The Advent of Autumn

Autumn has been my favourite time of year for as long as I can recall. I love the weather; the cool crispness of the air, the colour of the leaves, the smell of bonfires, the comfortable feeling of being inside on a dark evening. After a week of drizzle and occasional showers which turned the canal towpath to a sea of mud, this weekend has been perfect. Yesterday afternoon I met up with a friend who had borrowed a dog from a man at church and we tramped round yet another new park. It was just warm enough not to need coats and just cool enough not to be tiring. Oddly there weren’t many people out; at one point the children’s playground had mysteriously emptied, which was useful for us as it meant we felt safer letting the dog off his lead (fortunately, he knew where the dog biscuits were and always came back when we called him!).

It’s been a bit of a mixed week, as I’m finding it hard to adjust to the new schedule, and the structure of my new degree, so it was lovely to just be outside with a friend and a dog enjoying the sunshine and not having to worry about anything more than a few self-important geese. In the evening I was babysitting for two boys whose mother I randomly met in the local shop last week; the boys were both sound asleep when I arrived so I spent four hours doing a bit of studying, reading Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and enjoying the treat of being in a house with more than one room, sitting on a real sofa.

It’s funny really; after the number of dead ends I’ve followed in the search for a babysitting job, the unexpected encounter in a shop seems likely to be the one that actually turns into a semi-regular arrangement. By coincidence the family attend the same church as me, although I have been going to the evening services while they are normally at the morning ones so we hadn’t met before. They’re also close by, unlike the people who have contacted me wanting a regular babysitter. One was honest enough to tell me that I wasn’t reliable enough (I was upfront about the fact that I couldn’t promise every weekend, due to my university placements) and the other never emailed me back, so either I charge too much or they need more certainty of hours.

This morning I was up bright and early because I’d volunteered to be a marshal for the running club’s annual 10k race. I had thought about running it myself as preparation for the half marathon but in the end they seemed to need marshals more than I wanted to race! I was stationed very near the finish line, so I encouraged people as they came round for their first lap and cheered them on at the end of the second. There was a moment of drama when one participant collapsed a little further back along the route; someone running past told me and I sprinted over, mentally reviewing my emergency first aid training, but I have to admit I was relieved to arrive and discover that another runner had stopped and got him into the recovery position. She turned out to be a nurse, so I stayed to help her and took mental notes for future reference. It was the first time I’d encountered a situation where first aid would have been useful, and I don’t think I was really prepared for it.

Fortunately he didn’t seem injured; we didn’t know what had caused him to collapse but it was an unusually warm day, it was his first race and he had been running pretty hard. The ambulance team arrived to take over and he seemed to be recovering but I was glad he was in professional hands just in case. Heartbreakingly, once he had come round enough to realise what had happened he was desperate to be allowed out of the ambulance to run the final half mile and finish the race. All I can hope is that he is able to do another 10k soon and complete it. It was a salutory experience both from the first aid perspective (time to read over my handbook again) and because I’ll be attempting twice that distance in two weeks and would prefer to make it to the end! If you’d like to sponsor me and give me even more impetus to keep plodding on, my JustGiving page is here and I’d really appreciate it – I’m running on behalf of the Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

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A Basket of Apples

This time of year is my favourite season, and we are in the middle of my favourite academic term. When I said that to another student they said “it’s the furthest we are from exams” but that isn’t really the reason for me, although it helps. I love the anticipation of a new year; I enjoy starting my new subjects and meeting my new supervisors. The weather isn’t perfect, but it is still light in the early evenings and the air is crisp. I like scuffling through fallen leaves and walking along in my new winter coat, enjoying the warmth compared to the chill of the air. I like the slowly-building excitement as we move towards Halloween, Bonfire Night, Advent and Christmas. November is probably my favourite month ever – even though it is often my busiest, as the writing group I run kicks up a gear for NaNoWriMo and my academic work continues to roll along. Choir gets more demanding with carol services and extra rehearsals, and the days get shorter.

Next week British summertime officially ends. My summer ended the day I landed back in the UK and walked off the plane into my favourite season: autumn. I don’t miss the hot days and the bright sunshine at all. Instead of air conditioning and camping I have fruitful harvest of the choir’s annual apple-picking expedition, ready for an industrious morning tomorrow of quince jam-making and apple-crumble baking. Friends come to visit: this weekend it was KT, and in a few weeks I will be heading off for the weekend myself, to spend some time with my mum and her almost-unbroken wrist. I’ve already got the Christmas vacation almost planned, with train tickets booked back north and a definitive date for my Norwegian friend Jens to arrive for Christmas itself. In a fortnight I will pack up a picnic lunch, find my bike helmet and cycle off with Heidi, another chapel warden, to visit a National Trust property on its last open Saturday of the season. The week after I will dig out my waterproof trousers and help to preserve some of the local fens. The last Saturday of term heralds what might be the most peculiar choir commitment of the year: a wedding followed by a trip to Brighton beach for fish and chips, almost certainly in the pouring rain. And then term will end and it hardly feels as though it has started.

Autumn does have its downsides. I don’t enjoy the dark evenings, or walking through a mist so heavy it might as well be raining. I have to dither every morning over whether or not to wear my coat for the two-minute walk to the faculty building, and I suddenly seem to need even more sleep than usual. But there is so much to look forward to, and so many things which are just on the horizon that I’m constantly feeling anticipatory. It feels as though the world is holding its breath, ready for winter.