Beautiful Skies & Barbecue Evenings


Posted by in May's Magazine

I have often wondered why we have elections at the beginning of May, with twelve months to choose from May wins each time. Perhaps it is because we like to think that it will herald a new dawn, a wind of change that will mean this time everything will be okay, summer is finally with us and our hopes are at their highest.

The belief that this time of year is a turning point for better things to come has been with us for many centuries. May and in particular May Day is a time of celebration that cuts across religions and cultures, the Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of Flowers, the Celts celebrated Beltane whilst Northern European Countries celebrated Walpurgis Night. In England there has been a long tradition of May Day celebrations mostly linked with celebrating fertility, offering celebrations to God or the Gods was seen as a way of ensuring that the year’s crop would be a good one. Farm workers were traditionally given the day off as seeding and planting was finished and people celebrated with partying and dancing round the Maypole.

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Unfortunately for English tourism, the Maypole doesn’t have the glamorous and marketable values of kilt wearing, or Highland games – it struggles at the bottom of the ‘sexy pasttimes’ league, rubbing shoulders with the likes of lederhosen wearing in Germany and yodelling in Austria – quaint but not exactly ‘with it’.

Tantalising question
It took some centuries before it was found that two poles stuck in the ground would provide far more fun and be far more marketable, particularly if you organised two teams to try and kick a football through them. Thus emboldened it didn’t take long for someone to nail a cross bar to them and so create rugby posts and of course three poles in a row and, hey presto! cricket arrived. These pole based pastimes proved far more popular with the masses and a far greater success in the export market. Unfortunately that success over the years has ensured that countries that did not have the foresight to shove a pole in the ground, but proved to be far better at actually playing the games, regularly beat our teams! The English are therefore left with sole rights to being World Champions of Maypole dancing and very little else in the sporting world.

Today we see May Day as a secular tradition, a product of post industrialisation, relevant to great industries such as shipbuilding and promoted through Socialist countries to celebrate the efforts of the workers. Although we have moved away from that agrarian tradition and our lives are more and more divorced from the changing seasons in the way that we live and eat, you can still feel the hope and optimism that comes with those early spring months. Glorious days are often to be had at this magical time of year. Scotland en fete. Now too I would wish to head to the Highlands & Islands, balmy evenings, clear skies and no midges! And the light, the light… Again, a time of optimism, the promise (often kept) of glorious weather, will the summer coming too be one of unstinting sunshine? May offers up that tantalising question.

This year differs not a jot, we have seen beautiful skies and barbecue evenings. Leith has been at its finest with the bars overflowing and people promenading along the Shore, the vibrancy is tangible and at last it is reaching out beyond the Shore area. I first moved to a flat over looking Leith Links 25 years ago, but then the Links were deserted even on the hottest days and I would travel up to the Meadows and see people sun bathing, playing football or picnicking and wonder why the Links just did not have that vibe. Well no more, they are home this year to groups large and small; families with prams, people practicing musical instruments, communal barbecues, yoga knot-tying and impromptu football and rugby matches. Sun and laughter always seem to equal optimism.

Fight goes on
Which brings me back to the elections. What will our newly elected leaders deliver to us? Will they mirror those hopes and promises I spoke of? Or will, as so often happens, the early year promise fizzle out into another damp and dreary summer of wind and rain. The Scottish Government can certainly increase the cheer in my household with a bold and early rejection of Forth Energy’s proposals to return the docks to an industrial wasteland. The planned hearing for the Biomass proposal has been put back six months in face of the objections raised but the fight goes on. Leith has come a long way over the last 25 years, a new dawn created by it residents, let’s hope the politicians nurture that change rather than crush it.

 

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