… The may all coming out along the lanes … (Rosemary Sutcliff’s Diary, 10/5/88)

Hawthorn or may tree blossomMay 10th Tuesday. Went along for the ride when Ray took Mrs Prosser home. The may all coming out along the lanes. Joan collecting my earrings and a white shirt for dying grey in Chichester today. Should be back in half-an-hour or so.
© Anthony Lawton 2012

The may refers to the  ‘may tree’, or hawthorn. The blossom appears on the tree at the beginning of May in the south of England. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, “until the calendar was changed in 1752, hawthorn would be in flower for May Day, which used to be 11 days later than it is now”.

At  the May Day celebrations people and houses used to be decked with may blossoms or boughs (‘bringing home the may’) which were traditional decorations, associated with the woodland spirit known as the Green Man.

I think of her writing this always in bed at night – I sometimes sat there when she did, as I recall. However, maybe my memory plays tricks, for this entry is apparently written during the day (‘Joan will be back’, from shopping, ‘in half-an-hour or so).

… heard the first cuckoo of the year … (Diary, 23/4/88)

April 23rd Saturday. The most lovely day. Joan and I wearing our red roses for St George went for a run and the first picnic tea of the year under Amberley Castle, heard the first cuckoo of the year. Walked around the garden after we got back.

© Anthony Lawton 2012

Historical novelist Elizabeth Goudge introduces Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Rider of the White Horse

Cover of The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff

There can be nothing nicer than being asked to write an introduction to a favourite book, but at the same time it is a difficult task. It is like being asked to describe the charm of a face you love. If you did not love the face so much, and even more the person behind the face, it would be easy. But as things are, what can you possibly say? I can only say, baldly and inadequately, that I love this book. It may not be such a great book as Sword at Sunset but it has qualities of poignancy and gentleness that make it unforgettable.

Rosemary Sutcliff historical novel which was written for adults was The Rider of the White Horse, set in the English Civil War, about Sir Thomas Fairfax and his wife. This is the first paragraph of the introduction by the renowned historical novelist Elizabeth Goudge.   Read More »

Midsummer Eve and just what Midsummer’s Eve ought to be but seldom is … (Rosemary Sutcliff Diary, 23/6/88)

June 23rd June. Midsummer Eve and just what Midsummer’s Eve ought to be but seldom is. Also Mummie’s birthday. J looked in today with a manuscript she wants me to look at. There’s another blackbird’s nest in the front garden, in place of the one the ginger cat took.

‘Mummie’, Rosemary’s mother of course, was my great Aunt, Nessie Elizabeth Lawton, who was born in 23rd June in 1885, in Poole Dorset. (She died in 1955). She married George Ernest Sutcliff, who I knew as ‘Uncle George’ when I was a young boy, on 14th September 1910, in Longleet in Dorset. The driver-handymen (like Ray in recent weeks of this diary) were employed by Rosemary after her father died in 1966: he used to look after the garden – and her – at the house in Walberton where all the events recorded in this 1988 diary take place.

Willow warbler singing where we had tea … (Rosemary Sutcliff Diary, 19/6/88)

June 19th Sunday. Joan and I and the pups (went) for a run out beyond Amberley taking a picnic tea with us. It was lovely, very hot. Willow warbler singing where we had tea.