Shed not a clout ’til May is out!

Chatsworth 2017

Ten days ago I was up at Chatsworth where it was bitterly cold but sunny. All winter coats and hot soups were needed. I was with an old school friend who could not understand my obsession with trying to find the Pink May Tree (Hawthorn).  “Shed not a Clout ’til May is out”I informed her. “Surely that means the month of May?” she said.

Summer Dresses 1959

I explained that at one of my many schools, run by an old spinster in the late fifties, we were not allowed to put our Summer Dresses on until the Pink May Tree was out! Sometimes it did not bloom until June! Each year we all cursed our Headmistress with such a silly rule.

This year I honestly thought I was going mad! There were no Pink May trees around the country. In fact, until last week, I feared they had died out.  Then all of a sudden their buds burst into this beautiful colour. The time had come to shed those thermals and start wearing thinner textiles! The grandchildren think I am a mad old widow waiting for these buds to flower!  To them it makes no sense. How things change!  One of my granddaughters had to start this term in her flimsy summer school dress. She has suffered the cold shivering most of the time.

Because I shed not a clout until last week I have had no such complaint. During a conversation with my friend she has admitted to feeling the great heat today on the East Coast! So perhaps this old saying does have some merit?! And yet I find the saying below referring to the month!

Enjoy the Summer when it comes!

The wind at North and East
Was never good for man nor beast
So never think to cast a clout
Until the month of May be out.

Kilner Jars & ‘Sell by Date’

The other day I was reminded of how long one can keep food! One of my Granddaughters, who is an enthusiastic cook, delighted in showing me her latest addition to her Kitchen. She had just bought a selection of Kilner Jars and explained that she would be able to keep fruits and many other products  for a long time in them!

Kilner Jars have not changed in 70 years!

Without trying to steal her thunder I started to tell her of the time when her great grandmother was downsizing! In her larder in 1985 we found about forty Kilner Jars full of plums, apples, and many soft fruits. They were dated! The oldest was 1941. Most were the late forties! I was about to throw them but my husband wanted to taste these relics and prove to me that food can be kept for a long time. I have to say the plums were absolutely delicious and all were used in pies for many months. The raspberries were turned into jam. The pickled cabbage was used but not with as much enthusiasm!

A few hens lay many eggs.

In the garage we found about five hundred empty Kilner Jars. Sadly, we threw them out. None of us appreciated they would be the trend thirty years on!  Then we found a cupboard full of war time tins. A few had blown. The rest were fine, including the’Spam’. I have to admit that I refused to eat anything out of the tins. They were forty years old!! In a corner of the larder we found a bucket full of eggs covered in isinglass! I have no idea how old they were! Maybe a few months? Mother-in-law had kept hens.

So during a prolific laying period some eggs were preserved. Lemon curd was also made and kept in Kilner Jars! Meringues stored in tightly sealed tins. Duct Tape was used to seal them.

One morning in 1978, at Breakfast, I  heard on the news that a certain batch of tinned Salmon had caused an out break of Botulism. I went to the larder and started throwing out any tinned fish. Having explained to the children that Botulism is deadly,  my little six year old boy looked up at me and said “I don’t mind dying Mummy. I will taste them for you.” My heart sank.

Cheeky little boy worries Mother!

What was so wrong in his life? With him on my lap he told me in all seriousness that Caroline was friendly with another boy at school! Fortunately that darling little boy grew up to have a wonderful family and is still friends with Caroline!

Incidents like that  have made many of us paranoid about ‘Sell by Dates’. This has created so much waste.

Perhaps we should trust our senses  a little more, regarding food?   If something smells horrible. Don’t eat it. If it looks manky.  Don’t touch it. Taste also helps prevent us from eating bad food. It is Nonsense to throw out a punnet of Strawberries because their ‘Sell By Date’  has passed when they look and taste fine!

Enjoy your week!


“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

J.R.R. Tolkien