What is it about November?

William Brown, Richmal Crompton’s fictional naughty schoolboy creation whose perpetual 10-year-old childhood spanned over half a century, remains a childhood delight that I have taken with me into adulthood. I read the books voraciously as a child and in later life started to collect them – first at jumble sales, then charity shops and these days, now they have become collectors’ items, through specialist secondhand bookshops.

William’s take on Guy Fawkes, was that fed up with the dark November days and Christmas still more than a month away, Guy Fawkes invented Bonfire Night to brighten up November and entertain bored children.

It’s preferable to the real thing; a public celebration of the suppression of religious dissidents and the thwarting of a papist plot which is now lost in the mists of time. The family bonfire parties of William’s and my childhood have given way to safer, more spectacular organised displays, whilst fireworks, far from being a ‘once-a-year’ event have become the staple fare of family weddings and anniversaries whilst November 5th has been overshadowed by New Year displays.

William’s explanation does have a ring of truth about it. The clocks went back last weekend, confusing the dog who couldn’t understand why his dinner the next night was an hour later, and with the cold snap and the nights’ drawing in, winter is now well and truly upon us.

The gloom and despondency of dark evenings is matched by the news which, as Brexit grinds us all into the dust, seems ever more depressing; and whilst the year seems to have shot past, the 31 days of October seem to have gone on for ever. Remembrance is almost upon us; the irony of remembering the fallen on the anniversary of the end of the war to end all wars is still eclipsed by the national realisation that our peace and freedom is still dependent on those prepared to lay down their lives in its defence. Those who attend church are in for a series of Sundays in the lead up to advent on the theme of death and the end times.

But of course, buried in all this, is the promise that the gloom of autumn and winter (even Brexit) will come to an end. In just 51 days time, the days will get longer, Christmas follows quickly, the New Year always brings new hope.

For all his historical confusion, William Brown was fundamentally right. It is possible to find signs of hope in even the darkest moments of life, there is reassurance that in the inevitable cycle of life all things will pass, things will get better and that in spite of any appearances to the contrary, our common humanity will always get the better of us.