May, May, May

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Today bore witness to Mother Natures remarkable annual transformation from Spring into Summer. Today my wife and I travelled to the City of Southampton for no other reason than we did not know the place very well and simply wanted to see it.

We left in the morning with a thick heavy clinging mist carpeting the landscape and on our return journey everything had turned a vivid lush green as leaves on just about every variety of tree burst out into the world in proclamation that Summer has arrived.

Signs that Summer was fast approaching have been apparent all week. Swallows have already arrived following their long migratory flight from South Africa, Cowslip in hedgerows and verges have grown from nothing into a tall forest of delicate white flower in less than a week. Gardeners will have not failed to notice that additional spurt in the growth of grass of the last few days. All in all  it is as if Mother Nature has been lining her troops up for a grand parade to announce the last chilly tendrils of Winter have finally lost their grip.

Although officially Summer does not start until June, nature has a way of disregarding artificial dates, nature has its own timetable irrespective of political diktat.

In modern society  as we busily scurry to and fro, we may not take too much notice on the passing of another day but certainly to our ancestors it was a day for fun, frolics and festivities. Many traditional May Day activities have however withstood the ravages of time and are still celebrated today in the UK even though they may be viewed as rather quaint by foreign visitors.

Morris DancersDancing around the May Pole the origins of which are buried in symbolic fertility at a time of year romance between young people figured highly. A young girl is usually crowned the May Queen at such events with a floral headdress.

English folk dancing performed by Morris dancers or Morris Men splendidly bedecked in floral hats and jangling bells.

Padstow in Cornwall has its own unique day long festival featuring the Obby Horse pronounced locally as the “Obby Oss” draped like a skirt from the shoulders of a local resident.. The town is ablaze with colour from early Spring plants and flowers as celebrations carry-on throughout the day. The origins of these activities have long been lost in antiquity but it is speculated that they may be pre-Christian.

Internationally the 1st May is considered “The Workers Day” frequently accompanied by parades, gatherings and speeches. The day was also used by some governments to profess their military prowess. Each year during the period term the Cold War the former USSR preceded the workers celebrations with militaristic parades of troops and weapons of mass destruction. Such parades used to be used as something of a political thermometer to gauge the current state of tension between the worlds super-powers.

As for myself, I view May Day as something of a precursor hopefully pointing the way to long pleasant days of summer warmth and outdoor activities.


May 2012

Traditionally the first of May is considered the first day of early summer. It is also considered the ‘”workers day” when many trade unions and other labour organisations around the world hold rallies and the like. Although a beautiful sunny day at the moment, my own particular world has drastically shrunken on a temporary basis due to lashing rain and howling winds lasting for two days. The consequence of this wet and windy display of natures tempest is the roads to my village are now under water from the adjacent River Yeo overflowing, thereby effectively cutting us off from civilisation. If I followed the same stance of a now famous and arrogant newspaper headline in the 1950’s which reported thick fog closed of cross channel ferries, leaving Europe cut off from Britain. I should have perhaps said the world is cut off from my village.

The local river overflowing is not however an unusual occurrence, it is something that frequently happens after prolonged rainfall causes the river to swell. The lane leading to my village is narrow with several sharp and blind bends. There is also a long dip in the lane on one of the bends where the flooding occurs. The local council once erected a depth gauge on the grass verge to assist motorists in judging the depth of the water, unfortunately the depth indicator is barely visible due to overgrown foliage and due to the bend in the lane, motorist needs to be in the deepest part of the flooded roadway before they can see it. It always reminds me of the cartoon of the sign saying danger quicksand that cannot be read until a person is already sinking in a quicksand pit.

A friend of mine long since gone told me when she was a small girl many years ago, her father who lived in a different unnamed village, would allegedly send one of her small brothers with a wooden box to a similar flooded roadway, who would then stand on the submerged box at the roadside waiting for an uninformed driver to come along. The driver on trying to decide the depth of the water would see a small boy in wellington boots with water lapping round his ankles. Having made a judgement it was safe to proceed the driver would soon find themself stranded at which time the boy would run home to inform his father of the stranded vehicle. His father would then tow the car out of the flood using his tractor for a five pound fee. I have no idea if this was a tall yarn or not but I did find it amusing at the time.

Since Roman times, local farmers relied on the river flooding as a method of fertilising their fields from deposited silt enriching their fields. Somerset is well known for the Somerset Levels, an area of land that flooded in the winter months leaving locations like Glastonbury magically arising from the waters. Hence the name “Isle” in the Isle of Avalon where Glastonbury stands. Somerset also takes its name from the lands governed from Somerton, the local ancient town which lays claim to be the one time capitol of Wessex. Somerton in turn takes it name from the Summer Lands which is how Somerset was once described.

May 2011

Although the date of the first day of Summer varies depending whether you are a meteorologist or not, for many people including myself, the 1st May is traditionally the welcome beginning of the long summer months. In not so olden times the arrival of the Summer was celebrated throughout the country with dancing around the maypole, which is considered to be something of a fertility symbol, as well as other outdoor fetes and galas. Not many locations retain the traditional maypole but a scattering of them still exist.

May normally signals the end of the football season to be replaced with the sound of leather on willow otherwise known as the cricket season. I am not a football fan myself but cricket is something I really enjoy. To non-cricket playing countries it must seem a strange sport with seemingly difficult rules to understand. Those that are more accustomed to games packed with 90 minutes of fast and furious action, a much longer game lasting three, or even five days if it is a test match, must seem very slow indeed. It is however a game of both skill and tactics where enjoyment lasts much, much longer.

So far since the arrival of a summer like spring, the weather has held good. It does seem however that whatever the British weather there is always one group or another that will complain. It’s either too hot or cold, too dry or wet and so on. At the moment it is those worried about possible drought caused by the lack or rain but I find that Mother Nature always seems to find ways of balancing things out.

The past few days in Britain has seen a round of street parties, barbecues and other celebrations due the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now entitled the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Such events are not everyday happenings and the ceremonials were stunning to watch. I for one wish them a long and happy marriage. My guess is that Kate will now be popularly known to most people as Princess Kate whether protocol allows for it or not. I do find it sad that the rat pack which collectively go under the name of paparazzi seem determined to track them down on their honeymoon wherever and whenever that may be. I cannot help but feel how most of us would deeply resent hundreds of baying photographers camped on our doorstep during our honeymoon. I wonder how those photographers would also feel if the same happened to them?

It’s a pity there seems to no longer be any common boundary of decency between natural public interest and the invasion of privacy by the paparazzi in what can only be seen as their prey or victims. One has only to witness recent scenes of this faceless baying mob constantly hounding people like Lindsay Lohan, just waiting for her to pass wind in public before screaming probation violation that fills one with disgust. It was the same faceless rat pack that Princess Diana was trying to escape when her car crashed. It may be difficult but perhaps there should be laws to restore a balance of decency.

My property overlooks fields currently full of sheep. I find it quite amusing to see the antics of the new-born lambs. For about their first ten days of life they tend to cling close to their mothers. As they gain more confidence in their surroundings, the lambs tend to form gangs which then go racing around the fields. Although the lambs tend to all look the same, it is a common sight to see sheep nudge away a lamb which is not their own as they mistakenly try to suckle from her. The large flock of sheep are also constantly on the move with each sheep following the one in front. It is not that the flock are going anywhere in particular, it just seems that one follows the other so they are not left out. Perhaps they have copied the habit from watching mankind.

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