Nobody else has done it yet, so I’m going to write about snow! And maybe a lot of you are sick of it by now – I have to admit the not being able to go to Waitrose, etc, is beginning to get a bit annoying, though my neighbour has a 4x4 truck and he’s promised to get us shopping – which is very nice of him. Thank you, Jon! His kids currently have our sledge, since we have no young at home to use it, and I hope they are enjoying it. However, it’s not they who are the authors of this quirky snowman and his igloo home, which I feel deserve display here! The children three doors down made them.
One difference between this Big Snow, so far, and 1963, as far as I’m concerned, is that there aren’t the sculpted drifts – though if the weather forecast’s correct we may well get them, and horrid wind-chill. I do remember them, meringue-topping dry stone walls when we drove out to toboggan in one of the Lake District dales, and that lovely cerulean blue sky which I’ve seen here in the last few days, which otherwise you’d only get in really cold countries. I can remember that headlong rush down the long field into the iciness of a drift, picking ourselves out, my brother and me, and setting off up again for another swoop!
I loved the landscape your eyes can travel over, and the sense of those spaces of white, and the danger of it – we always knew the landscape was dangerous. The sheep huddled in the shelter of the drystone walls, canny as they were, the hard weather could kill them. I remember a tarn frozen, it seemed, in the act of bucking in the wind, ice-waves all across it. My parents got out my father’s old army skis and used them till one of the leather straps broke, and Mum told me about the winters in the Riesengebirge/Krkonose Mountains in Lower Silesia, when the snow came up to the first floor of my great-grandfather’s house and she’d ski out of the bedroom window.
When we get up at night, David and I peer out at the garden in the sepia snow-light. In the first half of the night the solar tree-lights we put up for Christmas still hang in the rowan tree, glowing blue-white, then later they fade. Walking the dog this morning we looked at a pale-green sky separated from the blue by a swath of thick white cloud. Even down here in the Thames Valley the snow seems to stretch distances out, the fields of our dog-walking park seem much wider than they usually do, and the trees, cluttered with lumps of snow, all bright white and blue shadows, are utterly incredible. It’s like living somewhere else. Later the snow’s covered with pointy tiny diamonds of light; this afternoon the westering sun lit bars of light inside the fat icicles on that side of the house. Then there’s the salmon sunset light on the snow before the light fades into sepia again. Here's the house we look out at, being glamorous and like a Christmas card with clouds flocking the sky behind it.
I keep thinking, though, about the 1947 winter, when my mother and grandmother were living in a single room in Siegburg outside
– lucky to get that – with no gas or electricity, since coal supplies had given out, and only newspaper in the windows. They had a tiny stove, but the room was icy. At night they put all the clothes on top of them on the single bed and huddled up together. They wore my grandfather’s military clothes, cut down and with all the insignia and braid cut off, and lived on turnips and bread bulked out with sawdust. Once a wild boar came out of the forest, crazed by hunger, and chased my grandmother down the main street. And all over Cologne Europe people were homeless or living in inadequate conditions and they died.
This makes me so grateful for our heating – but please, everyone, remember the homeless now – and the birds! They need our help. And – good news, I’ve just heard that Michelle Lovric’s power has come back! I’m so glad, Michelle.
http://www.shelter-donations.org.uk/ http://www.crisis.org.uk/ http://www.centrepoint.org.uk/ and re feeding birds,