Old knickers and new friends

Bus

A bus in summer

At this time of year, waiting for the early morning bus at 0645, every day I notice the changing light.

This morning, for example, I had enough light to make out the dim, grey footpath and so avoid the drifts of last year’s old leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

Waiting for my bus I listened to a cacophony of birds; mostly their calls are a mystery to me, but I am able to pick out the owl from a nearby farm and the cockerel from another. They hoot and crow in some kind of avian version of duelling banjos, while their cousins of hedge and field whistle and warble freestyle feathery jazz.

On the bus I watch the palette of the sky build from charcoal through pastels to acrylic blues. The pink and lilac and lemon drain away as the day begins, leaving only a passing memory. Most of the other passengers are in thrall to small screens of worldwide information and miss the world unfolding.

The cars parked by the roadside are coated in crispy shells of frost this morning, which looks very pretty until you need to clear the windscreen and persuade the door to open. Early drivers scrape unenthusiastically, vandalising the intricate lace-work as their breath and the car’s exhaust steam in unison.

I wish the driver would turn the heating up, or at least not leave the door open while we wait at the bus station. She is warm in her cabin and forgets we are exposed. My feet are unresponsive blocks of ice, although once in the office I will regret my winter layers.

Off the bus at last, fumbling with ticket and lanyard and lunchbox and phone, walking briskly to thaw my feet and warm my body, thinking ahead to tea and logging in and emails, meetings, databases thinking ahead to people around me and cake shared and stories told.

A P Green Knickers front 300

“I can’t believe I’m almost twenty one!” said in the horrified tone of the young, gazing upon the serried ranks of aged oblivion before her, not saying but thinking “Will I end up like them?”

“Twenty one? I’ve got knickers at home older than that!” exclaims the crone to my right.

We three crones exchange glances of misty-eyed remembrance of being horrified at twenty-one.

All three of us roar and cackle, then I answer the phone on script.

“Crone Team, EBL speaking, How can I help?” while beside me the other two rock in silent appreciation of our wit and wisdom.

Rounds of tea mark out the day, then back on the bus, rewinding the morning journey, light fading backwards and more smudges of coloured sky, richer red and purple and apricot before the light fails altogether. Yet still there is enough light this evening to avoid the drifts of last year’s leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

At home, kicking off shoes, pulling on pyjamas, catching up on all the adventures of the day. A letter from the tax office claims I owe them money. My payslip includes a tax rebate of money they owe me. The two amounts are similar and will take time to sort out for no gain to either of us, but it could be worse.

I sit with hair washed, snuggled in my dressing gown and am thankful for a day of many small pleasures, of old knickers and new friends.

May your days be full of the small joys that keep us sane.

Namaste.

 

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Just say no!

misty village

Sigoth bemoaned the weather again today, as he has done for several days recently. I don’t blame him. We are British, so the weather is how we communicate with each other. It defines our moods, our relative positions in life and our ability to function in the morning. As such, starting the day without a quick weather-related sanity check would be unthinkable in EBL Towers. And so it was.

Apparently he has noticed it has been wet. I demurred.

“Foggy,” I insisted.

“No!” quoth he. “Wet! The ground is absolutely sodden.”

Well, he should know. He does things outdoors for fun, up close and personal with the earth, and we live on Jurassic moraines of boulder and Kimmeridge clay, so wetness or dryness is immediately apparent.

I sit inside, working at the computer, and only gaze out of the window into the distance. The distance is considerably closer of late, due to the fogs. Well, mists really. But where’s the drama in that?

The problem is obviously that he focuses on the near and I on the far. But Literature is on my side, so I share with you that great poem of 1844 by the lesser known poet, Thomas Hood:

No!

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–
No road–no street–no “t’other side this way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–
No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all–no locomotion–
No inkling of the way–no notion–
“No go” by land or ocean–
No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds–
November!

http://allpoetry.com/poem/8472903-No–by-Thomas-Hood

Regular readers will recall I enjoy chucking in a poem or two now and again. It saves me having to think up words all by myself.

Do you have a poem or quotation that describes your day today?

