October is a wonderful month. I love the rhythm of routine, the cosy lamp-lit evenings, the smell of the first fires and the sweet crackle of pork belly on a Sunday. But it is also a month of gravitas. Much more so than September, with its frivolous conceits - new uniform, new faces, pencil cases bristling with sharp points of resolution. No, October is where the real thing starts. It's a month of putting your money where your mouth is, of living up to all those easy promises made in September - reading the books, sustaining the friendships.
Seductive one-last-time Indian summer sun gives way to briskness and the need for serious clothes - the unyielding clamp of long boots adding purpose to a stride; the serpentine shrug of scarf and weighty heft of jacket. Darkening nights demand a sporting commitment too. Training under sodium light as the fine cold drizzle haloes the scene is a far cry from the flirty kick-about of last month. New uniforms soften and fade, pummelled in mud and pride.
Decades ago, I started University in October; cold blue skies filled with cascades of Cathedral bells; nose-tingling coldness and a sense of freedom and promise. New books and new friends, many of whom are still there, cracked and worn but still capable of making me question, debate and laugh until I can't breathe.
Bounty is rare, but worth seeking. Spiny sloes will bring a throaty sweetness in the black of winter if you hunt now. Dress for thorns and sudden downpours. Fill your poacher's pockets with tiny crab apples and your larder with jewelled amber pots.
Many Octobers ago, came a wonderful gift. Wrapped in a white blanket embroidered with oak leaves, my long, self-contained daughter with wise eyes and see-through hair. Whose birthday we have celebrated with pumpkins and witches, ghost walks, bonfires and curry. Who is, bar none, the best gift of all.