Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sudden thaw

We had snow here the other day. As ever, it didn't last long, barely after midday in fact. It's easy, after twenty years of living in England, to think it is much the same place as Scotland, but there are differences, little differences, shades of meaning and understanding, the hidden, unbidden understandings that people from the same place and same background can have. Whenever we get snow here, and it disappears so quickly, it reminds me of where I am and where I come from. Back home, snows last. They can hang around for days, even weeks.

This, though, is a lovely poem by Andrew Young about a sudden thaw

When day dawned with unusual light,
Hedges in snow stood half their height
And in the white-paved village street
Children were walking without feet.

But now by their own breath kept warm
Muck-heaps are naked at the farm
And even through the shrinking snow
Dead bents and thistles start to grow.

Well! That transports me thirty years and more back, to a Sunday afternoon, mother and brother and sister and me walking along the Laggan, everything snow covered and frozen except the dung heaps outside the main barn, standing black and steaming against the blankness all around; and cold, the biting, living cold that scoured your face and froze your muscles, and the warmth, almost painful, almost too much, when you got back home and into the sitting room and the roaring open fire. And a game. And tea. And the weekly bath, an American film, then off to bed.

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