The season of mud and wistfulness

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The Independent Online
AUTUMN is here again] And the leaves of the summer holiday brochures slowly turn yellow and brown, and finally fall into the guttering of the memory . . .

Look] In the hedgerows we see a dull brown visitor flitting from tree to tree? Who is it, Janet? Who is it, John? That's right. It's the man from Brussels, come to make sure that stubble-burning is done within the correct parameters, and that all the ash is carefully put into bags and added to the huge ash mountain that already fills half of Luxembourg.

Autumn] The mountain ash berries burn bright now in honour of Rowan Atkinson, the only comedian ever to be named after a common hedgerow tree, and many a poor pigeon traipses to the doctor with an embarrassing symptom . . .

'Doctor, it's my, well, it's my droppings, actually - they've turned purple. Oh, doctor, what shall I do?'

'It's all right, little pigeon,' says the kindly old doctor, 'it's only something you've eaten. Try and keep off the elderberries, and stick to cereals. Better still, why not pop into this sack and we'll have pigeon pie for supper?'

Autumn] Turkeys begin to get that feeling of impending doom as Christmas creeps nearer, and the butchers' shops start to fill up with feathery forms, turning the echoing tile-hung acoustics into a muffled cupboard, so that even a blind man would know that autumn was here . . .

'Hello] Sounds like Christmas]' says the man with the white stick in Mr Bartlett the butcher's, but nobody laughs because he has said it every year since 1975, and one year he said it in July because the painters had come in and draped the place with white sheets, and nobody laughed then, either . . .

Autumn] Season of mud and callow wistfulness] In the room the women come and go, talk of death and Auntie Flo - and talking of death and Auntie Flo, did you know that she smoked 40 cigarettes every day of her life and yet she lived until the age of 35, when she suddenly packed up and went to Australia and was never heard of again? And you know they have autumn Down Under at the same time that we have spring, makes you think, dunnit? I mean, do you think Australians go all melancholic during springtime when they come over here, because they have an atavistic feeling that it's autumn?

'Do you know that they have summer Down Under while we have winter up here?' Inspector Millmoss of Scotland Yard says suddenly to his faithful sidekick, Albert Bedminster.

'I don't see what that's got to do with the Battersea Massage Parlour Murders,' says Albert, puzzled.

'Nothing at all,' says Millmoss. 'But don't you see what it means? It means that at midsummer the trees on one side of the world are heavy with billions of tons of leaves, while the trees on the other side of the world are empty. This must have some effect on the balance of our planet.'

I'd be more worried about the balance of your mind, mate, thinks Albert privately, but what he says is:

'What worries me is why, if the Americans call autumn 'fall', they don't call spring 'rise'?'

'Perhaps,' says Millmoss icily, 'because leaves fall from their position but they don't rise into them. And now let us call a cab and proceed to Battersea to inspect these nine men who have supposedly died of pleasure in a massage parlour. . .'

Autumn] Time to put the lawn mower away, put the bulbs in, put the thought of Christmas off and label the trees in the garden so that you know which is which during those long winter months when there is nothing to do but drink mulled wine and play Trivial Pursuit . . .

'Social History, please.'

'Here is your question. Who shall we have to stay for Christmas this year?'

'I give up.'


Yes, it's autumn, and from far off the siren voices of the old English counties can be heard, pleading with the Secretary of State for Vote-Catching to be allowed back again. Hark] Is that the sound of Gummershire, traditional home of conformist religion? Is that old Rifkindshire, the lost Scottish county where no steelworks ever opened, let alone closed down? And is that the ancient county of Heseltine and Wear, where they invented the garden festival 200 years ago, although they still haven't found a purpose for it ?

Yes, it's autumn again] (To be continued later . . .)