Now Autumn’s Fire Burns*

I have woefully neglected this blog over the past four-five weeks as I’ve flitted around like a demented bat drumming up business for “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast.” Thank you to all (or even any) of you that have bought the book, I hope you were well satisfied.

So now I’m going to return to life in France for a while and will try not to mention my book “Close to the Edge” more than once or twice per blog!

Here in the Languedoc, autumn has arrived and almost overnight the trees on the valley sides took on all the colours in the spice box – ginger, cinnamon, saffron, paprika; just here and there a solitary bank of trees remains obstinately green. The days are short but filled with sunshine and the nights and early mornings bring just a nip in the air… a hint of winter to come. Autumn has its rituals and festivals just as Summer had the fetes, vide-greniers and marchés nocturnes (night markets).

First comes the mushroom season. Everywhere in the woods amongst the earthy mould, between tree roots or in a patch of soft grass in a clearing, ceps, chanterelles, pieds de mouton- all these little autumn wonders pop up, all perky, waiting to be picked by those who know where to look and who jealously guard the secrets of their favourite hunting-grounds.

Ceps

Ceps

pied de moutons

pied de moutons


If the mushrooms are too coy to make an appearance there are always chestnuts to be found and some of the last fetes of the year celebrate the arrival of the fat shiny nuts by offering a host of ready to eat dishes accompanied by the obligatory oom-pah band.

Late September and October sees the Transhumance when the livestock are brought down from the mountain pastures… another reason for an autumn festival. The farmers, their wives and children together with an assortment of misbegotten dogs gather their flocks of sheep or small herds of cattle and slowly wend their way down the mountain to the “home” village. The ewes with their lambs hustle and bustle along, high with their odour of lanolin. Here and there they grab a bite of roadside herbage or stop, snort and stamp their feet when one of the dogs gets a bit impertinent. In the village the ewes are separated from their lambs, which are taken away to fulfil their destiny on a dinner plate and soon the air is full of cries, bleats, shouts and barks until the cavalcade passes through and away to their respective farms.

La Transhumance

La Transhumance

Now as the year slows down so does village life. Shutters close early and open late;the scent of wood smoke streams from chimneys that have slept all summer. In the streets, piles of crinkle-bark logs spattered with the grey-green bloom of lichen appear outside front doors and families and neighbours form a line to pass the logs through the house to the courtyards at the back. Oak is the wood of preference – burning long and hot – yielding all the energy it gathered during its years. For me it’s time to get back to some serious writing and catch up on the books and films I’ve stashed away ready to be relished (I hope) once the sun goes down and the shutters close.

*”Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt.” (William Allingham)

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