Somewhere, it is autumn. Somewhere, the leaves are turning, russet, gold. Not here. Here there is only dry season, and wet. Rainy season now, and the hot days and dramatic storms that come with it. The flame trees are in bloom. Sometimes, driving to work, I glimpse one of them, mistake the blazing orange flowers above
for autumn leaves in their final moments of glory before fall. Feel a twinge of sadness that I am missing my favourite season. California dreaming in reverse.
This time last year we drove to Wales for a long weekend. Left London one Friday lunchtime, my little red car packed with waterproofs and walking boots, wellingtons, tins of flapjack and brownies. M and I taking turns driving, The National on the stereo. Crossing rivers and counties, eating jelly babies.
We arrived first. Drove down the sweeping drive, house, creeper covered, sandy stoned, breathtaking in the setting sun before us. Found our way to the converted stable block at the rear where we would be staying. Had time to explore the many rooms, quirky bedrooms, bathrooms with views of sheep fields, huge living room, huge kitchen. Had time to light a fire and pour a whiskey before the others arrived, university friends travelling from London, Oxford, South Wales, a dozen of us in total.
And then, the most perfect autumn weekend. An escape from the city, an escape from the lists and planning and French grammar exercises that had already crept into my life only a few weeks after having accepted the job in DRC.
Mulled wine. Charades by firelight, and wink murder. Pumpkin carving. Communal cooking, bangers and mash, chilli beans, Full English. Toast with K's homemade raspberry jam. Bananagrams on the vast dining room table. Rambling country walks down leaf strewn lanes and alongside babbling rivers, through mud and over stiles. Exploring the garden, getting lost in the beech maze. Buying eggs from the farm shop, and the last of the rainbow chard. Plucking blackberries from hedgerows. Waking early, before the rest of the house, leaving M warm in bed, pulling on boots and slipping out the door to the first of the morning sunlight, leaves still frosted on the lawn. The stillness, the silence. The cold air with each intake of breath. The red of the Virginia creeper, the maple, golden beech and oak. Tiny mushrooms growing in tree stumps. A bright red and green gypsy caravan parked by two red tractors. The walled kitchen garden with late cornflowers and lupins, apples ripe on trees.
A couple of bits of housekeeping:
1) A big, belated and cross-continental thank you to Hannah Seeds and Stitches for her very lovely mention a few of posts back. Truly, truly, made my day, and sorry I haven't thanked you until now.
2) My posts are sporadic, even more so now that I am all the way in Africa, with internet that even at the best of times is not speedy, so I have now got a 'subscribe' option - top right - which should mean you get a nice little email straight to your inbox every time that I post.