Voices of Spring...
In this blogposting…* May Day
* 50 Things To Do…
Let slip the dogs of war…
For indecipherable reasons, we English do not celebrate May Day on May Day, unless May Day falls on a Monday, in which case we do. Otherwise, we have decided, in our artless English way, that May Day (for our purposes) falls on the first Monday in May.
And that’s more or less when this blogposting will appear and thus why only foreigners will think it anachronistic to talk briefly about May Day now.
Historically, May Day was never a public holiday in England which is, I suppose, why we tend not to celebrate it much - or at all. Chocolate-box maypoles occasionally appear in remote villages in Wiltshire or Dorset, populated by Range Rovered commuters who come to watch proceedings laid on specially for them, enthralled.
Otherwise, everyone’s far too busy getting and spending on May 1 and, by the time May Day Monday arrives, it’s too late. Intertwining ribbons while you clog-dance around a thinly-disguised phallic symbol is, after all, only excusable on ‘the day’ itself.
Things are charmingly different in France, though, where May Day has become a day devoted to the giving and carrying of one of Spring’s most beautiful plants: the dainty and fragrant lily-of-the-valley.
May Day isn’t just a folkloric ‘welcome to Spring’, complete with clacking sticks and knee-bells. It’s also the day when, according to ancient and very widespread tradition, farm-workers and other general labourers were permitted by their betters to celebrate - and even, sometimes, to complain about - their lives. Which is probably why it was never a public holiday in England.
At the beginning of the 20th century it became traditional in France for labour organisations, as well as poor individuals, to sell lily-of-the-valley on May 1 without the need to pay sales tax, thus welcoming Spring and drawing attention to their financial plight in one fell swoop.
The tradition has stuck. On May Day, French children carry lily-of-the-valley wherever they go and grown-ups, too, join in by exchanging posies. Which is, when you think about it, a rather splendid and spring-like thing to do on the first day of May.
50 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU’RE 12
I suffer from industrial-strength listomania and this latest list is right up my street. The National Trust - whom God preserve - has compiled a digest of things which, it thinks, all children should have tried to do - or at least been encouraged to do - before they’re 12.
There are five categories in the list. Here are the ten items under the ‘Adventurer’ category.
1 Climb a tree
2 Roll down a really big hill
3 Camp out in the wild
4 Build a den
5 Skim a stone
6 Run around in the rain
7 Fly a kite
8 Catch a fish with a net
9 Eat an apple straight from a tree
10 Play conkers
In my 63½ years, I’ve managed numbers 1, 3, 6 and 9. I’ve tried 5, 7 and 10 several times, each occasion resulting in ritual and unforgettable humiliation. I wouldn’t even know where to start with 4 and 8.
What’s your score?
And is it time we collectively decided to tackle this list before it’s far, far, far too late?
There seems to be a demand for our next AGM to be held at Birkheads Nursery once again. I’m more than happy to go along with this idea.
But should it take place on a Thursday, as usual? Or should we be really adventurous and daring and hold it on a Saturday or Sunday?
I’ll go with the flow on this one. If, that is, there’s a flow to go with.
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