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Ne'er cast a clout till May is out

Students are encouraged to consider how important it might be to prepare for all eventualities.

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


Students are encouraged to consider how important it might be to prepare for all eventualities.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need sunglasses, scarf, umbrella.
  • Suggested music: ‘Night Swimming’, REM.


  1. May is a most unpredictable month.

    (Put on sunglasses) Sometimes it can be blazing hot. The beaches are packed and people are even taking a dip in the sea, although they may not stay in for too long.

    The natural world becomes confused at this early summer. Plants burst into flower well before their expected season. Adders, the only poisonous snake in Britain, come out of their winter and spring hibernation to bask in the sunshine only to discover that it’s rather cool in the shade. This makes them irritable and therefore more dangerous.

    (Put on scarf) On the other hand it has been known to snow in London during May and unexpected ground frosts can cause havoc with the tender shoots of early fruit and vegetables. Many a crop has been ruined by the freezing temperatures.

    (Put up umbrella) Then there’s the rain. April’s famous for its showers; in May the rain can be torrential. Many a cricket match has begun in glorious sunshine only to be abandoned early in the afternoon as the heavens have opened.

    May is a most unpredictable month.
  2. There’s an old saying that your grandparents (and maybe your parents) will be familiar with that goes: Ne’er cast a clout till May is out.

    Roughly translated it means: Don’t put your warm winter woollies away in the wardrobe until the month of May has ended and June has started.

    It’s good advice. It’s very easy to believe that summer has arrived on a sunny May day when the temperatures soar but actually the weather can turn very quickly. During May we’re not yet in the more reliable summer weather patterns when it’s reasonably safe to go out without a coat and it’s possible to wear a pair of shorts without popping a pair of jeans in the bag just in case. May is a most unpredictable month and it’s not worth taking the risk.
  3. How much risk do you take with life in general? Would you ride a bike without wearing a helmet or take a dip in a lake on a hot day despite the warning signs? Would you play chicken with traffic on the road, walk home alone at night or hope the right questions came up in the exam because you’ve only revised some subjects?

    (For older students only) Would you accept a drink from a stranger or have sex without using a condom?

  4. Life’s unpredictable and it’s not worth taking the risk. What we need is wisdom. Jesus told his followers to be as wise as snakes and as gentle as doves. By wise he meant for us to be cautious. Some of you will immediately say that risk-taking is part of making life interesting and that’s true. The Tea Cups are never as exciting as The Oblivion at Alton Towers (or use an example from your local theme park if more appropriate). Yet even at the theme park the risk has been measured and we can feel a level of security because of the safety regulations. Someone has been wise on our behalf.

Time for reflection

Spend a moment considering the following thoughts. You may wish to turn them into a prayer.

Be thankful for life’s thrills and opportunities, the chance to have new experiences.

Be sorry for the times others have needed to save you from the consequences of ill-considered risks.

Make a plan to take some action that arises out of today’s assembly. It may be to say no to some invitation, to put a safety plan in place or to learn more before getting involved.

Publication date: May 2009   (Vol.11 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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