Spring seems a long way away right now as Britain is paralysed, buried deep under layers of snow. We’re feeling a bit left out up here, Cinderellas at the nation’s snow party, because in Caithness we’ve had the heavy grey skies, the sub-zero temperatures, the ice and the gale force winds – everything except the snow. So we lie in bed at night as the house shudders and shakes around us, helpless as astronauts re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Even the gravel on the driveway is frozen, as though children had come in the night and glued all the stones together for a joke. But no snow.
We’ve had the occasional flurry of those tiny ice spicules, the kind I think of as the devil’s dandruff – propelled into your unprotected face by a 40 mph wind it’s like being stung by a swarm of wasps whose orders included the phrase “terminate with extreme prejudice” – but it’s not the same. You can’t have a snowball fight with ice pellets, it’d be like throwing cold sand.
At least it’s appropriate weather to be knitting a gansey. The body is long enough now to serve as a lap-warmer, heavy and warm and inert as a cat resisting arrest, so it’s already being put to good use. As you’ll see from the photographs I’ve now started on the third and final panels on the front, and by mid-February I hope to get the shoulders joined and move on to the collar.
Speaking of cats, I saw the world’s most graceless cat in action yesterday. I was out raking the last of last season’s leaves from the back yard when the neighbour’s cat decided to show off and climb our big old tree. The only problem was, it didn’t give itself enough of a run-up, so after a couple of metres of frantic, scrabbling ascent it ran out of momentum and ended up just clinging there, spread-eagled like a cartoon flying squirrel that’s missed its aim. After about a minute of desperate hanging-on its claws gave way and it began a slow, juddering slide to earth, accompanied by a shower of splinters and the raucous jeers of several seagulls who’d stopped to watch. When it reached the ground it slunk off, affecting as much nonchalance as it could under the circumstances, and vowing revenge on the world.
I’m still persevering with the anti-migraine pills the doctor prescribed, the ones that rhinoceroses take when they want to chill out. As I hadn’t had a migraine for a couple of weeks I thought I’d try an Indian takeaway, which is one of my known triggers, in a spirit of scientific enquiry – just to see. As it turned out, it was the equivalent of testing a bullet-proof vest with a rocket launcher, and I spent most of the weekend flat on my back speaking in tongues, wondering who’d stolen my legs when I wasn’t looking. Still, at least now I know.
Time for a quick check: outside the branches are thrashing in the wind like evangelicals being moved by the spirit of the Lord, and the waves are crashing against the harbour walls in showers of spray. Nope. Still not spring…