The leafiness. When you wonder why you live in Oxford as opposed to (well, only London, really, at the moment), this is what you come up with. The parks. The walled gardens. The canal. The gardens along the canal. Port Meadow. All the leafy enclaves of North Oxford. The school playing fields stretching down to the river. And the proximity of the countryside, of a pub lunch in Cuddesdon, a long afternoon walk under browning leaves on Watlington Hill.
Morning and evening are getting frostier every day, the peaty smell of burning firewood, the orange glow of streetlamps, table lamps through windows after dark. On Sunday, we walk the perimeter of Port Meadow, at Wolvercote turning back to cross over into the nature reserve and then drink Bloody Marys by the fire at the Old Parsonage. I love that about this time of year – the rosy glow you have after being outside, peeling off your layers as you come into the warmth.
The onslaught of winter, the narrowing of daylight to a few misty hours, the persistent drizzle, has been made bearable this year by my brief sojourn to Paris and coming back, keeping warm in my new Parisian wardrobe, glad that I acted on the spontaneous desire to stockpile knitwear. For the past week I have lived in a navy wool Guernsey and boucle jacket from Isabel Marant and glossy black suede brogues – which will need to go to the cobblers soon unless I take them off. I cycle home against an uncomfortably chill evening wind, the prickle of rain on my face, over fat, bright leaves on the pavement. I wear suede ankle boots the colour of claret and lipstick called Mexican Rose and a cashmere coat in camel and feel that I am indistinguishable from the colour palette of autumn. The sky is daubed with wisps of gold and a thundery, bruised grey. Paris had almost been bleached colourless with cold, as though it had been dusted with talcum powder. The streets and the sky were white. But Oxford is green, brown, grey.
There are lights up on the High Street, the odd wreath appearing here and there. Pubs are serving mulled wine already – the florists, mistletoe and berries. We discuss where to spend New Year’s Eve. Seven weeks until Christmas, I realize with a shock, looking at my diary. In the run-up to the New Year there are dinner parties and Christmas parties, carols and school plays, shopping in London, a weekend in Cornwall, a few days deep in the Sussex Downs doing not very much at all. By contrast, the pages of January look blank, save a Northumberland wedding. On a whim I book flights to Italy for early in the New Year and start researching train services in Tuscany. At least then there’s something to look forward to when the festivities of Christmas have passed and there is only the long, dark stretch ahead until spring. I am pleased with my impulsiveness. The afternoon passes in a daydream of Prosciutto di Parma and snow on cypress trees.