Last day of the season

The following two posts were written yesterday on trains in deepest Ayrshire:

When I used to work in museums, I would dread this time of year. Autumn to me was the end of the good times, the times of work and relative plenty, to be replaced by the cold, long winter with less work, less money and less life. The end of the season doesn’t affect me any more, thankfully – I have work all year round and sometimes I work even more in the winter than I do the rest of the year – but I still feel little tinges when I see end of season notices put out by the likes of Historic Scotland and my old colleagues at East Lothian Museums who see many of their properties shut for the season on Wednesday. Now it makes me think of all those places I wish I had gotten to over the year but didn’t quite manage. There’s always next year, thankfully.

I like visiting places outwith the season. Wintry light in Scotland is even more enriching than glowing, sultry, summer sunshine plus it’s colder so I can often be in a castle or walking along a beach entirely on my own. I’m writing this on a train down to Prestwick and I know it won’t be empty today. It’s a pleasant, sunny September day, after all. If I’m down here in December, though, with a biting wind and while wearing several more layers, I’ll be the only person to be seen, walking along the beach, ‘washing my spirit clean’, as John Muir put it.

Another compensation of the changing of the year is the autumn colours. The trees by the train line as I pass through Kilwinning are yellowing now. When I was walking along the Fife Coastal Path to Dysart on Friday, there were leaves underfoot, perhaps shaken loose by the ever-present winds in those parts. As I’ve said, I used to dread autumn but now I look forward to it each year, enjoying the colours, the changing lights and the lengthening shadows that result.

My rovings tend to be that bit more limited as the year goes on. Aside from my trips next month to Cambridge and London, autumn this year will be spent by the coast or in parks or gardens. I make a point of going to the Botanics in Edinburgh to stomp through the piles of leaves though it was too early for all that when I was there a week or two ago. The next day I can I’m going to the Glasgow Botanics or Pollok Park to find some leaves. Summer days are great but autumn’s better for the soul.

Getting close to Prestwick now – I’ve taken to Ayrshire in a big way since I first came down here a few years ago. It’s a fine stretch of coast and the Ailsa Craig, Arran and Kintyre are endlessly interesting, enticing me forth on new adventures soon. Again, there’s always next year.


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