Jayne Dawson: Make Easter whatever you want – that’s the joy of it

Kirkstall Abbey.
Kirkstall Abbey.
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Well then how do you like yours?

Maybe with a leg of lamb, a bucketload of chocolate and a toasted teacake.

Possibly you prefer to make friends with Mother Nature, rhapsodising over snowdrops and a host of golden daffodils.

Or you might prefer the attractions of your sofa and an afternoon with Charlton Heston and The Greatest Story Ever Told.

You might even go to church, because it is after all the oldest of the Christian festivals.

But that’s the great thing about Easter - you can slice and dice it pretty much anyway you choose.

Unlike that other two day festival, you know that one in winter, there isn’t a template to which you must try very hard to conform.

You don’t have to spend Easter in the bosom of a loving family or risk feeling like a sad sack, and you don’t have to turn yourself inside out buying presents you can’t afford and they don’t want.

Even better, you don’t have to worry about whether you have made your home look like the perfect colour-coordinated backdrop to the festival, and you don’t have to worry about whether bunnies are on on-trend decorative motive this year - because they are. They always are. Bunnies will never abandon Easter.

The festival, it is said, is Christmas-lite. And that makes people who fear the C-word love Easter a great deal.

My own idea of what makes a perfect Easter owes a lot to my cousin Gillian. We don’t see each other now. Sad to say we wouldn’t know each other if we passed in the street, but back when it mattered Gillian passed on to me her stash of already very second-hand books.

They were plain green on the outside, a bit musty on the inside and featured children of a kind I had never met - monied.

But it didn’t matter. I loved them. I still love an old children’s book, don’t you? The very best come with inscriptions inside: “To Maureen, with love from Auntie Edna and Uncle Arthur, Christmas 1956.” That sort of thing.

They don’t have to say much to conjure up a very different world - I mean, who inscribes a book now?

Anyway in this bundle of green hardbacks was the story of Susan, Charlotte, Midge and Bill and how they reunited three orphans with their rich auntie, and also foiled a thief who was using an antiques business as a front for smuggling old and very valuable maps out of the country. Yes, I agree, not the sort of tale that would necessarily set the imagination of a child on fire now - but that’s not important.

The important thing is that this adventure happened one Easter. Between the orphan reuniting and the theft-foiling the children picked wild primroses, rolled hard-boiled and decorated eggs down hills, enjoyed a very special slap-up Easter breakfast, scoffed hot cross buns, made Easter bonnets, gave each other little Easter gifts, lazed under cherry blossom, and generally had an amazing time.

I agree that the picking of wild primroses sounds illegal, akin to stealing the eggs of rare birds, but I can only tell you what happened.

And naturally, I wanted my own Easter, which up until then had pretty much consisted of a chocolate egg - to be just like this.

My nine-year-old self immediately set to with an egg, a pan and some cochineal because we were allowed near boiling water and food dye made from crushed bugs practically from birth back then.

Then I determinedly rolled the by now violently red egg down “the bankings” opposite my house, where it bounced off stones, dog dirt, bits of broken glass and clumps of weeds in an underwhelming manner, rather than rolling over grassy pastures strewn with primroses. But still. I was making the effort.

I still buy primroses, I decorate an Easter tree - that wasn’t in my book but some stories need improving. I don’t roll eggs.

That’s my Easter. You can live your own version, which is the joy of this festival.

Super-parents don’t need TV

How many screens do you have in your house, not including phones? I’m not revealing, I’m too embarrassed by the number of televisions.

I feel they mark me as a person who is, well, you know. Laptops and tablets are sort of okay, but televisions just say you’re a bit... dull, don’t you think?

Okay I’ve cracked - there are four tellies in this house. Four! Honestly, I don’t know where to put myself for shame. All of them are hopelessly old-fashioned if that’s any help. I mean, they barely have colour. Even the tip would turn them away.

I mention it only because not having a television at all is emerging as a status symbol amongst a certain type of parent. You know the type I mean.

Screen-gazing is for other, lesser children; their offspring spend their time doing real playing in the real outdoors, and learning a handful of languages. These parents do not need the quiet time that a television can bring to save their adult sanity: they are better than that.

I feel a mix of contempt and envy for them. I know they have a point. I know that the average child aged four and over watches three hours and 40 minutes a day - and that sounds like way too much.

But there is a middle way between raising a child who only knows how to watch life through a screen, and being the sort of smug parent that other parents - and grandparents - want to kill.

Nature is rushing to get it all going

Nature is in as much of a rush as the rest of us.

As we race around trying to get things out of the way, so do the seasons.

Everything is happening sooner.

There were snowdrops out before Christmas, daffodils on Boxing Day and now the bluebells have stuck their delicate heads above the parapet in some places weeks before they should have done. Clearly, they are anxious about being left behind.

This may be bad news on a global scale; warming brought about by our carelessness with this planet of ours.

More than that, it’s bad news for this reluctant gardener.

As I eye the bed of clay that passes for my garden I have no idea of the season for anything anymore.

By the time the days are warm enough to venture timidly into its depths bravely bearing a trowel, there will only be holly berries that have not already been and gone.

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