If there’s one thing that always heralds the notion that Autumn has arrived in Nottingham it’s the opening of the historic Goose Fair. This ancient congregation was always traditionally opened at lunchtime on the first Thursday in October, running until late Saturday night over a three day duration. The demands of commerce now decree that the centuries old fair, which initially began in the city’s Old Market Square for matters of trade and now resides around a mile north on the Forest recreation round, opens a day early on the Wednesday evening, ignoring the old tradition.
The rush hour Nottingham traffic that snakes past the site of the fair predictably takes a peak over at the mass of lights and activity in the far distance. Straight ahead is the traditional large goose figure that is placed on the pretty traffic roundabout once a year at this time. Local people even have their own name for the characteristically crisper air prevalent as the new season commences. ‘Goose Fair weather’ they call it and what better description could one need? I note though a steady drizzle of rain this evening – the first in some time – so many times do the fair traders and attendees appear to have had a poor deal with big boots, raincoats and heavy knitwear being necessary for the traditional slog through the mud churned up by thousands of footsteps viewing the rides, amusements and food stalls.
I know that winter is but around the corner as I tread a steadily mounting covering of dry, crispy leaves along the paths and quiet lanes of my daily runs. Beginning as a trickle and eventually sometimes becoming a ploughing movement through the surrounding deciduous woodlands where bracken lays waiting to snag my footfall. Running is incessantly pleasant during the drier day of Autumn, but with every step I am aware that the stiffer test of winter exercise is just around the corner, waiting to test my resolve over the dark months once again.
The city makes various attempts at offering new amusements and festivals throughout the year and the success of one old favourite, but in a new setting, is probably about to be repeated next week. The Nottingham Robin Hood Beer Festival ran for many years at this time, held at the old Victoria Baths. An immensely popular institution within and without the city, the show had to move on or die as the venue was no more. A stroke of original thinking however now sees it housed in the Nottingham Castle grounds. The festival sports a large marquee and live music from the bandstand. I managed to miss its inaugural appearance at the stately old venue last year due to being on a protracted stay in Western Canada. No such luck this year but a visit and a few ciders down in the heart of Nottingham will provide some consolation and a pleasant night out with friends.
Soon it will be time again for pumpkin patches to be raided in time for ‘Guisers Night’ as we of Scots origin call it. I can’t say I’m terribly enamoured with some of the assumed North American ways of celebrating the pagan festival but I must admit there is some atmospheric appeal that I just cannot quite define. Of course the quickly following Guy Fawkes (Bonfire) Night will lead to a thousand childhood memories of collecting material for the huge fires we had, acquiring fireworks and dressing up a ‘Guy’ for pennies in public. The smells of the fire, gun powder, and not least toffee apples, bonfire toffee and honeycomb are never far from the imagination in at this time
Some see Autumn as a time of death in the sense that vegetation withers and dies away. All around us nature begins to fall asleep and I can’t argue with that perception. I would counter though that the season has a surety about it – one that tells us that life rolls on and on and there is some comfort in that when we think of the dark, dank months ahead. Any good gardener will till you that Autumn in often the beginning of things, when plans are made, things are planted in readiness for the future too. I like the Autumn. I love to see the shiny conkers lying below my feet – so tempting to pick up and collect just as I did as a boy. The chestnuts too in the nearby woods, to be taken home and roasted if an occasion allows. There is so much beauty to this time of year which those of us who like to experience all four season – for better or worse – understand and immerse ourselves in