Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cumbria's fifth season: Back End

IT’S a revelation to many people that there are actually five seasons in a year, not four.
But it’s such a blindingly obvious fact to most Cumbrians that you really do wonder how the rest of the world copes with a mere four seasons.
We’ve just entered the ‘lost’ season of Back End. It comes between autumn and winter when autumn’s lost its glory but winter is yet to bite. There’s some dispute but most people will place it around the first two weeks in December.
It’s that time when there are few leaves left on the trees, the days are at their shortest and the weather at its darkest. Back End looks like it sounds: the dull, scraggy bits of the year.
“T’ back-end’s ola’s t’ bare-end” goes a famous Cumbrian proverb. Well, it was famous in the mid-19th century when dialect poet Alexander Craig Gibson wrote his classic tome, The Folk-speech of Cumberland and Some Districts Adjacent. He defined it as late autumn. Fellow writer William Dickinson, writing about the same time, defined it in his dialect dictionary as “Back end: the fall of the year” and gave the example “On about t’ back end.”
In the south Cumbrian village of Bouth they even had a Back End Fair each year although it seems to have been held quite early – the end of October. But we want to keep the rest of the world guessing. We’ve revealed there’s a fifth season – now let them work out when it is!

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