Seasonal

The Month in Focus: May

May 17, 2014
may

Photography credit: Fergus Ray Murray

Do you know what? May sure is a busy month. And not just for me, it seems! There are plenty of things to keep you entertained as the weather gets warmer and the British weather (fingers crossed!) finally comes into its own. Longer evenings and brighter mornings make it easier to ditch the usual indoor distractions and start enjoying the world around us again.

So whether you’re dancing round a maypole, planning for the first of the summer festivals or simply enjoying the prevalence of Bank Holiday weekends May has to offer, be sure to have a wonderful time and experience it all without distraction. Happy May time, folks!

01_jack

Photography credit: Simon

The Green Man has to be one of my favourite symbols of nature and the changing of the seasons. Sometimes depicted as a leaf-covered face or a figure adorned with leaves from head to toe, the Green Man is ancient enough to have influenced numerous religions throughout history. He is also often the central focus of many a festival during May.

Jack in the Green is the name given to a participant in traditional celebrations who emulates this pagan spirit, dressed completely in green and often adorned with leaves, fruits and flowers. He is the central focus of the age-old May Day parade, of which there are many held throughout the United Kingdom during the fifth month of the year.

02_elderflower

Photography credit: Claire Sutton

Originally this was going to read “sip a glass of elderflower cordial”, but last night I was invited to a dinner at the Skip Garden Kitchen in Kings Cross and lovely chef Catherine served elderflower lemonade and it was love at first taste!

You’ll start seeing the characteristic white spray of flowers popping up throughout the countryside from the start of May, and there’s no surprise that a slew of refreshing elderflower-themed drinks and to my surprise, cakes, have flooded onto our favourite foodie blogs.

Additionally, whilst searching for information on elderflowers, I found a link to a small, family-friendly festival called Elderflower Fields in Sussex. It’s over the Bank Holiday weekend and is only £105 for a four-day ticket! If you’re looking for a last minute getaway, this could be it!

03_osprey

Photography credit: HJ Hipster

One of my earliest illustrated Bird of the Week posts was about the osprey, a pescetarian bird of prey that is thriving up in Scotland. With a stronghold maintained by the RSPB at Loch Garten, these beautiful hunters have fishing skills that are second to none and stunning white and brown feathers that set them apart from their carnivorous cousins.

These birds incubate their eggs during the month of April, and the chicks hatch in mid-late May. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Loch Garten tells me that a visit is the most incredible thing, but if you can’t make it all the way up to the Highlands of Scotland, then be sure to check out the Loch Garten webcam… as I type this Mrs Osprey is on her nest right now!

04_broom

Photography credit: Kaiton

“If you buy a broom in May, you’ll sweep the head of the family away.” It’s a pretty dark sentiment, but apparently this strange bit of advice is rooted in an age-old belief across many cultures that the broom is a magic item with the ability to affect daily life.

For example, in China is is believed that the broom is inhabited by a spirit, meaning it should not be used for playing games with. In Africa, should a man be struck by a broom he must take it and strike it seven times, otherwise he will become impotent. And an old American tale says that leaning a broom against the end of the bed brings terrible bad luck.

So what do I take from all this? Only that it’s totally acceptable to keep a bit of dust in the house during May, you know, just in case.

05_dew

Photography credit: Photophilde

Yes, it’s another old wives’ tale, but isn’t it a lovely one? Washing your face with dew gathered during the month of May was said to totally rid your complexion of spots, blemishes and even freckles (though that part is a bit sad, because freckles are lovely).

Girls would get up before dawn, go to the fields and harvest the dew, either with their hands or by spreading a sheet out over the moist grass, and then wringing it out and collecting it in a jar. This would be topped up every day and placed in the sunlight on a windowsill.

In his 1652 book The Natural History of Ireland, Dr Gerard Boate wrote “The dew, thus thoroughly purified, looketh whitish, and keepeth good for a year or two after”, which makes me think we should all be indulging in a little May Day facial.

062_oak

Photography credit: Let Ideas Compete

I was stupidly busy at the start of the month and I’m sad to admit that I somehow managed to miss out on all being part of the various May Day celebrations across the UK. Luckily though, there is a second, lesser-known celebration at the end of the month called Oak Apple Day.

29th May is the anniversary of the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660. The story goes that Charles hid behind an oak tree to avoid Parliamentary forces at the Battle of Worcester, hence the name. Throughout the UK this festivity is sporadically still observed, even though it is no longer marked by a public holiday. Expect sights similar to those spotted on May Day, and don’t forget to wear an oak leaf through your buttonhole!

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2 Comments

  • Reply Katharina May 17, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Oh I’m addicted to elderflower lemonade! Even better if mixed with white wine :)

  • Reply Lynsay - Miss West End Girl May 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Yay, it’s Month in Focus time!

    I never knew the one about the broom! It’s the kind of thing that will probably stick in my head now ;) xx

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