Posted by: Linda Proud | April 29, 2012

April Tempests

As I write, the house is being buffeted by gales, windows rattle, things in the garden crash, seagulls tumble through the air along with trees and recycling bins. ‘This weather has a moral quality,’ says my friend Jeremy, a very morose gardener right now. So, we deserve it do we? Probably.

I do believe it was the day after the hosepipe ban came in that the rain began and we haven’t had a day without it since. At first it was gentle, ‘female rain’ as the Navajo Indians call it. Now it is male and in need of a course in anger management. It lashes, it squalls and it ruins everyone’s plans.

There was so much on offer this weekend we could hardly choose. The Wolvercote Plant Sale, which resembles Chelsea Flower Show at closing time, with people struggling home burdened by great lolling plants; a foraging walk along the canal; Blackbird Leys Choir singing Vivaldi’s Gloria in the local church; today a foraging picnic contending with the Community Orchard pre-May Day picnic with songs and stories (we’re a bit pagan in the village). Most of these things were cancelled; what wasn’t, we didn’t get to, because it’s a duvet weekend with spag bol and Britain’s Got Talent.

I can bear all these losses, just, but two are those yet to come and I shall find hard. May morning on Tuesday – forecast is heavy rain – and for my friend Jan, who’s only in Britain for a few months, it could be her one and only chance to experience the pagan underbelly of sedate Oxford. No, not the shenanigans that go on around Magdalen Tower, but the alternative May Morning that happens in North Oxford, when mature academics arise before dawn to put on flower-bedecked hats and salute the May Bull with a pagan hymn.

May Morning at the Anchor Inn, Oxford, 2011

Beltane! The date now is synonymous with May Day but properly, I believe, is determined by the moon and can happen any time in early May. I’ve been promising myself all year that I’d get up at 4am to do the 20 miles to Uffington White Horse, no, not to dowse or dance in a ring, but to test my theory about the relationship of sunrise to the Horse at Beltane. Another year, perhaps.

But what really upsets me is that the rising waters on the meadow are cutting off easy access to my little local sacred site, Burgess Field, erstwhile waste tip now become a Thing of Beauty, and especially at the beginning of May. Am I going to miss the hawthorn blossom this year? Not if I can help it, even if I have to take a long detour and walk an extra hour in wellington boots, I’ll get there.

The water meadow is filling up fast. The line of trees on the horizon mark Burgess Field, which may soon be cut off.

Only Man is daunted by weather. Spiders still hatch, and spin webs from the word go.


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