October in New York was a month of settling in, of unseasonable warmth, of pumpkins, of red and gold and orange leaves, of new friends, new discoveries and Hallowe’en festivities.
For the most part, the skies have been blue and the air has been balmy, making it perfect weather to wander the streets of the city and take in the outdoor activities that New York does so well. One of my favourite things to do on a Saturday is to go to the Greenmarket at Union Square, where the smell of mulled apple cider lingers enticingly and vendors from upstate farms sell all manner of delights, from fresh fruit and vegetables to honey, jams, breads, cookies and fruit pies. Last Saturday I had a pleasurable morning just enjoying my own company, and I wandered through the sunny market delighting in the beautiful displays of pumpkins and gourds while sipping a cup of apple cider and munching on a fresh made rhubarb and strawberry pie. It really made me feel like I was part of the city, and as I ummed and aaahed over which of the delicious jams to buy and wandered around the stalls weighing up whether I could really be bothered to lug a pumpkin home on the subway, I had one of my what I term ‘New York moments’, where the fact of me, little old me from South East London, being in this amazing city of my dreams, happens to me all over again, and I get a thrill of excitement and disbelief that is almost overwhelming.
This weekend I had another of these moments when sitting on the subway, dressed up as a Jilted Bride, surrounded by a city full of costumed people, enjoying the uniquely American festival of Hallowe’en. Though England has become more embracing of Hallowe’en in recent years, en masse costume parties have never been a feature of London life, and it was truly amazing to see pretty much the entirety of Manhattan in fancy dress, wandering the streets, taking the subway, and having a wonderful time dancing the night away. It was quite something to be a part of.
However, the place that never fails to give me a ‘New York Moment’ is Central Park, and wandering through this beautiful oasis on Sunday after an impromptu visit to the Guggenheim was truly wonderful. The trees were ablaze in their Autumn glory, the first skaters were out on the ice rink, and little children dressed up for trick or treating were running around gleefully clutching little pumpkin shaped bags of sweets. Magnificent vistas of natural beauty juxtaposed with the majesty of the New York skyline opened at every corner, and I was filled with joy at the thought that I will get to experience this magical place during all four seasons while I live here.
New York is, for me, a treasure trove of sights, sounds and stories that take me by surprise afresh every day. There is always a new street to discover, a new building to admire, a different park I hadn’t seen before, or a delicious restaurant in an as yet unvisited part of town to try. Just wandering a couple of streets off my usual beaten path, or taking a wrong turn on the way to somewhere, can offer a wonderful new discovery, like the church in the East Village I stumbled across, complete with semi secret garden, and the ice cream shop just next door that sold the most delicious pumpkin icecream I have ever tasted!
As Kathleen Kelly says in You’ve Got Mail: ‘Don’t you just love New York in the fall?’. Yes, yes I do. I also love Persephone Biannuallies that arrive in the Fall, and last week I had a lovely moment of Englishness as I had a nice cup of tea and a sit down with the latest issue that found its way across the pond to me. Not only did I have the wonderful surprise of seeing myself quoted, but best of all – I discovered that next year, Greenbanks will finally be reprinted! Hoorah! My favourite Whipple, and the only one I don’t own. I can’t wait!
November is now well and truly here and the cold has come…for this month I will be briefly foregoing my American reading plans and joining Frances at Nonsuch Books in reading the new translation of Doctor Zhivago. I am greatly looking forward to that, and I am only sorry that the Russian Tea Rooms are no longer open, as they would have been the perfect place for me to sit and read this Russian masterpiece. Though one thing I will be able to do is ice skate, and pretend that I am Lara as I muffle myself up in (fake) furs and skate around the rink in Central Park!