Across the flags of the patio a dark stain of dirty water, for the drains are blocked again with a mush of leaves and as quickly as we banish them they seek the curve of the deep grid all over again. The window cleaners sitting at the rusty iron table, sipping coffee from Cath Kidston mugs I have brought them and looking as relaxed as holiday goers in a sunny pub-garden.
Time soon to roll back the washing line, and put away the scooters, the fire-pit and the behemoth barbecue. To tuck the ugly wheelie bins under the kitchen windowsill so we do not risk life and limb walking to them on icy days and to lock the door of the dreaded outside loo so the window cannot blow it open and show it off in all its unromantic glory.
Inside a chorus of coughs. Leaves blown in from the lane to carpet the porch and steamy windows in the little laundry room where the tumble dryer is once again back in service. The coziness of my office when the radiator is on and I sit in the wicker chair beside my groaning shelves full of books dedicated to that all that is domestic, hunting for Autumnal inspiration and getting lost in a reverie of all that is homely, with a cup of mustard-yellow Turmeric tea at my side and a knotty blanket draped over my knee like the old woman I am no doubt one day destined to become.
A knock on the window now – the window cleaners going and grateful for warm coffee on a cold day. A child not in school, for he is snuffly with sinusitis on the sofa and fretting over a story he is trying to spill onto paper. Abba on the record player. Furniture polished to a gorgeous hum with Method’s Almond Polish. Two new cushions winking at me on the blanket box.
Up the stairs I go. The usual shadow moving across the entrance to my bedroom as if someones darts out of the way the minute she hears my footfall. The bathroom door swinging to and fro like the haunted house this home seems to want to be. Picking up the towels flung over the bannister and piling empty loo rolls and toothpaste tubes squeezed out to nothing on to the gleaming top of the glazed mahogany linen cupboard, ready to take downstairs.
In the bedroom. Straightening the rug and locking the wardrobe doors all over again. Leaning down to peek out of the windows. At the heather growing at the end of the wall and the slew of wet leaves at the front door. At the tractor loaded with purple, bruised carrots thundering by and the Polish girl, as always standing in the window of her little cottage, rocking her baby and stroking the siamese cat beside her. I make the bed. Shake up the mattress topper and send white feathers dancing on the perpetual breeze blowing in from the fireplace. Scrub at the little patch of damp forming on the window-ledge. Light the fairy lights draped over the huge mirror and take a teacup in to the bathroom to fill with water to feed the ivy growing hither and thither all over my dressing table. The room still smells of sleep. I open the window and laugh as Mother Nature chucks a handful of leaves at me, as if I live in an Autumnal Globe and will never escape its flurry.
Back down the stairs again. Into the warmth of the living room, stuffy from the radiators and the warmth created by the low sun cracking the glass of the conservatory. Finn says he’s cold and will not live much longer without tea and biscuits. I resist tucking him in and head to the kitchen to fill the kettle and take out the curve of Westmoreland sausage I will cook with treacly onions and colcannon mash later. I want to fill tins with chocolate flapjacks and cheery shortbread, to let the kitchen become a cosy hive of baking industry, but there is only me who who indulge in their devouring and fattening one’s bottom that little bit more is not an act of self-care no matter how snuggly the lure of the warm oven might be.
So a tray of tea things and a pretty plate full of gluten-free jaffa cakes it is. We settle down him and I, watching the wind toss this and that up and down the lane, and planning a Halloween full of apple-bobbing drownings and pumpkins carved with cheesey smiles. He writes and I read the new Agatha Raisin, and the house creaks the simple song of Autumn to itself.
This then is an afternoon in my house. Autumn. The loveliest afternoons of all.