Last week I was bumbling about in a charity shop, listening to two women chatting (A bad habit but what can you do?). One said to the other, about her son who was standing by her side looking bored,
“I had to buy him a cloak. He needed it, but when I got to the till to pay for it, I nearly died!”
“Why?” said the second woman.
“It was £9.99! Nearly a tenner for what was just like a bit of crappy plastic!”
I had to walk away. More fool you for paying it. Did he really need a cloak? Is he a magician? Is he a Victorian dandy? I don’t think so.
As I paid for the tins of sweets today,(Yes,Yes more fool me for paying for them) sweets that I will give out to the ‘Trick or Treater’s’ tomorrow, I mourned the loss of the Halloween or ‘Duckapple night’ of my childhood. There was no pressure for parents to have a costume ready for us (not that my mam would have paid for one. I would have been the kid wearing the bin bag!) just ghost stories and chipped teeth from trying to bite a bobbing apple in a washing up bowl filled with cold water without getting your fringe wet.
I’m not a Hallowmisery, I write Ghost and Horror stories !This is my favourite time of the year! Maybe I am nostalgic for the fear and anticipation Halloween brought me as a child. The only excitement children seem to experience now concerns the amount of sweets they receive.
Bring back ‘Duckapple Night’ and the true sense of Halloween!
Before I had an allotment, I had only taken notice of the seasons in a commercial way. September would come and that would mean buying for the significant number of birthdays in my family that stretch through October/November, or looking forward to Halloween,bonfire night fireworks and the first Christmas toy adverts on TV. They were all numbers on the clock leading up to midnight on News Years Eve.
But now, I have an appreciation of what the season really mean to me. Autumn isn’t just a miserable precursor to Christmas, its when we begin to harvest our apples,pears, squashes and pumpkins. Our Autumn veggies of red cabbages,savoy and Cauliflower (very wee this year!) all have had their netting removed and are brought home to be eaten or passed on to friends and family. The glasshouse feels empty, devoid of the tomatoes,aubergines and cucumbers that fight for the hot sunlight each summer. Instead there are garlands of onions and drying cayenne chilli peppers hanging from improvised hooks or the string that criss-crosses above my head.
The air is different, it seems clearer despite the bonfires that many of the allotmenters have. Its fresher, there is a bite to it and you begin to notice how you need to wear your gloves not just for collecting fallen leaves to make mulch,but to keep your finger tips warm and moving! Tentatively we prune our fruit trees, asking the same questions every year; Are we doing this right? Should we be doing this now? What if we kill the tree? Every year the same, and every year the trees bloom and fruit.
Autumn on our little allotment allows me thinking time. I am putting the beds ‘to sleep’ until Spring and bringing the frost sensitive plants indoors. The winding down allows for maintenance and planning. The end of summer, with its hectic, noisy fastness, for me, brings a peacefulness and a chance to appreciate Autumn’s changes…although I have already planted some broad beans for next year! When you have an allotment you always have a beady eye on what the following seasons will bring.
Last weekend we went for what is called a ‘mini-break’ or as I prefer to call it ‘a break from the noise’. I had been to Howarth when I was a child, and I decided to return mainly through nostalgia and to do the Bronte thing! We rented a cottage right by the gorgeous railway station (steam trains!!). It was also at the bottom of the steepest hill which took you to the centre of Haworth town. I was embarrassed at being overtook by pensioners who positively ran up it leaving me panting against walls and vowing to ‘get fit’.
And so, I was inspired to walk to Top Withins. This is the building that is the alleged inspiration for Wuthering Heights, and I had a hankering to see it. The guide books say it is about three miles from Haworth,so we set out with a tin of sweets ( for energy), chocolate biscuits and a flask of tea, for our provisions. We wrapped up warm ,sort of, and set off.
The Yorkshire fells are silent and inspirational. Just what I needed to sooth my overworking brain BUT whoever writes the guide books, get the sums right!! The trip ended up being a ten mile hike! Me! Ten miles! (9 and a half actually).
There were times when I wanted to pack it in but I had to keep going. Seeing The Bronte Falls and for a few brief minutes having them to ourselves, avoiding the sheep shit and not falling over sheer drops all added to the joy of reaching Top Withins, although the miseries who sat in the ruins of the building to eat their sandwiches did spoil it a bit.
I ached in everyway possible the next day, but I have a new found respect for The Bronte Sisters. They would go walking on the Pennine fells for inspiration, how they did it in those long dresses is beyond me, but I’m glad they did.