Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Winter wonderland?

Tucked somewhere in the middle of this white-out is the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan; photographed this morning at hen-letting-out time. It was bleak indeed and the swirling snow and bitter cold made every small task a burden taking twice as long. Walk carefully over compacted snow which has turned to ice and is now covered with snow again. Slip and slither. Carry water from the house up to the field and fumble with gates and catches with slow fingers. Doors which won't open and doors which won't shut. Grrr. Chase the dog off the bird food. (Fat balls. Yum, yum.) Winter wonderland eh?

Husband stumps off in the direction of the gas tank. Blimey, talk about the milk jug being half empty. He declares in doom-laden tones 'It's down to the red line'. I remain chipper in my usual 'cream jug half full mode' but secretly think 'oooh-er!' and make plans for hay box cooking and washing using very small amounts of water boiled over a candle.

Are these desperate times and do they need desperate measures? I am trying not to think of John Christopher's 'The World in White' in which society breaks down as icebergs choke the Thames and block the Strand. We have 3 inches of ice on some of our paths already. Ostrich-like I conclude there is not much we can do about the weather is there?

We're still comparative newcomers up here at the end of the Long Mountain, with only 4 years under our belts, so perhaps have not experienced all that country life can throw at us. What we once thought of as a remote and distant place we now see as familiar and close to 'civilisation' - the fleshpots of Welshpool are only a 10 minute drive away after all. Visitors never fail to ask though: 'What's the weather like in the winter then? Do you get snowed in?' It's as if they imagine the narrow lanes and rolling hills beckoning cold fronts, falling temperatures and winter's worst, shouting 'Bring it on!'

'It's been OK' we reply, because it has been.

Perhaps this season however will match the winter of '47, a year which has entered local lore as the year when the mountain really was snowed in for weeks on end. Snow drifting in filled the lanes to a height of perhaps 10ft, making them impassible. There were no mighty tractors or 4-wheel drives to drive a way through then. People stayed put and did the best they could, hauling fodder to sheep and eking out feed for both man and beast, helping a neighbour by a trudge across the hill. We are told, by a farmer's wife 'some women didn't get down off the hill for 10 weeks'. 10 weeks. That, I think is an interesting piece of social history in itself - perhaps not to be delved into here - a story of self-sufficiency, isolation and loneliness and then with spring, re-emergence, blinking into the world. How did they cope? Or is the notion of coping just a present-day weakness? Perhaps this is the story of mountain people the world over - does it really matter about the height of one's mountain?

Tonight it is snowing again. 'Snow is falling snow on snow' in the words of Christina Rossetti's In the Bleak Mid-winter. Snow over ice in fact, meaning another perilous day on the roads tomorrow. I suspect we will not be as affected as badly as some parts of the country. At the back of my mind I am humming 'April come she will'.

In view of the impending gas tank crisis I have turned the thermostat down a notch although the Glam. Ass. has amended his reading of the dial to 'Nearly on the red - 30% left'. The log burner is lit too and we have a good supply of wood. There is no need to go anywhere.

Hope you keep safe and warm too.


Eliane said...

Sounds romantic and wonderful to me but then I am sitting in a Californian winter which is not like winter at all. Have you read Owen Sheer's Resistance set in a Welsh valley in the Black Mountains during the war and over a winter when the key characters all get snowed in. I recommend it for its atmosphere and familiarity of setting.

Pondside said...

Well I hope you see the bright lights of town sooner than ten weeks!
They were a hardy bunch, though, I'd guess. Over here the story was the same in the first half of the 20th century. Snowed in meant beomg completely cut off and if something was missing from the pantry or if the gas was down one knew that there'd be no rescue or quick visit from the fuel truck. I do believe the just put their heads down and coped.
I hope your cold snap only lasts long enough to give you that lovely closed-in feeling - some cosy hours - and then a return to mild winter weather.

Frances said...

When I read your post, and Eliane and Pondside's comments, I get much more of an idea of what winter in the country might be ... every so often.

In my huge city, we rarely get a true taste of coping ... well we have had one not so long ago in New York, but it wasn't down to the weather.

Guess that we do learn what we need to know ... quickly when the occasion arises.

Your picture was beautiful, really conveying the remote beauty of nature, unspoiled.


Wipso said...

So? You wont be down any time soon to get your Christmas trousers shortened eh? :-) Stay warm and cosy and let's hope this really cold spell doesn't last too long.
A x

Preseli Mags said...

Ten weeks of being snowed in sounds a little too long! But there is something very beautiful and quiet about this snow. Fingers crossed for your gas supplies - we've got the same problem with our heating oil.

Cathy said...

Hello there
How strange that we would choose the same carol/hymn to illustrate the cold weather you are all suffering
Take care

Friko said...

It is all very beautiful; luckily we have the small shop in the village and will probably survive another ten days of this. A neighbour brought our paper in this morning. But the drive is impassable and there's no hop of getting out by car anytime soon.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

When I was little I loved books like Heidi , The Children Who Lived In A Barn or the Laura Ingalls Wilder one about the long winter .
Actually cooking porridge in a hay box or eking a packet of tea for three months doesn't appeal quite so much !
Hope your hermit existence is just long enough to enjoy !

ChrisH said...

Doooh! My comment disappeared!!! Grr!

Just saying how that phrase about things being remote and distant rang a bell and how I wished we'd been braver when we first moved here. Not least because no one can get up our icy hill at the moment anyway.. and we can leave but we can't get back so will be staying put in front of the woodburner like you.