I have always subscribed to the T S Eliot point of view that “April is the cruellest month”. I associate it with wild temperature swings, shivering and overheating, and childhood illnesses. In short, I have never liked it and I am always glad when it’s over.
Yet this April has been something different. Of course there have been the usual vicissitudes of weather, and as I write we seem to be plunged right back into winter temperatures. But, above all, it has been a month of celebration, both on a personal and a wider level.
To deal with the birthdays first: Two of my friends have had very special birthdays; the choir my husband founded and has conducted ever since celebrated its fortieth birthday with a performance of Thomas Tallis’ famous forty part motet Spem in Alium (in which I took part), and the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday (at which I was an armchair spectator).
Then there are the anniversaries:
I was lucky to get a ticket to the extremely popular BBC World Book Club recording of a programme about Jane Eyre to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Bronte. In fact, the presenter said that this had been the most oversubscribed programme in the series, and they had had to send people away – testament to the enduring popularity of both the author and her most famous book. I’m almost afraid to confess that Jane Eyre has never been my favourite novel, probably because I read it at face value when I was young. But I’m now beginning to appreciate the wider issues, particularly the context in which it was written and the questions it raises about schools and education. I’m not exactly a convert yet, but I’m getting there.
Then yesterday I braved the cold and enjoyed a walk along London’s South Bank taking in some of the open air screenings of Shakespeare’s plays.
This event was in honour of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, and, needless to say, there were plenty of other people on the trail.
While Shakespeare is buried in Stratford upon Avon, there is a striking memorial to him in Southwark Cathedral, a stone’s throw away from the Globe Theatre where he worked, and this was beautifully adorned with flowers for the occasion – Julie would definitely have approved. There is also a recently restored herb garden in the cathedral grounds, and all the herbs mentioned in Shakespeare plays are detailed in a short leaflet. Rosemary, for example, appears in Hamlet when Ophelia says:
There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance.
Pray, love, remember. (Act IV, scene V)
Fittingly, rosemary was included in the arrangement surrounding the memorial.
Oh, and did I mention that I’ve also celebrated a wedding anniversary in and amongst? Not a significant one, and the day passed rather quietly, not least because, guess what, I had succumbed to an albeit minor April bug. I only ever agreed to get married in April to avoid clashing with Lent, Easter, and the cricket season!