Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mayday Mayday!

It's a topical time of year for those of my books that were set in Germany.

Last night was Walpurgis, the night when the witches are supposed to meet, and also the night of the opening scene of Wish me dead, in which a group of friends decide to go and visit the ruined cottage belonging to a long-dead witch. There, they make wishes, and one of them comes true...

Today, however, is May Day, and that also features in one of my books. In The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, the heroine Pia Kolvenbach and her friend Stefan are drawn into the mystery of a series of disappearances in their quiet little home town of Bad Münstereifel. Suspecting a supernatural cause, Stefan proposes that he and Pia should go and visit the ruined castle on the Quecken hill near the town on Walpurgis night, reasoning that if there is anything to see it must happen then.

Pia protests that her mother is never going to let her go to the Quecken hill after dark, and it is then that Stefan comes up with a brilliant idea (or so he thinks). This is what happens:


‘My mother is never going to let me go up there after dark,’ I pointed out.
‘Can’t you make up some excuse?’
‘Like what?’ I could not think of any possible circumstances under which it would be allowed.
‘We’ll – we’ll say we’re going to put up a Maibaum.’
‘A Maibaum?’ I had to admit this was a stroke of genius.
A Maibaum – or May tree – was a tree, usually a young silver birch, chopped off at the base, the branches decorated with long streamers of coloured crêpe paper. Every village in the Eifel had one on May Day, but it was also a tradition that young men would put a Maibaum up outside the house of their girlfriend on the night before May Day, so that she would see it when she got up in the morning. This meant that the last night of April had to be the only night of the year when half the youth of the town could be creeping about in the small hours with legitimate cause. All the same . . .
‘Who would we be putting a Maibaum up for?’ I asked. ‘And, anyway, girls don’t usually put them up at all.’
‘Easy,’ said Stefan, who was obviously developing the plan at breakneck pace. ‘We’ll say we’re helping my cousin Boris.’
‘Hmmm.’ I still had my doubts.
Boris was a hulking monster of an eighteen-year-old, with long hair that looked as though it had been styled with motor oil, and mean little eyes so deep-set that they seemed to be peering at you through slits in a helmet. So far as I knew he had no girlfriend and, even if he had, he did not give the impression that he would be the sort who offers flowers and opens doors and puts up May trees. Certainly, I couldn’t imagine him asking two ten-year-olds to accompany him on a romantic mission of that kind. Still, in the absence of any more inspired idea, I agreed to suggest the plan to my mother..."

Of course, Pia's mother, as expected, does not look favourably on the idea. So what are Pia and Stefan to do? Either they can abandon the idea, or Stefan can go up there all alone...





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