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.

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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.

 

Dark

Well my dears, it’s been a while, but here I am again.

Busy, you know. Thinking of you all but just plain busy. Things may be turning a corner soon though. Hope springs eternal.

This weekend the clocks changed, by which I mean we agreed as a nation to move from British Summer Time to Greenwich MeanTime, the real time by which the world spins.  So tonight we ate dinner with the dark night looming outside instead of merely fading light. And this year for the first time in my memory my mother didn’t remark upon nights drawing in. It was a tradition almost, that every year when the clocks changed she would mourn the loss of light in the evenings.

This year she is unaware of the change. By this token is her decline measured.

This weekend I finally caught up with the Internet – it seems to have managed without me for the last couple of weeks. Who knew that could happen; I had been concerned.

Anyway I came across a quote by Robin Williams:

I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not, the worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone

When we completed dinner without the obligatory nod to winter’s imminence, I realised that in a way we were both alone. And that the pain of living with a relative with dementia is that you live with someone who makes you feel alone, because they are no longer present with you.

I’m sorry this is rather depressing to share. I have much to be thankful for regarding my mother. We are able to provide care for her that allows her to be happy. She is not aggressive or hard to deal with. She is cheerful most of the time. She eats well and asks for very  little. You can make her smile just by saying hello.

But when we sit together in a room, neither of us has anyone sitting with us.

John Donne claimed no man was an island, but perhaps dementia makes islands of us all.

May you enjoy the presence of loved ones, even those who are far away but can phone or email or tweet.

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.

 

 

Slip Sliding Away

Those of you who have been kind enough to spend time in my corner of yon t’Interweb may remember that I often catch the 6.55 bus to town in order to transfer to the 7.23 train. Usually this is a seamless process and I tend to be half asleep as I am transported to the delights of Head Office.

Today I awoke to the shock news that it was winter and that there was ice on the roads. In this part of the country the council is very efficient at gritting. We are the leading Winter Olympic Team in Laughing at the Soft Southerners Who Can’t Cope with a Bit of Frost. We chortle at London’s hapless attempts to keep trains running after a millimetre of snow, and snort at their feeble cries that it’s a really, really hard thing to do. (Note for those not familiar with English geography: for the purposes of identifying a Southerner, anyone living in the Southwest counts as a Northerner when referring to snow, ice and gritting.)

So this is a shout-out to North Yorkshire County Council who spectacularly failed to grit the lane last night. It is unusual, to be fair. The consequences, however, were entirely predictable and underline why they should grit the damn lane as a matter of course.

The 6.55 bus was a little late. Three of us were waiting at the bus stop: myself and Sigoth, and our lovely neighbour, Marathon Runner with Diabetes. We were stamping our feet and puffing into our hands and talking about the owl we could hear, badminton tournaments and Christmas parties at work. It was convivial and we were not surprised the bus was a little late because clearly the roads were not in peak condition. We had all slithered precariously across the glacier at the roundabout so we knew it very well and were considering Writing A Letter to the Council to voice out displeasure.

As we waited at the bus stop a car fishtailed round the roundabout because he was going at more than one mile an hour. We all ducked into the shelter to avoid being walloped.

The bus eventually appeared about 15 minutes later, chugging along very slowly as befitted the conditions. We all dug out our passes and change and watched him inch his way round the roundabout. Our stop is at the end of a lane and the buses come up, go all the way round the roundabout and head back to the main road again. It confuses the hell out of tourists because you can’t tell so easily where the bus is going (north or south) after that. There’s a trick to it called “reading the destination on the front,” but this is not always possible because it scrolls and you have to catch it at the right moment.

Anyway, this was the bus we wanted. It slipped as it approached the roundabout and slowed down even more. Then as it started to go up the incline and round the edge it lost all grip on its rear wheels, slid sideways and stopped. After a couple of minutes it was obvious there was nothing for the wheels to grip and it sat there, hazard lights flashing and one road junction completely barred.

An oil lorry came along behind it and skidded into the verge. Eventually he got the vehicle under control but couldn’t get past the bus.

The bus inched forward slightly then slid back. It began to spin a little. The woman in the upstairs front seat displayed true Yorkshire grit by sitting calmly throughout, no matter how the bus danced and pranced. It was like dressage for motor vehicles.

Time went by and the sky grew lighter. Cars and vans came along, skidding and sliding too. They had to go the wrong way round the roundabout to get to their exit. The bus inched forwards a little more. After 20 minutes it had got round the first quarter of the circle. We cheered and stamped our feet and Marathon Man posted pictures on Facebook. Sigoth tweeted the Council to let them know about their dangerous and inept #FAIL.

After another 20 minutes or so it was clear the driver could do no more. A small van arrived from the bus company with sand and a shovel. The bus driver got out and apologised to us for the delay and offered us some of his coffee from his thermos. The man deserves a medal.

The rescuer used up all his sand and the bus began to skate towards the third quarter leading back to the bus stop. A large oil lorry slid into a hedge, recovered and carried on down the other exit. As the bus crawled towards us the man with the sand pushed the left front wing to guide it along its way. It was so slippery on the road that this actually worked.

The driver got the bus to where we were standing and appeared to stop although he was moving slightly without volition.

“Jump on!” he said, voice tight with stress.

We hesitated at the thought of imminent disaster, then jumped on and sat down and everyone on the bus said hello and smiled. We wobbled off down the lane, crawled over the hump-backed bridge and lurched towards the main road. Traffic on the main road roared by. The main road had clearly been gritted. Cautiously we felt our way onto the carriageway, although it was hard because our lane was very icy at the junction too so we had no power.  

It was an hour late, but we were on our way. By the time the kids come down for the school bus I hope the ice will be in retreat and they will be safe.

I understand that some drivers get frustrated when they are caught behind the slow moving gritting lorries. They are idiots. Those lorries are absolutely vital and you don’t know how much until they miss you out.

So here I sit in the station café with a steaming mug of tea, waiting for the next train 2 hours after my usual one, and wondering what it will be like when I come home on Friday.

Namaste.