For many years now, due to climatic changes, we have learned not to expect a white Christmas or balmy June evenings. It is more likely to snow in April than December or January, the March winds come at all times, and October only produces mellow fruitfulness if the bees dared to come out at the same time as the blossom.
January, traditionally, is the silent month of snow. February used to be consistently cold and wet, moving out of snow and into slush, away from glisten branches and towards freezing rain. It used to be the half way point between the snowmen and glowing embers of January, and the crocuses and howling winds of March. April showers (remember, the ones that brought the flowers for her first bouquet?) can now be torrential downpours likely to strip the bark off trees, or horizontal onslaughts of ice-needles.
May, on the other hand, used to be an important month for getting life organised. It was a definite goodbye to Winter, and a welcome hello to Summer. A time to pack the woollies into suitcases and lose some weight with a bikini in mind.
The meaning of the old saying "Ne'er cast a clout e're May is out" is debatable. A clout, besides being the name of a nail and a synonym for hit, there seems to be agreement about "clout" being an old word for clothing, so the indication is that the warm layers of Winter garb should not be discarded until . . . and here is the argument. Does "May" refer to the month, or to Hawthorne blossom, otherwise known as May blossom because that is when it used to appear. I am one of those people who will take their Summer clothes out of storage at the first sign of sun, but I won't put away the woolly socks until my feet stop going blue. So, do I take my chances and stick to the calendar? Or get back in touch with the earth, and watch out for those pillowy hedges to signal the right time.
With all the double-glazing and central heating around nowadays a body can get very confused. What is T-shirt weather inside may be parka weather outside. Timing is all important. If you are not careful, you can catch a cold between opening and shutting the front door.
Nowadays I tend to rely on a combination of things to tell me when to leave off that extra layer. For instance, there are two quince bushes in my garden. One is right next to the house, where it is sheltered from most of the winds, and this one tends to flower fairly early. The other, only a few feet away and on the shady side of a fence, warms up a little later. When this one blooms I start getting hopeful.
Then there are the car windows. Every morning before I go to work I demist with the rubber squeegee, and when I only have to clear one side of the car then I know the sun is on its way.
When I go to bed at night with my bedsocks on and wake up in the morning with them off, I can be sure that the nights are warming up.
When Pete starts singing in the morning, rather than waiting for midnight MTV to show retros of KLF videos, we are well on our way.
But the clincher is this. When I begin to hear a buzzing that isn't coming from my head, I aim for the Useful Drawer and fetch out one of those little cardboard tubes with a red cap. I tug at the contents by the green plastic loop, being careful not to get myself stuck on the glue or the drawing pin, and if yields - Spring is here!Yes, I'm talking about flypaper. Those long coils of sticky brown paper that add a quaint, old fashioned atmosphere to any room. I don't like sprays. I have never used one I liked the smell of, I suspect they are not environmentally friendly, and they can leave you with nasty surprises of shrivelled black buttonny things with curled up legs turning up in the most unexpected places, not to mention in your food! Give me flypaper every time. It is no threat to the environment (as far as I know), it's hygienic because you know where the flies have landed, and convenient because you can throw them all in the bin at one time. And can a can of flyspray tell you when to take your vest off? No! So, until someone comes up with something better, you can can your sprays. I'll stick to flypaper.