Ladies and gentlemen!
Ladies and gentlemen!
Will you please put your hands together now for...
Yes, it's that time of year again, and it's getting a touch chilly already, so put your hands together and give them a rub, because the evenings are drawing in, and the party political conferences are drawing to a close, and drawing-rooms are being given a new lick of paint, and everyone's overdrawn after the summer holidays, so thank God it's
And this year's fashionable colour is a shade of brown, none other than trendy Gordon Brown, that hard-wearing, tough Scottish shade of fiscal fairness named after our Iron Chancellor, a man so resistant to temptation that he never sold his wedding pics to...
Or to the Anglo-French periodical
'Allo 'Allo magazine
Or even to the police quarterly
Hello Hello Hello magazine.
But not all the police in the kingdom can arrest the onset of autumn, when leaves come fluttering down like shares in a dot.com company, when the whole landscape is wet wet wet, when the sky at dawn is just a blur and the sunset is simply red, when the red red robin comes bob bob bobbing along - Gad, they used to write proper lyrics in those days - and the dawn chorus gets later and later every day, because it's...
Autumn, if you have never played it before, is a game for two players, in which the first player challenges the second player to go for a walk in the weakening twilight, and as the raindrops work their way down their necks and the damp seeps into their boots, the loser is the one who first cries out pitifully, "Oh, for God's sake, we've gone far enough - shall we turn back now?"
So, take your partners now for autumn, as the leaves are dancing in the freshening wind, and it's sloe, sloe, gin, gin, sloe, and may I have the pleasure of the next wild waltz? "Noli me tangere" is my motto, or, "Don't tango with me, baby", and a quick step through the woods where the fox trots is just what the doctor ordered, so let's all join hands and sing the old song:
This is the autumn equinox,
Season of damp and smelly socks,
Greasy boots and muddy frocks -
And don't forget to change the clocks!
And now, the big question. For £480,000, who was the autumn equinox named after? Was it a) The Rev John Knox, who made a fortune by importing puritanism into Scotland, b) Monsignor Ronnie Knox, member of the Crazy Gang, c) EV "Evoe" Knox, who managed to edit Punch from 1932 to 1949 without laughing once, or d) Jean-Pierre Equinoxe, the French explorer and the first man to put a toothpick on the Swiss Army knife?
Take your time.
Phone your mum if you like.
Hum absently for a while.
Stare into space.
Pick your teeth.
Why pick your teeth?
Because your teeth are full of blackberry pips, aren't they? And that's because it's that time of year again; it's
When the last swallows gather on the telephone line, shivering in the gathering gales, and make a reverse-charged call down the line to Egypt: "Hello, mum, how's the weather down in old Aswan? Is it? Say no more, I'll be down there before you can say 'migrating mummies'!"
When hot-water bottles, which have been absent all summer long, on their hols in the airing-cupboard, suddenly make a reappearance...
When people find big white mushrooms while out walking and take them home for breakfast, happy to think, as they chomp into their fried mushroom, sausage and tomato, that they are still hunter-gatherers under the skin, and are later found with a last note clutched in their fingers: "Oh, my God - it was not a mushroom, it was a toads"...
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