Spring UK – March, April, May (Meteorological).
The sight of dreary winter-darkened trees bursting forth with leaf and blossom signals the birth of a season of hope and optimism for humankind. Who is not filled with joy and enchantment at the sight of life emerging from sodden earth and branch? As the days begin to lengthen and the mornings lose their deathly chill, all around us winter-stunted shrubs and plants begin to grow green with tightened buds awaiting the call to burst open and greet the warming days of spring. Life begins to stir anew. Animals prepare for the summer with an orgy of nest-building and frantic mating. Wherever you look, male birds are noisily mounting reluctant-looking females in the desperate clamour to ensure the survival of the species. Frogs and toads turn garden ponds into broiling hotbeds of sexual intemperance, whilst winter slumbering creatures stir for the first time in months and wonder whether they should get themselves straight out on the hunt for the opposite sex or whether they should eat a slug or two first – unless, of course, they are a slug.
But what of humankind, as all around us the indigenous fauna succumbs to the ancient urge to procreate, what does spring stir in the human breast? Well, for men, it definitely stirs the urge to mate, but then, so does winter, summer, autumn, morning, evening, breathing… In days of yore, for humans living in these chilly northern climes, spring was not the ideal time to comply with the biological imperative and its siren-call to reproduction. A nine month gestation would mean that Spring-conceived babies were born in the depths of winter: less than ideal in the pre-centrally-heated past. Surely, like the beasts of the field, humans would strive to have babies born in the spring, so that they could be fat and strong and eating mud and piggy beetles before the onset of winter.
So, the end of spring, wedged somewhere between Maypoles and Morris Dancers is where human propagation should take place. (Actually, I have just re-read that last sentence and I now cannot shake the image out of my head.) May should be the month when human fancy turns to… well, human fancy. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the fun bit of procreation is separated from the functional aftermath and babies are cloned and grown in Hatcheries. In reality, today, most babies still result from the fun bit, but most mothers then have to go through what we might call the less fun bit for a while (lifetime). As a species we may now choose to have babies more or less when we want them: to fit in with the academic year; to get the maximum paid maternity leave; to ensure that they fit nicely and seasonally into a younger siblings cast-off clothes, but in reality, most babies are still born nine months after a big birthday party or an F.A. Cup win.
Spring may not mark the point of life’s creation for us, but who can deny that there remains a stirring in the human breast at this time of year? The urge to get outside into the faintly warming drizzle can be overwhelming (but easily overcome with a strong coffee and a chocolate muffin I find); the changing rooms at the public swimming baths creep towards a temperature that allows one to undress without suffering instant hypothermia, and become crowded with body-shamed oldies in search of a low-impact exercise regime followed by a hot shower at somebody else’s expense and a hot chocolate in the café; millions of otherwise reasonable saga-aged individuals talcum powder themselves into unsuitable and, frankly, faintly obscene lycra outfits in order to wobble along the roads astride freshly oiled bicycles, buoyed by newly purchased gel-seats and padded underwear. Now is the time for millions of aspirational middle-aged Peter Pans and Wendys to abandon the trendy ski resorts, hang up the designer ski-suits and head for the gym. Now is the time for two weeks of semi-religious adherence to a body improvement regime undertaken annually in order to justify the £30 per month fitness club contract that you can’t get out off for another three years. Now is the time to recklessly pound the cross-trainer (if, indeed, that is what you do with a cross-trainer – I have no idea) hoping that you can pass off the occasional dry-retch as asthma. Now is the time for millions of sturdy-shoed, wrapped and tweeded over-the-hillers to head for the Garden Centre for Sunday Lunch before heading back home for a small sherry and a nap during Countryfile. Now is the time to put out the new bird box, with a view to quite definitely nailing it to something or other in the very near future. Now is the time to oil the lawnmower, to repair the cable and sharpen the blades – or, in reality, buy a new one. Now is the time to replace the mouse-chewed wellies with some new ones that you can get on and off without putting your back out; the time to tie up the collapsing gutter with knotted twine and seal the gaps in the kitchen window with gaffer tape; the time to fish dead things out of the pond.
Spring may not be summer, but at least it isn’t winter. What Spring signals is not birth, but it is rebirth and renewal. A sort of spiritual changing of the socks. It is nature opening the curtains to let the light in. Springs marks the end of a period of perpetual night in the soul and the beginning of a seeping daylight. Days grow warmer and longer, as do the weeds and the lawn. Let your spirits soar like the council tax bill and find joy in small mercies: the water bill cannot possibly be as high this year since it is impossible to turn the rusted garden tap on and anyway the garden hose has been eaten by a rodent that, judging from the teeth marks, might well give next door’s cat a run for its money. Now is the time put into action all of those winter plans that you secretly hoped you would never have to see through. For once your garden fence has not blown over during winter, therefore you will have to paint it. It will blow over in the autumn instead and you will have the entire winter to argue with the neighbour over who should pay for the new one. Seize the day. Take all of life’s little bulls by the horns. Now is the time to retire to the garage with a clothes prop, two old wire coat hangers and some string in order to improvise something with which to remove the dead bird from the gutter. Tomorrow you can devise some means of getting the clothes prop out of the downpipe…