AFTER the warmest February on record, March was balmy enough to entice many men who should know better, myself included, to wander out wearing summer shorts.

But then April kicked in.

The second the calendar ticked over into the new month on Monday, the April showers kicked off. Explosive downpours from a lead heavy sky with lashings of hail that lies on the grass like the dirty debris of ice at the back of the freezer, but moments later, like a lovers’ tiff, the world is bathed in warm sunshine and smiles.

The proverb “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers” was first recorded in writing in 1886, and it seems as apt in our days of global warming as it was back then.

Out cutting the grass, in my shorts, for the first time last weekend, I heard the first herald of spring chiming in the treetops. It was the cling-clang of a chiffchaff, which is one of the few birds I can recognise by its call because it does say “chiffchaff”.

Nearly every language chooses to name it onomatopoeically after its distinctive metallic song – the Germans, for instance, call it zilpzalp.

It is usually the first migrant bird to arrive back for breeding – somehow its tiny dot of a body has made it into my garden from Spain or north-western Africa, perhaps even from Ivory Coast or Nigeria. It is nearly always the first migrant to burst into song at the start of spring, the males, ever keen to get going, shouting out to establish a territory and attract a female.

Its scientific name is phylloscopus collybita. The first part is Latin for “leaf-explorer”, as it checks out the undersides looking for insects, whereas the second part is derived from Greek for “moneychanger” – the chiffchaff of its song apparently sounds like the jingle of coins.

So well known is that song that the Small Faces on their 1968 hit Lazy Sunday incorporated it among ringing churchbells to create an English countryside soundtrack. However, since 1968, the date on average that the chiffchaff lays its first eggs of the year has come forward by ten days – if it is a herald of spring it could also be a harbinger of global warming.

AS well as chiffchaff, the other word I’ve been considering this week is cobblers. We had a story about a Northallerton traditional cobbler reopening after a fire, but I don’t know why he is called a cobbler.

There is a theory that it comes from “to couple” as a cobbler couples a sole with an upper to make a shoe, but the Oxford English Dictionary refutes this, and says it comes from “to cobble”, which means “to make a rough, hasty or clumsy repair”.

This seems a little harsh on cobblers because it seems quite a skilful job to make a comfortable, hard-wearing shoe from a couple of pieces of leather. Anyway, considering such unimportant matters has enabled me to write a complete column without mentioning Brexit which is fast becoming a load of old cobblers.