Maybe it’s because I’m an autumn child, but I have an affinity with this time of year. The tree outside my window is still glistening with last night’s raindrops. And a lucky beam of sun is glowing through the thinning leaves, warming and intensifying the gold, rust and dull green colours. Here in Norway we call the season høst (harvest). As language fascinates me, I note with interest that the Scots equivalent turns out to be hairst. Very similar.
It’s a time of transition. A time that speaks a welcome of all things cosy – new soft slippers to slip chilled toes into, brushed fleece bedsheets with soothing hot water bottles. And that enticing atmosphere indoors. Or the Scandi sense of hygge. Finally the heating goes back on, the tea lights come out and thoughts turn to koselig (cosy) evenings whilst autumn storms growl at the windows. I get into a different interior colour palette. The greys of my sofa are softened with earthy nature tones. As we progress towards winter, rustic reds will join them.
I find creating mood around me a great aid towards creating word pictures. I’m susceptible to colour and texture. And I’m quite capable of spending time in a knitting shop just admiring and stroking the myriad shades of softness. Sometimes this inspires a story or even just a descriptive phrase to be filed away in my notebook. Names of different yarns can evoke a mind picture which leads one off on a particular…er…thread of thought. The age-old stitch patterns such as Faroe, Fair Isle and indeed Norwegian fascinate me, already conjuring up images of the respective wild environments. And the history of camaraderie, community and companionship of women knitting together, originally in perhaps one of the very few social happenings in their daily lives. A chance to knit, catch up with the gossip and support each other through tough lives at the mercy of the elements.
On my walks, I sometimes view landscape through squinted eyes, where I get a better feel for the colours. Seen as a tapestry or material collage of shapes, hues and textures. The proximity of seven mountains surrounding Bergen makes for dog-walking heaven. I’m passed by two shaggy, sodden hounds wearing identical canine grins of satisfaction. On the end of their lead comes a sensibly rain-proofed and rosy owner, heading determinedly for that hot drink.
There’s a certain pleasure in getting togged up in clothing layers and then shedding a few as you enter a café and embrace that fragrant mug. The ambience of this particular establishment is slightly marred by the arty-farty light fixtures hanging low enough to dunk me on the head whenever I take my seat. Style is not always practical. And oh the horror of discovering that the “scone with jam” I ordered to accompany my coffee arrives accompanied by a lurid, glowering pot of marmalade. Marmalade is not jam in my book. I have loathed it since childhood, consistent in that at least. Along with beetroot, Brussels sprouts and blackcurrant. No deviation or wavering. It’s an absolute. Sigh. No matter. The scone is warm and crumbly, having no need of more than a scant application of butter. Coffee and scone are consumed in contentment.
There’s a different smell to autumn. A musty, dying-leaf earthiness. A wind-whipping sharp edge as you inhale. The new awareness that summer clothes really can be packed away, to be longed for in the never-ending wait for the sun’s return. The harbour waters are lashed by sudden gusts, a tang in the nostrils, boats tugging moodily at their ropes. And then there’s the increasing impracticality of umbrellas. I probably have at least six, between home and work. They won’t live long. The current one is in its death throes. One spoke is already trailing like a broken wing as I struggle to master it. The mechanism spitefully jabs my finger as the whole thing blows inside out. Glorious final moments of umbrella defiance, at one with the wind. I drop it in the bin as I pass, where it joins a rainbow of similar corpses.
Then a welcome burst of colour. Red Cat – a local – treading fastidiously amongst the matching leaves. Graciously granting me an audience. I pause to worship, which he accepts as his due. The russet and white fur rumbles with purr. I open the treat packet I have brought home for Max and present him with one. Max won’t mind. We part company, each satisfied by the moment. As the sun considers calling it a day, I head the last few metres along to the green door. Beyond which is Max and cosiness. A large mug of tea. And a good book.