For millennia, the passing seasons and their rhythms have marked our progress through the year. But what do they mean to us now that we lead increasingly atomised and urban lives and our weather becomes ever more unpredictable or extreme? Will it matter if we no longer hear, even notice, the first cuckoo call of spring or rejoice in the mellow fruits of harvest festival? How much will we lose if we can no longer find either refuge or reassurance in the greater natural – and meteorological – scheme of things?
Nick Groom's splendidly rich and encyclopaedic book is an unabashed celebration of the English seasons and the trove of strange folklore and often stranger fact they have accumulated over the centuries. Each season and its particular history are given their full due, and these chapters are interwoven with others on the calendar and how the year and months have come to be measured, on important dates and festivals such as Easter, May Day and, of course, Christmas, on that defining first cuckoo call, on national attitudes to weather, our seasonal relationship with the land and horticulture and much more. The author expresses the hope that his book will not prove an elegy: only time will tell.
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