really think I’d be any good at wrasslin’ ‘gators.

  2. I love nearly everything about autumn, I stop loving autumn when it starts to snow and proceed to believe my favorite season is summer until it’s actually summer. In the four years I’ve been done with school, I been grateful every single September when I don’t have to go back (even though I sort of miss it). Not surprisingly, I would not consider etymology trivial. (Also, you were right, season two of The Walking Dead is incredibly slow, but I am enjoying all the overwrought drama.)

    1. I stop loving autumn when I remember that summer actually is my favourite season and autumn is the furthest from it time-wise…

      At times you have to grit your teeth and plough on through WD – personally I found everything that directly involves the wife and kid to be extremely trying. Luckily their characters and/or the writing for their characters improve(s) in series 3 because otherwise you’d be thinking 2 bullets and you’ve saved yourself a ton of irritating grief.

      1. I stole “Falling for Autumn” for a work project (on fall bulb planting and color guide, exciting) – so thanks and sorry.

        It took three episodes for the kid to wake up. Three. I already struggle with the wife simply because she irritated me to no end in Prison Break. The Walking Dead hasn’t been any different, but, if you’re to be trusted, apparently it improves.

      2. Glad I could be of service…

        I am to be trusted, honest. Said the man with the shifty eyes. Yeah unfortunately they had quite serious budget problems in season 2 so they went with that whole slow-burn, soft focus character development thing, which means you get more time with characters you don’t necessarily like.

        And T Dogg.

        I like how he almost never says a word or gets more than 1 line an episode.

      3. Good thing we didn’t do something stupid – like shoot it.

        Or something along those lines. Basically, the whole zombie in a well scene…

  3. I enjoyed reading that being a Brit with some half Swiss that moved in and has almost taken over. I hesitate to pass any comments (I have a book full), but loved your references to us lot over the channel. By the way we speak Swiss German, so have our own words like “no problem”, “whatever” see even english is taking over here in the land of fondue, William Tell and Röschti.

    1. Comments are free as the Guardian says, so comment away…

      The plan is for English to take over everywhere – it’s necessary because our schools are bad at teaching languages (even English…)

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