COULD someone please tell me why summer shuts down in Spain on September 15?
Every year, on this symbolic date, Spanish holidaymakers vanish from the beaches like water gurgling down a plughole and our local chiringuito puts up its shutters for the season.
Even our hotel pool closes for the winter – and bad luck to any visiting tourists labouring under the misapprehension that September is still swimming weather.
Am I the only sane person still sporting flip flops and desperately clinging on to the last of the summer wine?
You’d think the Spanish would take advantage of their enviable all-year-round sunshine record but not a bit of it. Lo and behold, they’ve even started selling hot roasted chestnuts in the streets of our village! As Victor Meldrew would say, I just don’t bloody believe it.
I enjoy the aroma of ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ the same as the next sentimental Brit. But where I come from, that’s a Christmas tradition, not something that occurs mid-September before Santa has even thought about opening his workshop.
Mind you, it’s worse over in Gibraltar where Morrisons has been stocked up with Christmas cards, gift wrap and festive tins of Quality Street since the start of last month!
They’d kill in Brighton or Bognor for the kind of golden autumnal weather Spain enjoys but you just try ordering a gazpacho or chilled ajo blanco soup after the calendar has flipped over to September 16.
What a difference a day makes! ‘Sopa fria? Jaja! Solamente en verano’, the waiter tells you in a patronising tone, as if you were born yesterday (although yesterday, when it was summer, you could have ordered it without raising an eyebrow).
But alas, the vacation season is officially over, the schools have begun the new academic year and the shops are full of fur-lined fashions. Indeed, some of the more avant garde Spanish women are actually sweating it out in their new winter boots already, regardless that temperatures remain in the high 20s centigrade.
Perhaps I’m in denial (my own winter clothes are still in a suitcase up in the attic) but can’t we at least wait until the turning back of the clocks later this month to say goodbye to the summer?
Apparently not. Last weekend in Los Alcornocales Natural Park (the largest cork oak forest in Europe) I noticed that even Mother Nature is sporting the new season’s colours, in 50 shades of flame. In fact, autumn is mushrooming all over. The first rains have turned the forest trail into a muddy quagmire and fungus fans are out in force with their baskets, gathering up the bounty that has sprouted overnight.
We’ve decided to go mushroom-gathering ourselves next weekend so I’ll have to hoist my winter suitcase down from the attic and reacquaint myself with my wellies after all. Mind you, if I don’t swat up on the difference between edible boletus and the poisonous variety I may never see winter again because, according to our local (somewhat macho) mycologist: “Mushrooms are like women. For every good one you find six bad ones.”