Beautiful Beast

After a week of news about heavy snow, we finally got our turn yesterday lunchtime. The magic of a fairly heavy snowfall hit the Island and, by dusk, we had a good few centimetres turning East Cowes into a beautiful playground.

Earlier in the week, I walked Tia in Firestone Copse and was checked out by this creature. He was unflustered by Tia’s presence and sat scanning me, hopping this way and that on the branch, until he decided I wasn’t very interesting, and flew off.

The weather then was bitterly cold but dry. The ground in the woods, which has been boot-ruining wet for most of the winter, had frozen to a crisp hardness. Puddles were like frosted windows and streams looked solid, unless the light hit them a certain way, when it was possible to make out the movement of a reduced trickle beneath the ice. My headphones gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, and I have been walking without music or talking books in my ears, becoming used to the sounds of the woods. In the eerie cold, even with the slight, distant reminder of traffic if the wind is in the right direction, I have heard birdsong, the creaking of trees, the breath of leaves and cry of birds of prey.

Yesterday morning, Amanda and I took Tia back there, and we had a walk of blissful cold. Work was in the process of being suspended: I was due to go to Ryde for my usual long Thursday, but the weather and travel warnings had made my boss worried and he had cancelled classes. While we were walking, the admin officer phoned and said I should work from home. Even though I had a lot of work to do, I felt as though I were on holiday.

My desk at home faces away from the window, so I missed the start of the snow, but by two o’clock I had done a reasonable amount and got up. Already, the ground was covered with a couple of centimetres and the sky was full of swirling, windswept flakes. I rushed downstairs, put on my boots, coat and gloves and took Tia out for her first ever experience of snow.

It’s difficult to know what she made of it. I don’t think she’s very keen on snowfall, but she seemed amused by the snow on the ground. We walked up to the rec and round it, and I thought that I would take her along to the new estate where we had walked a lot over Christmas, and which had caught my imagination then with its unearthly, film-set desolation.1However, Amanda phoned and said she’d finished work and would come and join us, so we walked back to meet her. The cold got into us fairly quickly, and so we headed home.

I checked what our house looked like in the snow: I was interested to see how efficient our insulation is – not too bad, it appears. However, I took several photos and was pleased with the results. I have not taken many pictures of our house, and we have been here for seven years now. I put them here for my own reference, as much as anything.

The snow lasted until mid-evening, when freezing rain replaced it. This morning was noticeably warmer and, when I took Tia out at 9 o’clock, the freezing rain and slight thaw had made the footpaths treacherous: great patches of glassy rinks covered large areas. There was, though, hardly any traffic: for the first time since I have lived here, I could hear no traffic noise for long stretches, and I walked in the road, through slush.

We headed to the estate, and it was transformed. The snow had not made it any prettier, but it was alive. There were people everywhere, mostly in family groups, with sledges and tin trays, having fun together. I did not, of course, photograph people: that would have been weird, but I walked Tia through the estate laughing and chatting with people having an unexpected holiday.

It’s snowing again now, but lighter. I am going out in a while, to buy my Friday beer. I am hoping for warmth. It’s been nice, but I want spring to start.

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