September, October, November are the best of months. Green leafs turn yellow and red before cushioning the parkways in thick brown layers. Dating couples shuffle and stir the rustling carpet. Chestnuts fall off the trees. The scents wafting about in the mild wind are generally sweet except for the stink of the linden trees. (The folk songs speak of the “sweet” linden tree – had these poets no noses? Maybe they had been peasant boys who grew up with a dung heap directly under the bedroom window – I’m not making this up, people really lived like this.)
In the news we are told the wine growers gamble for a few more southerly days before bringing in the grapes. Some even hope for an early frost to harvest an extra sweet “ice-wine.” German vintners insist they produce better wines than their French colleagues – wines with “more character.” And there is truth in it (“vino veritas”): first, it pretends to be sweet and then you realise how sour the bugger is. Pardon my French. On the label you read Kröver “Nacktarsch” which translates to “bare bottom.” (Really! Look it up.) The Teutonic ancestors, an illiterate lot, got confused by the Latin word “nectarius,” the ancient name the Romans, as the first wine growers, had given the entire region; now it is just 890 acres of prime soil shared by four or five wine growers.
(My recommendation: stick with the Portuguese. The wines of the Durro Valley are just as good, if not better than the French; and less expensive. Tried and tested and I am not even talking about Port. But since we are at it, put some Port into storage for the long haul through winter. Better than an extra blanket.)
The gardener begins the planting of bulbs, meant to winter it out till spring, while pansies, cornflowers, goldenrod, monkshood, forget-me-not, galanthus and hyacinth celebrate the season, albeit not always as a welcome guest. Forget-me-nots can become an intrusive pest and dandelions parachute their seeds all over the place. Dandelion is really bad news for a well-kempt lawn.
(To cultivate a decent lawn you got to be English and have your grounds been worked in the fourth generation. No less! It’s a rather snooty affair for dedicated lawn snobs who have their butler oversee the work.)