An autumn affair

Journalist Nick Levine gives us 10 ways to embrace the dark romance of the season

After the fun and frolics of summer, autumn offers an opportunity for taking stock and using your free time wisely. This doesn’t mean, however, that it has to be boring. Here are 10 ways to embrace the dark romance that this irresistibly wistful season has to offer, including several options that don’t cost a thing. 

1. Watch an old-school autumn romcom 

It's no accident that #MegRyanFall has been trending on TikTok. Her classic films When Harry Met Sally and You've Got Mail capture the crisp glamour of New York in autumn perfectly and provide endless style inspo. Seriously, has any actress ever rocked a chunky knit quite like Meg Ryan?

2. Reconnect with an old friend

Autumn feels steeped in melancholy – it's something to do with the falling leaves and nights drawing in. Because it almost subconsciously reminds us that time is always passing, it's the ideal season to reach out to someone you’ve been missing. Why not ask an old friend for a catch-up over coffee, or see if a childhood bestie fancies a pub lunch in your hometown? As long as you steer clear of anyone toxic from your past, you really have nothing to lose.

3. Go pumpkin picking

Sure, you could just shove a pumpkin into your supermarket trolley in Halloween week, but it's much more fun to find your own. There are pumpkin farms offering picking sessions all over the country, including Cockfield Farm in Greater Manchester, Garsons Farm in Surrey and Pencoed Fach Farm in South Wales. Be warned, though, that many will already be pretty booked up, so you might have to be flexible if you’re determined to have a really gourd time this autumn.

4. Make your own mulled wine

Buying mulled wine at the supermarket feels like a cheat when it’s so quick and easy to rustle up your own. Nigella Lawson has a recipe that requires just four ingredients and 5-10 minutes of prep time. Just keep in mind that unless you’re boiling it for a sustained period of time, it won’t burn off much alcohol, so mulled wine can be boozier than you might think.

5. Become a scarf person

Whereas hats and gloves seem to evoke winter, there's something quintessentially autumnal about a scarf. It doesn't have to be woollen, it doesn't have to be thick and chunky, and, well, it doesn't even have to be a traditional scarf. Seriously, once you've embraced the neck-warming joys of a snood, you won't go back.

6. Arrange a date at a independent bookshop

Picnics are pretty much out at this time of year, so if you fancy a date that isn’t simply drinks or dinner, you’ll need to get creative. Meeting at your local bookshop is a strong option for several reasons: it feels a bit out of the ordinary, gives you something to talk about, and offers a natural cut-off point. If you’re getting on well, you can head to a nearby pub or coffee shop to continue chatting about everything from Harry Potter to Jane Austen. But if there’s no spark, you can head home to curl up with your new book.

7. Watch the new Wes Anderson movie

With brilliantly witty and visually distinctive films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson has built a rep as one of the most stylish directors around. His new movie The French Dispatch is a tribute to arty 1960s society and has an incredible cast led by Elisabeth Moss, Timothée Chalamet and Tilda Swinton. Seeing it in the cinema when it opens on October 22 will make you feel culturally nourished. 

8. Check out an art fair

Art fairs are inherently romantic places even if your budget only really stretches to browsing. This autumn you’ll find especially excellent art fairs in Manchester, Edinburgh, and London’s Battersea, where the Affordable Art Fair will offer works beginning at £50. Get saving right away.

9. Take a walk through your local park

Rather iconically, Dame Judi Dench said a few years ago: "My life now is just trees. Trees and champagne." When you walk through a park at this time of year, you’ll see what she means. After all, autumn leaves come in so many gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, red, purple and brown, and the crunch of them underfoot is irresistible. And if you want to bring a mini bottle of fizz along for the full Dame Judi experience, hey, no one will judge.

10. And finally, listen to the new Adele song

Look, if anyone knows about dark romance, it's the queen of sad ballads. Her new single is called Easy on Me and it's due out on October 15. You will cry. A lot.

Words by Nick Levine