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Autumn, season of mists and – terrible colds

Blog | By Harry Mount | Sep 25, 2018


Here at Oldie Towers, the autumn cold has sliced through the office, laying half of us low with sniffles and snuffles.

Not nice for us, of course, but otherwise it's a welcome return to the idea of four separate seasons of the year. After that baking hot summer, autumn has suddenly clicked into place as if God has flicked a switch on the heavenly thermostat.

In recent years, meteorologists have pointed to the development of a fifth British season, as summer slowly gave way to autumn with an intermediate stage in between. The last few days may only be a blip – a one-off reverse to that new pattern – but how welcome the sudden arrival of autumn is.

Because Britain is so far north – and, thank God, warmed by the Gulf Stream – we are subject to changes of temperature and weather that don't happen further south.

In Mary McCarthy's 1971 book, Birds of America, the narrator Peter Levi prefers the extremes of weather in his mother's New England - its weather an exaggerated version of old England's - to his stepfather's California, with its year-round warm temperatures.

'He had never liked California; he missed the winter. He hated his stepfather's garden in Berkeley, with roses and daffodils and tulips and irises all blooming at the same time, so that that there was never anything to look forward to."

I love roses, daffodils, tulips and irises – but I also love them responding to their different ideal times of the year. Fingers crossed that the great divisions between the seasons are here to stay.