Easter – like many another festival in the UK – is frequently described these days as being ‘really just for the children’.
Which is quite intriguing given that torture, betrayal and death by crucifixion feature rather highly in the Christian Easter story.
Or if you have a more folksy, pagan-stylee idea of what this spring festival is about, then those will probably be rather more sensual ideas, and pretty much an invitation to behave like one of those rampant bunnies that populate popular Easter imagery.
Now obviously the Christian religion has had a large impact on the traditions and culture of the UK – and the rest of Europe. It would be plain daft to suggest otherwise.
But I do start wanting to growl a tad when people pretend that somehow it’s the only part of our history and heritage that has had any real impact and has any relevance today.
For starters, such people seem to have a remarkably poor comprehension of just when the country was declared Christian – and even an idea that it happened within some very brief period of time.
It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen in such a way that it acts as some sort of definitive end to primitive life and start of civilisation. And there was no such primitive ‘before’ – any more than there was an instantly ‘civilised’ after that can only be put down to a specific religion.
In many cases, it was a situation of the aristocracy converting – and then Christianity living alongside other religions for a number of years.
Some of what I have skated over in recent posts on the roots and traditions of Easter illustrates this: the pagan traditions being either borrowed by the church to encourage conversion or simply continued by the ordinary people – and in particular, those in rural communities.
And indeed, at perhaps the most simplistic level, one could say that everyone in the UK use days of the week that still carry names derived from non-Christian gods – which is far more than regularly attend Christian church services.
Don't get me wrong – believe what you want to believe, and I\ll defend your right to do so. Just don't try to make me believe the same thing – or try to have your beliefs foisted on me.
But setting all that aside, even if all such interpretations of Easter fail to give adults something to enjoy at Easter – won’t somebody think of the cats?
This was a very good weekend for our trio. It started on Thursday, when both The Other Half and I won raffle prizes at work. His was an Easter egg from Cadbury, with (at least) one of those sickly sweet crème eggs in it.
Mine was a plastic ‘suitcase’ of eight plastic eggs, made to look like chicks, with little plastic bags of strawberry jellybeans in each.
I don’t do jelly beans. But the plastic egg-chicks are proving hugely popular with The Kittens – and particularly Loki.
She spent much of yesterday evening batting one around the flat; occasionally having to inform one of us that it had got stuck in a corner or under some furniture and that an Easter egg hunt was not what she was after.
I never had envisaged a career as a toy retriever for cats.
But we were most fascinated when, somehow, she managed to pick it up in her mouth and carry it around: when she put it down, she made a specific noise that we’ve only heard before from Boudi, when she’s carrying her favourite toy around.
It seems as though there is a specific sound – a word – for use when carrying things.
Not that that was the only festive fun on the feline front.
The weekend’s gardening saw the arrival from Columbia Road of three small pots of catnip – or ‘drugs’, as cats know it.
It’s remarkable stuff – providing an upper when snorted and a downer when eaten.
Apparently. And for cats, that is.
Many years ago, when we still had ‘flower beds’, we brought some from the market to plant. Getting back home, we plonked our big market bags down, only for Mack to hurl himself straight into the bags holding the catnip plants.
Amazingly, they revived. And he didn’t do it every day, but intermittently, he’d throw himself into them and sniff and rub away, sending himself into a totally bonkers, zoned-out state.
Neither Boudi nor the kittens had seen catnip in its natural state, only having enjoyed it previously in its dried state, in toys. But it didn’t take long before they were all snuffling around the garden table onto which I’d emptied my bags.
Snuffling from below – and then jumping up for a closer inspection, followed by taking it in turns to pretend to be guarding the plants (that's Boudi in the picture above).
In Otto’s case, this meant taking surreptitious opportunities to rub her face against the leaves when she thought my back was turned.
Although it has to be said that the irritating thing was getting home this evening to find that Other Cats had been in the garden and pretty much wrecked the catnip, with two of the little plants now pulled up – doubtless in a frenzy of druggy delight. I have to rethink this. I have ideas, but I can't do anything until the weekend.
And much as I have little inclination to hurt Basil, Reggie or The UnNamed Mystery Cat, I also have no intention of providing their drugs for them. It's drugs for my girls or for no cats.
But setting that aside – you see? It really isn’t just a festival for children.