Thursday, 1 March 2018

Snow days.

First Mate’s log, Morningstar, SnowDay 3. 14.05 hours.    A Gift of Days

The blizzard has been gently raging for a few hours now, with no sign of abating to the promised rain or sleet. What started as snow grains rapidly changed to smallish flakes, settling on everything they landed on.

There is power in small things which stick together.

We had already had snow a couple of days ago. Some snow had come and settled over the night; all was icy, but once traffic had started to flow – a couple of tractors, some 4-wheel drive vehicles – we ventured out.  School – unlike most on the island – was still open for business, much to our surprise, so we had to brave the chaos. The normal twelve minute journey took forty...  A few hours in school, then the snow came again, more thickly this time, so, finally, we were all told we could leave: and so... back home again.
Half an hour later, the sun came out, we felt guilty, yet the temperatures started to drop quickly and soon the ground surfaces were treacherously slippy.

That night, a three quarter moon silvered the frozen snow. The road was like glass. A blissful silence, in the absence of traffic of any kind, hung over the fields. And no wind at all, the air seeming to hold its breath before the storm.

That was the first SnowDay, albeit only a half. By evening, The Authorities had decided that school should not open the next day for fear of ice. Good to know in advance. I put an extra duvet on the bed....

Come the morning, Snow Day 2 dawned crisp, cold (-2 degrees) and sunny. We barely needed the heating as the sun flooded through the windows, shiny sparkling on white gorgeousness.  It all looked wonderful: yet the wind roared fierce, cutting up the cliffs and across the fields. The road cleared so we chill-walked the lanes, still slippy in the shadows, banks and hedges covered in icy drifts.  The wind chill factor must have been minus ten degrees, or more.

Robins, puffed up to keep warm, hopped around the bird feeder. One sat on the trellis against the wall, soaking up the sun’s rays, quite motionless while others scuttered around the tree above it.

Inbetween, I checked through our Christmas cards and emails, making sure that I had caught up with friends and acquaintances scattered round the globe. Best of all, I was able to reconnect with our housekeeper in Kenya: we had not heard from her since we moved house, so I was fearful that we had lost touch altogether, but I managed to get a text through to her and received a quick reply. A wonderful relief.

It was a great day for washing: the wind blew the moisture out as rapidly as if it had been the summer, but by late afternoon the still-damp jeans had turned as stiff as boards.

And my dear neighbour Nicky came round for tea: scones and laughter, much chat, great fun. So great to have this time to be able to spontaneously extend hospitality. (I am trying to make #40Acts of kindness a permanent lifestyle choice...What Would Jesus Do?)

The day seemed gloriously long: yet a blizzard was forecast, so once again, The Authorities decreed that School Would Be Closed.  Not complaining...
And so it came. Later than expected: we had thought it would blow throughout the night, but there was, initially, no fresh snow. Then it started...The wind blows the snow in huge gusts, eddying up and around the house, whirling dervishes brandishing icicle swords, swooping at bushes, cutting through pockets of shelter...

I have walked out to the bird feeder several times, replenishing food, brushing off snow from the remaining seeds and topping up the bird bath with warm water so the birds can drink. All other sources of water are frozen.

Each time, I step in pristine snow: my footprints have been obliterated, as if I had stayed smug inside all morning with no care for wildlife. Blackbirds have been skulking this morning, hesitantly hopping through the underbrush. The snow bears witness to occasional panicky rushing in circles out into the snow and back. One female cautiously hops onto a branch, observing the bird feeder fearfully before finally plucking up courage to leap down and snatch a crumb.

The leaden skies bear no hope of reprieve. The snow drifts on endlessly.

A few vehicles rush by, skidding through slush. Otherwise all is quiet save for the howling of the wind, fruitlessly seeking crannies in corners through which it can invade. We are warm inside. The dog huddles next to the radiator.

These few days have been a welcome reprieve. ‘Normal’ life feels full: good, but full. We go from one project to another, from this meeting to that, sharing life, constantly occupied.

These days are for stopping. For catching up with neglected tasks. For reconnecting, by email and in person, with friends. There has been time to have tea with a neighbour; a phone chat with a distant friend; writing emails and letters;  organising gifts.  Sorting stuff. Clearing out. Resting.

