When Spring finally arrived in Somerset, it came with all the gardening jobs it was just too cold to tackle earlier. May is proving another busy month! The festival of Beltane, marking the start of summer, should be the time when you can relax, stop treading on the soil, and watch your crops grow.
This year, I had three batches of peas fail to come up – though one is starting to show now – which was a disaster, since this is a heritage variety called Telegraph which I’m seed-saving from. The very last seeds were being soaked before planting – something I don’t normally bother with – when I took a day off to attend the May Day festivities in Glastonbury.
The Tuesday market was occupying the Market Cross, so the Morris dancing took place on the newly acquired patio of the Town Hall. Speeches and bardic recitations followed until the Maypole itself was carried down the High Street by the Green Men.
More speeches and announcements followed. I was at the edge of a growing crowd and it felt like the sketch from the ‘Life of Brian’ (‘What did he say?’ ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers, I think’). The procession wended back up the High Street, past the White Spring to Bushy Combe, as described in this post from 2015.
The White Spring is run by a committee of volunteers now, who endeavour to keep it open as much as possible. It’s well worth seeing if you’re in the area!
The Maypole was duly erected following more ceremonies and recitations. I would have preferred blessings on my peas to vague invocations of universal love, but few people appreciate vegetables these days.
It’s a colourful spectacle though; both celebrants and audience take some trouble to dress up for the occasion. The practical aspects, such as untangling the ribbons as the pole goes up, offer plenty of breaks for chatting.
Quite often in previous years, the ribbons ended up tangled in a big clump off to one side of the pole! Now, enough people have got the hang of the right way to weave in and out that they can keep others on the right track – anyone at the ceremony can take a ribbon and join the dance.
This nice tight winding lasted all the way down. During most of the dance, four strong Green Men braced the pole, as it takes a surprising amount of strain from the flimsy ribbons! The completed pole is moved when all is done, and stored until next year when a new pole and ribbons are sourced, since the field is needed for other things.
The Community section of the Resilience Handbook provides advice on organising your own community events. These are a good way to meet neighbours. Even casual acquaintance helps, should you ever need to cope with an emergency together. Make a point of attending local events, if only in a ‘walk-on’ role!