Thursday, 1 April 2010

Snow Story

The snow swirls past the window, and while it was raining heavily with a bitter wind in Edinburgh, a few miles south it turned to snow, coating the road and the surrounding fields. The bus sometimes swerved and skidded, we passed a police car and ambulance, though I could not see what had happened, and a little further on, another bus had pulled into a lay-by and we took on the passengers, coated with snow from the short walk from their bus to ours. Apparently that bus's windscreen wipers had failed and so they'd had to stop.

The snow has fallen all night and it's over a foot deep,[I would make that metric, but a third of a metre does not trip easily off the tongue; still I suppose I could say about 30 centimetres] coming over my boots. There's no power. I put out food for the birds, though its quickly covered over again, with snow. The bushes and the hedge are bent over with the weight of it. There is a quality to the silence that reminds me of a French farmhouse, with thick walls and oak beams, a low sky and empty fields stretching away to the horizon. Il manque seulement le cri du coq. The only sounds are the occasional whoosh like wide descending wings, as piled-up snow falls off tree branches. And the faint pattering sound of the snow on my hood when I'm outside shovelling the snow off the path. I light a fire put a pan of water on the coals to heat and once it's boiled, make some tea. It tastes slightly sooty, marvellous to have hot tea. When I put the pan back on the fire it sings a thin reedy little song, which deepens into something more breathy and gushing as it comes to the boil.

1st April
Today the sun comes out and the snow gleams and glitters in the light. I'm standing at the front door, feeling the sun on my face when I notice a trudging figure walking up the hill. It's the milkman. Usually he brings his van up to the top of the hill, to deliver the cartons of milk, but today he tells me, as I walk to the gate, to save him coming up the path, that he could not get his van up the hill, you'd need a four wheel drive to do that, he said.

In the city there's no sign of snow. I go to the Pen office in the Writers' Museum and tell N about the snow, and the lack of power. Ah so that's why you've come in today, to be somewhere warm, he says.

It's still sunny when I leave a few hours later. There's an odd feeling about this day, first of April, April Fool's, as if its real nature is lurking under the surface, and what can be seen could be just a façade that could change its nature in the blink of an eye, laughingly throw off its disguise and turn into what it really is. Like the Lord of Misrule, the snow has swept its cloak over everything, and now it's vanished, look, just like that. But the bus takes a different route, as the A7 is blocked by a fallen tree. A van by the side of the road, on the way back, is parked on an embankment, tilted at an angle that makes it look as if it could fall over at any moment. But even though it's still cold, the light loiters in the city streets, giving the feeling of time being gently stretched, a hovering stillness, despite the crowds of people walking briskly about.

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