Alex James: Ready to wrap up under starry skies

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

I think that might have been the last of the bright gold sunlight. Just one more brilliant, motionless sunset and then crash, the next morning the hazy stillness of summer was gone and a huge rolling grey sky was manoeuvring itself overhead like a great big lorry come to deliver the winter. There's a foreign stiffness in the breeze as the peaches and figs limp over the line and tumble into ripeness and my thoughts turn from the salad bowl to the stock-pot.

I've realised I'm happiest in the garden, especially when it's dark. Autumn and winter nights have the clearest, most spectacular skies and I'm relishing the thought of getting cosy out there with the telescope as the nights draw in. I've put a few lights in. I've even built a little kitchen out there.

I don't mind the cold: jumpers and the bonfire see to that. Even the rain I can cope with. I've got one of those big free-standing brolly things. It's only the wind that can spoil a big night out, now, and it does, a hard wind, more than anything.

Tough to know what to do about that: someone told me this week that east of Stow-on-the-Wold, which I can see from here, there is no higher ground until you get to Russia, which would explain why it's so draughty. A hedge would do it, I suppose. Maybe I should get some windmills, catch the same breeze that blows in Holland. At the moment that breeze is shivering the wisteria and shaking the roses.

It's a calling breeze, speaking to the swifts and the butterflies, telling them to move on and soon they will be gone, but there is something about it that speaks to all men who can feel it, too. Don't hang around. Summer's over. Time to do something new, it says.

A good long night

I spent the 12th of August on a grouse moor in Durham. It's a long way, a five-hour drive plus traffic – usually lots of that. I drove back overnight, alone, leaving at midnight and reaching home just as dawn was striking. Haven't enjoyed myself so much for a long time. Somehow it was more peaceful and romantic on the motorway than on the moor. From now on I will only be making long journeys at night.

Hungry for fungi

Puffballs are the gastronomic highlight of the year. Delicious dipped in egg and fried, a consolation for the end of summer. Every day, every time it rains, even I run to the spot where they sprout, full of anticipation. No sign yet. Maybe there are still a couple of weeks of sunshine to come after all.

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