We’ve always called it, simply, ‘The May’. Back in the days when friends would come and sleep on sofas and floors, rise at five and stride into the centre of Oxford for a blast of ‘Summer is a cumin in’ from the top of Magdalen Tower, morris dancing and a daybreak pint, it was a signpost on our path through the year.
May, Beltane, is the moment when we give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Spring, to new life, to lust. It is the Celtic Bacchanallia. In Oxford it’s the season of balls and drunken students plopping off bridges into the Cherwell. In Edinburgh it’s all together less twee and far more feral as they take to Calton Hill and dance naked by firelight, while in villages across the country children dance round maypoles, a fertility rite that’s long acquired an innocence it never used to have.
Here in Sussex May is when the orchards blossom. Even in a season as dismal as has been this Spring it lifts the spirits. I’d half expected the blossom to be taken by frosts, but it hasn’t. On Sunday Luca and I stomped through the woods, through carpets of bluebells and barbed-wire-like tangles of brambles.
We wielded sticks and cut our way through the undergrowth. Brambles are pretty daunting when you’re five, especially when you’re five and spend way too much time on the sofa watching TV. Stomping though woods should be compulsory for everyone under ten along with mud and sticks.
I’ve barely had a break in the weather to get on with the treehouse. It’s progressing only slowly. I have to make more shakes to finish off the walls. I’ve been trying to use chestnut rather than oak but I have to say I don’t like the results. It looks as though I’ll be getting some more oak logs from John Waller up at Bore Place and be working at them for a few weeks yet.