September. How did that happen so quickly? The last day of summer has passed and people are using the dreaded C-word in everyday conversation now. It’s no longer whispered – more’s the pity.

All of a sudden it’s okay to search for presents, look for pop-up shops selling twinkly tat, book office parties, launder last year’s Santa onesie.

Summer ended on Wednesday. It ended for me on Tuesday, on the crowded floor of an Italian airport from which all flights had been grounded due to a freakish, spectacular thunderstorm. Fork and sheet lightning like you wouldn’t believe – scary stuff.

A friendly couple from Leeds and I were taking turns, by rota, to occupy the single space her husband had found. By fair means or foul, he didn’t say and I preferred not to ask.

It allowed room for only one bottom at a time so we made do. Northerners tend to stick together in times of hardship – even with only one bum-space between them. Northerners know when and how to make do.

In such times of crisis, I’m always grateful to be a northerner. Even in another country, locked beyond passport control, in a sea of bad-tempered bodies of many nationalities, we somehow find each other, form a little community and help each other out.

Anne Pickles “To think that only this morning, I was strolling the Italian Riviera, pausing in the sunshine for a refreshing chilled prosecco,” I said to the lady whose name was Jenna.

It was her turn to sit. She hauled me up. I helped her down.

“I was like a Continental glamour puss, with sore feet and swollen ankles – I walked a lot on this holiday. I imagined I was Gina Lollobrigida… in need of a hip replacement.”

“And now?”

“Now I could murder a mug of tea and a couple of custard creams. Espresso suddenly won’t do. I guess my summer is over.”

Air travel, unless my memory is playing tricks, used to be rather more civilised than it is now.

Of course, there’s no accounting for freak storms but there once was a sense of occasion, I seem to recall.

You used to dress up to fly. You looked forward to in-flight dining and gin and tonic at 30,000 feet.

There was order and elegance – and seats at departure gates.

With progress came torture. Over yonder – maybe a dozen or so bodies away – a man with a loud voice was declaring himself to be an amateur meteorologist from Carlisle and he was insisting he could have told them this storm was coming.

In point of fact, anyone who’d Googled the weather forecast could have done the same. Not that it would have changed anything.

Jenna smiled. “We have friends up there,” she said, kick-starting that old, familiar small world principle.

And yes, it turned out we knew the same people in Penrith.

One of her friends had organised a party for me at The Andalusian in Carlisle, exactly a year ago.

Furthermore, it transpired Jenna and I had worked at the same newspaper in Leeds, at the same time decades ago, though in different departments.

And so, in spite of an absence of custard creams and posterior space, we updated each other on the gossip.

What had happened to X, who’d been having an illicit affair with Y; who’d been promoted; who had retired; who’d emigrated – and whatever did happen to that chap who got drunk in Bradford and woke up in Blackpool?

“Remarkable, isn’t it?” Jenna observed. “It’s perhaps true what somebody once said – that you’re never more than six people away from the President of the United States.”

“Given the way that looks to be going, I’m not sure I’d like that,” I said.

We moved again. It was her hubby’s turn to sit.

“We should get together again soon.

“What are you doing for Christmas?”

Whoa! The C-word. Not to be uttered before December 1. That’s my rule.

And anyway, there’s autumn to come yet.

They called her flight. The storm was lifting, I was off the hook and back on the floor – at the end of summer.