Today was Flora Day – an ancient tradition when the change from Spring to Summer is recognised by the whole town of Helston (where my mother’s nursing home is).
There is, no doubt, some pagan significance to the ritual, but nowadays it is a mix of secular (make as much money as possible by any means possible – mostly real ale), general merriment with a touch of Church and folklore thrown in.
All the gates are festooned with bluebells and rather ambitious arches of fauna that generally wilt by lunchtime. The town band does a magnificent job of playing a medley of the same tune over and over – which can be a bit mind numbing and most certainly lip numbing for the brass and silver sections. The tune would be good for a baby’s ‘go to sleep’ toy.
However, despite this year’s distinct lack of Lilly of The Valley for lapel nosegays (thanks to the royal wedding and Katherine’s desire for authentic English, Spring flowers; my mother had one solitary sprig) the jamboree carried on with gusto.
Tradition still holds as the dancers parade through my mother’s nursing home, Penhellis, and as a resident’s family member I gain the status of privileged person for a day. This involves sitting on a particular side of a piece of red-tape and I gain free access to a buffet table along with Pimms and wine provision.
It is amusing to see the other supposed important people dance pass, including our local MP and the mayor. Ladies make an effort to wear long-length ball gowns with ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ hats. All the men are in suits and top hats creating a rather sweaty and red-faced scenario. The children dance in white earlier and 'pretend servants' do their bit at tea-time.
My mother in her wheelchair sat like the Queen and waved the town's dignitaries pass, I, her lady in waiting, drank tea and was thankful for a sit-down (knowing that a raised bed of weeds awaited me at home).
It is the perfect opportunity for alcoholics to get drunk by lunchtime and stumble about the lanes of Cornwall. The day is ideal for family picnics and community catch-ups. Inside the nursing home it means all residents’ families can support each other, in a reserved way, as we cope with the reality of dementia, Parkinsons, sight loss and other conditions of old age. One resident is 102.
As I made my way back home, I considered how after all the fuss and bother we all went to, and the effort we made to get a close to the Furry Dance, I still doubt whether my mummy will remember a thing. However, at least I was offered a respite from weeding and a chance to feel like the lady of a country manor for an hour or two.