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Inverallochy, Week 10: 5 March

Europe has been socked in with extreme wintry weather all week, and, as Brexit has not officially happened yet, that meant Britain got it too. Of course, living in the farthest of norths, in the Lowland Highlands of Scotland, this is not actually all that unusual. (Or, as Judit of this parish observed, in Britain this was christened “The Beast from the East”; in Finland they called it “Wednesday”.) In any case, Wick has its own microclimate and didn’t get a lot of snow; but the roads to the north and south of us were blocked, and the snow gates were closed in the high passes on the road from Inverness.

By mid-morning on Friday Tesco’s had run out of fresh milk and were having to make up the online orders with baby milk (this raised a number of questions, some of them biological, but I certainly was not the man to ask them). Amid fears of a recurrence of the Great Quinoa Riots of 1969, checkout staff were being sworn in as special constables and undergoing baton training with stale baguettes in the frozen goods aisle. For an afternoon civilisation teetered in the balance, as the population of Caithness faced the prospect of a breakfast of cornflakes soaked in Irn Bru (or as they call it in Scotland, “Sunday”).

Bridge over the Grand Union Canal

Well; it got slightly warmer, the roads reopened, and Caithness was once more a land flowing with milk and honey. And I found myself wondering how I would tell the tale to my grandchildren, supposing I had been careless enough to have any. Somehow, “Come gather round, children, and I’ll tell you the epic story of the great freeze of 2018 that lasted just over three days and Tesco’s almost ran out of milk” doesn’t quite have the ring I feel it ought to…

Ice on the canal

Luckily for me, the gansey is big enough now to serve as a blanket—well, all right, two blankets—so even though the temperatures outside have hovered around -1 to -3ºc I’ve been able to knit to stay warm, an incentive if ever there was one. I am about 8 inches up the front, and it will soon be time to think about dividing for the shaped neck. I am now on my tenth ball of 100g yarn; and I haven’t begun to grow tired of the pattern, which is a good sign.

Finally, Margaret is still 600 miles away away in Northamptonshire with my family. But she’s sent some pictures of the fields and canal near my parents’ house, which are included here. (My favourite song by Neil Young is called “Helpless”. The first stanza goes, “There is a town in North Ontario / Dream comfort memory to spare / And in my mind I still need a place to go / All my changes were there.” Substitute “house” for “town”, and “Northamptonshire” for “North Ontario”, and that’s my childhood. It’s still home. All my changes were there. Damn you, Neil.)

Winter textures



6 comments to Inverallochy, Week 10: 5 March

  • Jane Callaghan

    ‘the snow gates were closed in the high passes on the road from Inverness.’ Are you sure you are not JRRT?

    • Gordon

      Gandalf halted. The snow gates were drawn closed across the A9. Before them lay Berriedale Braes, lost in a blizzard of white. Snow was thick on his hood and shoulders; it was already ankle-deep about his boots.
      ‘This is what I feared,’ he said.
      ‘I feared it too,’ Aragorn answered, ‘but less then other things.’
      ‘I wonder if this is a contrivance of the Enemy?’ said Boromir.
      ‘No,’ Gandalf said. ‘Look. There on the gates—it says, “Highland Council”.’
      ‘The Highland Council—the local authority. If it’s a contrivance of anyone, it’s them.’
      Boromir hefted his sword. ‘Are they the Enemy?’
      ‘Only when the council tax is due,’ muttered Gimli darkly.
      ‘Anyway,’ said Gandalf hastily. ‘The way is closed. What do you say now, Aragorn?’
      Aragorn pondered, then finally said, ‘Bugger this for a lark. Let’s go to Moria, chop-chop toot sweet. Savvy?’

  • meg

    the place where changes happen…..evocative..i suppose we all have one of those, I certainly carry one in my heart.

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, I’ve spent my life reading poetry, and yet the lines that haunt me mostly come from popular music. There’s a lovely song by Genesis called Undertow—the lyrics evoke the feeling of doing nothing today, there’s always tomorrow; and then comes the haunting couplet, “So the days they turn into years / And still no tomorrow appears.” Quietly devastating.

      As Noel Coward said, “Strange how potent cheap music is…”

  • =Tamar

    Popular music is popular because it speaks to people…
    Back when I used to watch TV, I like Genesis’s music videos, too. They often had a level of artistry beyond simple spectacle.
    Aragorn might have done better to go down the pub until the roads were open again.

    • Gordon

      Hello Tamar, in a parallel universe Aragorn and Boromir both missed the hobbits because they were still in the pub playing darts…

      I can remember first hearing Genesis in the late 70s at university, in a friend’s room. I’d never heard anything quite like it—very English, full of so many great tunes and very musical, but with a vaguely unsettling air, like a dream just on the cusp of turning into a nightmare. Here’s a link to my favourite track of theirs, The Carpet Crawlers—utterly beautiful, hypnotic and wrapped in a soft wash of keyboards; but the lyrics are just so strange. (God, I miss the Seventies!)

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