Wednesday, November 23, 2016


A November Saturday morning, soon after sunrise: the ground underfoot still in shade, the first heavy frost of the season means that, as I walk through the long grass at the far end of the fruit farm, each of my footsteps emits a satisfying crunch. Higher up, the golden rays have turned the remaining leaves on the pear trees a burnished amber, and the alder windbreaks in the distance a deep vivid orange. More importantly, the early beams provide insulation against the morning chill; but at this time of year, the sun will not get much higher in the sky than this.

Heading south to the coast in the late morning, the sun's low dazzle reflected on the wet road ahead means that we are driving blindly along a snaking river of silver flanked by a riot of deciduous colour. Here, the usual yellows and oranges of early autumn are complemented by the rarer saffrons and maroons of the onset of winter. The saturated colours mean that everything is Ektachrome: all is viewed through the prism of fading memories, of the world viewed through childhood eyes.

At the beach, despite some nimbostratus rain clouds lurking threateningly in the distance and a persistent south-westerly blowing in from the sea, the sun is still strong and I can feel its radiance on my face. This apricity - the warmth of the sun in winter - is a welcome fillip. My new favourite word, the noun 'apricity' was first recorded by lexicographer Henry Cockeram in his English Language Dictionary of 1623 but has been rarely used since. From the Latin apricus - warmed by the sun - it also has a verb form, apricate, that means to bask in the sun. I only heard of the word recently as the title of Canterbury band Syd Arthur's latest album. Just as with most useful things I have learned about in life - books, films, politics - the language to describe the warmth of the winter sun came to me from pop music.

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