Posted in Events, Personal life

Why Easter is Such a Movable Feast (of Chocolate)

My column from the March 2018 edition of Hawkesbury Parish News

photo of rabbit in a field looking startled
So early an Easter is enough to catch the Easter Bunny on the hop (Photo by Gary Bendig via Unsplash.com)

“But Easter’s so early this year!”

With Easter Sunday falling on 1st April this year, the schools will barely have time to squeeze in the spring term before the bank holidays begin. My daughter’s school breaks up on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday.

But it could be worse: it’s possible for Easter Sunday to fall as early as 22nd March. No cause for immediate alarm though, as that’s not due to happen till 2285.

Next year, we will have the opposite problem: Easter will be three weeks later, on April 21st. (Latest Easter possible is 25th April, as will happen in 2038.)

At least a later Easter means that Valentine’s Day won’t coincide with Ash Wednesday, as it did this year, causing a dilemma for anyone who’d given up chocolate for Lent. (What do you mean, your Valentine never brings you chocolates?)

Why do Easter dates vary so much?

photo of the authors parents
Getting married at the vernal equinox has kept my parents forever young (married 65 years and counting…)

They are set according to the phases of the moon. Easter Day is deemed to be the first Sunday after the first full moon to follow the vernal equinox. (No, I don’t know why, either.)

When’s the vernal equinox? Easy – 21st March, my parents’ wedding anniversary (impressively, their 65th this year, in case you’re wondering). Or so I thought, until I googled “vernal equinox” and discovered it is just as likely to fall on 19th or 20th March, depending on when the sun crosses the celestial equator, a notional line running from south to north above the equator.

In all of this mayhem, you’ll be pleased to know there is still one absolute certainty: that wherever Easter falls on the calendar, there will always be Easter eggs in the shops from Valentine’s Day onwards – and often even earlier. But not to worry: in my opinion, there’s no such thing as too much chocolate.

Happy Easter, folks!

 


Cover of Murder by the Book
Launching on 21st April: the fourth Sophie Sayers Village Mystery

The timing isn’t all bad news, though – it’s just right to get me in the mood for starting to write my fifth novel in the Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, Springtime for Murder, which kicks off with someone thinking they’ve found the Easter bunny dead in an open grave.

Don’t worry, though, all is not what it seems… he’ll still be delivering chocolate this Easter! 

In the meantime, you can catch up with the first books in the series here.

Posted in Events, Writing

Please Don’t Be My Valentine

cover of February Tetbury Advertiser

In the February edition of the

Tetbury Advertiser,

my Young By Name column homes in

on the real meaning of Valentine’s Day

 

 

As a lapsed Anglican, I’ve never had saints on my radar, apart from the obvious ones whose special days are pre-printed in our diaries – Andrew, George, Patrick, David, Valentine, etc – and the quartet after whom my old grammar school named its houses: St Anne, St Bride, St Francis and St Mary.

At primary school, our teams were distinguished only by colour: red, blue, green, yellow. On moving up to senior school, I was naturally more interested in the colour of the houses, rather than their saints’ pedigrees. In a kind of synaesthesia of the saints, for me St Bride (my house) will forever be associated with yellow, St Anne green, St Francis red, and St Mary blue.

photo of red pencil with St Bride's logo
Now that’s confused me – my souvenir pencil from St Bride’s Church*, Fleet Street, isn’t yellow

Strangely, we were never taught anything about our school’s four saints, and we never thought to ask. Nor did we query why in an all-girls’ school we had a single male, St Francis, alongside the female trio.

Top Trumps of Saints

I reckon the school management missed a trick to cement house loyalty. They could have turned the distinguishing features of each saint into a compelling game of Top Trumps:

St Francis:100 points for animal husbandry, 0 for maternal instinct.

I wish I could cite further examples, but my knowledge of even the most famous saints is slim. Just how slim I didn’t realise until doing some research for my latest novel, Murder by the Book** (out in April), which culminates in a murder on 14th February.

It turns out my perception of St Valentine was more Hallmark than historically accurate.

Apparently, asking someone to be your Valentine is nowhere near as appealing an invitation as I’d assumed.

The Fate of the Saint

Legend has it that the Romans made it illegal for marriage ceremonies to be performed for soldiers, on the assumption that having wives would sap their strength and their inclination for war. Valentine, a Christian priest, defied the ban, continuing to perform wedding ceremonies until the Romans arrested him. In jail, in what could be the earliest recorded case of Stockholm Syndrome, Valentine healed his jailer’s daughter’s blindness, after which, not surprisingly, they became friends. When led away to his final fate, he left her a note signed “From Your Valentine”.

His execution was cruelly prolonged: he was beaten and stoned before being beheaded.

So be wary of asking the object of your affections to be your Valentine – they might think you’re inviting them to a fate worse than death.


Cover of Marry in Haste
Wry humour about romantic relationships, available in paperback and ebook

MORE FUN READS

*More about my visit to the wonderful St Bride’s, the journalists’ church, in this post from my archive

**Murder by the Book, the fourth Sophie Sayers Village Mystery, will be launched at the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival on Saturday 21st April. 

And if I haven’t put you right off romantic fiction, you might enjoy my collection Marry in Haste, currently on special offer at 99p/99c for the ebook, and £4.99 for the paperback.

Posted in Writing

Funny Valentine

graphic of multiple heartsMy monthly columns for the Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser have to be submitted to their respective editors by the middle of the previous month, which is why my February column was composed with the shadow of the January 31st tax return deadline anging over me… 

I’ve never quite got Valentine’s Day. It’s not that I’m unromantic, nor have I been unlucky in love. It just seems to me that designating one day on which to celebrate your love smacks of doing your tax return on the 31st January deadline, then thinking “Phew, thank goodness that’s over for another year!” before ignoring your personal finances for the next 364 days (365 tin 2016, thanks to leap year – a 24-hour reprieve, hurrah!). Continue reading “Funny Valentine”