Keith Skipper: Norfolk is the home of romance, especially in June
PUBLISHED: 14:38 15 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:38 15 June 2019
Musing on love in Norfolk from Keith Skipper this week
I can be romantic without resorting to convenient smarminess. I am not superstitious beyond accepting fate can play a big part in our lives. I like June because it nearly rhymes with "moon", "spoon" and "croon".
These three little pillars of Norfolk wisdom kept me company when I dared to venture out on Friday, June 13, 1980. I attended the last disco event of a largely non-gyrating career. I met the girl destined to be my wife.
My Mick Jagger impression built on bravado and shandy at least gave her a chance to explain more orthodox laws of physics. Chat on the move reached an early peak when she revealed a love of cricket. I resisted temptation to go on about bowling a maiden over.
I discovered she was a pharmacist, subject later of unlikely humour when a number of cricket club colleagues bestowed hearty congratulations on my dating "a farmer's sister". It wasn't just physics in which they needed a refresher course.
So, here we are, 39 steps on from a social fling at Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth clearly designed to replace my bachelor daze with family joy and security. Dodgy feet notwithstanding, I have managed a short twirl of the anniversary waltz to celebrate our own propitious Friday the 13th.
I'm not heavily into philosophy but it can be reassuring to hark to learned voices when they utter something poetic on a subject close to your heart. Take this blessed month with virtues bustin' out all over.
Moral philosopher Bernard Williams enthused: "If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance". Now, that's a useful chat-up line for use on any kind of dance floor in the next fortnight or so.
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Existentialist philosopher John Paul Sartre, a constant source of amusement in Cromer's fashionable coffee houses, suggested: "To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June". Or, presumably vice-versa for clifftop ramblers of a certain vintage.
Norfolk's leading rustic theoretician Amos Stover still preaches: "When June brings the first dog-rose, count eleven weeks to harvest". He also advises against sitting on grass in any month with an R in it.
There used to be haunting qualities about Midsummer's Eve and Midsummer Day in the good old Norfolk times before banality television and an overcrowded information superhighway. I am grateful to fondly-remembered Norfolk writer Jane Hales for reminders of magic at work.
Jane, whose books and a host of articles for this newspaper entertained readers for over half-a-century, died at her Holt home in 1995 at the age off 91. She served for three decades as welfare officer for the Norfolk branch of the Red Cross.
Her June musings included an account of Betty the maid probing the future regarding matrimony … "She tells me that if I go backwards, without speaking a word, into the garden on Midsummer Eve and gather a rose, and keep it in a clean place without looking at it till Christmas Day, it will be as fresh as in June … and then if I stick it in my bosom, he will be my husband that first comes and takes it out".
Plenty of patience required for that little exercise once the excitement of walking backwards had abated. Another romantically-inclined young lady offered her route to true love based on making a dumb cake, a traditional recipe for discovering future husbands.
The whole operation had to be carried out in absolute silence. Name of the cake may come originally from the Middle English "doom", meaning fate or destiny. Most records suggest a very plain cake from a concoction of water, flour, sugar and salt. A tasty plot unfolds …
"I and my two sisters tried the dumb cake together. Two must make it, two break it and the third put it under each of their pillows (but you must not speak a word all the time). And to be sure I did nothing all night but dream of Mr Blossom.
"The same night, exactly at 12 o'clock, I sowed hemp-seed in our backyard, and said to myself, 'Hemp-seed I sow. ,hemp-seed I hoe, and he that is my true love will come after me and mow.' Will you believe me? I looked back and saw him as plain as eyes could see him".
That old June magic? It's a piece of cake.