Thursday 8 December 2011

Another Side of Winter

In my previous posting I made no secret of my dislike of the winter cold and the conditions that come with it, and yet there are times when I find myself having nostalgic thoughts about winter's past and how we did things. Perversely these normally occur when I'm laying on my sunlounger in the garden on a hot summer's day, glugging some chilled white wine (sipping is out of the question). I suppose its that normal thing whereby when you're in one season you find yourself dreaming about another, just as many of us are currently dreaming about next Spring.
Anyway, while I'm glugging away and staring up at a hot July sky, I find myself sometimes thinking about cosily sitting in front of log fires, with it cold outside, and mulled ale and hot chestnuts and all the atmosphere that goes with it. I suppose the modern day equivalent is the central heating full on, a glass of red wine and a bag of dry roasted - hardly something for our grandchildren to be nostalgic about! But what I'm recalling are wintery events that I've read about or heard, not my depressed memories.

Of these and easily the most nostalgic for people of my age, is Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales", narrated by himself in that lovely deep Welsh voice of his. He describes so perfectly a typical winter childhood in those hard times of the 1930's and despite the fact that mine was in the late 1940's- early 1950's I was shocked at easily he was also recanting my very own memories of those times.
The fact that it always seemed to snow, the snowball fights wearing old socks as gloves, the same presents that old bosomy aunties always gave you every Christmas - the knitted scarves and matching gloves and the jars of bullseyes, the mechano sets for "Lttle Engineers", and one of my favourite Stocking presents at the time, the packet of sweet cigarettes. Dylan describes the event as "and then the packet of sweet cigarettes, you put one in your mouth and stood on the corner of the street and waited for hours in vain for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette and then with a smirk, you ate it".

Its a real nostalgia trip through the childhood of people of my age and should you ever get the chance to listen to it you will not regret it.
And before we leave Dylan Thomas behind, what about a verse or two from his poem "A Winter's Tale"...........

It is a winter's tale
That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lakes
And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,
Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes,
The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail,

And the stars falling cold,
and the smell of hay in the snow, and the far owl
warning among the folds, and the frozen hold
flocked with the sheep white smoke of the farm house cowl
in the river wended vales where the tale was told.

Dylan typically takes a simple observation and packs it with extra words because he loves the sound of words, but if you say the words slowly to yourself you can picture great flakes of snow silently blowing down across a Welsh valley and its farm and farmyard animals and feel the intense cold of it all.

And as always, as I lay in that summer sun, competing with Dylan Thomas in the nostalgia stakes was my old friend "The Wind in the Willows".
Take one of my favourite chapters - The Wild Wood - where we find the Mole slipping out of the house on a bitter cold winter's afternoon - "it was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead, when he slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air. The country lay bare and entirely leafless around him, and he thought that he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insides of things as on that winter day when Nature was deep in her annual slumber and seemed to have kicked the clothes off. Copses, dells, quarries and all hidden places, which had been mysterious mines for exploration in leafy summer, now exposed themselves and their secrets pathetically, and seemed to ask him to overlook their shabby poverty for a while, till they could riot in rich masquerade as before"....

How often have we all experienced those bitter cold, steel grey days when sniffing the air you just know that snow is not far off. And lo and behold, when you get up in the morning there it is, a thick layer of fresh snow, captured perfectly for me in those great words my Ratty in the same chapter of the book. Emerging from their overnight stay in a hollow tree in the Wild Wood Ratty exclaims "hello, hello" - "what's up, Ratty" asked the Mole - "Snow is up replied the Rat briefly: "or rather, down. Its snowing hard".

So I suppose there is a lot of nostalgia and warm feelings about events that happen during the winter but its the enduring of the winter that defeats me - best read and remembered from the comfort of a sun lounger in the middle of summer, I can fit them into my life then.


  1. We have a new wainwright, this is great reading Derek

  2. You and your wainwright Lewis, thanks for the comment.

  3. I agree ever thought of writing a book Derek ?

  4. Many times Mike but I struggle to apply myself to it in a very short time and once I walk away from it lose interest and move on to something else.

  5. It's great to see that so many folk agree about your efforts - there is so much more to appreciate than just a list of birds. Great news about a WeBS counter too !!
    Ken L