May Day! May Day!

Burgess Field, reclaimed waste tip, is now a paradise at May time

OK, we have May Day every year, but there’s something special about this one: a crescendo of cosmic events beginning with the supermoon back in March and ending this morning in an explosion of hawthorn and silliness. In Oxford we celebrate May Day on the first of the month, irrespective of official bank holidays, but this year (as last), it falls on a weekend and, most unusually, the weather is fine.

May Queen on Wolvercote bull at Anchor Inn

While students risk life and definitely limb flinging themselves off Magdalen Bridge into the shallow Cherwell, and the centre of Oxford heaves with thousands of people who have either been up all night or at least since before dawn, their tutors gather at the Anchor inn opposite Aristotle Lane.

At 6am, the Wolvercote bull appears over the bridge, ridden by the May Queen. Roll over Duchess of Cambridge. And when it comes to hats, who needs Philip Treacy when you have your own back garden?

We had two Morris troupes this morning. Headington Quarry – staid, elderly and very dull – and Eynsham. Eynsham Morris rocks! Three squeeze boxes, two drums and a tambourine, and a troupe including four lads, they took us back beyond Cecil Sharpe to some genuinely boisterous peasant dancing.

Eynsham Morris rocks!

The pub was open but instead of bacon butties there was kedgeree, smoked salmon and other high-priced stuff which we decided against. By 7am the air was inflammable with the fumes of beer and we left them all to it to come back home to our breakfast of choice.

Is life going to seem a little dull from now on? As we left the pub, I paused to look at the bunting and flags and the tables crowded with happy people. It’s been quite a party. If anyone wants to know what it takes to cheer up the Brits, it’s three day weeks and lots of sunshine. And a bit of pageantry helps.

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5 thoughts on “May Day! May Day!

  1. Looks like more fun that what we are going to have/do … which is go pick blackberries in a certain patch we know of, along the Salado Creek Greenway — to start a batch blackberry wine. And then we are going to pray for some rain of our own. It hasn’t rained here since the week after Christmas, and when we watch the news, it seems as if half the state is burning up.

    • Happy blackberrying, Celia. Gosh, is it autumn in Texas? My geography is hopeless… We haven’t had any rain to speak of since, I think, early March or perhaps before. When we got back from a-Maying this morning, I went to the allotment a-Watering. We went from cold soil to cracked soil this spring with hardly anything in between. The digging ‘window’ was about a week. I’ve got a dozen seed potatoes still waiting to go in, but to look at the parched ground which will be like concrete underneath and we haven’t the heart for the task. Still, mustn’t grumble! We all need to do some rain dancing, except the Australians.

  2. No … it’s just been mild enough that the blackberries are quite ripe. See, we have four seasons in South Texas, just like everyone else has. But the difference is, two of them are mild, and temperate, and rather lovely – that is, spring and fall. They are separated by a brief but often viciously cold winter, and a brutally hot and often very dry summer. A couple of years ago, we had such a wet summer that the grass stayed green well into September and October, and the spring wildflowers were still going strong into mid-summer. OTO, the first year I was in Texas, we went for three months straight with temperatures over 100, and it didn’t cool down until halfway through October. I fear this is what we are going to have again.

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