stars


It has changed. The day length has changed; the darkness is winning.  It’s the fastest rate of daylight change. The air has changed, the leaves are changing. Autumn has arrived.  Even the word “Autumn” is believed to come from the Etruscan word “autu”, meaning change of season.  I used to think that I enjoyed all seasons equally; no favourites as a policy. I was wrong, this is it; a winner by a mile.

Now I feed and water the chickens with a head torch on and the air around the cottage has the faint smell of wood smoke.  With the darkness the evening sky is now my seasonal clock as I walk down the lane.  Cygnus, the swan, is beginning its annual migration across the night and, if its dark enough, marks the arc of the milky way. The swan reminds me to keep an eye out for the skeins of birds in the sky. I usually spot the during the commute to school.  Sitting in the static traffic gives me a chance to look up.

It’s strange to have an autumn without bees.  No syrup feed, no honey harvest. The hives were left empty in the hope that maybe a stray swarm might move in; no joy.  To add insult to injury I found a wasp nest in one of the old spare hives.

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Then there is the apples. The trees are older and the pruning, feeding and weeding is beginning to bear some fruit. James Grieves, McIntosh Red, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Katy, Russet and some other unknown varieties. Although the Russet is not really a Russet. We bought it five years ago and planted it as a thin sapling.  Five years latter and we discover that it had been mislabelled. Should I have kept the receipt?  This is the consequence of growing trees, proper slow food.  The taste and textures of the apples are quite different and we eat apple and cheese sandwiches, baked apples, fried apples on toast (which is quite nice; thank you Nigel Slater), apple crumble and simply eat the apples. We have even filled a couple of boxes with apples individually wrapped in newspaper and hidden away in a cool dark place.  Yet, a little while a go I went looking for apples to buy at the market.  I wanted Russet apples as they add to the flavour of autumn for me.  I intended to buy them for my A Level class to try and convince them to branch out (sorry) and try other varieties that the supermarket keep hidden from them.  The market didn’t have any.  Later that day there was a knock on my classroom door in the middle of my A Level lesson.  It was a past pupil with a bag of twenty five russet apples. She works part-time in a fruit shop and when they arrived in, she knew I would like them; a thoughtful and wonderful gift. After they were distributed there was still one or two left to set on my desk.  Although it is nowhere near as neat as the clichéd teacher’s desk.

They say that having children brings life to a house. They never said they would bring a film crew. Just a week after the littlest man was born, a children’s television film crew descended upon the cottage to film the little man and the little lady either cleaning their teeth or looking at the stars, depending on the weather. For weeks now I have worried about this as usually teeth cleaning would end up with lots of crying and the little lady and I falling out over our different viewpoints on dental hygiene.

They arrived in the early evening and began unpacking their things. The cottage was suddenly filled with people, kit bags, cameras and sound equipment. The little man was excited and talkative, showing the crew his Lego. The little lady sat with a fever of thirty nine degrees, she curled up beside her granny and would not be the star of the show. The littlest man lay oblivious in his Moses basket. The crew cooed and smiled at him, but he just slept, indifferent to the prospect of fame.

They kept us, and the little man, away as they decorated the bathroom and his bedroom. During this they constantly stepped into the freezing winter air to check the twilight sky. Coming from London, they were astounded by the lack of light pollution and remoteness of the cottage. Eventually the teeth cleaning was abandoned as the stars began to come out. We started filming in the little man’s bedroom which was now covered in stars; glow in the dark stars, star lights on a string, star duvet, star covered pillow and star pyjamas. Then we headed out into the night. This phase of filming required a parent to be on film. It was always the intention that the lovely Sharon would do this as I hate the concept of being in front of an audience, never mind television. However, she refused and played the ‘I’ve just given birth’ card. How could I argue, childbirth trumps…….everything. We looked up at the stars, at the plough and the moon. We talked about how they twinkle and tried to count them. Then back to the bedroom to talk about the stars in his room.  Some voice over recording was called for after the footage was reviewed by the crew, then talking about stars while going to bed. Filming for little people is a long process as the regulations are strict regarding film time and breaks. The breaks were filled with Lego, and tv, and fish fingers, and chips. By the time the bedtime filming was done, he really did want to go to bed. The film crew withdrew and packed up with professional silence as I read stories before he drifted off to dream of stars and stardom.