Wednesday, 28 February 2018

From Sea to Snow

By the river, 2 weeks ago

Between snow showers this morning the sky gleams blue, beaming with borrowed light. Then the grey cloud gathers like bunched silk, something languid, penitent almost, about this snow. It drifts in small grains, a barely revealed discovery of feeling, a timid emotion.

Silence, when I open the back door. No traffic sounds from the main road. Then one, just discernible, sounds like a plane. I can just see a lorry passing in the distance. Between snow showers I clear a path to the bird table put out piles of seed and fill the feeder. The birds are quiet this morning, dark specks pecking at the food. 

A crow call. Each sound is magnified. What’s this one? It really is a plane this time. Or is it the wind in trees? A train? Are the trains running? No, it is the wind. I have a pile of logs stacked by the fire. It is very peaceful.

The windows look like Christmas card windows, a dusty gathering of snow in corners. They never look like that at Christmas. But they do today, the last day of February.

Later I go out in the blizzard. The worst part is getting round the side of the house in the deep snow. 

Then down the hill where the snow comes up to the top of my boots. A tractor has recently gone along the back road and I walk in its tracks. The main road shows signs of some traffic having passed. 


A few days ago I walked along the clifftops at Berwick so I could look at the sea. It looked like this, welcoming the spring, no thought of snow.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Past - In Blue

On a recent walk among snowy fields these sculpted snow drifts made me think of the mountains of Afghanistan, similar in shape, with their smooth and sweeping folds, though entirely different in colour and size.

Later I think of the Alps, snow-covered mountains we crept up slowly, in blizzards, chains on the tyres. We left the little village near Grenoble, the big farmhouse with its log stove and its bare trees, a few forgotten pears squelching underfoot. What was the weather forecast? Were the mountain roads passable? This was a long time ago, long before the days of the internet. We talked to people in the village, listened to the radio, asked the people we were staying with.

There were different opinions, some in favour, some not. M was not the kind of person to be put off by other people’s fears or hesitations but no-one could tell for certain how bad the snow would be in the next few days. He decided to go for it. He got hold of some chains for the tyres, I forget how. We picked up some provisions in Chamonix, snow swirling in the streets. We were lucky, the roads stayed open, the car did not get stuck in the blizzards. We reached the Mont Blanc tunnel and on the other side, we were in Italy. It was night time, we pulled off the road and slept in the back of the car. We woke in the morning to sunlight and mountains and no snow on the road at all.

Seeing the sculpted snow drifts and thinking of the Alps reminded me that I had written a story and other pieces about that time in France and in Italy and made me want to find them, so when I got home I went into the cold attic to rummage around in various boxes and folders. And I unearthed the stories and some other things too I had quite forgotten I had written. Reading these stories again gave me the feeling of reconnecting with my past.