Oh no, it’s the first day of spring. I am not a spring person. I have barely got over it being winter. In fact, if I’m honest, I have barely come to terms with it being winter. I am not ready to extract myself from hibernation. So don’t try and drag me outside to enjoy it.
I like having the heating turned up high and the blinds down, keeping out the miserable sight of the grey oppressive sky hanging there like a reminder of something half-done. I like getting into my fleecy jammies at 4 o’clock when it starts to get dark, hunkering down in my candle-lit cave to greet the night. I don’t like all this flagrant early sunlight which promises but rarely delivers warmth outdoors. It’s all a bit too bright, too soon.
My grandmother was a wise woman who taught me certain irrefutable truths, like for example it being bad luck to reverse a garment you’d inadvertently put on inside out or back to front. Every year at the first sign of bulbs pushing their snouts above the soil she used to say: “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out,” and I’ve taken her at her word ever since. Whether or not we understand ‘May’ to refer to the month or the Hawthorn blossom of the same name, it comes to the same thing.
March is not the time to be stripping off your many layers of clouts. Maybe one layer, or even two on a particularly unseasonably warm day (and with the whole climate change thing there have been a few of those lately to fool us into false hope) but please – leave it there. There is nothing so demoralising for someone who feels the cold even in the middle of summer as the sight of young foolhardy fashion aficionados strutting their skimpy vests and bare legs along the street, while I’m still debating whether I need a sweater and a coat. And possibly a woolly hat and gloves. You can’t be too careful.
When I was at nursery school we used to have a big poster on the wall, telling you exactly what to expect throughout the year in terms of weather. “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers” it proclaimed. And beneath that the chilling verse: “The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow, and what will poor robin do then, poor thing?” So don’t talk to me about cute little lambs and daffodils. It’s bloody freezing out there on the hills and in the fields, and I’m glad I didn’t incarnate as a sheep. Or a daffodil. Or indeed a robin.
By the time Easter arrives towards the end of April, I might feel more grudgingly accepting of the fact that summer is bound to happen. Round about the end of May I start to get the hang of it. By then I’ve got stuck in with the hay fever that inevitably gets kicked off by the combination of all that pollen from the Hawthorn blossom and the reckless shedding of clouts. I am not an outdoorsy sort of person. I was one of those unfortunate babies under the dubious regime of Dr Spock. We had no option about being bundled up and stuck outside in our prams in all weathers to “get the benefit” of the bracing air. As soon as I was old enough to exercise some choice in the matter I decided I’d had enough of all that, thank you.
So Vernal Equinox or not I won’t be fired up with enthusiasm about reclaiming my garden from the deathly arms of winter (and please stop sending me seed catalogues and cheery emails reminding me when I should be planting things.) The trees are still bare, the March wind doth blow quite aggressively down my chimney as I write, and my cat is still spending most of his 18 hour sleeping day either snuggled in his own duvet or mine (I don’t know why I still bother to make a distinction.) I will decide when spring has sprung, and it hasn’t happened yet.
(Somewhat tongue in cheek, this was first published in 2014, but despite appreciating the glorious efforts of the Spring flowers, which I love, nothing much else has changed.)
If you would like to find out more about my novels and short stories, there are links to them all on my website The Lesley Hayes Website