It's a cliche, of course, but autumn is a particularly beautiful and sad time of year. The colours are absolutely spectacular, perhaps even more so than they are when the world is in full bloom in the middle of summer. But it all portends the fall, the barren months of winter, the cold, short days. I have noticed on rereading that a lot of the action in These Matters seems to happen in the summer, and that which doesn't often has a winter sun of some sort for company. I don't know why, but generally my imagination conjures these sunlit scenes rather than anything gloomy or wintry. Longshawe rides with Elizabeth at one point through what is now Manor House and Turnpike Lane, a place with significance for me as a former haunt. I seem to remember that being in the sun. Strelley sits in the lee of Sampford Courtenay's church in the evening of a sunny summer's day. I can't remember it raining in These Matters at all. Which, when you think about it, is massively unlikely. Perhaps the next time I get the chance to write a scene where the weather matters, it will be raining!
Autumn has that sense of the end of something, the irretrievable, the final, but there is something false in it. Winter is just as transient, it comes and it goes again, leaving the world much as it was the previous spring when it finally arrives. It's been a thought in my head for a long time to go and live somewhere where the weather is permanently like it is in the height of summer here, but the confusion stems from the summer being a time of holidays, of work ceasing, of time spent with family doing things that are chosen for being fun rather than just because you have to. The weather is only a small part of the equation. I do like being warm - the moment when open footwear becomes the correct choice is a key one in any given year - but I also like the world being cold outside, because then there's an excuse to set light to something inside the house and glory in that most base of human instincts, to sit around the fire and - in my case at least - tell stories.
The two song lyrics quoted on the front page are autumnal, I think. Soul to Squeeze is one of those songs that for the longest time I remembered hearing but was not able to own, partly because I didn't know what to look for (it turns out, it's from the soundtrack to the film Coneheads). Later, I downloaded it (illegally, I should imagine) and had it, and then I could look it up on YouTube or Spotify. It has a lovely turn of lyric, better in some ways than the much more famous (and structurally very similar!) Under the Bridge, which people of a certain age might say was the Chili Peppers' best record. Kiedis writes a lot of these longing, soulful songs, to the extent that you find it hard to believe there are so many instances of him breaking up over a woman as appear in the songs, but there you go. But this one, for me, is the best. And the Queen / Bowie masterpiece that is Under Pressure has what must amount to the single greatest climax of any pop record ever. Again, it's plaintive, lamenting, but not without hope. I thought about calling this post 'Wait and Hope', but I'm sure I used that before. So, let's finish with the quotation from The Count of Monte Cristo, because I'm reading Dumas at the moment and I think of all the people I admire and of all the people I would have wanted to meet, it is he who sits at the top. He has shaped my writing and my reading more than any other, and his books are among the very few that I have read more than once.
" Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, 'Wait and Hope.”
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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought