Good things about this time of year; because I have to remind myself, being essentially a spring creature and not an autumn and winter one.
Russet apples. Picasso painted them, I eat them. Their strange, furry-looking skins and rich-flavoured, firm flesh are a joy of the season. Like the wonderful Discovery and Worcester Pearmain, they are strictly seasonal and are one of my reasons for continuing to live in the UK. Seriously – British apples are a reason to live here. Try Spanish apples if you don’t believe me.
Autumn leaves. Do I need to say more? Sheer beauty, and all the evanescence of spring with the added poignancy of fading and ending instead of new life…
Booking tickets. I’m partway through a binge of bookings for concerts and ballet and opera for the winter. As the weather gets colder and the days get darker, at least I have lots of goodies to look forward to, from Vieux Farka Touré, to two new pieces premiering at the Royal Ballet,
to Stuart Skelton singing Boris in “Katya Kabanova” (can’t wait, can’t wait; have to wait, bah!).
Conifer pollen. I used to have dreadful hayfever in my twenties but it eased off gradually as the years went on, and by the time I started working at Kew it was a thing of the past. At this time of year a lot of coniferous trees are flowering, and if, like today, it is rainy (which is what they need, as it is via the action of raindrops that their flowers are pollinated), the paths and pavements around here are speckled and streaked with the pale gold dust of fallen pollen. It reminds me of the line in Seferis’ “A Word for Summer” – “A few pine needles left after the rains/Raggedly strewn, and red like tattered nets” – only with blonde pollen not rusty needles. As the rest of the northern hemisphere’s plant world thinks “Time to shut up shop for the winter”, conifers are going “It’s that time of year again – hey, let’s make babies!” On windy days the pollen dances off the trees in clouds, like millions of tiny blonde sprites leaping together into flight.
Evenings when the muse is tired, watching movies on my new dvd player. I tidied up my dvd collection last night, sorting it into feature films, opera and concerts, and ballet... In the process, whetting my appetite for a good wallow in all three categories. Next rainy evening, I think I might settle down to "Swan Lake", or possibly "The Devil's Backbone", or possibly "The Cunning Little Vixen" (which I have bought a new copy of since my old one has vanished into the unknown tender hands of someone else who likes Janacek...
Migratory birds. Redwings. Beautful geese flying in from the artic. Chilly afternoons at the London Wetland centre blowing on my numbed fingers, trying to draw Great Crested Grebes in their stark, spare winter plumage.
Winter walks in the arboretum here at Kew, listening to robins singing and nuthatches and goldcrests and long-tailed titmice trilling their signal calls, and soaking up the bleak, misty, dripping atmosphere under the dark pines.