I have always thought there is little redeeming about November in the UK. Grey, soggy, dark, mucky, damp and dreary. Ugh. Everything is mushy, everything has a film of dirt over it and by about three o’clock you’re needing to reach for the lights.
Meanwhile, in Australia, my absolute favourite month of the year is occurring. Bright, crisp and warm, yet mild, comfortable and beautiful. Jacaranda blooming along the streets, sunlight bouncing off the ocean and everything feeling full of hope and joy. Oh, the contrast.
And so we’ve (very sensibly, if I do say so myself) taken ourselves off to Australia for the last two Novembers. I’ve had an intoxicatingly wonderful week or two there, catching up with friends and family, reminding myself of the existence of that big yellow thing in the sky and generally feeling ridiculously spoilt to be there having fun, rather than here, wondering why on earth we ever came back.
But there was no trip to Australia on the cards this November. The month has mostly been taken up with conversations asking Paul if we can please, please, please visit again in November 2020!
And no question, however much I try and put my glass half full hat on, it’s not been England at its best these last few weeks.
That hasn’t, though, stopped me trying my best to view November through new eyes, spend time being in and appreciating my November garden for the very first time and searching for the good through the bad.
I discovered what I’ve been doing wrong all these years is looking down. Or even across. What I needed to be doing was looking up.
Look up into the sky and the colours and patterns are like nothing you will see through the rest of the year. Bright autumnal reds, yellows and even Australian-looking ochres are everywhere you look; the part-dressed trees contrasting with the blue sky above, each and every individual leaf and branch so clearly defined and picked out against the backlight.
On those rare days when the sun does appear, the light is incomparable. A soft, gentle, misty light which creates a romantic, hazy atmosphere, slowly seeping across the garden.
Even the sunsets seem to take on a more orangey hue than normal, as if every aspect of life has temporarily adopted the autumnal palette.
I was lucky enough to experience that perfect, soft, November light whilst exploring the Constable country site I’m working on, earlier this month.
It’s a dream project if ever there was one: passionate clients with ridiculously exquisite taste and a blank canvas framing the bones of natural water courses and stately trees. I even get to talk grass trees and Wollemi pines with my fellow Australian client, who drools at natives in tandem with me.
On days when the sun is hiding beyond the low, grey November fog, I’ve found the animals still inject life into our garden on the dullest of days.
The deer enormously effective at cutting back the perennials as I gaze out of the window with a cup of tea warming my hands.
And keeping me company as I collect windfall apples; I suddenly sense someone is watching me and look up to see a stag quietly looking on from behind the orchard gate.
The fox also seems to have decided that now is the time to show off his autumnal coat, showing his face much more regularly this month, as he prowls around, looking ridiculously stereotypically sly, incognito against the burnt autumn leaves.
And the ubiquitous sheep; our ever-present neighbours that welcome us home each day and fill the fields with life, animation and the soundtrack to our life here.
The only animals I have had a bone to pick with are the mosquitoes. Surely, surely it’s not fair game to be bitten on a cold and dreary, grey November day? Apparently, they hadn’t read the rule book and somehow worked their way through my five layers of clothing to continue their devourment of me, just a couple of weeks ago.
But overall, it’s been fun to properly experience our November garden for the very first time. And for once we are on top of the leaves this year, Paul having been out with his new (motorised, obviously) leaf rake, clearing the lawns to help them breathe.
Next year, I will remember to, again, take my eyes off the ground and look up at all the beauty around me. It’s always there in nature; if you want to see it, you will.
But if I’m honest, I’m not sad that tomorrow brings December, with all its twinkly, Christmassy happiness. November here will always be a bit of a struggle for me, but I’ll now go into November 2020 – hopefully around a trip down under – knowing that there is always light and wonder, even in the darkest of English times.