Hello, and here is my April newsletter from Ireland .
Now that April has arrived it’s great to see the stretch in the evening after our clocks went forward at the end of March. We have had a recent spell of warm weather and the birds have been out in our garden and indeed all over the country is in full swing with nest building.
Funny Thing – at the end of our garden is a tall tree and a pair of magpies have built a huge nest right near the top. The other morning, I saw an intrepid squirrel making his way up the tree toward the nest only to be chased away by the angry magpies – they acted like a tag team dive bombing the squirrel till he was well out of sight .. talk about teamwork !!
My folklore sources tell me that it is in April that the cuckoo, corncrake and swallow arrive and it is the custom when one first hears the cuckoo or corncrake, or sees a swallow, to say “May we all be alive and in God’s grace next year. Amen,” or literally “May we all be alive this time again. Amen.”
If one hears the cuckoo from behind, and in the right ear, and also finds some hairs (at the same time) under his right foot, such a one will be lucky for that year. If the cuckoo is first heard in the left ear it is an unlucky sign. Should the sowing of oats be deferred from any cause until the coming of the cuckoo, such sowing is invariably known as “cuckoo oats,” and is thus designated to mark the laziness of that particular farmer!
The season of lent is almost over and the shops are full of Easter eggs , Bunnies and other Easter gifts to celebrate the occasion. Another great tradition in Ireland and England is the baking of the Simnel cake.
The simnel cake is a fruitcake – somewhat similar to a traditional Christmas cake – that has it’s origins in the middle ages. It is decorated with designs associated with Lent and Easter. It is distinguished by layers of almond paste or marzipan, typically one in the middle and one on top, and a set of eleven balls made of the same paste. It was originally made for the fourth Sunday in Lent, also known as Laetare Sunday. The refreshment Sunday of Lent ,when the 40-day fast would be relaxed . You still have time to cook one if you want to keep up this old tradition and I have seen plenty of recipes on the internet .
I’m just looking forward to putting my feet up for the Easter holiday weekend – we will close from Good Friday through Easter Monday – a lovely four day weekend !!
Finally, while I’m out for my walk I can see that the last of the daffodils are still in bloom , but you can see them fading away now that April is upon us; and I’m reminded of the words written by the English poet, Robert Herrick
“Fair Daffodils, we weep to see you haste away so soon. As yet the early-rising sun has not attain’d his noon. Stay, stay, until the hasting day has run but to the even-song. And, having pray’d together, we will go with you along.”
I hope that you have a lovely April and with my best wishes,