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CABBAGES & KINGS: Downpours can't dampen spirits on May morning
YOU’RE crazy!” exclaimed Tony, the glum, night-shift petrol station cashier, when told I was going to the May Day celebrations in Oxford.
It was only five o’clock, he pointed out, and rain was pouring down – although he didn’t use the word pouring.
But I had my 25-year-old Micky Spillane black mac and a folding umbrella. What more could I need?
Parking in the Westgate multi-storey and logging the thought that I should return before 8am, otherwise the charges would resemble buying real estate, I wandered up St Ebbe’s to be joined by a cheerful group of young people. Boys’ spirits and girls’ hemlines were high.
Hannah and Sophie, two 20-year-old students, who had been at Oxford Brookes and were now at Kingston University studying art, were visibly excited.
They were not dressed for the weather conditions, so I unfurled my umbrella. Courtesy costs nothing, Grandad used to say.
Weaving through the mass of brollies we made our way down High Street to Magdalen College, heard the choir and watched security men cast menacing glances at would-be bridge jumpers. It was all good May Morning stuff.
Eventually my new chums said they were due to meet friends at The Plain. Would I care to join them? I declined but insisted they took my umbrella; after all ,they had considerably more hair to get wet than I had – and they were not packing a dryer.
May Morning regular, waterproofs-shrouded Sally from Marston, was taking pictures of everything that caught her eye, in particular morris dancers.
A team from Manchester did their bit outside St Mary's Church before moving to Radcliffe Square, where several soggy teams were vying for less cobbled spots.
Oxford University’s Scottish dancers wore their usual ‘snooty’ expression as they performed to bagpipe accompaniment outside All Souls’ gate while other groups took turns in the sheltered space below the Bridge of Sighs.
“I’m beginning to feel cold,” said Sally, as she dashed off to grab another picture. Our paths did not cross again.
Rain couldn’t dampen my spirits, although the man handing out tracts and asking if I was born again did his best. Usually I would listen and discuss a few points, but today balanced debate was unlikely.
Words foretelling eternal damnation echoed as I headed for Broad Street where salesman Jim was making his way to work.
“You’re soaking,” he observed. “You must be mad.”
“That’s already been said today,” I replied airily as water found its way past my shirt collar, invading Unsworth flesh, “and I don't give a damn.”
After all, May Morning comes but once a year.
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