I sometimes think that the French might be more joyful than the English. They don’t look it but they have the right expressions for when your heart races and you feel like jumping for joy.
Maybe I don’t know enough English expressions but I love those French phrases Jeu d’esprit and Joie de vivre. Game of the spirit and joy of life – they just don’t sound the same in English.
Well, maybe I am a Frenchman for the day because I am definitely full of games of the spirit and the joys of life. Just like these dancing matrons who, this morning, were celebrating the May Day weekend with their traditional garland dancing. Just round the corner from my house, England’s main Pagan national holiday was in full flow. There is a real Spring in their step – something not always apparent when you see them waiting in the bus queue.
This weekend, England celebrates May Day with a Bank Holiday Monday on the first Monday in May. It was invented by a Government frightened of actually giving everyone the traditional May the First holiday with all its Labour Day, Workers of the World Unite connotations. Whatever they tried to hide, the politicians still gave us the only really Pagan public holiday of the year. No Christian pretense here, just dancing to celebrate Spring fertility.
In England, dancing is usually a girlie thing. Men are roped into it reluctantly by enthusiastic females who would probably be happier dancing with their sisters in a circle round the handbags. Not today though and, I would hazard a strong guess, not before all that Puritan and stiff upper lip stuff came in to make men sensible, down-to-earth creatures.
There were no such inhibitions subduing the Morrismen who were dancing all around the town this weekend. The merry lads really were playing as that wonderful 16th Century English madrigal celebrates. Some danced sublimated fights with their clashing sticks whilst others waved handkerchiefs or St. George’s flags.
On Saturday, teams of visiting Morrismen competed with my town’s local group in a display of jeu d’esprit which was undoubtedly filled with joie de vivre. They were in the street round the corner from my house and, being a selfish person, I think they were dancing for me.
With bells on their legs and ribbons and flowers in their hats, they too had Spring in their steps.
I was dancing with them in my mind because I had been to see my neurologist on May Day, expecting the worst but coming away, for the first time, with some hope in my heart. Six months after my brain haemorrhage, I was secretly hoping for good news.
I have a major brain scan coming up this Friday which could dampen my joie de vivre, but, hey, that’s another day. Last Friday my neurologist said these joyful words: “I am less worried now.”
I guess only the English would exchange such exciting news in such a controlled and under-stated way. Less worried to me sounds like, Yay! Wow! Fantastic! I am supposed to stay calm and controlled though until after the scan results. I tried, for a few minutes but, what the Hell, I am dancing in my heart so I might as well go for it.
So even thought they didn’t know it, I was dancing with those Morrismen, celebrating with them the exhilaration of just letting go and the joy of being alive.
So I have decided, if I really do make a full recovery from my brain damage, I will celebrate life with extra vigour every year on May Day.
You can keep your Easter Eggs and Christmas presents, and just give me a sunny day in May when I can throw away my cares and dance in the street.
So if you are still sneering at those Morrismen, go hide somewhere in the dark and leave the rest of us with our jeu d’esprit.