May 10th Tuesday. Went along for the ride when Ray took Mrs Prosser home. The may all coming out along the lanes. Joan collecting my earrings and a white shirt for dying grey in Chichester today. Should be back in half-an-hour or so.
© Anthony Lawton 2012
The may refers to the ’may tree’, or hawthorn. The blossom appears on the tree at the beginning of May in the south of England. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, “until the calendar was changed in 1752, hawthorn would be in flower for May Day, which used to be 11 days later than it is now”. At the May Day celebrations people and houses used to be decked with may blossoms or boughs (‘bringing home the may’) which were traditional decorations, associated with the woodland spirit known as the Green Man.
Observant readers will spot that now the diary is 1988! First I thought it was 1992, when it was not. Now I realise it is not even 1989, but 1988! This explains the references in April and May entries to the damaged landscape – the previous autumn had seen the great storm on the night of 15–16 October that laid waste many Southern English woods. Regular readers will also have noticed some other themes, such as: the day-to-day comings of her staff and friends, her delight in her clothing and jewellery, her inventiveness (here dying a shirt to get just the shade she will have wanted), close observation of the landscape and wildlife, as well as frequent headaches or ‘fuzzy’ head, and some days where ‘nothing remarkable’ happens or she cannot recall what she did! Usually, however, she will have worked at her research, writing and revising, but she speaks little of that so far in this (1988) year of her diary.
I think of her writing this always in bed at night – I sometimes sat there when she did, as I recall. However, maybe my memory plays tricks, for this entry is apparently written during the day (‘Joan will be back’, from shopping, ‘in half-an-hour or so).