And even if your days are dark and foggy, may your hearts be sunny and bright.

Namaste.

Misty wanderings

The other day Sigoth and I went Christmas shopping. It’s a little early for us, but I had an unexpected day off work, and time is galloping by in the run up to seasonal festivities. Mostly I have placed orders on-line, hoping that the pictures of the products do not lie. However, where stocking fillers are concerned nothing beats a trip to town.

That’s not what I want to tell you about though, you will be pleased to read. It was the journey back that I wanted to share, although to no great purpose.

North Yorkshire landscapeI live in a small village in North Yorkshire, and I love the peace and quiet we enjoy for most of the year. I particularly like the serious quietness of winter, when the earth settles down for a snooze and the cold freezes all the frantic activity of nature to let things take a rest. At this time of year, in our northern hemisphere, the light is relatively brief. So as Sigoth and I were driving home at about 3.30 it was already getting dark.

Sigoth remarked that it was only 3 weeks until mid-winter after which the days would start to get longer again. He is a creature of the sun and light and warmth, and he is looking forward to spring.

I sat and stared out of the window at the hills around us. There were no lights along the road, or across the fields. Everything was grey and there was a slight mist forming. It was ancient. This was the experience of our forebears, as they too prepared for a feast to shut out the worst of winter. I was glad I did not have to worry about wolves.

The hills rolled onwards forever, smudged in grey. Briefly I did see a light in a distant farmhouse but soon it was hidden by the trees. The road was unusually quiet so there were not too many headlights coming towards us.

Sigoth said he didn’t remember it getting dark quite so early.  I disagreed.

I thought back to 3.30 on winter afternoons when I was at school, cycling home in darkness and sleet, my knees blue and my hands frozen into position on the handle bars, my books dragging me back. When I got into the house I made tea and toast, or hot chocolate and a bacon sandwich, trying to thaw my unresponsive fingers as I waited for the kettle to boil.

At the top of Golden Hill we saw the local market town spread out ahead of us. The lights glowed in the fuzzy air, each with its own perfect halo. We carried on past town and headed for our village. There’s a point along the main road where you can see the houses on the ridge like a line of lanterns showing us how much further we need to go.

Our house was dark, except for the annexe where my mother sat with her electric coal fire and chatty television, dozing in her chair. We unloaded the car and gave thanks for the ancient Aga warming the kitchen. Of course we made tea.

The garden was invisible now as the mist and dark grew heavier. The house enfolded us against the cold and wolves, and I drew the curtains.

Sigoth planned when he was going to go and get the Christmas Tree. I put the shopping away and together we made chowder.

On Thursday night the pub is having a curry night, so we’ll walk through the village, stumbling in the dark and slipping on the old fallen leaves and the mud, while we look for constellations in the sky (unless it’s cloudy).

The dark and misty hills reminded me of Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush” partly because of the opening lines, but also because it ends on an uncharacteristically cheerful note for Hardy.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

And so, in darkness and in light, may we all sing joyfully.

Namaste.

 

Daffodilly

Today I had a day off and Sigoth and I went into York to buy each other birthday presents. It’s that time of year.

On the way into town, sitting on the Park and Ride bus (the one that was late because the previous one broke down), I stared out of the window at Monk Stray, enjoying the daffodils that lined the roadside. They clustered thickly, bobbing in the draft from passing traffic and gleaming in the Spring sunshine. What a beautiful day.

Hold on!

Daffodils?

What?

It’s 2nd of May!

Crazy Springtime seems to have hit various corners of the globe (and by corners I mean curved edges) this year. Pretty much every Northern Hemisphere blog I read is talking about the wrong kind of weather, even when it isn’t British.

God knows we Brits like to talk about the weather. We have so much of it, in such a short space of time, that it seems rude not to. It’s not epic, like some countries; just a continuous, ever-shifting pattern of change and confusion. The other day the weather forecast predicted overnight frost, sunshine, showers, snow flurries, winds and general cloud all on the same day. In the same place. Temperatures between Aberdeen and London can easily and regularly vary by more than 10 degrees Celsius.

