Stepping into autumn


Only son and daughter three know how to enjoy themselves. In a house full of jaded, world-weary parents who just see a work marathon stretching out before them until the frenzied work life explosion of December, they are getting excited. As soon as 1st October dawned, daughter three went into Halloween overdrive. She has been researching in great depth all things autumnal and spooky and has come up with a detailed plan of action.

She spent Friday night tidying her and only son’s room in readiness. She came out with three bags full of rubbish. I’m hoping it is rubbish because I didn’t check it too thoroughly and there’s a big chance that by next week we will find that something essential, such as school shoes, were in there. On Saturday, she presented me with a Halloween list.

Daughter three always has high ambitions. It is a question of negotiating her down. The good news is that she is not a hard bargaining kind of person and usually settles for compromise, for instance, a £1 set of 10 pumpkins to stick on the ball rather than a £3 lantern. She also knows to limit herself to shops which will make her budget go further. But daughter three likes to get creative. She wanted to make an autumn candle with “autumn flavouring”. I suggested that Youtube may have some recipes using existing household items. At the time of this negotiation we were standing in front of a packet of four candle flavourings, including spiced apple. Daughter three had researched said item thoroughly on the internet beforehand. She looked at me with her big brown eyes. “Spiced apple is THE flavour of autumn, mum,” she said. “It cannot be created at home.” Only son was jumping up and down enthusiastically by her side having spent the previous 20 minutes racing round the shop and hiding behind shelves.

Daughter three volunteered up one of the other items in her basket if she could only have the flavourings. Daughter two loomed. “I’d like to share some of those,” she said. Daughter two never asks for anything and makes most things in her room from old furniture. There comes a time in any good negotiator’s life when they have to agree to cede ground and look to win it back elsewhere. We bought the flavourings as a joint venture and agreed that, should we suffer a power cut in future, that the spiced apple candles would come into their own – providing not only light but spicy light and a hint of spookiness.

Only son and daughter three have decorated their room with lots of pumpkins and bats. On Saturday afternoon, daughter three could be found in the kitchen melting an existing candle and pouring in spiced apple scent. Only son was directing proceedings.Trickles of wax were everywhere. My partner was hovering in a slightly anxious manner.

It all smelt very autumnal, though. Daughter three and only son were making plans to go out and collect leaves which they would paint orange and stick on their wall. Only son has been studying “an important Scottish artist” who is heavily into leaves. Daughter two was talking about her geography homework and how maybe she didn’t need to do it now we are in a “post-geography world”. Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You was playing in the background. “After Halloween it is essentially Christmas,” said daughter three. I’ve only just recovered from the summer holidays. Christmas is way off my radar. I just want to get to tomorrow.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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