Before I start, let’s just set the ground rules. Obviously, the Met Office has gone quite mad.
Totally round the twist. It is not autumn. The season of mellow etc etc did NOT begin on the first day of September. That is made-up nonsense. Autumn begins on Sep 23. Equinoxes, and all that.
However it is now “autumnal”, I will grant you that. But since the season is not yet official I prefer the term “backendish”.
“Backendish” days are different. Things happen at this time of year that happen at no other time of year. How many of these have happened to you yet?
1. You have found a really, really big spider. One of the biggest spiders in Europe, Eratigena atrica, is looking for a dry, warm place to mate this month – and your home could easily currently be that place. No need to start searching, you will know if he is there, since these boys can grow to 12 cm across. I don’t mind spiders. If I discover one living under the sofa, I leave it there. Why not? And one year at “backendish” time I had a companion on my drive to work for ages, in the form of a spider that had made a web between wing mirror and car door. Its hair got wrecked every morning on that journey as it grimly clung on, but it took the windswept look in its stride.
2. You have fallen in love with Suranne Jones. Come this time of year, as the evenings begin to get colder and darker, our lovely Suranne is always on the telly in something or other. I have loved her for ages in the detective drama Scott and Bailey, alongside Lesley Sharp. But currently she is making an impression on the other side, in a rather implausible BBC drama about a doctor who discovers her husband is being unfaithful, and everyone else in the entire world seems to be helping him cover his tracks. It’s early days yet, so that might not be the true state of affairs but suffice to say Suranne is marvellous in it, and her new short hair will have persuaded lots of women to rush to the hairdressers.
3. You have had the midnight call about the tomatoes being ready. No? Just me then. Well maybe you too if you have an allotment holder in the family. Life gets frankly stressy for us in these “backendish” days. Not just the tomatoes are ready but the apples, the corn, the beans, the beetroot, the cabbages, the blackberries and the potatoes. It becomes a matter of the greatest urgency for some - yes you, brother-in-law and mother-in-law - to get the things harvested and off their hands.
The call can come any time, night or day. Please come NOW, and bring carrier bags with you. Meals become great piles of colourful, fibrous material. I fling handfuls at whoever crosses my path in the great rush to beat the glut. I’ll miss it when it’s gone.
4. You have made at least one, and probably several, highly secret trips to the heating controls. Though it’s not so easy to explain how the heating just spontaneously combusted itself into action, is it. Heating is a thing that divides the sexes. Women want it. Men don’t. Around that stark fact, a lifetime of negotiation, downright deceit and low level bickering is built. Men seem to be born with wiring in their brains that says heating must never be switched on until October 1. I say, on behalf of women everywhere, that is a month of frozen mornings too many. The “backendish” days are the time to restore artificial warmth to your bones.
5. You have looked in the wardrobe and thought about swapping your clothes around in a seasonal manner. You probably haven’t done anything about this yet, but you will be thinking that it is time to move those thin, limp summer things out of your eyeline and moe in the black, thick things instead. If you are a man ignore this paragraph. It won’t make any sense to you.
6. Finally, you have thought about pie. The true mark of the “backendish’ days is that anything encased in pastry top and bottom becomes a thing of wondrous beauty. Your salad days are over.
Time to pull you up on throwing old clothes
One of the late Cilla Black’s best lines, when a Blind Date boyo was getting a bit too above himself, was to say “I’ve got tights in me drawer older than you.”
I know what she means. I’ve got tights in my drawer that were old when dinosaurs roamed, I’ve got tights older than time itself. I’m talking about those really thick, black opaque ones. They don’t wear out. Like cockroaches and carrier bags, opaque tights could survive the nuclear wipe-out.
So I understand why half of all the women questioned for George at Asda said they can’t throw away clothes that are too small for them. These tights are too small for me. Repeated washings have knitted the fibres into a sort of tough, shrunken, bullet-proof layer.
But I can’t throw them away because they haven’t Worn Out. I’m from that era, you see. The era of people who have to finish what is on their plate and wear what isn’t in shreds. The women questioned in the survey said they were hanging onto their clothes in the hopes of fitting back into them, some glorious day when hell has frozen over.
But I don’t think that is really the reason. Fitting back into clothes never works, because by then clothes have moved on. Those reclaimed clothes will always look out of date. No I think those women are like me and just can’t bear the waste.
They need to be told - making do is the new normal. There is no need for anyone to be ashamed of their old tights or their very tight clothes.
That old film looks a lot less silly...
The origins of our species are becoming ever more confused. First archeologists are rocked by the discovery of a previously unknown species of human, whose remains were discovered in South Africa.
It’s starting to look like there were more types of human back in the day than there are football clubs now. Life must have been fascinating. I mean I know we sometimes think our fellow humans come from another planet but these people really must have had trouble understanding each other. On top of that, Neanderthal bones have been found in a cave in northern Spain that are 300,000 years older than any Neanderthal was previously thought to be. The implications are...well, who knows what the implications are? But they’re big. And I tell you what. That film, you know the one, the one with little hairy cavemen fighting great big dinosaurs and Raquel Welch running about in a prototype bikini. One Million Years BC, it’s called. That film is starting to look less daft with every passing discovery. Know what I’m saying?