Monday, 7 April 2014

April Showers and Mad March Hares

Drip drip drop little April shower
Beating a tune
as you fall all around

If you're as sentimental as I am, you will probably recognise this opening from the song from the favourite film, Bambi, but I hope April showers will stay away, at least for the next couple of weeks. Mum has a birthday, the RHS have their London show, and I am hoping to enjoy lots of days out with 'Husband' now that he has his Easter break.

The latest March entry in the sketchbook exchange is also nearly complete. Humphrey the Easter Bunny made an appearance and I have festooned the pages with studies of Periwinkle and a tent! Yes, a tent. Well, as a child we went camping in the summer, and my Mum and Dad used to tell us stories of camping trips to Scotland at Easter and getting snowed in.

'Humphrey' The Easter Bunny

Camping in the snow, at Easter!

This tale got me thinking about how we mark the changing seasons. There is much folklore and 'old wives tales' (I have never actually met an old wife) that follow with the months and seasonal symbols of change. Although March has passed, there are some choice subjects to study. Starting with red skies.

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky at morning, shepherd's take warning.

This one is taken from an ancient way to tell the prevailing weather. The red in the sky is the glow of morning or evening light reflecting on haze or cloud, often associated with storms. The evening red sky often indicates the glow is in the east, hence moving away.

In Europe, the song of the first Cuckoo is often recognised as the earliest sign of spring, as the breeding season kicks off. The composer Frederick Delius even wrote a piece of music named 'On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring'. And very lovely it is too. If you are a very early riser, you can hear the 'Dawn Chorus' throughout Spring. There is even an International Dawn Chorus Day on the first Sunday in May, encouraging us to get up nice and early to fully appreciate their efforts. Starting as early as 4am with the Blackbird and ending some time later with the Goldfinch, (they like a bit of a late start), with a plethora of other species getting involved along the way. 

March is also a month with a few lion and lamb connotations, reflecting the seasonal wind and rain that often comes in the early Spring. Oh, and here's one of those pub quiz questions that would impress. Did you know that March begins on the same day of the week as November every year? And if History was your bag at school, then we could all recall that March is the month named after Mars, the Roman god of war, who was also regarded as the guardian of agriculture.

March roars in like a lion in the sky
and makes us shiver
as he passes by

When winds are soft
and the days are warm and clear
just like a gentle lamb
Then Spring is here


And finally we have 'Mad as a March Hare'. This one comes from the observed antics said to occur only in the March breeding season of the Hare. Similar phrases are attested in the sixteeth century, in the works of John Skelton (Replycacion, 1528). "Aiii, I saye, thou madde Marche Hare"; and in the 1529 Magnyfycence the hare was described, "As mery as a Marche Hare". More recently, the popular illustration of the March Hare is at The Hatter's tea party in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

The March Hare with Alice, the Dormouse
and The Hatter from
Lewis Carroll's 1865 book
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Image care of Wikimedia

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