Ah, I am taking a deep breath of the autumn air because it is my favourite time of the year and I want to savour every part of it. There are many things to enjoy about autumn, the toffee browns and burnt oranges of the foliage, squirrels mucking about in the trees and the triumphant return of the pear.
But autumn also marks the beginning of a period of social chaos, where conventional behaviour is disrupted and we have to deal with Strange Things for a while. It starts with Halloween, where children I have never met before knock on the door and request food. I prepare for this in advance and by purchasing sweets to appease them on Halloween night. When I answer the door they greet me with the traditional expression, Trick or Treat. They do not pose this as a question, simply a statement, and we both understand that I will offer them sweets and they will leave me alone. Except before this there is an agonising moment in which I feel like I should say a thing like, Ooh aren’t you scary! or Are you a vampire? The thing is I am not a person who is able to say such things without sounding Weird and Insincere. Instead I say, …………Here you go. And I try to pull my lips up so as to smile in a friendly way but I can feel that my eyes are not reflecting the same emotion as my mouth is.
This exchange is not even half as bad as what happens in December. In December a knock on the door makes my heart freeze up. For in December children knock the door to sing at me until I give them Something to make them go away. The problem with this is twofold:
- I do not know what is the correct thing to give them. I often panic and get some twenty-pees from my purse. But it doesn’t seem fair to give them my money because I do not want them there in the first place. Also, to be honest I think their singing is quite poor. If I have to give them something then why not food? It was good enough for them on Halloween.
- What is the appropriate amount of time to face them while they sing and pretend to enjoy it? I am not even sure if it is intended for me to enjoy in the first place. Seeming to enjoy it might get me labelled as some kind of neighbourhood creep. As I stand there facing these strange children, accidentally making eye contact, I get a crawling anxiety in my bones, as if I were the one knocking on people’s doors and singing at them like some kind of madwoman. Sometimes I forego the watching part. Seeing their shape through the moulded glass I preemptively grab my purse, open the door and do a smile, immediately look back down and root through my purse avoiding any further eye contact, then give them a token amount and say goodbye.
During November there is bonfire night for the whole month. During this time the neighbours like to set off small explosions and set fire to things in the garden. The smells are very nice but the noises are too often and too loud. If they planned it properly only one person would need to do the explosions and everyone else could watch safely from their own homes as all the action happens in the sky which we can all see by tilting our heads back thirty degrees.
Unfortunately the fun the part for most people seems to be the lighting of explosives which is something I cannot understand as school assemblies demonstrated that this is how people get their hands exploded off. Maybe they haven’t watched the same public safety videos as we did because I am sure they wouldn’t like it as much if they had.
Photographs of aspirational bonfire parties show punch bowls full of hot cider and barbecue food like hot dogs but the weather is so cold this seems to be a trick they are playing on us to make us look silly. No, when it is dark it is best to go back inside and enjoy the great variety of high quality television programs that premiere in the autumn. It really is the best time of year and I think that is why everybody starts to act a little bit mad, because they are so happy and excited and it is okay to be a bit strange once in a while. I am happy and excited too and I won’t let it get me down when I am nervous sometimes because it is all in good fun and I will make my mouth go into a smile to let the world know I am Okay.