Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Queen of the May

I forgot to say “white rabbits” in triplicate and wash my face in the dew this morning: that’s my chance of good luck, eternal youth and beauty blown for another year then. I haven’t seen a Maypole today, either. I have only danced around one once; I got into a terrible tangle.

Traditions, rites and folklore are woven into the fabric of our lives. Perhaps less so now, but I believe they still have a resonance. Especially so away from the urban sprawl where the skies are huge and the darkness is complete, in the sort of places where faerie folk may still tiptoe unseen through the bluebells…

During the 1970s and ‘80s, my village staged an annual May Week, which consisted of team games and competitions. For a week before, the trophies were displayed in a decorated shop window; I would gaze covetously at the shining shields and imagine them twinkling back at me from the cabinet beside my dad’s football, darts and clay pigeon shooting prizes. I managed to win three over the years: I was pancake race champion on two consecutive occasions, and my team took the rounders crown in our final year in the junior section.

May Week culminated in a fancy dress parade, which was led by a waving May Queen in tiara and sash. As a spotty teenager, I used to babysit for a glamorous 30-something, who had a cloud of coal black curls and was cloaked in Chanel. She had a sunbed and wore strapless black dresses with boned bodices. I was slightly in awe of her: I thought she was the height of sophistication.

On the night they picked the May Queen, she returned home with a sparkle in her eyes: she had been chosen as one of the attendants. “But,” she said, sucking hard on a cigarette as she tipsily drove me home, then crunched a Polo to hide her habit from her other half, “one of the judges said I should have won – only there would be a fuss if they didn’t choose one of the younger girls.”

At the time, I was outraged on her behalf: she must have looked like a swan among a paddling of ducks. But now I think the judges made the right decision. If April is the ingénue, and May is the blush before the ripening, then my long ago friend was the mellow gold of September.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ooohh..you've got me all of a quiver, eminem, with your talk of a black boned bodice...

Anonymous said...

An old girlfriend of mine who grew up in Dorset [not a million miles from Dorchester, but I forget the name of the village] told me that they would have a 'Queen of the May' every year.

She was disappointed never to have been chosen, although she pointed out it was done democratically by letting children at school have a secret vote . That way it wasn't just given to a 'teacher' pet' or 'carnival queen' beauty.

I suspect that this is another tradition which may have died out in most of England, or succumbed to 'political correctness'. It seems a shame as many other cultures have such rituals and they do bring the village together..

Drunk Mummy said...

Dancing round a maypole is something I have never done in my life (unlike dancing round my handbag which I have done way too often). It really ought to be on those lists of "Things to do before you turn 30" or 40 or 90. If I ever get a chance, I'm going to go for it - it would be worth doing just for the embarrassment I could cause to my kids.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. Not quite dancing round the maypole, but I did once 'Strip the Willow' at a friend's wedding..[stop sniggering at the back] Whilst doing the weaving which this dance entails, I got a little, ahem, out of sequence and crashed into about 3 poor girls coming the other way. I am told all of them are out of hospital and are more or less fully recovered...

rilly super said...

I think maypole dancing may be one of those things, like bicycling, that are best learned at as young an age as possible and then abandoned at as young an age as possible.

Now you are the glamorous 30 something M&M, hmm, does that sound like the wurthers original advert...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

I was once solely responsible for mucking up the Brownie maypole dancing display. Brown Owl had to tell everyone else to stand still and then dance me back around the pole undoing the mess I'd made. The music carried on playing and the onlookers carried on laughing.

I had forgotten that until i read your post.

Oh the shame.
Pigx

Nunhead Mum of One said...

Me too! I once ruined an entire May Day parade because I "couldn't dance round the maypole in tune". It wasn't my fault. I was distracted by a rather beardy looking Morris Dancer who was clanking his sticks rather too enthusiastically for my 9 year old liking.

Anonymous said...

Yikes ! That's started something - I feel a theme developing..there should be some form of therapy for this 'Post Maypole Stress Disorder..'

BB said...

"If theres a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now, its just a spring clean for the May Queen..."

said Led Zeppelin...

Stay at home dad said...

Very evocative M&M... I've danced around the Maypole. At least the one in my local playground when I was young. But I preferred tennis.

Here's to mellow gold!

Sahd

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

I danced around a maypole once, with tiny little tinkling bells attached to my ankles. I was 8.

Mopsa said...

mayflowers on the grey mare's bridle are in order I think - just be careful of those pointy spikes - a crown of thorns is not the look we want.

The Grocer said...

Pancake race champion on two separate occasions? Did you go on to run for county & country?
That is a match for my Its a Splashout winners medals two consecutive years.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Hmm, all you Maypole dancers are mummies and daddies - perhaps it does live up to its guise as a fertility symbol ...

Love that song, BB...

Mopsa, the spooky grey mare may not appreciate it!

Grocer, I am very proud of my pancake endeavours!

Karen said...

I once danced around a maypole but I was rubbish at it has didn't know what I was doing and was really shy because I didn't know any of the other children. This was because it wasn't in my village but at Eskdale near my grandma's house.

I have never been May Queen or anything like that. I didn't even get to be Mary in the school nativity plays because I have auburn hair.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Never mind, Karen.. who wants to be a May Queen? I'd rather win £100 from the answers folk!

Karen said...

You better text them something then M&M so you can be the winner for May!

debio said...

Even from a very young age I have found the celebration of fertility amusing. My sister and I used to be convulsed with laughter when watching Morris Dancers; are they supposed to be irresistible, or are the watchers meant to feel overcome with passion?
The participants of Helston Flora Dance actually process through peoples' houses - baffling.
But there is a thread there re the customs of remote villages...