Friday, 30 September 2022

Positive Songs For Negative Times #79: Summer's Over

Summer at Fountain's Abbey, near Ripon. 
Photo taken on the 1st of September, 2022.

The Winds of Autumn Teach Us That Decay is the Fate of All Mankind

(from The Guardian, 11th November, 1840)

There is an "even-tide" in the year - a season when the sun withdraws his propitious light - when the winds arise, and the leaves fall, and nature around us seems to sink into decay. It is said to be the season of melancholy; and if by this word be meant that it is the time of solemn and serious thought, it is undoubtedly the season of melancholy; yet it is a melancholy so soothing, so gentle in its approach, and so prophetic in its influence, that they who have known it feel, as if instinctively, that it is the doing of God.

I like Autumn. I love to watch the leaves turn colour and feel the bite of the colder air, dig out the winter coat (which has far more pockets than the summer jacket: I adore pockets) and the heavier duvet. I can’t deny that the season brings melancholy… then again, I’m a big fan of melancholy. It’s almost as good as pockets. Melancholy is probably my favourite emotion. I mean, Happiness Is Overrated, right? Not to mention, so bloody hard to come by…

Autumn officially began last Friday, according to the Calendar people. For teachers, it probably begins a couple of weeks earlier when the summer holidays end and it’s back to school. I don’t normally start wearing my winter jumpers until October Half Term, clinging onto the short-sleeved summer shirts as long as I can… although this year, with Louise turning the thermostat down to minimise our exposure to the energy bill apocalypse, I’ve already taken to wearing socks in bed.

It’s around this time of year, regular as clockwork, that a particular song starts playing in my mind. A number #60 smash in 1998 (almost a quarter of a decade ago, for those of you not bummed out enough by the Grauniad’s suggestion that “Decay is the Fate of All Mankind”), but in my mind it was a Number One. As for melancholy classics, this one’s right up there…

Kamikaze seagull planes
Fighting over chip shop take-away remains
When you're walking on the cliffs
You can't help thinking of how far down the sea is
And what if it should give

Empty pubs echo with sounds
Jukebox selections that keep going round and round
And maybe rain is all we need
To come and wash the summer rubbish off the beach
Oh, let's just go to sleep
I didn't mean to bring you down
Summer's over, seaside town
She says we shouldn't have come so far
This seaside town


  1. I've thought a lot about the month of September this year. 1st Sept the meteorological start of Autumn but 23rd was the astronomical start. For me it happened about 2 weeks ago when it got too cold to wear sandals and summer clothes any more. Yes it's a melancholy time but if you like melancholy you'll be in your element. As for a seaside town, yes, time to board everything up - for some reason that excellent song makes me think of 1960s British films which were often set in such places.

    1. I wonder if they filmed so many of those movies in such places because they were cheap locations that would largely be deserted out of season? There is something very evocative - and wonderfully melancholic - about small seaside towns when the crowds have gone home.


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