It's autumn, and the last one at the hedgerow's a fool]

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The Independent Online
AUTUMN] Season of mud and yellow frightfulness] Now is the time when sensible birds fly south for the winter, while the rest of us stay put in the puddles. Now is the time when the BBC buys extra supplies of those little black clouds which the weathermen (and women) stick on their maps. Now is the time when watermelons disappear from the shops, because who in their right mind would import water from abroad at this time of year?

Autumn] Now is the time when the football pools panel come back from its long summer holidays, stops yawning and starts practising its forecasts . . . 'I fancy Swindon for a home draw. What do you say, John?'

What do I say? I say it's autumn] Now is the time when bonfires curl up from every hedgerow, burning old EC directives on the wickedness of stubble burning. Now is the time when the leaves start to drop like flies, when the flies start to drop like fleas, when the conkers start to fall like fruit drops, and the fruits drop like Frank Bruno. Yes, suddenly brown is the fashionable colour, and all the very best trees are wearing it . . . .

'Brown? Certainly, madam. What shade of brown was madam interested in? We have all sorts - chestnut brown, liquorice brown, malt brown, coffee brown, the late George Brown . . .'

Autumn] When all summer games and children's toys vanish for five months. Did you know that the average cricket bat creeps into hibernation in October, under the biggest bush in the garden, and re-emerges in March together with two deflated footballs and that plastic dinosaur we thought the boy next door had stolen? Did you know that this is the time when the Autumn Roadshow is out and about again . . . ?

'I am afraid, madam, that this tree is not genuine at all, but a modern repro item, probably a Leylandia made in Taiwan, and as such is worthless, though some tree forgeries can fetch a good price. Why, only the other day the Duke of Devonshire sold a fake chestnut to a wealthy American for an undisclosed sum not unadjacent to pounds 5m . . . '

Yes, it's autumn] The season of masts and boats-out-of-the-waterfulness] Scrape that hull and tote that sail, tighten that rivet and polish that nail] Old man river, he don't say nothing, but he sure leaves a lot of barnacles below the water-line, so let's have her out of the water and scrape her bottom - yes, very funny, I'm sure - and repaint the decks in brown. Don't forget we have every shade of brown - mid-brown, russet, roan, sorrel, umber, ochre, auburn, digestive biscuit brown, droopy brown, Arnold Brown, and don't forget burnt Sienna . . . how could I forget burnt Sienna? Once one of the finest cathedral towns in Italy, and now a charred wreck, reduced to a brown rectangle in a watercolour paint box? Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks in Vallombrosa, ti-tum, ti-tum, Milton thou shouldst, be living at this hour, then we could check the authenticity of that scrap from Paradise Lost . . .

Autumn] Season of quotes and half-forgotten scraps of poetry . . . now all the air a solemn stillness holds, and the moan of doves in immemorial elms . . .

'You, girl] Go out and find out why those doves are moaning, and if there's nothing wrong then please ask them to stop. I'm trying to work.'

'Of course, Lord Tennyson. Straightaway . . .'

Where the sand flies, there fly I, in a sodden sand pit I lie. I tell you, sergeant, if Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane, there's not a damn thing we can do, because I only have 10 men and we've run out of ammunition, and what can 11 men do against a determined copse? Copse and Robbers . . . do you think that would be a nifty title for a sitcom about tree thieves? No, I don't . . . Any more questions?

If Autumn leaves, can winter be far behind? That's a question from a listener in Okehampton, and I wonder if you have any thoughts on it, Lord Tennyson?

'Well, I think it is interesting that the words of Autumn Leaves were written by Jacques Prevert, and Prevert is the French for 'green field', which is as far from autumn as you can get] I'm sorry, what was the question again?'

The question is, where have all the flowers gone? And the answer is, it's autumn] Season of new series on BBC 1, or repeats from BBC 2, as they are called in the trade. Now is the autumn when windfall apples lie in boxes outside cottage doors, marked 'Take Me - I'm Yours'. Now is the time when the vicar asks for contributions to the Harvest Festival, so we all rush to the shops to buy cob nuts, but they've all gone and so we all rush out to the hedgerows and the last one there's a blackberry fool]

Autumn. Coming to a hedgerow near you very soon.

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