This has been the most glorious autumn day – blazing with berries and leaves. The asters are blasting out flowers and the apple trees practically throwing apples into the bucket. An English autumn leaves one in no doubt that the planet has tilted halfway to solstice.
Yesterday, we were in the south of France, staying in a pleasant small town in the Minervois. The temperature was a respectable 27 °C, and the high humidity meant that any indoor task was sticky work. Autumn there seems to approach more subtly – I could have convinced myself that the leaves were still in high summer, but for the noisy morning leaf blowing along the streets of the town, gathering the dry crop fallen overnight from the plane trees. The terrain was not obviously autumnal to my uneducated eye. But the vines were dripping ripened grapes and the specialised harvesting machines ran methodically along the rows, gathering the fruit for the vin du pays. Huge piles of grapes dumped on the ground were scooped into open trailers by tractors – nothing romantic about this method of harvesting!
The open landscape where we stayed, in the foothills of the Montagnes Noires, is huge and feels almost primitive, the distance hazed a smoky indigo. A much wider horizon to the ones I regularly see in the close, soaring, contours of the lake district where I live in England. Looking across towards the Pyrenees, from the Pic de Nore, gently lapped by warm air, I imagined I was on a different planet, so wide was the valley.
Turn around – and – voilà – a TV broadcasting station!