A gift of time indeed.

First Mate’s log, Morningstar, SnowDay 3. 16.05 hours.

The snow has abated, bringing rain in its place. We rushed outside as the snow eased to build a snowman: two adults, laughing like hyenas, rolling loose snow balls to form a huge snow bear. Pickle, reluctantly joining us, grabbed the Spirit of Snow and tore round the garden, weaving in circles in and out of bushes and across the lawn. Too much of a tempting target for snowballs...she waited reproachfully by the front door for us to finish adding the potatoes for eyes and a rather short nosy carrot.

Back safely inside. Rubbed down, warm and dry. Fire lit. Light beginning to fade. Snow starting to melt. Another gentle, relaxed evening....

First Mate, Signing out.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

February fun

February had scarcely begun before the days seemed longer, the mornings kinder, the evenings lighter... still a long way to go, but daffodils were beginning to burst out on the banks and snowdrops dazzled among daisies.

I cycled to school, just a little. Well, several days a week, anyway.  Then it turned cold, which coincided with parents' evenings and so driving became an acceptable and face-saving option.

We longed eagerly for snow, but, despite our proximity to France which received dozens of centimetres of the beautiful white stuff, we were disappointed. A few sleet and hail showers, a  little fog and quite a lot of wind was all that the February Freeze had for us.

Oh well. We'd had more than enough moisture in January. The front lawn was still suffering the effects of skidding cars, with pools of water lying in ruts in the grass. It will all grow back. Eventually.

My parents' evenings were a delight, as always. I was amused to discover that one of the parents had been to school in Nairobi for a short time, born in the Middle East: very interested in what Cat and Jonny were doing in similar places...I love discovering connections and relationships. That aside, it is always good to exchange information about the children, finding that, in general, we were all on the same page in setting careful boundaries in order to set a firm foundation for the future.

Tiring, though. Interspersed were a couple of evenings of Sozo training: fascinating to see what a simple healing process it can be - looking forward to finding out more.

Then, one particular joy was being invited to our neighbours on each side and making contact again with Pat and Peter opposite.  Catherine was celebrating her 40th, mostly with nursing friends and family. Her children are so delightful that it never matters when they kick the football over, though their parents are embarrassed about it. We certainly don't mind.  The evening was great fun, particularly as there were two school parents there who were pleased to see us, and it was also easy to discover various Guernsey connections with various friends and relatives. Then Nicky and Richard had also invited us to supper a couple of days later...

After that: off to France for half term in The Beast.  Details on TravelsWithPickle as usual.

The temperatures started to drop as the week progressed. By the time we were back at school on the last Monday of the month, we were treated to some snow flurries, with more coming in overnight. Woohoo!

Tuesday morning was snowy, clear and icy. I waited expectantly for the news that school would be closed... except that it wasn't!  All the state schools on the island were closed and it was only ours, and the private girls' school, which remained open. Drat.

Rachel, a, colleague living nearby gave me a lift and we crept in together. Everyone was VERY cautions so our drive took 40 minutes instead of the usual 12. Better safe than sorry.

Once at school, I had 14 excited children, an extended breaktime out in the snow - both settled snow in the sunshine and then, half an hour later, thickly falling snowflakes - and a staffroom of disgruntled teachers, all with skidding car or 'having to walk in' stories.

The snow eased off... then started again... so thickly that Rachel and I started to wonder how we would get home. We live the greatest distance away from school and walking home wasn't an option... eventually we got permission to leave early, so crept home again.

An hour later, the sun came out. #feelingguilty  #colleaguesandchildrenstillatschool.  Oh dear.
An hour after that, a heavy blizzard came in. We'd timed it to coincide with a dog walk: we all returned encrusted in snow. Pickle was NOT amused. We thought we'd have a long 'drying off' job to do on her, but as soon as she approached the front door she gave a vigorous shake and the snow flew off. Didn't know she was so sensible....

So the snow settled, ready for the last day of February. Temperatures below zero, so freezing on to the ground. Tomorrow is another day....

Evidence of a trespassing rabbit, having a good look around...