Funny word, may. You not only use it to ask for something, but it’s also the shortest name for one of the longest months in the Gregorian calendar. I have no idea who Gregory was and I care even less. As far as I am concerned, time is too big and slippery a concept to be broken down into anything as banal as weeks, months and years. We should go to work on cloudy days, stay in bed on rainy days and go to the beach on sunny days. All in favour of the new system, say “aye”. There we go, then. The ayes have it.
Not everyone in the world feels the same way about May. In the northern hemisphere, May makes people want to drink and have sex with each other. Out here in the southern hemisphere, May makes us want to drink and kill each other. Which isn’t all that different from other months, admittedly. It’s just that the onset of winter makes us a little more homicidal than usual. Running away from crime scenes is often the only way that poor people can stay warm during the chilly months.
May was named after the Greek goddess, Maia, who had a bit too much to drink one night and woke up the next morning with her legs wrapped around Bona Dea, the Roman goddess of fertility. Word on the street is that Bona Dea was pretty much up for anything and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that she had it off with April and June as well.
Each year Japanese students and workers come down with something called May Sickness. The illness is apparently linked to the fact that the academic and financial year starts on April 1. So much for the legendary work ethic of the oriental whale-gobblers.
In Germany young men plant a “tree of May” outside their girlfriends’ homes, perhaps as some sort of symbol of their fertility. I don’t know what happens if the girl chops the tree down, but I would imagine the rejected suitor puts his name down on pleaseeatme.com or any one of Germany’s many websites catering for depressed cannibals.
Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo on May 5. Once they regain consciousness and pay their bail, they spend the rest of the year celebrating birth, death, sickness, health, Fat Tuesday, Day of the Tortilla, Tequila Day and interesting new ways of crossing the Rio Grande.
Quite a lot happens on May 12. For a start, International Nurses Day is celebrated. Nursing staff around the globe get the day off, giving patients the opportunity to unplug the vegetables and stage wild pethidine and pizza parties. It is also International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases, which isn’t anywhere near as much fun as Nurses Day.
May 13 is also when we get to thank our mothers for bringing us into such a wonderful world. Personally, I think a class action lawsuit would be more appropriate than breakfast in bed.
The Franschhoek Literary Festival is held in May. I’d like to say the event holds a special place in my heart, but I can’t. Hopes of launching my memoirs there a couple of years ago were rudely dashed when the organisers apparently became queasy at the very idea of it. Elitist weasels.
In some parts of the world, month-long events are held in May. In America they celebrate Clean Air Month at the same time as they celebrate National Barbecue Month. Those who aren’t choking on smoke from the braai or dropping dead from red meat heart attacks are celebrating National Physical Fitness and Exercise Month.
The League of American Bicyclists (I kid you not) marks Bike-to-Work Day on May 19. This is a great idea but it wouldn’t catch on here because all the bicycles have been stolen by people who don’t work.
May is also the month that you find yourself at a party cornered by an accountant in a lavender golf shirt who says, “I bet you didn’t know that no other month begins on the same day of the week as May.” That is your cue to say, “Fascinating. But did you know that May is the only month in which an American president has not died?” There is no point in continuing the conversation unless he says, “It’s not too late to change this.”
The most important day in May falls on the 25th. Towel Day is held in honour of the late English prophet Douglas Adams, who once wrote that a towel was about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.
I may have to go and lie down for a bit.