Slowly, quietly, autumn creeps towards us. I see it in the spider webs that hang like garlands from the hedge, in the sycamore leaves that lie scattered on the grass. It's still light in the evenings when I get home from work and it's warm enough to sit with the back door open as we eat our dinner, but by the end of the meal I'm reaching for a cardigan, and outside, the sky has grown dark.
As the season turns, something is also changing in me. A year ago, just a few months after we'd moved to Otford, I still looked around our strange new house, wondering how we'd ended up here, hoping we'd grow into it soon. I looked out at the long long garden, imagining how it might change over time, not really knowing where to start.
I had wanted then to make a mark, to somehow claim the land. I wanted, every time I stood at the bedroom window or the kitchen sink, for something to shout back at me, confirming it was really ours. So I set about making that mark with a tin of white paint and a tin of blue. I turned the garden shed into a beach hut, with a striped picnic bench beside it. It was a bold statement, a stark contrast to the wood-stained finish of all the other sheds in our street. "We're here!" it cried.
My brave paintwork didn't hide the cracked perspex windows or the ugly masking tape that the previous owners had used to hold them together. It didn't stop the felt roof flying away in the first real storm of winter. But it made me feel good, with its reminder of happy times past and still to come.
In the months that followed we started to make our mark in other ways; we tested the furniture in different positions, we decorated the bathroom, bought curtains for the bedroom. We planted a climbing rose to grow up the front of the house and watched the pale pink blooms gradually spreading up the wall. We replaced the broken fence in the garden, built a new flower bed from railway sleepers, planted a cherry tree, a lilac, a mock orange.
This weekend, with the promise of fine weather, Philip finally decided to tackle the cracked shed windows. In no time at all the old, stained perspex was removed and clear new windows were in place. As I stood at the kitchen sink and looked down the garden, I saw him standing inside the shed; I saw the man he is now and the man he'll be in twenty years - his back slightly more bent, his beard turned white. I thought of myself in twenty years, walking slowly up the garden to take him a cup of tea, telling him not to overdo it. And then I knew it was time to paint the shed again.
This evening, I stand here again looking out of the window. In its new muted green, caught between the grass and the trees, the shed no longer shouts out to me. As the sun goes down, it fades back into the garden.
But if I listen carefully, it's still calling out; this time it's whispering "welcome home" and I know that I am.