It is Autumn. This is my very favourite part of the year. I certainly enjoy the rest of the seasons but there’s something magical and wild about this time. The colours of the trees are beautiful. Spring and Summer were a blaze of green against the sky which gradually became tired and faded. We’ve moved on now to the showy part of the year with vibrant yellows and oranges mixed in with slashes of red. It’s wonderful to watch the changes and things do change daily. In my capacity as a Professional Sky Watcher I do tend to keep an eye on the foliage and I find the changes within a few days to be amazing. My job requires me to have an odd concept of time. I live very much in the minute. Now I must be here. Now I must be there. Now it is time to move on…. And I also live very much in the season. Watching the year turn is one of the joys of my job. But there’s nothing much inbetween. Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? None are really relevant to me and I tend not to notice them. I notice the minutes and I notice the seasons and the rest can go to hell.
The weather adds to the fun of Autumn. Soft misty mornings one day and crisp, shining starts the next. Some days it’s warm and sunny and the train is delayed because I’m stretching out in the cab like a cat in a sunbeam. Other days the rain comes down in torrents and I’ll zoom along at top speed relishing the noise and the fury and with only a slight concern as to how I’m going to stop in the station. And the nights are wonderful too. Mostly they are sharp and clear and I spend my evenings trundling along gazing up at the stars. I apologise for the trundling. You weren’t in a hurry, were you? Only I love to roll along looking at the Plough or searching for Orion’s Belt and trying to remember the different stories about the different constellations. And that’s before we even begin to consider my nightly conversations with the moon and the impact those have on the service.
I can never work out if I work outdoors or indoors. I’m sitting in a little box with barriers between me and the world. But I’m also much more in contact with the outside world than someone in an office is. I’m rushing through it and waving to the animals and birds and admiring the rivers of liquid gold as the sunset hits the rails. How can that be an indoors sort of job? Yet I rarely set foot outside. It’s a puzzle.
Pretty soon we’ll be at the best time of year when I will be given a hundred private fireworks shows each night. And I really hope I get to work the later shifts for the next few weeks. There really is something special about racing down the line and seeing pinks and purples and reds and greens dancing and sparkling all around. There are times when I prefer to be in the tunnels. Times when it’s nice to duck in out of the cold and the rain and spend a peaceful hour or two drifting through the cosy darkness. But there are times when outdoors is definitely the best place to be and any train obliged to drive away from a firework-laden sky is going to be subject to severe delays.