We have run away from nursery school for a few days. It’s the week after half-term and at Westonbirt Arboretum the leaves are a delicate palette of yellows, ochres and browns. An insistent breeze is blowing them in a stream of whirls and spirals. My daughter runs from leaf-fall to leaf-fall with her arms outstretched trying to catch them as they jag around her open palms. She laughs and spins round on the spot, and the elderly people watching her laugh too.
When the wind dies, she stands beneath a huge oak and bends back her head to look right to the top. She blows to dislodge the leaves, puffing out her reddening cheeks and putting all her force into her breaths. Disappointed at the effect she puts her hands on her hips and looks at the tree accusingly.
Going from tree to tree she picks at the ground like a magpie, making a collection of leaves, pinecones, acorns. “Here are some things to put in your study” she says to me. “You can look at them and they can remind you of autumn, and you don’t throw them away. Ever.”
I put them in my pocket and stoop down and kiss her hair, which smells a little of baby, a little of shampoo, a little of her.
“Thank you. I will” I say, putting the handful in my pocket.
A few days later, when I am at home again I put my hand in my coat pocket and feel the dry bundle beneath my fingers. I pull it out and discover the leaves have been fired in crisp shades of brown and red.
I put them on my desk and I do look at them. And I won’t throw them away. Ever.