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Autumn Leaves and New Beginnings

The Roaring Girls' own Sarah Penney muses on Autumnal walks, visiting family, and new jobs.

Autumn is the time of year I always associate with new beginnings. I’m not sure why, really. Maybe it’s because I started school every September dressed in a crisp new uniform with a brand-new pencil case, backpack and lunch box, ready for the year ahead. I wonder when I’ll get out of the habit of thinking in school terms. Perhaps never. There was always a mix of excitement and dread, wondering whether I’d make new friends or whether I’d finally pass my maths test. (Spoiler alert, I didn’t.) There was anticipation in the air, and I equally loved and loathed it. I get the same feeling every autumn - each time I walk through the crunch of brown leaves in heavy boots or get the hot water bottle out, I can feel the mix of excitement and nervousness. It just so happens that almost every job I’ve had after leaving university has started in the autumn too, so, old habits die hard, I guess. Today, I went for a walk over Oak Road Playing Fields, a short three-minute walk from my house. I feel so lucky to have a huge patch of greenery nearby where I can explore, go for a walk around the pond, or sit under a tree and people-watch in the summer. As I walked the path, everything was bathed in delicate gold hues. The trees had lost most of their leaves, revealing intricate bird nests not long vacated, and the ducks and swans were swimming along the pond, trailing V shapes behind them in the muddy water. It reminded me of The Gnoll Country Park of my hometown of Neath and set in the Welsh valley, it housed many happy childhood memories. I used to go there for picnics with my mam and siblings in the summer, where we’d take a blanket and all the snacks we could carry. In the autumn on the days my dad had us, we’d bundle in the car and drive up, armed with boots and raincoats to explore the woodland. We’d count the rings in the trees and climb up embankments, just to see what was on the other side. It made me miss the days where the only worry you had was what you’d find under a rock when you lifted it away from the mud. I still have that pull for adventure whenever I visit wide open spaces or woodlands. I think the only difference between child Sarah and adult Sarah is that current me walks to relieve my brain.

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed recently, if I’m honest. I think most people are. Eight months of not being able to give your family a cuddle or walk into the shop for a loaf of bread without having to work out 2 metres in your head is leaving everyone a little bit lost and I’m just feeling fed up. I have an 18-month-old niece that I’ve only seen three times since she was born, and with illness and bereavement in the family, I’ve just wanted to hop on a train home. I understand that I can’t and that it’s only temporary, but it doesn’t stop my heart from aching a bit.

This autumn, I’m feeling that familiar feeling of excitement and dread. I’ve just started a new, exciting job (which I feel extraordinarily grateful for), but I know that with Hull having the highest rate of infection in the country, I don’t think I’ll be able to go home for Christmas.

I have a brilliant boyfriend, and a wonderful second family here in Hull and as lucky as I am, it’s not quite the same.

Every time I walk over Oak Road Playing Fields, I’ll try to picture having a picnic with my mam or sitting on a tree trunk counting the rings with my dad, and I’ll hold onto it.

Who knows, maybe 2021 will be new beginnings for us all.

Sarah pauses on an Autumnal walk.


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