John Clare Writings

Fake Autum

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It’s all we’ve got.

Looking out the side from the bathroom window I can’t see the winter morning sun directly, but like water finding the lowest channel, the sun’s light has found a narrow clearway between walls and over low roofs to the street beyond the neighbouring back wall, where it irradiates a tree. This unidentified specimen has lost many leaves and will soon lose all to winter but those that remain blaze in isolation and in spills and clusters on otherwise bare limbs. They are full of gold and of amber and they are also like gilt and tinsel badges pinned on the monochrome transparent blue-grey of the morning still hidden from the sun. The shadow land.

Though it is damned cold – and I am already having to send my mind blank before I turn on the cold water after my shower as is my practice throughout the year – it is technically still late autumn. We do not have the red and gold of England, Canada, the United States, parts of Japan where the maples turned red and yellow in the foothills around Kyoto. Except in the early morning for a while, along narrow corridors. Well, Melbourne has it to a degree, and no doubt Adelaide and Tasmania, where I have never been. Suddenly I am painfully nostalgic for Melbourne, its autumn richness and the absolute charcoal bleakness of days of  winter rain. This is as painful as the first cold water shock, but a core of heat expands. My friends, I am very happy. Soon I will see you on those fabled streets.

Here is something very odd. Recently I saw a documentary about a little known Australian war hero. He came back to Sydney and shots of the harbour looked amazingly like the Sydney I knew as a child in the 1940s and early 1950s. The different skyline contributed, also the cut of the yacht sails then; but so did the very film stock that was used! Was the light different then, and  was that old film – Cinecolour, Technicolour? – freakishly receptive to that light? I have seen this effect before, but this was the first time I thought about it. The resemblance to the light and feeling of That Sydney was strong as the feeling of old Port Phillip Bay evoked by the paintings of Clarissa Beckett.

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