Autumn usually sneaks in via the back door. Its shadows lengthen on the staircase, and they take ever longer to be dispersed by the dawn. Summer’s glories fade away: the blooms on the clematis fade and die, the trees begin to change colour, shifting subtly from green to green accentuated with a touch of yellow. Longer, heavier trousers become more apropos, short sleeved shirts are relegated to the back of the closet: then one crisp morning, one steps outside to face the day. Despite the sunlight, there’s a chill and a hint of sweet rot and woodsmoke in the air. It’s at that moment that one thinks, “It’s autumn.”
This time, however, there is a clearer demarcation point. The shadows are still lengthening and the rain is more prevalent and house cats linger in their cozy nooks in the morning, preferring to sleep rather than bound to the porch in the hopes of finding new wonders in the back garden. However, it is as if autumn this time around has crash landed on the living room sofa, wearing an “Our Greatest Team” t-shirt and shouting, “So how about that Andy Murray?”
How indeed. We have had a magnificent summer. It is a catalogue of triumph which began with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and just ended with Murray’s US Open triumph while Britain slept. When the country awoke to don its bathrobes and take its vitamins and make the coffee, it was clear that we’ve had our full measure of glory. Now it’s time to go back to the desks, fire up the personal computers and apply ourselves to getting through the last portion of 2012, the glow of summer firmly set in the rear view mirror.
Though the last notes of the Last Night of the Proms are mere echoes available on BBC iPlayer and the Olympic Park is now beginning its transformation into a memorial of itself, there is still much to intrigue us. Yes, the politicians are as dreadful as ever: David Cameron’s greatest deficit has been revealed to be one of decisiveness. He could not even bring himself to fire someone as obviously incompetent as Baroness Warsi: she now has a post at the Foreign Office and is “Minister for Faith and Communities”. She also retains the right to attend cabinet meetings. Worse, the promotions in the last reshuffle seem almost designed to portray the Tories as out of touch and more than a bit insane: no doubt Jeremy Hunt will create a catalogue of embarrassment and error which will invite both scorn and satire. Owen Paterson is a Minister of the Environment that only an oil company could love. Boris Johnson is continuing his transformation into a Tory Claudius, albeit behind Cameron’s weak tea, low octane Caligula: Johnson conceals his cunning behind buffoonery, but is poised to take over when the Praetorian Guard of the Conservative Party decide to plunge their swords into the back of their brittle Caesar.
We also have the American Presidential election to consider. Admittedly, this is the most tedious contest since 1996: a skilled, stylish Democrat versus a pedestrian and dull Republican who picked a supposedly “truly conservative” Congressman as a running mate to excite a sullen, misanthropic base is not a concept that was worth reimagining. Furthermore, the outcome is all but certain. Romney polls 0% among African Americans, or rather, so low as to be statistically insignificant. The “no exceptions on abortion” plank in the Republican platform has only elevated Obama’s ratings with women. Hispanic votes for Romney are few and far between, which is only natural given how some Tea Party ravers want to deport anyone with a Spanish surname or perhaps dares to whistle “La Bamba”. The only people who truly want the Dubious One to succeed are those who are so angry that their votes are less a positive choice than a primal scream. Given this, Romney should not only lose, but be thrashed. President Obama will likely emerge greyer and more exhausted from this campaign, but perhaps in the wake of such a triumph over the dark forces swirling in the cellar of America’s psyche, hope and change will get a second lease on life.
The Eurozone crisis will rumble on. The markets hailed the recent announcement of “unlimited” support for ailing governments by the European Central Bank. This proves once and for all that the markets are often ignorant and stupid: a cursory examination of the fine detail makes it clear that any nation requesting this aid will be subject to stringent austerity conditions. If, say, Spain cannot sell its debts, it can get help, but it will have to swallow cuts and tax hikes which would make its predicament even worse than if it were to default and leave the Euro. The markets, being sluggish in their realisations and proceeding with all the common sense of the deeply inebriated, will probably discover this when Greece’s day of reckoning finally arrives. Greece admitted yesterday that it is having trouble convincing its partners to give it more time; meanwhile, it awaits yet another loan otherwise again it cannot pay its debts. Something will break: it will likely be the Euro.
We will have a brief moment of respite when Christmas arrives: some retailers are already anticipating our desire for this oasis of celebration by putting out cheap and tawdry baubles on their shelves. In contrast, yesterday I went in search of the last vestiges of the Games at the local Sainsburys. A few signs remained up, the Paralympics Agitos symbol was present in some strategic spots. But the aisles themselves had been cleansed: all accoutrements of the Games were replaced with dull “Back to School” items advertised with the mawkish motif of chalk scrawls on blackboards. I felt somewhat lost: I wanted the Games back, the summer to return. I wanted to know more about Jessica and Chris and Mo. I wanted David Weir to ride again in triumph and Hannah Cockroft to illuminate the television set with her bright, entirely unfeigned smile. I looked out the window: the rain was falling steadily, the dark clouds blotting out the remainder of the evening sun. At that moment I would have paid much more in tax just to bring back the Games. Charge us another £9.3 billion; who cares if the weather is poor, bring back the spirit of achievement, togetherness and cheer. Make us believe and give us hope. But every party ends, its detritus swept away in the morning and its lasting legacy mostly resides in memory; similarly, autumn comes whether we like or not. We have much to face up to in the offices and boardrooms and polling booths and newspapers. There will be hard work and annoyance and irritation and strikes and calamity. But at least tucked in wardrobes across the nation, behind the heavy sweaters and winter coats, are t-shirts which bear the legend “London 2012”.