I've just fired up the stove - piled it high with kindling and hawthorn logs - and am waiting for the warmth to kick in. It's been a dreary old day with little to recommend it. Clouds akin to grey flannel drape the hills. Things drip. Damp pheasants hunker down in the hedge bottom keeping out of the drizzle, emerging only for a desultory peck at anything green that grows (damn them). The killer sheep in the field across the lane nibble their way across the field and back. (It's difficult to say if they notice their surroundings at all.) Shortly after four o'clock the hens go to roost and I light the fire.
Fond as I am of the Long Mountain's low and rolling contours, clefts, humps and dingles, I have to admit this season does not show it in the best light. Extremes I think are good; hottestcoldestblowyfreshgreenicesnow - whiteover..........whatever.
I have been reading - courtesy of The Eyechild - John Christopher's 'The World in Winter'.
I'm not a great fan of Sci-Fi - my inability to suspend belief perhaps - but having run out of other words to read it was this or nothing. First published in 1962 - this Penguin edition dates from '63 - this novel is the story of an arctic winter ushering in a contemporary Ice Age and, as the blurb says 'a cold cold nightmare'. 'Solar radiation decline' brings permafrost to the northern hemisphere and London's familiar cityscape becomes one of ice and privation where society as we know it has broken down. Think frozen Thames, ice floes beyond Tower Bridge and omnipresent thuggery. Scary. Brrr. A recognisable London appears to be populated by 4 named people and 'the mob beyond The Pale'. Refuge is sought in Africa - Nigeria - from where, eventually, a sort of reverse expeditionary force sets out to England - in erm, a fleet of hovercrafts.
It's a bit of a period piece - lots of smoking - and its characters more than a little two dimensional, naively and literally black and white. It's uncomfortable reading in these post colonial, multicultural times.
The notion of cold weather being the enemy sends - no pun intended - a chill through me though. There's nothing we can do about the elements is there? They are ultimately all-powerful - as anyone who has watched a little stream become a raging torrent will testify. This winter when the world outside gets a little cold and crispy, white all over, I shall be looking out of my window with a frisson of unease. Just in case.
PS Did covers get better than this, by Bruce Robertson for Penguin Books? Simple, stylish and understated. A lovely bit of design.