Friday, 9 May 2014

Here we go Gathering Nuts in May but Ne'er Cast a Clout!!

I do love to know about origins of rhymes and proverbs and there are so many for the Merry Month of May, now the flowers are appearing on a daily basis, although at this time the weather is very inclement - in fact since our dear daughters 22nd Birthday it has got colder and more miserable - we have had many years of May birthdays but this year - it's just not nice!

On our way out to take DD for a birthday lunch I realised the hedgerows were white again, not with Blackthorne this time but the Hawthorne, it's suddenly appeared really. On spotting this I started thinking about all the facts I have picked up trying to increase my "little knowledge" about flowers - I take photos of them so I should know what they are called and know a little really!

For those like me that like to know,  this is what I have found out over the last couple of years....

We all know and remember this nursery rhyme I am sure?

"Here we go gathering nuts in May,
Nuts in May, nuts in May,
Here we go gathering nuts in May,
On a cold and frosty morning."

I was quite surprised last year to learn that in fact in all my years of singing this, it actually could be a little incorrect! Yes I know...childhood shattered! In fact the song was most likely referring to something completely different as Nuts are not gathered in England in May but in Autumn! However, Conopodium majus is commonly called pignut, groundnut etc. and would be in season in May. This was commonly gathered by children as it grows under the ground.

The lyrics could have been changed over the years and a corruption of "knots of may", referring to the blossom of the common hawthorn or May Tree for the May Day celebrations to decorate the village greens and for sweethearts to give and receive a bunch of May was indeed true love!

An ancient specimen, and reputedly the oldest tree of any species in France, is to be found alongside the church at Saint Mars sur la Futaie, Mayenne. The tree has a height of 9 m, and a girth of 2.65 m (2009). The inscription on the plaque beneath reads: "This hawthorn is probably the oldest tree in France. Its origin goes back to St Julien (3rd century)", but such claims are impossible to verify.

The oldest known living specimen in East Anglia, and possibly in the United Kingdom, is known as The Hethel Old Thorn, and is located in the churchyard in the small village of Hethel, south of Norwich, in Norfolk. It is reputed to be more than 700 years old, having been planted in the 13th century.

Another favoured saying as I was growing up in our family was "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" I always thought this was the Month of May, so indeed I had many beautiful sunny Birthdays, but would I take off that cardi? Not if my Nana was near, no.. ;) BUT again, it could be meaning that the May Tree is out in the month of May and...I won't be casting a clout today that's for sure!

So a little probing brings me to think that maybe it could be the month, as I originally thought when younger...

A French proverb - 'En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît'. This translates as 'In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please', which has much the same meaning as 'ne'er cast a clout...'

In Spain they say, 'Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo', that is, 'Don't leave off your coat till May 40th'

Or in England...
"Button to chin, till May be in,
Cast not a clout till May be out"

Also the rhyme "April showers bring forth May flowers" could be referring to the May tree again...and we have had many Showers in April and of course May is notoriously iffy weather wise, so did  those wet months give us the abundance we see in the hedgerows that are growing so prolifically today? As I have been seeing May/Hawthorn growing everywhere over the last couple of days, it's suddenly a wave of white again along the roadsides. But not outside my house as yet this year!

 We visited friends yesterday and they have it growing in abundance! 

I found this page also that has a lovely history of the The Hawthorn Tree - Queen Of The May  White Dragon 

But I think today I shall leave the final words to William Shakepeare himself.....

"Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May". 

Have a lovely weekend and I do hope we get some sunshine! PamelaJayne

Friday, 2 May 2014


Well firstly how is May already? And secondly it's quite funny reading today about how people are having a long weekend Bank Holiday - here in France our Fête de Travail is on the 1st, which meant basically everywhere would be closed and on the day - and long may that continue! But it's not just about the day off, oh no France also has a wonderful tradition of giving bunches of Lily of the Valley to friends and family as a good luck charm.

Here is a little about May Day – Fête du Muguet

Labour-Day-Lily-of-the-Valley copy
Lily of the Valley
May 1st (May Day) is known worldwide as Labour Day.
In France May Day is also the Fête du Muguet when the French greet each others with a sprig or a small bouquet of lily of the valley, a flower that is considered a lucky charm. The tradition dates back to the beginning of the century. Unemployed people went into the woods that were still found in the big cities’ suburbs to pick lilies of the valley. Unemployment benefits did not exist so people had to find ways of making ends meet! 

The lily of the valley is in full bloom in late April early May. It is one of those wild plants that spread very quickly, invading clearings and edges of wood! It grows everywhere and is almost considered as a weed. People just needed the patience of picking it and composing small bouquets which they tied with a ribbon. They sold them in the markets as women once loved to decorate their blouses with a sprig of lily of the valley. This custom was a remainder of the old pagan tradition when people celebrated spring by adorning themselves with flowers. Many provinces have retained a version of this ancient tradition by decorating a pole (May Pole) with flowers. This is reminiscent of the tradition of planting a flowering tree outside the door of the girls to marry off. It was followed by a feast during which they widely celebrated spring, nature and love!

In the language of flowers, the lily of the valley symbolizes ‘marital happiness’.
It was natural to link the flower to dating, and the popular dances “Bals du Muguet” were organized every year so that singles could meet their soul mate.
The girls dressed in white and young men wore a sprig of lily on their lapel; parents and chaperons were banned from attending!
The lily of the valley has been cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages but it is said to originate from Japan where it is considered a symbol of spring.
Some sources, however, attest that the Celts knew the flower and already considered it a lucky charm.
The French tradition of giving a sprig of lily of the valley as a good luck charm on the first day of May originates from May 1, 1561 when King Charles IX received a sprig.

Sadly although it has seemingly been a bumper crop of flowers this year, I haven't found any potted in the shops this year, over the last couple of years I have bought them in the pots and planted them up - and enjoying their lovely scent from April to May! 

We did something completely different this year however, we had the lovely Bartonettes join us for a Musical workshop or as we like to call it *Star for a Day* making dreams come true, for Scarlett she has always wanted to sing into a proper mic - so she did!

Singing "Arpeggios" from Aristocats for the first time, and being recorded at the same time!

My youngest giving a little singing guidance so that Scarlett could make the best of her newly found voice! Sam enjoying his first time beating out a rhythm on the Cajon, and he did very well!

A little shyer than his twin sister, but Sam soon found his voice and sang his version of "Arpeggios"

Sophia is only five so not quite into sight reading just yet, so she chose one of her fave nursery rhymes - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.....

On hearing her recording her first words were "That's not my voice!" It took us all a while to convince her that indeed yes - that is you singing!

it's all about the photos now!

We had a really fab time and I know the children didn't want to pack up and leave, I think we thought 3 hours was quite enough when it was planned but they had only just started rocking out to Abba - so we have sent them on their way home, to work on a few of their fave songs - so they can come back in Summer and do it all again!

For more photos of our *Star for a Day* please visit PamelaJaynePhotographyMakingMemories where you can see a few more captures of the Bartonettes having fun!