September has arrived with cobwebbed mornings and golden afternoons. I love this time of year but it always summons up the past for me; each autumn day tinged with homesickness, each year just as vivid as the last. The girl that was me has kept safe all those gleaming autumn days: the picking, the pickling, the baking and preserving, the abundance and the work; the family together under a setting September sun, and those stolen hours of leisure my brother and I made our own.
We climbed every tree in the old orchards and swatted at wasps, we stole mouthfuls of the last year’s brutal cider and paddled our homemade boat across the old moat.We dripped with duckweed and smelled of apples. Endlessly.
And we played on into the oncoming dark as the lights of the farmhouse made an island of our home. The river mist, creeping and animate, might smother meadow and hedge, might swallow them whole, but was never pervasive enough to mask the smell of dinner cooking – the only summons capable of pulling us out of the dark. We ate all day but always had empty bellies, always tumbled in amongst the dogs, leaf-strewn and starving. We still do, my little brother and me.
Just not so very often anymore.