Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Normality ?!

It's very strange getting back to "normal life" after having been planning an event for weeks and then having it take place. So, having sent the Spaniards home on Monday, we had the place and our time to ourselves yesterday, for the first time in a while. It didn't remain so for long. 

I had to return my daughter's car to her. We had borrowed it for the duration of the Spanish chess visit so that I could very people around. You would have thought taking it back would have been a straightforward affair but life isn't like that as a rule. First I popped into the supermarket to replenish stocks of this and that, including snacks and drinks for the kids' lunch. Then, having arrived at my daughter's house, instead of being driven back home again, I waited around while the kids had lunch and then until it was time to take the oldest one to a meeting regarding her part time job. Follow that with a visit to the local tip to get rid of bags of rubbish of various kinds and it was time to go and collect the oldest granddaughter again. 

Time flies when you are doing bits and pieces. I almost forgot to mention the useless trip to the charity shop. We had a bag of stuff to give them but it was almost five o'clock and the three charity shops in Uppermill village were closed. The sun was shining and the place was full to bursting with people strolling around but the main shops were all beginning to close, leaving only cafes and sweet shops open. It always surprises me how early places close up in the UK. In Spain people are still shopping at 8 in the evening. So we collected the kids from the park, where we had left them paddling in the river in their wellies while we went to the charity shop. Then we all had an ice cream in the park in the sunshine before heading to my house for a cup of tea. 

And that was the best part of a day over and done with. Amazing! 

Talking of differences between countries, here's something. In the UK we give Easter eggs. But there is more formal stuff. I was not sure whether the queen still gives out "Maundy money" on the Thursday before Good Friday so I checked online. Yes, she does. Checking that, I also revised a bit of the history of Maundy Thursday. Somewhere back in the thirteenth century members of the royal family would distribute money and gifts and wash the feet of selected poor people, an act of humility recalling Christ washing the feet of his disciples. By the eighteenth century our monarchs had given up on the humility bit and stopped washing people's feet but did give out gifts of money and clothing. It all became just gifts of money in the nineteenth century. 

Nowadays, as many elderly men and women as there are years in the queen's age are chosen to receive Maundy money, because of their Christian service to the church and the community. So if you are an old curmudgeon who does nothing for the community, even if you go to church every Sunday you won't qualify. I must say I am quite surprised nobody has raised the diversity and discrimination thing here but I suppose that as it's part of the Christian Holy Week they can justify a bit of bias! So this year 88 fine upstanding old folk in Sheffield received two small leather purses from Her Majesty. One, a red purse contains ordinary coinage, money in lieu of the old gifts of food and clothing, and the other, a white one, contains silver Maundy coins, specially minted I think, consisting of the same number of pence as the queen's age. There you go! 

In the Guardian I found a link to an article about traditions in old Slovakia, where the custom was to whip women with thin willow branches and to throw cold water over them. This was supposed to make them healthy for the coming spring. As this took place, and perhaps still does, on Easter Monday, I would have thought they were more likely to catch their death of cold from getting soaking wet. But who am to criticise old traditions? Anyway, here's a link to the article. 

And in the USA the president organises an egg roll: an event involving singing, storytelling and rolling eggs down the South Lawn of the White House. I suspect Barack Obama has someone else to organise it for him but he wishes them all a 'Happy Easter' at the start and perhaps even joins in the fun. This year's was the 137th such event. 35,000 people were expected to be there. Really? Do they all get to roll eggs or do most of them just have to watch respectfully? 

Just a slight difference in customs. On the whole though, I think the Americans probably have the most fun!

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