October is the tenth month of the year: autumn up in the northern hemisphere and spring here down south, though a bit chilly if it’s still 5 0C in the morning. It also doesn’t quite fit a friend’s remark that South African spring is always just ten minutes long, and if you happen to be inside, you’ll miss it altogether.
This year, however, the cold spells keep rolling in. But they still get rain down in the Western Cape, and after the drought they’ve had, they deserve all the rain they need, so, I’ll put the woollies on, and I won’t make a peep about the wintry weather.
But where did October get its name if octo means eight and October is the tenth month? The original Roman calendar had only ten months in a year consisting of 304 days. October was thus originally the eighth month and the Romans simply ignored the 61 days that fell smack bam in the middle of winter. One could wonder what they did during those 61 days. Would all manners of mischief be ignored for that time as well? When January and February were added, October’s name remained, as did September, November and December. Was it pure laziness or a lack of creativity? Or did it simply not matter because what, oh what’s in a name?
But no October column of mine could go to print without reference to Leipoldt’s poem. Oktobermaand, he says, is the prettiest month of the year. Die mooiste mooiste maand. It’s the month of the Jacarandas in Pretoria and the arum lilies in the Boland. It’s the month of fresh, new twitterings emanating from little baby beaks, hidden away in the freshly adorned, spring-green trees.
Leipoldt has inspired at least four composers to set his poem to music. Pompecki’s setting is in the old FAK-sangbundel, and, unfortunately, I couldn’t find a recording of it. The setting by DJ Roode, was recorded by Palesa Malieloa. What a wonderful surprise.
John Pescod’s version is perhaps the most well-known. I’ve known it since I was a pert little four-year-old and my admiration for my mother knew no bounds because she sang the same Oktobermaand as tannie Mimi Coertse on the radio.
And then, especially for the mood that 2020 impresses on all the world, there is a rare recording of Ivan Rebroff, in the minor, from his album Vir jou Suid-Afrika.
With thanks to the Safrean photographers who so freely offered their images for this article. There are enough for a series of spring articles.