Tuesday, 9 October 2012
The Year's Last Fling
More magic in the woods, the stubble fields, the ancient church-yards, the hedgerows, for October 10th is a significant day.
Eat-a-Goose Day, Don't-Pick-Blackberries Day, Chuck-Lucifer-Out-Of Heaven Day.
Yes, I know that Michaelmas is now September 29th, but that is a recent change brought about by Henry VIII and the Church of England, when it all got mixed up with Harvest Festival and ploughing the fields and scattering.
Old Michaelmas, the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels was October 10th, a more robust event, when good old angelic warrior Michael leaped into action to protect against the darkness and the fears of the night.
It was the day when he had his final ding-dong with Lucifer and threw him out of heaven. Lucifer landed in a blackberry bush and in his tantrum trampled and spat all over the blackberries, which is why they should not be picked after tomorrow. Devil's spittle may be organically sourced, but it's not good digestively.
The geese, which should be eaten tomorrow, will have been fattened on the stubble of the harvest fields. Everyone used to know that eating goose on October 10th provided financial protection for the rest of the year. Failure to observe this tradition could explain the sort of mess we find ourselves in today.
Queen Elizabeth I knew it, and was reputedly eating goose when the news of the Armada was delivered to her. She continued with her meal, just as Drake continued playing bowls, because people had the right priorities in those days.
(A memorable quote from an essay my father was once delighted to have marked contained the reputed quote from Drake: 'The Armada can wait....my bowels can't'.)
There were Goose Fairs and Goose Day.
How many do we see today?
So the year turns, the days shorten and cool, some birds leave us and others arrive, the fruits ripen. In the garden the most magnificent final fling is the Michaelmas Daisy, so called because its flowering is seen as the final and finest horticultural defiance against darkness.
There is no better place to see this defiance than at Old Court Nurseries and the Picton Garden, situated at the foot of the Malvern Hills, where the photograph above was taken a few days ago.
In glorious October sunshine admirers of the Autumn Flowering Aster wandered the winding paths around this enclosed space, dazed by a sea of blues and mauves, pinks and purples. The 400 or so species here represent the National Collection of this plant.
I have a few in my garden. I want more, but I need to organise better.
I want to have flowers all the year, but above all I want the late season defiance, the raising of the floral fist against encroaching cold and darkness.
Maybe it's my age?