Back to those daffs, though. It’s not right. I have checked the historic record, by which I mean family photos of trips to Farndale to see the daffodils, or pictures taken of spring flowers.

For evidence:

199504 Farndale running down path1995 April

Farndale. Wild daffodils cover the area and attract visitors every year. They bloom later in Yorkshire than down south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

R199504 Rillington daffodilsillington, also North Yorkshire. These were planted by the local schoolchildren to brighten up the beck in the village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1199903 Helmsley 001999 March – Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Just a nice place to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2005 March – we planted some trees at the end of the garden…also in North Yorkshire. We had to fit them around the daffodils.

 

 

 

 

Just to reiterate, today is 2nd May. I should be seeing gorse, rhododendrons, hawthorn, bluebells…even in North Yorkshire.

Then I noticed that the trees were getting this fuzzy, green stuff on their twigs, which it turned out were “leaves”. There were gorse and hawthorn flowering elsewhere on our journey, on Strensall Common and even opposite the Stray, above the daffodils on the banks.

It’s like the weather has become fractured, doing March and May simultaneously.

Either 2013 will be over in double quick time or we’ll be having June in November and it will be always Autumn and never Christmas.

At least we can have fun finding out!

Namaste

Dawn

I went to catch the bus yesterday morning, in the small, wee hours, stumbling down the village with suitcase and laptop and handbag, fiddling in my pockets for my gloves, checking my train ticket for the umpteenth time, checking my purse for change for the bus fare. You know the general confusion and fumbling of early morning starts.

I reached the road and got ready to cross over, and suddenly became aware that I could see the bus stop.

I know, my dears, that this might not sound like such a surprising thing. Bus stops are usually fairly noticeable, by their nature being designed to draw attention to themselves for the sake of bus drivers and bus travellers alike. A bus stop you couldn’t see would be a sorry excuse for a bus stop. It would fail to fulfil its basic purpose, which is to designate a place where buses, well, stop.

That is not of course quite what I meant. EBL is not entirely senile yet. What I meant was that I could see the bus stop from a distance without the aid of artificial light. This was not because I had consumed an unusual quantity of carrots, but rather because the sky was less inky black and more pearly grey than has been its habit over the winter months. In other words, and with great fanfare, EBL is proud to announce Signs of Spring.

I know you will be enthralled to hear that Sigoth has been painting the guest bedroom. We are very excited to have a guest bedroom, having only now, after several hundreds of years, sufficiently ejected Offspingses to enable us to call the bedroom in question “guest”. Youngest Offspring will return at the end of March to claim it again for a few weeks, but for now it is a lovely shade of guesty blue. We are even getting new carpet to match.

The point of this apparent diversion in the narrative is that while paint was drying Sigoth opened the window to let in fresh air. We did not expire in an icy blast, like Shackleton and company huddled at the Pole. In fact we were pleasantly surprised by the almost balmy quality of the air wafting inside. More importantly we heard birds.

There is that moment, after a long, dark winter, eagerly awaited following the Solstice, when the Earth awakes and suddenly one day it is lighter and brighter and the trees have buds on their branches and the sparrows do their feathery fandango at full volume under the roof tiles, the dirty little buggers. You see them hopping about with a glint in their eye and chirping the sparrow equivalent of “D’you want to come up and see my etchings?” at any passing Sparrow Lady. There is something slightly scandalous about sparrows, especially in the spring,

As we looked out of the window and breathed in the mild, fresh air, and listened to the avian porn, we also noticed the carpet of snowdrops in the garden.

It’s somehow always the way of it, for me at least, that one day it is dark and cold and winter, and the next the snowdrops have appeared and the birds are at it like bunnies and the world is made anew. Then we have a cold snap and it seems winter is fighting back, reluctant to relinquish its supremacy just quite yet, desperately and futilely hanging on to power like a Caesar caught in the forum on the Ides of March.

Winter can protest, and send us freezing sleet and howling gales still, but it can’t argue with the dawn. So it was that I knew in my bones at last, at 6.45 in the morning, that Spring was really on its way, because the sky was grey and I could see the bus stop from the other side of the road.

 Namaste.