Until we moved to the Isles of Scilly, May 1 was never anything special at all, so it came as a shock to realise that for many Scillionians, May Day was the highlight of the year.
Especially for Miss Bowen.
We moved to The Scillies because my dad got a job as the headmaster of the primary school on St Mary’s. The deputy head was Miss Marjorie Bowen, herself a Scillonian who lived ‘up country’ (in the middle of the island) with her elderly mother. She was not only deputy head and class teacher, but also responsible for the entire organisation of the May Day celebrations, including the procession, the crowning of the May Queen, the singing of the traditional May Day Songs and the supervision of children – checking that they were all in the regulation white, from tip to toe.
The most exciting part for me was Maypole Dancing, something we had done at my previous school too. It’s like the Scottish dancing some of you have done with us, plus ribbons. You end up at the end with a sort of large plaited tent. If you do it properly!
I didn’t have much contact with Miss Bowen, so was surprised when, quite a few years later on the occasion of my wedding to my first husband, she gave us a present. I was very young and totally into camping and backpacking and pasta and minimalistic furnishings, mostly in brown if possible, so Miss Bowen’s present – an ornate silver cake slice – seemed strangely inappropriate.
Well, Miss Bowen has the last laugh, as the cake slice is the only wedding present I still have from that day in 1976, and we (by which I mean my 2nd husband, Horst, and I) use it every weekend when we cut our cake. Which brings me to Aunt Irene, or to be accurate Tante Irene.
My students tell and share all sorts of wonderful things with me, and one of them is this marvellous recipe for the most delicious cake. Thank you Sabine and Tante Irene!
I made the cake last weekend, and cut it with – Miss Bowen’s cake slice of course!
The Cabin Fever Part