September

It’s September. There’s a chill in the air, but the sun is still shining. Autumn is coming. Which is fine! I’ve had a good summer, with plenty of days out walking, cycling or (sometimes) running, and a good number of nights in rented cottages, AirBnBs or in a tent. But the transition periods between seasons can be great if only because they’re tangible and visceral.

When September hits – and with a partner who teaches, this is a more pronounced sensation – it feels like there should be time to wrap up summer thoughts, as though there’s a sudden overnight flip, new-year-style. And there can be, I suppose, but really it feels like there should suddenly be extra time in the evenings to edit photographs and reflect and maybe write about adventures. But perhaps I’m being premature – maybe I need to wait till the clocks go back (railway tracks!) and do all that stuff then? Memories will have faded some more, but if it means a nice photobook (or magazine?) turns up some time in late autumn or actualy winter, that might be no bad thing. Just as long as it turns up at all.

I’m reading a bit more at the moment – as in books (I generally read articles and tabs I’ve sent to my Kindle, but books less frequently) – and I feel like later this year I might finally tackle the Flying Nun book Roger Shepherd wrote a few years back. I’ve had it for nearly two years now, a much-asked-for Christmas present that I’ve still not started!

I keep thinking autumn/winter is the right time to read the book (and bathe in that music) because often when I listen to NZ music from that era I think of grey, dreary Dunedin/Christchurch streets and drafty flats and cosy student radio station studios and curly hair and wooly jumpers and four track tape recorders and touring in a shit van and all this stuff. And so I end up with this temporal inversion where I associate NZ music with that wintry vibe, and yet I need to experience it when I myself am experiencing winter – which is, of course, when NZ is experiencing its summer.

The change in the seasons is often – or was more often, a few years ago – the time I’d choose to tune into 95bFM (Auckland) or Radio One (Dunedin) to get a sense of life there, such as it’s possible to do so. I’d love, on a grey winter’s evening in the UK, to hear the next morning’s breakfast show where they chat about the decent weather, the surf report, or what bands were touring NZ – the excitement of a big ticket band who only comes to NZ once a decade, or some local heroes doing yet another thirteen-date tour playing basically every town big enough to sustain a venue.

Conversely, I also liked now and then to tune in to a mid-winter broadcast while the sun shines here, as I often associate those wintry times (as above)  with where all the great NZ indie music comes from – the somewhat romantic image of a band or musician holed up against the cold, writing and recording, with some new stuff to debut when the sun finally comes out again.

In the meantime, I’m rattling through Sylvain Tesson’s Consolations of the Forest, which has landed on my Kindle through a happy accident of reading American nature writing with a focus on national parks, fire towers and so on, as well as John Lewis-Stempel’s lovely The Wood.

Tesson’s book is sometimes an amalgamation of those books, and it’s always nice when a book just sort of slots in neatly like that. I guess that’s why I always have about a hundred books I want to read, so that when the mood takes me I can dip into ‘the right one’ and follow the wave a bit further. It’s also written as a sort of diary crossed with a commonplace book (much like Lewis-Stempel’s), which obviously appeals to me.

On a related note, I had the joy of visiting Barter Books in Alnwick this summer. It’s a huge second hand bookshop – possibly the largest in the country? – housed in an old railway station. It also has a very decent cafe and food, and plenty of places to sit amongst the stacks. And model railway trains rolling round some ceiling-mounted tracks.

It’s a treat.

It also has lots and lots of books, and they all tend to be quite nice copies, rather than just stuff shovelled onto the shelves. I looked forward to the prospect of searching through the shelves, which are pretty well sorted by subject, but was pleased – initially – to find they have an online catalogue.

On the one hand this was great as when one has only a short time to visit a shop like this, it’s good to search for a few of those hard-to-find items.

But on the other hand, it removes some of the joy of searching through the stacks. But it’s still worth doing that because you’re bound to discover something you didn’t know you were looking for. So actually I suppose it’s the best of both worlds.

I ended up buying one book which was sort of on the periphery of my American nature writing / national parks reading list.