close up photography of yellow daffodil flowers

All Downhill From Now on…!

That’s how it always feels for me once the clocks go forward.

Or when we reach the Easter weekend.

And this year, the fact that the two events coincide is consolingly neat and tidy, as if the arrival of Spring has decided to package itself as a convenient double deal.

An early Easter, in fact, suits my desperation to shrug off the shackles of winter to arrive at a point where everything has the potential to be lighter. Warmer. Freer.

That extra hour of daylight seems to me like offering an additional 60 minutes of time to 24 hours. And if it’s like this for us pampered, indulged and cossetted 21st century beings, think what the arrival of lighter, longer days meant to earlier centuries without our conveniences of electric light, central heating, high tog duvets and the like!

Literature indicates a little of how past generations greeted Spring:

Chaucer sets his pilgrims off on their journey to Canterbury at the start of April:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote ….

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende …

And so on. I won’t weigh you down with too much Middle English, but you get the idea.

It’s clear that in Chaucer’s 14th century world, Spring meant a new start, an emergence from dark days and the chance to go travelling.

In Millie Panter-Downs’ compelling London War Notes, a collection of the Letters from London that were published by The New Yorker throughout WW2, Spring and the month of April had rather different connotations.

In April 1941 she writes:

This year’s April is clouded by what is happening in Greece and North Africa, especially Greece …..which are distracting the attention of the English from the announcement by daffodils in the London parks and cuckoos in Surrey woods that summer is incumen in.

A year later, on April 5th 1942 she writes:

The invasion season is officially due to open on April 15th, after which date people wishing to take a trip to the East or South coast must consult the police before setting out.

By Springtime 1943, she is reporting that:

Shabby as the town may be, the parks have once again put on their not especially abundant but still gay floral show to gladden weary eyes. The tulips near Wellington Barracks draw throngs of Whitehall clerks, who come at lunchtime to eat their sandwiches and to admire. Spring has also had its effect on the sheep in Hyde Park who have been taking advantage of the absence of railings, removed to augment the nation’s scrap-metal pile, and strolling out into the roadways where they have been known to lie down in front of nonplussed jeeps.

(I love the thought of sheep wandering around Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch …)

By April 1945, however, she is able to declare that:

This year, the joyful Easter promise of resurrection of life seems startlingly applicable to temporal affairs.

Vere Hodgson’s compelling Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries which follows her war time experiences living and working in London is another source of fascinating insight into those years. April 1942, for example, she observes:

News much as usual – deplorably bad. Crocuses are out. Walked back along Holland Walk – trees of freshest green.Trees all have a mantle of green and look so fresh. The lovely yellow flaming bush is out everywhere and a wonderful white tree just at the ornamental end of the Serpentine. Bath badly bombed yesterday and Exeter and York. Damage in Bath considerable. Many teachers killed.

It’s a stark and so very chilling fact that some nations are still unable to greet the arrival of Spring with enthusiasm because of current conflicts.

In fiction, Jane Austen chooses Easter in Pride and Prejudice as a pivotal and positive moment for Elizabeth Bennet. Staying with her friend, Charlotte and the odious Mr Collins at the parsonage, she is close to Rosings, the snobbish Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s splendid abode, and is a regular visitor there – which tips her into the company of Mr Darcy.

And although it cannot be said that romance between the two instantly blossoms in the spring sunshine and showers –

You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it

is Elizabeth’s firm but oh so very articulate refusal – it certainly is the turning point and the beginning of a new understanding between the two – a thawing, you could say, of the prejudice and pride that has separated them, that starts with the arrival of Spring.

Poetry captures the joy of Springtime best, I think.

And nowhere better than in Laurie Lee’s April Rise with such images as:

and all the world

Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud

and

If ever world were blessed, now it is.

And there’s one simple line in Anne Stevenson’s poem Resurrection that speaks to me every Spring:

And yes, we’ll inherit a summer!

That, for me, is one of the most consoling lines of poetry ever written!

So Happy Easter!

Happy Spring Time!

As I see it, a kind of Start of the Year time worthy of resolutions that will seem far easier to realise in long light days than in their winter counterpart.

All we need now is some secure sunshine and an absence of rain to see us sail into early summer!

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