Autumn is now truly upon us. We have had some lovely, warm days recently, but as soon as the sun dips under the horizon the air cools quickly. Some mornings, the temperature has been close to 0 degrees C already. The walnut trees started dropping their nuts early this year, but we have had a surprisingly good crop, despite adverse weather conditions. And our lawn has been studded with rosés des près, the white mushrooms that start as balls and then flatten out into plates as they grow.
I must admit that autumn is my favourite season, despite the fact that it’s going in the wrong direction. I love the colour of the leaves as they turn and I enjoy walks in sunshine that is still warm but not baking hot. It’s also fun to gather sweet chestnuts on some of our walks, where they fall in abundance. There’s something particularly pleasing about gathering wild produce.
Autumn is a season that appeals to poets, perhaps because of the melancholy associated with the end of summer. The French poet Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907), who can usually be relied upon for a good quote or two, wrote a poem about autumn. I particularly like this stanza:
Mais l’oeuvre de la sève est partout accompli :
La grappe autour du cep se colore et se bombe,
Dans le verger la branche au poids des fruits succombe,
Et l’été meurt, content de son devoir rempli.
Everywhere, the sap has completed its work:
Bunches of grapes blush and swell on the vine,
In the orchard the branch bends beneath the fruit,
And summer dies, satisfied that it has fulfilled its task.
The translation is mine (no comments, please). Prudhomme goes on to encourage people to fulfil themselves during the summer of their lives so as not to regret an empty life during their autumn.
Summer 2017 weather
On that unusually philosophical (for me) note, I’ll turn to more material matters. Those of you who have been reading this blog for some time will know that my husband (referred to here as the Statistics Freak – SF) has been collecting statistics about the weather in our corner of SW France for nearly 20 years. He likes to take a comparative look back over the summer, which for him runs from 1st May to 30th September.
Everyone agrees that summer 2017 was bizarre. The weather veered between heatwaves (canicules) and periods of damp, cool conditions. We never stopped mowing the lawn and we have never seen it green in August.
We assign every day a subjective score: plus for good, minus for bad and zero for indifferent. The SF notes that over the five-month period, we had only 84 pluses. That might sound quite a lot, but it’s 10 less than last year and 26 less (almost a whole month’s-worth) than 2012. September here is normally a glorious month, but this year’s took equal bottom place with the worst we have had in 1998.
If you look at the rainfall over that period, May, June, July and September all had more than average. The total for May to September was 380 mm; the average is 321.2 mm.
I’m hoping that October will be better. It didn’t start well, but improved last week. Here’s a dicton (saying or proverb) of which French country folk are so fond:
Nuées de septembre, pluie de novembre, gel en décembre – Clouds in September, rain in November, frost in December.
September was certainly cloudy. We’ll see if what this presages comes to pass.
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