Of course, there has to be a word or two about the snow and the ‘Beast from the East’ – a name I hate because it is so negative. It is no Beast. It is just another type of weather. As John Ruskin wrote, ‘Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.’
But I am aware that I have been lucky enough that I haven’t needed to travel, I’ve had the heating on and a fridge full of food. I ventured out at around 8pm on Thursday evening, to see and feel the storm for myself. It’s a cliche but it makes you feel alive; it’s a visceral response. After a day stuck in doors, a little nip from the air is like a nip from a puppy – it doesn’t hurt, but it wakes you up. The wind was picking up and the powdery fine snow was still falling, tiny pin pricks on my face. The light from the neighbour’s house was shining through the trees, casting their shadows on the sea of snow which blew in waves, rippling across the white lawn. My footprints past the mulberry tree and on to the oak tree in the corner were still there this morning, but fresh snow had fallen, and they were only faint indentations. I would have stayed out longer, I don’t know why I didn’t. Probably because I was in my slippers.
I checked on the veg patch the next morning, my feet crumping through the crust into the softer snow underneath. The lettuces were completely shrouded in snow, you wouldn’t even know they were there except for the netting. The water in their leaves frozen solid, little white veins through the semi-transparent green and once the snow recedes they will be limp and most likely dead. Not such an Arctic King now. (Note to self: invest in cloches). The kale may survive.
Later, we tracked prints (known as foils) in the snow for a little while, (cat, bird, fox,) and I sat for a while under the sweet chestnut tree. As the children rolled and gamboled like lambs in the snow, I watched two robins vie for territory, surfing on waves in the air, right above our heads, flashes of warm red – operatic singing providing background music to the snow scene. It brought to mind the old nursery rhyme:
‘The north wind doth blow and we will have snow
and what will poor robin do then?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing poor thing’
Although the robins seemed perky enough to me. Blackbirds fretted here and there, looking for worms and grub in the wall rock, three (possible) fieldfares birds swooped, like a gang of motorbike riders in formation, around the garden. I haven’t seen them in the garden before, perhaps the snow has driven them here looking for food but I am no ornithologist. I was heartened to see so much life. No sign of the squirrels or magpies which have been stealing the bird feed meant for the smaller garden birds. Two days ago there were three squirrels and five magpies – a medieval feast. Just add the pigeons who have not moved from their branches, perhaps they have frozen on to them.
Now I sit watching the snow melt, mourning its loss and resenting the slushy snowbroth that remains for it’s sure to reveal numerous and hitherto unknown leaks in the roof. Perhaps the only type of bad weather is when it is indoor weather.