Monday, 31st May, 2021

[Day 441]

And so the ‘Spring Bank Holiday’ dawns i.e. that which used to be called Whitsuntide decades ago but which got secularised some time ago now. This was the week (and actually the day) when in Manchester and the Lancashire mill towns one used to have the ‘Whit walks‘. On Whit Monday (or it might have been Whit Friday) all the local Catholic institutions used to get dressed up in their finery and would then walk beneath a banner and to the sound of a local brass band. Actually the school I attended in Bolton, Lancashire in the mid-1950’s has one of the finest brass bands in the area (but I was in the school orchestra, not the Brass band) The type of organisations that would march would be the Legion of Mary, the Boy Scouts, Cubs and Girl Guides, the local Catholic nurses with rather specialised capes and finally all of the various ethnicities in the area (usually Ukranians, Poles and other Eastern Europeans who had come to work in the mines and the textile industries). For all I know there were probably several other local urban collectivities who used to take part in the Whit walks as well. This was illustrated in one of L S Lowry’s famous paintings and, as it happens, I have a copy of this particular Lowry on my study wall to provide me with an occasional reminder of my Lancashire/Manchester days. If all of this sounds excessively sectarian, then the Anglicans and Non-Conformists had their own march the following week but without sounding unduly partisan, I think these were often a pale imitation of the Catholic versions. For those interested, a Google search with the terms ‘Whit Walks in/around Manchester‘ will reveal a lot of interesting history, complete with photographs. I was consulting Google to attempt to find out if the Whit Walks still took place but COVID-19 over the last year or so are certainly hastening the death throes of this once thriving cultural highlight.

And so to return to Bromsgrove on what has turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. The thin layer of mild white cloud very quickly burned off and Meg and I had a delightful walk down into town, accompanied by a slight breeze which made the walk very pleasant. We noticed on our walk down the hill that all the local poppies seem to have sprung up in the last day or so – I suppose it was the combination of quite a dampish soil followed by two days of blazing sunshine. On our way down the hill, we noticed a mature tree which looked very maple-like in its appearance, at least judging by the shape of the leaf. But what was so extraordinary was that there must have been masses of seedlings, or at least seeds, which had fallen into/onto some loose gravel.Consequently, the seedlings had gone mad – out of interest, I pulled one out and it seemed to have grown some good roots. Tomorrow, I will take down a plastic bag and rescue some of these seedlings – the person who was living in the house next door thought his neighbour would be done a good turn if I ‘liberated’ him of some of these seedlings tomorrow so I will do this with an easy conscience. When we eventually got to the park, we met with two of our regular friends and discussed some of the findings (in a Daily Mail poll, of all places) indicating the Daily Mail readers were reacting to the Dominic Cummings/Boris Johnson contretemps. Some of the findings were quite interesting – for example, if I remember it correctly, there is quite a division of opinion whether the lockdown should end in three weeks time. Several prominent scientists are already arguing that the next wave of the virus might already have begun and we should be extra cautious. Even sources inside No. 10 are saying that there this a 50:50 chance that the forthcoming end to the lockdown in three weeks time may have to be delayed or softened somewhat. The next week or so will be critical whilst the data on new infections, their transmissibility and likely impact on the NHS and risk of spreading to the rest of the UK is very carefully assessed. Eventually, though, our conversations drew to a natural conclusion and so we made for home and prepared a very late salad type meal for ourselves.

As the past few days have been quite warm, I remembered in time that the plants that had been bought for me for my birthday needed to be dead-headed and then receive a good supply of water. This having been done, we were delighted to get a phone call from our good friends in Oxfordshire who have now decided to make a journey up North (probably to Scotland) for a mini-break. They are calling in to see us next Monday (and of course we will be delighted to see them) so we will probably prepare a nice hearty soup for them so they cay be sustained and get on their way as soon as they are sufficiently rested.