May Day


May blossom

It is the first day of May and obviously I began it by washing my face with the dew on the May blossom from the hawthorn hedges before taking my place, ribbon in hand, by the maypole on the village green. Yes, I have been idly dreaming but sometimes there is a pang for the old traditions that persisted for centuries until we all became a little too sophisticated and learnt to prefer the immersive entertainment of the television screen.

In our local market town an ancient charter still upholds the right to hold a May Fair in the High Street for 4 days. For hundreds of years I have no doubt that its main purpose was to trade animals and hire itinerant agricultural workers. Today it is a noisy funfair, allegedly encouraging pickpockets and petty shoplifters into the centre whilst creating mayhem for the traffic flow as a consequence of road closures. It does, however, serve its purpose in getting people to congregate and mix whilst bringing smiles to small children's faces.

I guess there was also a time when every town and village crowned a May Queen. This year, all talk is focused instead on the coronation next weekend of he who will be King. I might enjoy daydreaming about our heritage and its old customs but pomp and circumstance is a little too much. Yes, I probably will watch some of the procession on television; the horses always look dashing and sun glinting on gold never fails to dazzle. What I shall not be doing is taking up the invitation to pledge allegiance to the King and his heirs.

Bah humbug, you might say but I'd prefer you to think of me as a resolute libertarian, proud of the freedoms earned over centuries as well as of the rule of law (not of God or Kings) under which all men are equal. I have no wish, therefore, to align myself with a contrary system by expressing loyalty to a figurehead who represents the last vestiges of the aristocracy not to mention inherited wealth and privilege.

It seems to be becoming almost commonplace for the country's elite to believe they can motivate those whom they inevitably see as the common man by key pronouncements. David Cameron had his Big Society vision, the King too has been urging us all to volunteer for the benefit of our communities as a legacy linked to his coronation, whilst the Archbishop of Canterbury will call on us to come together and join the Homage of the People to the King. 

I understand the symbolism but what those so removed from ordinary life do not appreciate is that it is political decisions at the top that are breaking communities and even families. Society is fragmented but it needs Government action not words to reverse the collapse.

The country is now reliant on volunteers, primarily the retired, to help run services that were once paid for through taxes (libraries for instance) or to act as full-time carers for even older relatives whilst the young are obliged to move away, often significant distances, to find work or affordable housing and their parents hardly have time to get in a weekly shop (assuming they can still afford it) before it's time to return to the treadmill of work. Until there's a willingness at the top to correct such deficiencies, the breakdown in society, irrespective of a nostalgia for the gatherings of the past with their associated community spirit, will continue in a downward spiral. The retirement sector is limited as to how much more it can volunteer to undertake in a vain hope of stemming the decline and giving an oath to pay allegiance to His Majesty isn't going to help a jot.




Treaders said…
Oh my gosh I do believe we must be twins separated at birth! I miss the old traditions, although truth be told I only vaguely remember dancing round the maypole when I was very young. I was once crowned rose queen (around the age of 11 I think) when we had our local carnaval floats and while it was probably tacky it gave a feeling of belonging. I read Larkrise to Candleford and somehow for me it seemed to epitomise so many traditions that have now disappeared. As for the coronation, I won't watch it but I will catch the highlights but no way will I join in the "chant" (or whatever they want to call it) from the people in honour of the king. While I'm not an anti-monarchist and I wouldn't want a republic, there is no way I would bow to a king or queen and I strongly believe they should use their power and the wealth they acquire through their titles for the good of the people who need help. £250 million for a coronation - fair enough I guess, but back it up with real compassion and assistance where it is truly needed! (Sorry, didn't mean to rant but ....)!
Caree Risover said…
With you all the way Treaders and what's truly bizarre is that this pledge to the King has only ever been required of Lords at previous coronations. So much for modernising the monarchy or thinking that such an oath (or even a coronation for that matter) will somehow engender a positive feeling of unity across the nations.
Christie Hawkes said…
I watched some clips of the coronation on the news here in the USA. Of course, there was much discussion here on Prince Harry...where he was seated and how quickly he departed. Maybe because he moved to the US, there seems to be a lot of focus on that family dynamic here. I confess to a poor understanding of the practical role of the royal family, so can't contribute much to a discussion of the overall benefit of continuing or discontinuing the monarchy, but find it interesting to hear what my friends in the UK think.
Caree Risover said…
On the plus side Christie, the Monarchy provides continuity whilst avoiding the need for a Presidential election every 5 years or so. The King’s powers have been limited over centuries so that the role amounts to little more than a figurehead in which, as Head of State, Church, government and law combine. I do feel that the historic protocols (think curtsying for instance) could do with being dragged into the 21st Century but like most people probably don’t have a strong view on abolition or preservation. In fact most of the time I feel quite sorry for them, playing their parts out in public whilst experiencing all the inevitable family dynamics and human emotions and responses we all undergo, to a global audience

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