My boots crunched through the inch of ice coating the snow. I greeted the world, fed the birds. All night I’ve worried about them, particularly the little robin who sings a jazzy number each time I emerge. Is she alive? Would the rain storm brought in and then later frozen by the blizzard have stuck her little claws to a branch? Would she have died of thirst, as birds do mid winter-when all sources are frozen? The bowl of water I’d filled every hour yesterday had frozen the last time I went out.
A woman out clearing her steps with a shovel complained bitterly. Our response was that it’ll have melted in a couple of days when the British-default-wet returns to dominate the rest of winter. She grumbled, “I should be in London enjoying myself.”
We moved on to relish the pristine scene. Daffodil heads hung low above the ice encasement, their green stems lost beneath the utter white. Children squealed as sledges shot down the slope. Parents, unable to drive to work, laughed, delighting in this holiday handed out from the heavens.
Crawling downhill, the farmer in his Land-Rover returning from icy winds above where he’s been tending to his sheep upon the small moor cresting the hill where the vast mounds defining the Iron Age fort are picked out in the stark white. He throws us a huge smile.
His are the only tracks and though the wind ought to be carrying the soft distant hum of the most popular road south-west, there is absolute silence. That superb silence only snow renders. Suddenly, across the valley and high above us, trees howl as the gale bites the earth, but we are sheltered. The Saxons who founded this village chose the best places to build their homes, moving down from the ancient safety of the ridge once peace was normal.
Yesterday I understood why Britain reacts so badly to winter weather. We had run out of certain items and instead of our usual walk across the fields to the shop, we drove. Having survived what Brits would deem twelve extreme winters in the Pyrenees, I was confident, but habitually cautious, yet the van slipped and slithered as I descended the gentlest incline from our house. Ha, me thought, that’s why! Such conditions are rare and Brits don’t need to don winter tyres come November, nor do they have chains. And then there’s last night’s danger of wet, wet rain freezing upon every surface.
The robin, you will be glad to hear, tweeted with joy as she watched me pour water into the receptacle and she landed inches from my hand to drink. A more cautious thrush, a jittery blackbird, shot off with alarm calls. The snow beneath the ice reached my ankles, I kicked it off, went in doors, replenished the log fire and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee.