Autumn has, for as long as I can remember, been my favourite time of year. I realise I'm probably in a minority and, given the choice, most people would opt for the bright sunny skies of summer. But that's the thing when you live in the UK, especially the south eastern corner of Scotland - summer is never a sure thing. I think that would have to be one of the main reasons for loving autumn the most - the certainty of rain, gusting winds and in between the lingering chinks of afternoon sunshine, low in the sky and creating a warm amber glow against the turning leaves.
There's no disappointment with autumn; you know that it will turn colder, that you will need a jacket and almost certainly an umbrella. You do not make elaborate plans involving packing a picnic blanket; you do not light the barbecue. You can give up entirely on any kind of garish summer outfit that might expose pasty flesh and give in instead to cosy-pile fleeces and concealing layers.
I think the appeal too for me is the turn towards introspection. Spring and summer are extroverted seasons, full of frivolity and spontaneity. Spring is doing, cleaning, planting; summer means outings, adventures and meetings with friends. In contrast, autumn is a time for gathering, making, and taking stock; it's a season of calm and peace before the approaching Christmas preparations come hurtling towards us. There is a sweet melancholy about autumn and the slower pace of living. Rain against the windows and a skittish wind stirring up a dry stew of foliage means staying in with a good book by the fire. No one feels obliged to tell me that, 'I should go and get some fresh air' and I can stay where it's quiet and finish another chapter.
The autumn season is a pyromaniac's dream. As darkness draws in earlier and earlier, lamps shine out from each and every window, welcoming me home from work and transforming a dark corner into a cosy spot. The hearth is still considered the heart of the home and our little log burner manages to persuade every member of the family (even a grumpy teenager) to come together around its warmth. Fireworks, lanterns and bonfires feature in the autumn festivals and candles become essential here when frequent power cuts accompany the stormy winds. Autumn warms my soul, forges family ties and reignites the inner light.