May: Dandelions, Hinder Fallings and Bed Wetting

Dandelion Photo by Nick Nice on Unsplash

May has nearly gone and, and so far, few posts. I have been leading a study tour for Road Scholar called ‘Quintessential Britain’ which visits: London, Oxford, Stonehenge, Bath, the Cotswolds, Ironbridge, Chester, Wales, York, Edinburgh. Great to see all those places in the company of a lovely group. In between I have been moving my boat, Mrs Towser, down the Lee Navigation to East London, and looking after my Grandson when called upon.

My grandson is just making that huge transition from nappies to no nappies. In the middle of the park, he was curious as to why I was concerned that the park toilets were out of action. He told me I could, like him, just pull down my trousers and wee, right there, right then. An attempt at explanation drew a perplexed, ‘What?’ ‘What?’ is his new word. After an explanation, his next word is invariable another ‘What?’.

Is this relevant, you are asking yourself? May and June are the most prolific months for dandelions, which used to be known as ‘piss-a-beds’. They are diuretic and were often eaten, and so might well have consequences for the young trainee child.

John Hollybush in his 1561 ‘The Homish Apothecary’ (quoted in ‘The Perpetual Almanac by Charles Kightley) says:

‘When a young body does piss in his bed either oft or seldom: if ye will help him take the bladder of a goat and dry it to powder, and get him to drink with wine, or else take the beans or hinder fallings of a goat, and give him of the powder in his meat morning and evening, a quarter ounce at every time.’

Hinder fallings are what falls out of the hind-quarters of a goat. I’m not sure even an indulgent Grandparent is allowed to give droppings and wine to the little ones. Nor can I find any mention of goat products in modern medical recommendations. So I won’t be recommending this as a practical aid.

Medically, dandelions were very well regarded. Mrs Grieve’s ‘Modern Herbal’ reports that it is diuretic and a general stimulant to the system but particularly the urinary system. They were good for liver and kidney complaints; gall-stones; and piles. They were considered excellent to eat and drink. Particularly, dandelion sandwiches using young leaves, with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. They were also taken in salads, teas, and beers.

We used to blow the seeds from the dandelion seed head saying ‘She loves me. She loves me not’ at each blow, until the truth was revealed.

Here is a poem based on the rhyme:

May Gifts & New Brooms

May – Hawthorn Flowers

It’s bad luck to buy, make or use a new broom in May because:

Sweep with a broom that is cut in May
You’ll sweep the head of the house away.

But you can give good luck to a friend by leaving a branch of hawthorn flowers on the doorstep. But other woody messages were not so friendly according to traditional verses:

Alder for a scrowler; pear for the fair
Nut for a Slut; plum for the glum
Bramble if she ramble; gorse for the whores

It is basically rhyming slang, so no great wisdom involved, also I’m not sure quite how some of the rhymes work, and it does seem rather at the expense of women.

50th Anniversary of ‘Small Is Beautiful’

Dust jacket of fifth reprint of first edition, copyright 1973. Publisher Blond & Briggs. Jacket design by Andrew Sinc (wikipeidia)

It was, probably, mid 70s when I came across this book and, I think I can say, it had a lasting effect on my opinions. The book is about many things, but what it did for me was introduce sustainable development and the beauty of small scale innovation. Schumacher believed that resources were limited, that pollution represents an ever-increasing danger to society, and that appropriate scale innovation offered the best hope to create a fairer world.

He helped set up ‘the Intermediate Technology Development Group’, but found a better title in ‘Small is Beautiful’ for his book outlining his philosophy. ITDG became Practical Action, which is a charity that works around the world finding innovative solutions to real world problems.

To see Schumacher’s legacy have a look at the Practical Action web site or follow this link to see what it is doing, for example, in promoting ‘regenerative agriculture.’

I donate regularly, and maybe you might enjoy reading positive stories of human ingenuity in action around the world.