If you were a couple of Hawthorn bushes, just standing there looking at nothing in particular and this Ash Tree came along and pushed in between you, would you be grumpy about it?. I remember, once in my youth, well, perhaps I wasn’t that young. We took the children to one of these outdoor events, full of athletics, vintage cars, hot dog stands, goldfish in plastic bags, people, people, people and fairground rides.
While my eldest and her Mum went to ride in a tea cup, I and my youngest stood aside to watch. My youngest was a very young toddler at the time, and proud of her new found ability to remain vertical without assistance, she did not like to be carried. To give her a level playing field, in as many ways as possible, I shuffled the two of us into a reasonably empty space. The thing that irritated me was the way people clumped around me, the instant I had a small space to myself.
Then I started to play a game. I found a gap in the wall of humanity and stood there resolutely staring at nothing in particular. Within a short time I had acquired a small group of ‘fans’. As there was nothing to see, they assumed I was blocking their view and soon, they had elbowed their way past me. As soon as the eddy of expectant spectators had swirled us to the rear, my daughter and I were able to wander off to find another small spot and another group of eager ‘fans’.
Like the intergalactic dust, a large amorphous mass of humanity behaves in strange ways.
Well, here we are, it’s 29th May – and here we have, May Blossom. Thank goodness for that, we can all take our clothes off at last. The other thing we can do, now the blossom is out, is to cut bits off the tree. Just don’t take the blossom indoors though, that is unlucky. This is only common sense really. The flowers are pollinated by insects who are more at home on road kill and other sorts of carrion and the flower’s perfume is designed to be attractive to them not to, the more finicky, humans.
Now that the fairies are happy for us to cut the tree, this is a good time to collect a bundle of twigs and weave them into a ball. If you did this last year, as soon as you have the new hawthorn ball made, you can burn the old one and get rid of all the problems that beset you through last year. Keep the new one in a safe place, so you can get rid of this year’s problems in the same way next year.
The Hawthorn is called a Hawthorn because the old name for a hedge was a haw and haw thorns were the bushes of choice if you wanted a good solid hedge that the sheep and cattle wouldn’t be able to break through.
And they do look pretty in May – if they make it in time.
Something we’ve missed this winter / spring, since we moved from over there to over here, are Blackthorn hedges. Almost all the hedges in the area seem to be Hawthorn. Suddenly the Blackthorn is in flower and we are finding occasional bushes, here and there in a fairly random sprinkle, in amongst the seamless green of the Hawthorn. If the winter hadn’t hung on for so long we would probably have noticed them earlier, but at least they are now trying to catch up and stay ahead of the May blossom.
The fruit that will be the result of these flowers is the sloe. Funny isn’t it? Why didn’t the bushes get called Sloethorn? Plums grow on a plum tree, apples on an apple tree and so on, but sloes grow on Blackthorn. According to Wikipedia the word sloe has roots in German and Slavic words for a plum. This makes it related to things like Slivovitz, that very nice Polish plum brandy. Interestingly Slivovitz is made by fermenting the fruit complete with crushed stone, adding that hint of almond to the flavour.
The other interesting thing about the Blackthorn is that it provides the wood for the traditional Irish shillelagh. Whether this is because it is particularly well adapted for hitting people over the head, or just because there’s a lot of it about, I’m not sure.