Sunday, 23 September 2018

How the Indian summer got its name. And going walkabout.

My sister has been sending me videos of her small grandson cavorting on the beach in the far south of Spain where they live. She tells me they are having a “veranillo del membrillo”, which literally is “little summer of the quince”, the Spanish equivalent of an Indian summer.

It has this odd name because the quince ripens at the end of September. In some parts of Spain they name it for St. Michael, “el veranillo de San Miguel”. Maybe they buy it at Marks and Spencer. Sorry, couldn’t resist!

In France it’s Saint Denis who gets the credit and in Italy Saint Martin. In Spanish-speaking countries in the southern hemisphere they call the same phenomenon “el veranillo de San Juan” because their extra-late summer starts around the feast of Saint John at the end of June.

In the USA they have a theory that the expression Indian Summer comes from Native American Indians’ belief that such weather came from one of their gods. They didn’t know about the jet stream, or it hadn’t been invented, back then.

Some people think the term Indian summer relates the the UK’s colonial past. An American website is quick to correct such a notion:

“The term Indian summer reached England in the 19th century, during the heyday of the British Raj in India. This led to the mistaken belief that the term referred to the Indian subcontinent. In fact, the Indians in question were the Native Americans, and the term began use there in the late 18th century.”

It seems that the Old Farmer’s Almanac has a saying, “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.” Considering that Saint Martin’s day is November 11th then the Indian summer can be pretty late in the year.

A BBC website tells me this :

“Before the middle of the last century, such a spell of fine weather would be linked to ancient weather lore and the church calendar. In mid-October, for instance, it would have been called "St Luke's Little Summer" as the feast day of St Luke falls on 18 October, while in mid-November it would be "St Martin's Summer" as St Martin's feast day is 11 November.
Shakespeare also used the expression "All Halloween Summer" in Henry IV part I for a period of warm sunshine as October gives way to November.
A more generic but now (sadly) politically incorrect idiom is "Old Wives' Summer".”

If it can occur so late, maybe there is hope for us yet. Of course, it may no longer be politically correct to talk about an Indian Summer. But somehow Native American Summer lacks a certain je ne sais quoi!

Today we have the sunshine but not the warmth. Woolly hats are in order when out walking.

Phil and I walk all over the place, leading some people to think that we are a little crazy. We, however, regard it as a good way to get to know a place. Forget about those tourist buses; to get to know a city you have to do what we have come to call “walking the walk”. Consequently, we know ways around the city of Vigo that people who were born and grew up them have no idea of.

Some people must agree with us on this as this article from the Guardian demonstrates.  I just realised that the article originated with something they called Walk the City Week, asking people to send in their experiences of walking round cities. Loads of people walking around in cities: how good is that? I do, however, draw the line at the activity proposed by this article.

Following strangers is all very well but it could turn out to be quite dangerous.

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