Monday 2 August 2010


Though for many people in central and southern Europe, August is the month of summer, for us in Scotland, August is more associated with the end of summer.  It is still generally a warm and sunny month - perhaps more so with the effects of global warming.  However we do begin to notice the darkening nights as the sun disappears ever earlier in the evening.  August is a good month for colour in the garden though, with agapanthus and Japanese anemones in full bloom.   As are the water lilies, hydrangeas and the fuchsias, one of my favourite flowers.  I love the drooping bells and the purple - red colour combinations.  Here are some blooms from a previous August.
Another indication that August is a transitional month is that August 1st was the traditional date for Lammas Day.  This was one of the old quarter days in Scotland and England.  These were the days, going back to the Middle Ages, on which contracts and leases would begin or end.  It was also a day for celebrating and feasting, as this day was regarded as the beginning of the harvest period.  The name apparently comes from the Anglo-Saxon for loaf-mass or bread-feast.
Lammas was and still is a very popular time in St. Andrews.  Every year the Lammas Market is held in the town.  This is claimed to be the oldest surviving medieval street fair.  And it still takes place in South Street and Market Street - two of the main streets in the town.  Originally it would feature primarily market stalls, though of course nowadays the streets are full of fairground rides.  In St. Andrews the Lammas Market lasted from Friday to Tuesday.  The dates varied from year to year as the fair always ended on the second Tuesday in August.  As Wednesday was a local holiday the Tuesday evening was the busiest time as just about everyone was out and at times you could hardly move.  No need to worry about a hangover the next morning!  Here is a video of some of the shows from a few years back.  Not long after the Lammas Fair ended it was back to school again - another indication that summer was more or less over.
August, like July is a great month for festivals.  One of the most popular is the Pittenweem Arts Festival which runs from 7-15 August.  Pittenweem is a small fishing burgh in the East Neuk of Fife.  With a population of about 3 000, it would a village in most places, but up here is it is a small town or burgh in the vernacular.  The Arts Festival has been going for more than 30 year now.  When we lived in the next door burgh, Anstruther (only one mile away) we went to the festival regularly.  We still do as Pittenweem is only about 25 miles from Broughty Ferry.  The Festival mainly features painting and crafts, and now has about 100 venues.  Most are just rooms in someone’s house or a garage or outhouse.  The Festival is great fun as you can just pop in and out of one venue after another as you walk along the main streets.  As well as local artists the Festival always features a number of invited artists.  Below is a photo of Pittenweem and a collage of some of the exhibits from a couple of years ago.
The major August festival in Scotland is the Edinburgh International Festival.  This is one of the biggest international festivals in the world and this year it runs from 13 August until 5 September.   The Edinburgh Festival is really a series of festivals.  The International Festival is the best known and concentrates on the high brow end of the cultural scene with opera, drams, classical concerts and so forth.  For more about this year's programme go here.  Alongside this has grown a number of other festivals, most notably the Fringe, which runs from 6 - 30 August.  This year there is expected to be an amazing 2,453 shows covering comedy, theatre, dance and physical theatre, events, exhibitions, children’s shows, music, musicals and opera.  The Fringe's website can be found here. There are also many other festivals in Edinburgh during August, including the International Book Festival, the Military Tattoo and the innovative Festival of Politics which combines the worlds of politics, media and the arts.  Edinburgh is a beautiful city and August is definitely the time to visit.
Down the road a bit there is another world famous festival in August the Notting Hill Carnival.  This is apparently Europe’s largest street party and second only in the world to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval.  This is a noisy and colourful celebration of Caribbean music and culture in the heart of London.   The festival ends with a spectacular street parade with dozens of floats on which costumed dancers strut their stuff in time to their own beat.
The most important religious festival in August this year will be the start of Ramadan.  This is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the holiest month form Muslims.  This was when the Qur’an was revealed.  The month is spent by Muslims fasting during the daylight hours from dawn to sunset.  As the Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle, the dates for Ramadan change every year.  This year Ramadan begins on 11 August and is projected to end on 9 September.
August saw two deaths and one marriage among my ancestors.  William Wright married a Mary Mathieson on 15 August 1851 in Old Machar, which is now part of Aberdeen.   William Wright was one of my maternal great great grandfathers.  His daughter, Helen would marry James Henderson who was the father of my mother.  The deaths were of two of my paternal great grandfathers.  The first was James Rutherford who died on 17 August 1897 in St. Andrews.  The second was Alexander Philp who died on 10 August 1933, also in St. Andrews.  This Alexander was the father of Lily Philp who was the mother of my father.  Looking to the future August is also the birthday of two new members of the Rutherford family.  Emma’s husband Cosimo was born on  August 1972 in Schaffhausen.  And my eldest grandson, Liam was born on 29 August 2003 in Dundee.  Happy birthday to both Cosimo and Liam.
There does not seem to be much agreement as to the birthstone for those born in August.  Different traditions have gone for very different gems.  So you can choose from diamonds, sapphires or carnelian.  The modern stone  for August births is the peridot, which is a lime green colour.  Peridot is considered a tonic for the whole body and protects the wearer from negativity.  It is also associated with stress reduction and relaxation.  A pretty useful combination.  It can also be a very beautiful gem as shown below.
The flower for August is the Gladiolus which can be seen at the beginning of this post.  The Gladiolus represents strength of character and moral integrity.  Given in a bouquet, they represent infatuation and that the receiver has pierced the giver’s heart like a sword.  Gladiolus comes from the latin word for sword.  They can also stand for splendid beauty, admiration, sincerity and generosity.

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