The First Day of Spring

Disregard anything the Met Office tells you. Today is the first day of Spring, six and a half weeks after the midwinter solstice. It’s freezing here and this week could turn out to be the coldest so far this year.

A few years ago I went to a Royal Artillery Gold Cup Meeting at Sandown race course on 6th February and the street verges were alive with daffodils all the way there. What a difference!

The Roman Calendar

Before the time of mighty Caesar,

The Roman year posed quite a teaser.

In ancient times ten months were named.

For lack of two cold Winter’s blamed.


The year began on March the first,

When Winter’s storms had done their worst.

‘Twas left to wise men when to start,

So Time and Seasons came to part.


Janus came to guard the door,

But still they needed one month more.

And so to seek a fresh new year,

The februa’s lash was brought to bear.


The score of days for each month’s due

Was twenty-nine for all save few.

Twenty-eight was Februa’s lot,

And thirty-one four others tot.


March was one and May another,

Quint’lis third, and last October.

Their Ides and Nones fell two days on,

To try to catch the fickle moon.


But still the year was ten days short,

And priests were called to mend this tort.

Mere mortals, they were seldom right,

And Spring oft winced with wintry blight.


Once more this battle Caesar won,

While beauteous Cleo bore his son.

For Egypt’s wisdom held the key,

To Time’s elusive mystery.


Sixty-five and hundreds three

Were now the days a year should be.

But Cleo’s curse says every four,

Februa must bear one day more.


Thirty days now hath September,

April, June and bleak November,

While thirty-one have all the rest,

Twenty-nine is February’s best.


Quint’lis bears the hero’s fame,

Fifth month no more, July’s her name.

Augustus sailed in Caesar’s wake

And Sextilis his honours take.


Two thousand years his measure stands

Still marking time for modern lands.

Yet few now honour Caesar’s name …

Another moth to Vulcan’s flame.


Our year’s ordained twelve stanzas long

And so, dear friend, must be our song.

It would be shame to play the miser

When Caesar made us so much wiser.



Syston, Jan ‘94

The Four Seasons

I DO HAVE to admit that I not infrequently get a bee in my bonnet about something that ‘the powers that be’ get – in my humble opinion – very deliberately and ignorantly – wrong. At this time of the year I am always reminded of this by the arrival of Christmas and – just before it – of the Winter Solstice on 21st December.

Now, when I were a lad, everyone knew perfectly well that the Winter Solstice marks MIDWINTER, NOT the beginning of Winter just as the Summer Solstice marks MIDSUMMER, NOT the start of Summer. Surely it stands to reason that the shortest day and the longest day are the signs that things are changing for the better.

In days of yore our ancestors depended on knowing that Midwinter had at last come to help them judge whether or not they had enough food to last them and their sheep and cattle until grass was lush enough to put meat on bones and goodness into milk; when at last some vegetables could be harvested to keep starvation at bay. Likewise the arrival of Midsummer was a festival time to celebrate the coming harvest and milder weather (hopefully) after hours of backbreaking work in the fields for the local bigwig ploughing, sowing, reaping and mowing in blistering heat – or whatever.

Similarly the Spring Equinox and the Autumn Equinox mark the middle of Spring and Autumn respectively and were times of celebration, the first to mark relief that all the crops were sown and the second to mark relief that they were all safely gathered in. Our Roman conquerors, who ruled these lands for nigh on four hundred years, got it right.

And yet, the Met Office insists on telling us that these ancient festivals mark the beginning of the respective seasons – how ignorant of our traditions can you get? Even the missionary priests who brought Christianity to these pagan islands in the third and fourth century AD were bright enough to realise they would make converts to their new religion, if they had the sense to recognise the existing festivals and mark them with Christian ones. They even built their churches, for heaven’s sake, on the holy sites long revered by the native people who had worshipped their gods there since time out of mind. (The Romans before them even had the good sense to recognise some of their gods as the same as their own).

Escape to Mars

I’ve just up-loaded my latest contribution to the fantasy/sci-fi world of Kindle Books, which will retail at $5.00 or £3.85.

Like the others from Think Freedom 2, it features the incredible Adamanta, the worlds first psi-enabled Artificial Intelligence-controlled supercomputer, whose ability to teleport her 3-D avatar wherever she wants, can be useful, if disconcerting.