118 – The First Day of Winter

As I look down the valley towards Gouex, I see the Vienne brimming with rainwater. Its clouds hanging disconsolate above the forest now swept of leaves by the menacing wind that carries the scent of snow to my reddening nose.

I expect it by nightfall. The final seasonal episode of the year and one I look forward to as much as the first blossoming light of spring. Whether lit by the sodium lamp of the city or the ruby sunrise of the country, there’s no better joy than the cotton white sheen of snow flattened ground.

Since arriving here in September there’s been many things we’ve looked forward to. Like the first robin, or raking up the leaves for a springtime mulch, or chopping the pear, the oak, the ash, and the larch for the fire. Watching the pond fill up, viewing the browning trees, mowing the herb scented grass, picking the apples and the quince. Making jam and chutney for a thousand occasions. Plus a host of other fascinations I’ve been craving since I moved here from the hollowed out city four months ago.

But the falling of the first snow has always been at the top of my list. The perfect ending to the year. Like the uncorking of a great Bourgogne. Or the ripple of my nose from a flamboyant Roquefort. Or even an old cliché. The icing on the cake.

Unless that is. The pond freezes over and we can go skating in the morning. Ha! That would demote ‘waking up to boring old snow’ to League Two Southern Division at a stroke. Who hasn’t seen snow before!

Like everybody I know, I hated ice-skating as a kid. Skating round Deeside Ice Rink near Chester getting harpooned in the back by a pack of nutters armed with pool cues they’d stolen from the café. Mad kids who looked about thirty using me as the puck in their game of ‘kill those bastard posh kids from the bastard private school’. Having my fingers razored clean off by some smug git whizzing round the rink like a Welsh Robin Cousins as I clawed my way on the filthy ice to the edge of the arena and back to sanity.

So I want to give it another go. Confident now in the knowledge that I’m not going to be speared from behind by a pool cue. Or cut to pieces by a shark fin skating blade. I want to take to the ice like a ballerina from the Bolshoi. Gliding over the ice crystals like the brittle mist I see each morning. Pirouetting gracefully in a pair of tattered cords and an anorak I once bought from the Salvation Army.

There’s a chance I’ll never live in a house with a pond again. I’ll certainly never skate. So as I near the end of the first draft of my book, it’d be nice to wake up one morning and go for a skate on the pond that has served as the perfect muse these last few months.


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