This time of year is sometimes good, sometimes bad for me. I’m a summer person and don’t generally look forward to winter. I resent the daylight disappearing – I even have one of those special lamps for when we get to the darkest days.

We’ve just been to visit an arboretum, to see the autumn colours. It was a sunny but windy day, making our outside café lunch something of a challenge, as we chased paper plates and napkins across the grass. The piles of leaves were shifting gently like confetti after a wedding, and the breeze was dropping more leaves onto our heads, augmented by the grand-kids who were dancing around making leaf-showers. The colours were magical, the maples especially, in their rich oranges and reds, and we collected a bag-full of leaves to bring home. Him Outdoors was delegated by his grand-daughters to make a collage picture. A Force 9 wouldn’t keep me away from showing him how – and indeed it hasn’t.

We had a trip to New England some 12 years ago, at this time – interestingly it was also presidential election time. We encountered something of the razzmatazz, the posters everywhere, people handing out freebies in shopping centres. I still have a candidate’s badge somewhere.

We hoped to see the fall, the autumn colours, but much of it was over, and winter was in the air. It was Halloween time and we had the strange experience of walking through the streets of Salem on the actual day. All sorts of weird fancy dress was being paraded, some of it possibly normal daywear in that part of the world. Our guesthouse was decorated with leaf garlands and pumpkin lanterns; whole families appeared at the door throughout the evening, children and adults dressed to kill, or at least to frighten us to death. Our hosts handed out sweets and gingerbread from an enormous basket. Every garden sported scarecrows, witches’ broomsticks, and of course pumpkins.

Halloween was something of a low-key affair for me as a child. I do remember the odd party, and ducking for apples, but we didn’t decorate the garden, or the house for that matter. For our kids we made more effort, although we didn’t encourage them to go trick-or-treating. We did have pumpkin lanterns though, every year, and I still try to make at least one, to put into the window, with a candle inside. I light it a few times until the shell deteriorates and has to be thrown out. It feels kind of symbolic, the last golden light before the dark days to come.

As a cat-lover I usually cut out a horrible scary tiger-face these days, and last year HO even bought us a special pumpkin carving kit. This year for the first time we’ve grown our own pumpkins. There are three, in diminishing sizes, like the three bears. Our grand-kids will be delegated to turn them into lanterns with the help of their parents, at least one of whom has been trained up by an expert. Modesty forbids me to say who the expert is of course.

Back in the USA – It was George W. who got in for a second term. On his first watch we saw 9/11, which turned the whole world upside down, and soon after he took us into the second Iraq War. After Bush’s victory (funnily enough ratio 52:48%, give or take) Kerry, the other candidate, appeared to sink without trace, the posters left flapping around on the ground alongside the leaves. Of course he’s bounced back now  as Secretary of State alongside Obama, but possibly not for much longer.

I’m trying not to think about the US election this time, but perhaps I should put one of those joke toupées onto our biggest pumpkin. I wouldn’t be the first to do this, or the last perhaps.