Sunday 13th September – The weather is warming up again. We are in for a short burst of late summer before September is out. Some might refer to this as an ‘Indian’ summer, but this is a phrase from the USA and although widely used here, it’s not really appropriate. In the UK, these periods of late, fine weather would be linked to the church calendar. In mid-October it would have been called ‘St Luke’s Little Summer’ – St Luke’s feast day is on the 18th – and in mid-November it would be a ‘St Martin’s Summer’ as his feast day is on the 11th. Shakespeare also had a name for these summer days in autumn, he called it ‘All Halloween Summer’ for warm sunshine when October fades into November.
Monday 14th September – Ridiculously hot for mid-September. We recorded 27C in the garden today. Too hot to do anything – lost days. Speaking of lost days, here’s something interesting about September: in 1752 Britain decided to move from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar to bring itself into line with most of Europe. As a result, 3rd September instantly became 14th September and eleven days disappeared. It’s fair to say that nothing whatsoever happened in British history between 3rd and 13 September 1752. There is an urban myth, discounted by historians, that some people were so outraged at this theft of days that there were riots. However, there is more truth in stories that some people thought their lives had been shortened and were very angry indeed.
Tuesday 15th September – overcast and still hot. No breeze and quite oppressive – to me anyway, it’s head-achey and stifling.
Wednesday 16th September – A little cooler so a trip out to Bicton Gardens to wander in the shade of the arboretum. I’ve written about these gardens before in here and the trees really are spectacular. Not just the British natives, but the many mature conifers too. Redwood, Monterey Pine, Atlas cedar, the tallest recorded Grecian fir (41 metres) and an avenue of Monkey Puzzle trees amongst many others. If you’re ever in east Devon, pay a visit. We watched nuthatches in a stand of oak trees, flitting back and forth, their grey-blue backs and long pointed bill make them such an elegant little bird. As we stood quietly they were joined by coal, blue and, I think, marsh tits, but maybe willow tits. They are fiendishly difficult to distinguish between. Two grey squirrel pottered under the trees, quite oblivious to us. At our feet shaggy inkcap toadstools were just beginning to frill out their blackening skirts. It is autumn, in spite of the warmth.
Thursday 17th September – Still unseasonably hot and still. I can see a cloud of wasps around a neighbour’s apple tree, coming and going amongst the branches. I can’t see where they are going to though, but definitely not into our garden, so the nest is elsewhere. Phew.
Friday 18th September – The berries on the cotoneaster hedge are finally a ripe and vivid red. The wood pigeons are taking advantage of them, although they are clumsy on the filigree of branches. Later in the evening a cock blackbird comes down to investigate but doesn’t stay long. I’m sure he’ll be back. And a little flotilla of long-tailed tits swing by to bathe in the water fountain, splashing and twittering and shoving each other out of the way – like children at an outdoor pool.