Rosie Barton is a contributing London-based writer.

All the leaves are brown and last week the sky was very grey indeed. Good news: this week is set to be no better, so button up your Fair Isle cardigans and don a corduroy beret, because as well as being battered by the elements we have some other miseries to lament. From the animal kingdom, with the US having lost 29 percent of its birds since 1970 (we blame the dutch for arresting them on the charge of “sneaky witness” – true story), and Kenya’s donkeys looking likely to be next on the extinction hit list, to the human realm where the pressures of Brexit has seen the parliamentary nurse increase the number of MP’s referred to hospital per week from one to six, I think we could all do with a return to nature. So this week’s recommendations are the comfort food – the macaroni cheese, if you will – of the literary and podcast world. No, not Black Beauty or the Harry Potter audiobook series, but a homage to the wonders of the season we now find ourselves in and a celebration of the classics

by Ali Smith
First up is Autumn by Ali Smith. If you didn’t read this when it came out in 2016 (I’ll let you off the hook as that wasn’t a great year for reading, what with the whole, ‘let’s leave the EU’ debacle), or the two autumns preceding that, no matter as its namesake is back, putting Smith’s work in its seasonal prime once again. I have now read this three years running, picking it up every October to leaf through its metaphor-strewn pages and bask poetic consonance. 

Set in a time of no time, this novel explores the essence of time itself, moving from the unsubstantial ruminations of one character, Daniel Gluck, to the steadfast monitoring of the clock in a post office on a Wednesday by Elizabeth Demand. I hope you were looking for something meta this week…

It is poignant and subtle and was turned around so fast by Smith – released only months after the EU referendum and yet containing references to just that in its pages. In fact, Smith is acutely premonistic in her description of the unrest: the “whole city’s a storm at sea and that’s just the beginning”. Aside from this nod to Brexit, this novel jumps from memories to dreamworlds, and through descriptions of autumnal bliss, it reminds us all of the transient world we live in. 

The good news is the fun doesn’t stop here. Smith is in the midst of releasing a series, season by season, linking the tales together; Winter and Spring are already out and this Summer looks like it will see the release of the final instalment, so get reading and look forward to June. For all those not going to Glastonbury, at least there will be Smith’s wondrous words to cheer us up. Who needs Fleetwood Mac and Paul McCartney…. 

Click here to discover Autumn by Ali Smith.

The Rewatchables, ‘When Harry Met Sally’, with Bill Simmons, Juliet Litman and Amanda Dobbins.
It is London Film Festival this October, and so this podcast takes us back to the greats we could watch time and time again. There is nothing more comforting than retreating to the known and loved movies of our time – that and boxsets (a habit MP Jess Phillips claims is her only solace after Boris became PM... who can blame her?). This particular episode is a discussion of a movie so iconic, it needs no introduction; 30 years on from its making in 1989, When Harry Met Sally, with consistent Autumnal glory, is today, the perfect contender. 

Bill Simmons, Juliet Litman and Amanda Dobbins are the trio who take on Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner's legendary creation, discussing the cast and who almost played whom, picking their favourite scenes, and moments that have stood the test of time, to ring true even three decades later. Sally’s hair evolution gets a lot of airtime – from the loose 70s wave and the tight 80s perm to the business-bob-blip that dominates the airplane scene – and a more heated debate ensues as to who in the cast is Jewish and why there are not more Hanukkah candles in the film. The four-way phone call we learn took 61 takes to shoot, as it had to be done consecutively, with any mistakes from the four meaning back to square one

There is something so charming about having an insight into the makings of one of your favourite films, not to mention the film’s innate charm itself. This one will have you rewatching the old classic in no time, so mark its 30 year anniversary with a frolic around in the autumn leaves and pop to the ‘personal growth’ section of the book shop to celebrate. 

Click here to tune in to the Rewatchables...

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