The clocks have gone back and although my starting time is no different the morning feels more advanced. My wife, who tags along, says she and Dougie are bored with the lane and takes him into the Cloves for a run. I make a joke about desertion but she has a point. Now the heyday of summer is past there is little new to see and only so much one can say about the colour of leaves. But I have been surprised too often to doubt something will turn up, and if for once nothing does – well, I can write about that.
Liberated from the tugging lead I follow my own instincts, stopping to listen when a wren strikes up, the shrillness nagging like tinnitus. Then movement distracts me among the ivy flowers. I was wrong about the bees, there are still a few scraping the barrel for pollen, and more than one wasp which, overcoming my revulsion, I look at more closely. I want to believe they have hatched from the parasitic growths seen during summer but they look too large and will not keep still long enough to identify. I have hated them since being stung on the tongue while drinking lemonade. The barb hardly penetrated, but like Captain Hook with his crocodile I suspect them all of wanting to finish the job. Yet an interest in wasps is implied by my fascination with galls. The challenges of natural history are not confined to one’s powers of observation.
A gap in the hedge interrupts this reverie and through it I see that Tall Tree Orchard, having been first with the harvest, is now leading the rush towards winter. It has turned a uniform, blighted shade of yellow and has started to shed leaves, which settle on the earth beneath each row, recently clogged with apples. Drawing level with a similar window onto the Cloves I look right like a soldier on parade and see no loss of green, but a figure passes through a break in the trees, her hair the copper of late beech. It is a sign – and a sight few mortals get to see: my wife, the goddess of autumn.