I am still on holiday here in lovely Suffolk, but it now feels a little less like a summer holiday at all. Combine harvesters are working late into the evening to bring in the fields full of wheat before the next downpour, hedgerows are full of things other people could probably make something delicious out of and paths and lawns are covered with maggoty fallen fruit. Relaxing in a beer garden with a pint has become all but impossible, although Peter is trying very hard to get over his fear of being eaten alive by killer wasps. I have, after all, been defending him bravely by trapping them under empty glasses. We must make an odd sight as we get up to leave. ‘One, two, three RUN!’ I shout to man and dog as I let all the stripy assassins go free. Chris Packham would be proud of me.
Seriously, something is definitely different this, our second week. Walking around the beautiful town of Lavenham there was the all-pervading smell of wood smoke as the first bonfires of fallen leaves and twigs had been lit. The light has changed too. It seems softer, more golden as it moves across the fields. It still lingers in the evenings, but it is cooler earlier now. Perhaps I am just relaxing as the holiday continues and everything feels more mellow, but the trees look a little tired frankly and there is definitely a brown tinge to the leaves of many of them around these parts. On the wet days the smells of decaying vegetation are unmistakable – the bracken has a wonderful earthy smell that is more redolent of October than August.
Of course, the families on holiday here are still desperately clinging to the hope that the next day, or the next will be warm enough for the beaches of Southwold or Aldeburgh. To while away the time until the inevitable heat wave Dads are gamely walking round castles in the wind and rain (Framlingham yesterday..) wearing shorts, sandals, sweatshirts and waterproofs videoing every moment of their child’s attempts to follow the Topsy Turvy Tour lovingly for posterity. If they are like our holiday videos they remain unedited, impossible to face when you get home to the cold, hard reality of work and school. Mums are, as so often happens, desperately jollying everyone along, determined to encourage everyone to enjoy themselves. As we walk up the narrow steps to the top of the castle tower I hear a young family behind me. ‘ No mum, I will DIE!’ shouted an about 4-year-old behind us yesterday. ‘No darling, you aren’t going to die – look that lady is going up’. Well clearly if I can do it anyone can.
Unlike last week, it is also now just a little bit too chilly for an ice cream. I have noticed more signs offering ten types of coffee, or hot chocolate with all the trimmings than your regular Mr Whippy. Clearly there are more comforting things to do with a chocolate flake than stick it in a cornet. I have to admit that sitting outside a beach cafe on a bench with just enough leg room for a small elf is something of a challenge in a chill wind coming from the east. This is especially true when you have just come off Dunwich beach having run down the shingle bank a little too quickly to avoid soaking your socks and shoes in the surf.
People who know me well will understand how I might now turn to the poet John Keats to better describe how the summer season turns, but other than to offer this link to Ode to Autumn I won’t be so obvious. My crush on Keats may be for another blog. But I can imagine artists and poets rushing to put paint or pen to paper as I sit here looking out of the window onto the ‘rosy hue’ that the setting sun is casting over the fields. I hope this blog hasn’t seemed to be in any way disparaging of the traditional late summer holiday in Britain. It wasn’t meant to be. I love it here and will be sad when the break ends. But to me the imminent beginning of September marks the start of autumn and that marks the winding down of another year, something that inevitably makes me feel more than a little melancholy.
But hey – I can at least start planning Christmas….