The strong wind came in as forecast. In my town centre, it was as if it had swept away most people along with the litter and leaves. Darkness fell at the same time as the storm.
Gloom and mood in tandem, the Autumn ‘fall’.
My house is on an estate at the top of a hill. The house on the hill. Sounds familiar. The hill hangs over this town centre. Half way up is a line of trees that have often served as refuge when caught in a sudden deluge. (And also a veritable bounty for kids filling their pockets with conkers.)
The rain followed faithfully the wind, but this time I didn’t need refuge. Modern man has a weather app, you know, and everything else at his nimble fingers. Sometimes I feel we’ve been robbed of the element of surprise, often exchanging wonder for knowledge. But if I really felt so strongly about it, I’d discard all oracles and take every day as it comes, wouldn’t I ?
Still, there is some wonder, even if, beneath this hooded, waterproof coat, there are no surprises:
It is a bit of a paradox. During the time of the year when we turn inward, we also turn outward, seeking light in the darkness. Every year, Heaton Park draws us in, on the 5th of November, following the trail of lights like breadcrumbs through the shadows, moving on like moths in thrall to a flame.
I had an aunt who claimed she could discern things just by looking into the fire. The fire and a teacup. I gazed into the flames and could see faces. If you gaze long enough you can see anything.
Screams and laughter; the clamour of the children. The fervour of the fair has a dirty, oily sheen to it. And an element of danger in the hungry eyes of strangers, drifting amongst the machinery with predatory stealth.
Amidst the smells of onions and burgers, a man lined up three cups of black peas on an illuminated shelf. They are not peas, of course. But who cares? Buffaloes don’t have wings.
Around and around the seasons change, the world turns, and we cling on, without getting dizzy. We left the fair behind, further into the night, further into the season, following the breadcrumb-light trail back out to the city street, the sky still fragmented by rogue rockets. Our clothes hung on to the stench of smoke.
I’ve been sat outside tonight reading ghost stories by the criminally forgotten 19th Century writer Sheridan Le Fanu, drinking coffee and watching both the night and the fog descend: a gradual, conspiratorial settling upon my conceding town.
Setting is everything.
The muffling atmosphere has put me in mind to watch Jack The Ripper with Michael Caine.
It may only be the first day of November, but winter evenings start here.