Autumn Fire

Autumn Fire

I wish I could show you the north downs, today; how the hundreds of trees stand together on them, some still green and some now red like autumn fire, with small patches of grassy England in between them. They make the skyline dishevelled with their presence, like the wild eyebrows of the land, and above them the sky is so blue it is the sky a child might paint.

I want to show you how the birds, who keep braving the wing even in this cold, swoop past my window, so close to me that I can see the colours on their wings, and then they race towards those hills. I can watch them dwindling until they each become their own silhouette, and they vanish to wherever they are going, without a backwards glance. 

We could sit together and imagine who lives in the few pristinely white houses, nestled high up on the downs. Or talk about how the constant beauty of those downs is a backdrop to the whole town, which is laid out below us like a picturebook come to life.

This place hasn't changed that much in any of the years I've lived here. So, I can point to old adventures. I can close my eyes and imagine the roads my feet have walked, to St.Mary's church with the gold cockerel weathervane, and along the winding path that leads on from it, to our town hall. From a distance it looks like a castle and has an impossible modern sculpture, like a ribbon made out of bricks, in front of it. The new town hall is ten times the size of the old one,  which doesn't seem to be recognised as anything other than a place to shelter from the rain with someone worth kissing, these days.

I would tell you that those copper cowls on the grammar school were put on the roof by my grandfather and great grandfather, and as I did I would remember my father walking beside me and I would be small again in my mind's eye, with my hair to my knees and my new dog at my heels, listening to his stories. I held his hand as he told me this town had been with us for well over a hundred years, and that we had put our roots into it, as surely as the daffodils plant theirs each spring. 

This is a place of chimney pots and magpies and leafy quietness. Of eccentrics and history and happenings. It was bombed in the war, and we celebrated in the park when it was over. We are the home of the first public library in England and we are where a world famous ballerina once began to turn her pirouettes. It is here, too, that many of those I love breathe, or have breathed. Where they have offered their presence, as gloriously as the sudden cherry blossoms appearing in the hedgerows each year. 

All the ancestors I never got to meet had lifetimes here that will have overlapped my own, in place and perhaps in character, even though time kept us apart. So, I might sit for a moment in the exact spot my great grandmother also sat, to write letters to her sister inviting her round for tea, in the days when first class post in a small town meant it arrived by mid afternoon. Or out walking, I might lean against the same tree my grandfather did on his way to buy the bread that fed our family, so it could grow in such a way that I exist.

I think the feeling of this being home has been written into my DNA, and wherever I go and whoever I hold onto, I'll take it with me. I get to pass it on. So, decades from now, my child who might never have set foot in this town before that minute, will stand in front of the same view and feel for a moment exactly as I feel right now; a mixture of belonging, and tender affection for everything they see.

Maybe a Lady

Maybe a Lady

Love Socks

Love Socks