Friday, 2 March 2012
Cuckoos, Cuckolds and Ale
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
Being a city dweller, the seasons are not measured for me as they were for the rustics who formed much of our language. I do not see the tender daffydilly poking its petals towards the questing vole, or any of the other signs of spring that my forbears noted. In fact, spring to me is the season in which the restaurants start to put their tables outside on the pavement. Instead of swallows, I have crowds of happy smokers loitering outside the pub on the corner. Instead of melting snows, I have the slow disappearance of hats.
I shall therefore, probably, never know the joys of the cuckoo ale, which is described thus in a magazine from 1821:
A singular custom prevails in Shropshire which is, we believe peculiar to that county. As soon as the first cuckoo has been heard, all the labouring classes leave work, if in the middle of the day, and the time is devoted to mirth and jollity, over what is called the cuckoo ale.
The cuckoos will never, I fear, return to Clerkenwell, although the cuckolds may. As is well known, cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, and therefore if someone else has lain in your bed, you have been cuckooed or cuckolded.
Also, the bone at the base of your spine is called the coccyx because it resembles, supposedly, a cuckoo's beak.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to devote myself to mirth and jollity. The cuckoos may not arrive till April, but the pub tables are out in force.
P.S. I know that Google is being odd about this site having malware. I'm pretty convinced it doesn't. It's still the same old blogspot thing underneath. There's probably just one link somewhere on one post that goes to a site that's no good, but I can't for the life of me work out which one it is.