November's threefold ceremonies of death have declared our ritual goodbyes to summer. Winter is arriving and soon it will be time to celebrate it. Town is getting busier at night - and bloody scary. Each small local gig feels snug and warm, a cave of drink and music in which, in little clusters of friendly strangers, we can shut out the cold black sky. Some of us will play guitar and share some songs. Others will drink, in honour of king winter.
On the no.12 bus, I see an Asian lady sitting with her legs against the heater, in an almost empty fabric shop. Each of my neighbours has the TV on, babbling in warm and golden moving colours - our substitute 21st century fires. Entering the house, I turn on the heating and the radiators clink and gurgle, in their own time and to their own tune. I put my legs under the duvet and write as I wait for the air to warm up.
I am looking forward to winter, and I decide that I will write a zine to celebrate it. If all goes well, then in your hands you will be holding it. I hope you're enjoying the Tyneside chill.
In the first ritual, we hid indoors or decorated our faces. We sent the children out in disguise, to knock on neighbours' doors and beg for sugar. The night is early, and we make sure they come in soon. The outdoors is carefully watched, a safe contained circuit of our closest streets. No woodland, no mountainside. We are not ready yet. Fire is contained in an orange pumpkin. I serve beer at a horror movie double-bill, a little dose of scared, in 1 1/2 hour doses. Moors and old houses on the screen, but nice red seats to back into, and friends whooping at the film. We take a taxi home.
In the second ritual fire is needed, to purify and scarify the detritus of summer leaves, of windfall branches blown in with winter's step. But this year it was just fireworks through the window for me. No Saltwell Park, no Samhain dance. All hail to the Fenham hippies, though ,who did their fire dance in Nuns Moor and in Elswick. Human fireworks, pagan movement, outdoors festival in the breathy black night. We stayed out a little longer this time.
The third ritual is the most solemn. The funereal march, the great vampires and good zombies wearing black. Guns saluting the fallen and the red hold of the poppy. A minute of silence - not the silence of the tomb, but the silence of a collective remembering. Like spores under the soil. Shared, and in sharing, we hear each others hearts, and our own hearts beat stronger.
Every representative of church and state, the war machine and long-lost colonies, are wearing black in London. The public ritual of ordered movement, filing into lines, into squares and facing the faceless monument. Names of dead squaddies scrolling down the screen, another unnamed one killed that morning. Every dead son. Missing father. Absent generation. Possibilities gone. We all are marching into the black, and today even the toffs remember it. There is a power in public ritual and in this third ritual of November, the full gravity and grieving of winter is remembered. This is the end, we have slipped into the realm of dark night.
And winter is here.