Apparently, according to Something To Do, my book of 300 games and activities first printed in 1966, I should be on the look out for autumn crocus and jays whilst going for bracing walks in search of edible berries – though not blackberries after the 11th of October because, depending which part of the country you come from, the Devil has either spat on them or done something even more unmentionable. I think I’m out of luck on the blackberry front this year anyway as they seemed to be past their best at the beginning of September and I’m not sure that gloss paint and bramble jelly go together all that well in any event.
I must say that in 1966 children were obviously much more enterprising than they are today as the book goes on to suggest making rose hip syrup, though it does discourage children from eating raw ones on account of their prickliness. It also mentions sloes – but sadly not gin. Disconcertingly the same paragraph has a run down of the array of poisonous fruit readily available at this time of the year.
Oddly the text doesn’t mention crab apples amongst the delights of autumn. Perhaps it being 1966 the writers wanted to discourage small boys (and girls) from going scrumping. I love the way that crab apples and quinces change colour as though by magic when they’re being cooked from fleshy white to a lovely shade of pink. The book also mentions sweet chestnuts, hazel nuts and cob nuts. It sounds so tempting that I’m inclined to throw the paste brush to one side collect my basket and a stout stick and head off into the hills…perhaps next year when I hope not to be knee deep in renovation – though at our current rate of knots I wouldn’t bet on it.
Skimming through the pages I note that I should clean my bicycle (I don’t have one anymore); learn to roller-skate (I saw roller skates identical to the ones I had when I was a child in a museum not so long ago); play conkers; make a coal hole lid rubbing – similar to a brass rubbing but with a coal hole cover on account of their attractive designs- I’d like to but coal holes and indeed their covers are very much a thing of the past. Indoors, the book suggests that I should make a pipe-cleaner model; create an autumn leaf print – three different methods are suggested including one using carbon paper; preserve an autumn leaf in paraffin wax (!); make a turnip lantern; sew an oven glove; bake an apple and plant a hyacinth for Christmas.
Looking through this impressive list of ‘fun things’ for October and having ruled out roller skating on the grounds that I don’t want to pay a visit to Accident and Emergency I think that collecting conkers has merit. In addition to teaching the Little Madams the art of skewering a conker, threading it with a boot lace and allowing battle to commence conkers are a natural spider deterrent.
The autumn leaves sound fun as well. It’s been years since I’ve done a spatter print or a leaf print and I’ve never made a carbon print from a leaf. I’ll suggest it to the Number One Daughter as it sounds like a complete day out, followed up by fish and chips so long as it isn’t Sunday. All I need to do is locate some carbon paper. I think we’ll bypass the leaf preservation in liquid paraffin wax on the grounds that three little girls and a saucepan of molten wax don’t sound like a particularly good combination but that could just be my fevered imagination.
I’m allergic to the scent of hyacinths so that’s out; I’m not sure that even I can justify sidetracking into pipe cleaner model making when there’s a whole cottage in need of tender loving care; silicone oven gloves are the way forward so I’m certainly not spending my evenings stitching one; I’m not carving a turnip or even a pumpkin this year unless we get the living room finished while they’re still available for the Little Madams to have their Harry Potter themed weekend.
Christina Rossetti’s advice for October in “The Months: A Pageant” is:
Crack your first nut and light your first fire,
Roast your first chestnut crisp on the bar;
Make the logs sparkle, stir the blaze higher;
Logs are cheery as sun or as star,
Logs we can find wherever we are.
As it happens someone down the road from me lit their first fire of the autumn – today. I love the smell of wood smoke on a chilly autumn evening. In addition to more gloss paint I shall get a bag of coal and some kindling so that we can test out our new fireplace. What more could a woman want?