Today I’ve been going cuckoo. Or at least trying to. Today is St Tiburtius’ Day, aka First Cuckoo Day, which kind of gives you a clue. It’s said that 14 April is the first day cuckoos are heard in the UK, and their song either heralds the arrival of spring, or the beginning of summer depending on where you are (West Yorkshire and East Sussex, respectively). Either way, the cuckoo is also said to bring with it good weather (although the sun has just gone in).
So first thing this morning, I headed out to try and hear one. But nope, not a dicky bird so to speak, not even the pretend half-cuckoo, the collard dove with its cuckoocuck, cuckoocuck was having any of it. I did, however, hear wrens, magpies, sparrows, crows, seagulls and the odd pigeon, and right at this moment a chiffchaff is chiffchaffing somewhere nearby.
But without a cuckoo call, I had no reason to turn out all the money from my pockets, spit on the ground and hope the ground was soft so as to collect the luck. Or to check the bottom of my shoe for an errant hair, the colour of which would denote my next beau’s thatch. Which let’s face it, was probably for the best given I was running on pavement without cash, and would have had to step in something for the hair to stick.
However, on my way home, I did buss some holly, by which I mean I picked a sprig from the hedgerow. In the village of Netherwitton in Northumberland, they used to have a tradition on Easter Tuesday where they harvested holly, decorated the village stone cross, and then danced for the rest of the day. While I have neither a village nor a stone cross, I do have my St Brigid’s Cross, and some fierce disco tunes, so that’s me sorted until bedtime…
Last word to the cuckoo though, it’s also said that when you hear your first cuckoo of spring, it’s traditional to write a letter to The Times. Sadly, however, The Times disputes this myth, no matter how many people keep repeating it…
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Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books