Spring has sprung?

“Paaarrrrp….. tweet, tweet, twitter, chirp…..” Sound familiar? Nope, I am not talking about twitter/tweetdecks or anything remotely to do with social networking or blogging. I woke up this morning – well, an hour ago to be more accurate and heard the Sparrows ‘Paaaarrrp….’ or, if I am going to make it more clear f@rt. Joy. No really, it was a joy listening to the bird song, all our little feathered friends who are so delighted to have the sun shining at 5 in the morning, spring is here – well, sort of. It is baltic out there this morning. The frost was on my car yesterday morning at 8 am. See, you all thought it was summer already! Well, I can assure you, it’s only Spring.

Two days ago, Mum heard the cuckoo. That is, up here the true sound of Spring arriving. I knew it was Spring and not summer not only by the bird song coming through my bedroom window, but also by the sub-zero breeze coming in too.

There was another clue. Dotty, my cat landing on my chest, at 5am. I knew at that point getting back to sleep was not going to happen. He had a cold nose this morning, been out hunting no doubt. That just reminded me that there may be a ‘present’ left in the hall. Oh, the thought, will it be a poor feathered friend or a fat, blind mole with feet like flippers. Have you actually seen/touched a mole? Blimey, they are huge. No, really, they are the size of my hand. If it helps to work out what size of hands I have, my hat size is 7.5. Does that help? No? Oh well. Their fur is really, really soft too.

I thought a wee educational ditty could go in here. There is a well known expression that we say in Scotland, and is well used by the gardeners of this world. Gardening for me is up there on the ‘popular’ list with shopping. The big bonus is my other half’s idea of a gardening tool is a JCB with a large bucket on the front of it. Particularly handy for moving trees when you decide that the ‘full grown one’ could do with being on the other side of the garden!

Oops – I got distracted there, I was going to give you a bit of education. The expression used by many up here is:

‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out.’

So what does it mean?

With most phrases and sayings the meaning is well understood but the origin is uncertain. With this one the main interest is the doubt about the meaning.


‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’ is an English proverb. The earliest citation is this version of the rhyme from Dr. Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732 (I am sure, however that many Scots have been using it for a damn sight longer), although it probably existed in word-of-mouth form well before that:

“Leave not off a Clout Till May be out”.


Let’s look first at the ‘cast a clout’ part. The word ‘clout’, although archaic, is straightforward. Since at least the early 15th century ‘clout’ has been used variously to mean ‘a blow to the head’, ‘a clod of earth or (clotted) cream’ or ‘a fragment of cloth, or clothing’. It is the last of these that is meant in ‘cast a clout’. This was spelled variously spelled as clowt, clowte, cloot, clute.

In Scotland we use ‘cloot’. As in clooty dumpling, a cloth used to cook the dumpling in….

So, ‘ne’er cast a clout…’ simply means ‘never discard your [warm winter] clothing…’.

The gardening side of it up here is putting out your new seedlings/plants (what ever they are, hopefully at this point anyone who reads this who has the remotest interest/knowledge in gardening can fill in my blanks), so the green-fingered types know up here that there is still the chance of a frost up here in May. Frost? We had hail here last week, and there is still snow on the hill tops!

So, anyway, the expression Ne’er cast a clout…. They say that it is to do with the Hawthorn tree: This is also known as the May Tree. So, is it telling us not to plant our new ‘stuff’ in the garden, leave our jacket at home or not wear Fit Flops (quite the most comfy footwear in the world!) until we are well and truly ensconced in June?

A French proverb – ‘En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît’. This translates as ‘In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please’, which has much the same meaning as ‘ne’er cast a clout…’.

So there. A bit of a school day after all.

All that and it is only 6.33 am. Don’t know what’s got into me.

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