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Columns
Jeremy Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist and columnist who has written about Oxford for more than 10 years. He lives in - and loves – Kidlington.

Man About County

Jeremy Smith

 

No question, September is my favourite month, October a close second and the rest, quite frankly, I can take or leave. January, February and March I’d pass in hibernation if I could; April and May are neither one thing nor the other, and June, July and August nearly always disappoint.

But September, that verdant giant of 30 days, seems somehow above the vagaries which plague the rest of the year. And for me it’s all about the mornings.

Once, many years ago, I spent the ‘fall’ in Vermont, which was both a blessing and a curse; its ‘money shot’ of leaf porn and gentle bonfires elicited a vulgar rhythm of rustic indecency that has since proved hard to top. Indeed, returning home from this pastoral orgy, I felt like an astronaut whose boots, having stepped on the moon, would now only walk on Formica again.

Quotes of course abound about its beauty but these two lines frankly float my boat: “There comes a time when autumn asks, ‘What have you been doing all summer?’”

Sadly I don’t have the intellect to convey how this taps into my id; only the hairs standing straight on my arm give any kind of clue. But come the end of August when that smell, or more accurately, cocktail of bountiful harvest and slow decay starts seeping into our lungs, I shiver… deliciously.

Autumn is my muse. For the life of me I cannot imagine a more poignant evocation of life’s bitter sweetness. However, in every day terms that wax a little less lyrical, this is what it means to me: on a cool Monday morning, waiting for the 6:45am from Kidlington to Oxford and ultimately the office, I can’t help but feel a tinge of excitement.

Maybe it’s those darker, cosy nights; Halloween, Bonfire Night, festive lights and Christmas Eve – suddenly there seems a whole lot more to look forward to. Yes, it will get colder (or ‘chillier’ if we’re nitpicking), and yes it’ll soon mean we get up in the dark and come home in it too; yes, the heating will go on and the garden will revert back to being that ‘space’ beyond the windows; and yes, ultimately, it will mean digging deeper into overdrafts to pay for the Yuletide bash. But that’s fine with me.

If I were still 10 it would also mean conkers, school discos, fancy dress and every “whoosh” and “whizz” imaginable. And right now, in my fifties, it means drinks after work (they always seem more ‘elegant’ somehow), “Brrrr!” exclamations as colleagues file in to their desks, queues outside cinemas and misted up spectacles.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not ‘anti’ per se the other nine months, but they’ve never charged my imagination. Summer is hot (well, for a week or two), spring is rarely warm or full of bouncing lambs and winter is straight out monotonous (where are the blizzards, the ‘whiteouts’, the Christmas card tableaux?).

You know that hoary old chestnut about where you’d live if you won the lottery? Well, in my case, it’s easy – anywhere so long as it has four distinct, identifiable seasons.

So I guess – and this might make you retch – that right now I’m in my ‘happy place’. And always will be. I couldn’t be peppier, there’s a spring in my step, my cheeks are slightly ruddy, and very occasionally a Heinz tomato soup advert brings a tear to my eye…

- Jeremy Smith