When the world is mud-luscious

I adore the month of May. Nature untrammelled. Spring finally appeared in mid-April with the year’s first few days of warm weather. Suddenly at dawn there rose up a great cathartic symphony of eager tweeters, and best of all the lusty-throated blackbirds, whose lonely melodies make your heart melt. The gigantic horse chestnut tree at the back broke into leaf overnight, buds like fists unclenching.

May is usually punctuated by the great post-Easter feast days of Ascension, Whitsunday, Trinity Sunday. Here in Roman Catholic Europe public holidays are more aligned with the liturgical calendar; those days off give you a chance to ponder the psychic connection between the New Testament stories and the warming, brightening world around us. I get very nostalgic for England at this time of year, recalling immemorial spring rites which possibly predated and then were embraced by Christianity in the island. Already in March crocuses carpeting St John’s Churchyard were bringing a blaze of colour March to usher my dear friend Phyllis into heaven. The feast days of May have a fullness and youth in counterpoint to the musty, sombre air of All Saints and Remembrance Sunday.

(And bless the BBC executive who came up with the idea of Tweet of the Day, a two-minute birdy vignette at 5.58am on Radio 4, with Attenborough’s neat sketches such as that of the storm petrel who (it is said) sings like a ‘fairy being sick’, and the wood warbler whose voice is a coin spinning on marble.)

On both sides of the Channel we’ve endured a splenetic winter; there were four separate blasts of Siberian chill which deferred the cowering spring. The weather has continued to be controversial, grey and dank.  Anyway the weather doesn’t even matter in May, because you know that summer hasn’t started yet, so hope yet abides.  I walk my 9-month old to creche each day through a Baroque park whose sweet odours are quite intoxicating.

But already the first fervour has abated into a more stable, quieter lushness. We have a family of blue tits nesting in an old vent in the outside wall of the flat. The parents flit, bringing morsels for their unfledged chicks, whose cheep-cheep arouses the attention of feline roof-stalkers.