Looking on the Calm Side

2013-12-29 13.32.39To watch the BBC television news it’s almost to believe that there is nothing happening in the world but for some terrible weather in the UK…..well perhaps bad weather in the Eastern US as well, but only in so far as it may or not be the same storm that has frozen the US eastern seaboard that will soon soak the UK in more rain.

Helensburgh even had its own little moment in the limelight, when 10 seconds of footage of waves lashing over Clyde Street by the Henry Bell monument was shown on the News as Ten, disappointingly referred to only as ‘the tide surge on the West Coast of Scotland’ (even though really it’s only at the very start of the Firth of the Clyde, not the sea per se…..)  The local Scottish news, using the same footage described it as ‘the worst residents can remember seeing on the Esplanade’. But then ‘Esplanade’ is a word not frequently used hereabouts no matter what the weather.

So as an alternative to all this thrashing and lashing here is the Reservoir, safely up the hill and away from the tides, a couple of days ago.  Water, it’s all about the context and conditions isn’t it?

Yellow or Black?

IMG_3304My optimism about an improvement in the bank holiday weekend weather proved well founded, and on Sunday we went for a walk along the cliffs in the Hastings Country Park.

If you don’t take the path immediately next to the cliff, depending on the time of the year, and the cycle of land management, you can find yourself in an alleyway banked on both sides by pillows of gorse and broom.  Walking there with friends for whom it was their first visit, I was asked several times where the sea was.  Pointing over the tops of the impenetrable yellow bushes, I launched into an explanation that it wasn’t always so hard to see the sea, that sometimes the banks of bushes are burnt back to control the growth and to clear the area that should, more naturally, be grassland.  The raised eyebrows with which this pronouncement was received indicated a certain scepticism about my information.

So imagine my satisfaction when, over the brow of the next incline we saw this.


Eternal Optimism


Following on from my rather hopeful comments yesterday about the weather forecast for this bank holiday weekend, and to provide further evidence for those who are not from the UK that we do have an insatiable, and not always interesting fascination, with the weather……..

After a very windy and wet day yesterday when people (apart from a few hardy Morris Dancers) had retreated inside cafés and other drinking establishments to keep warm, it was this view in the evening, as dusk approached, that gave me hope for better on Sunday……. and as I am sitting with a cup of coffee by my bedroom window this morning, I am bathed in warm sunlight and feeling optimistic for the day

Bracing Myself Against the Wind

2013-04-16 15.54.29It had stopped raining for long enough for the idea of a walk to be not quite so preposterous as earlier in the day, but I didn’t want to go too far in case it started again.  So I followed the dog walkers’ path through the woods and up to the town’s reservoir.  The wind flattened my jacket against me and threatened to tug my borrowed hat away onto the hillside; when I hesitated on where to place my feet to avoid the worst of the muddy puddles it tried to unbalance me, and it whipped up the surface of the water as if the furies were racing by.

The sun, when it broke through the cloud brought the water into a sudden sharp knife silver, and disappeared as quickly as it came.

A Little Bit of Weather…..


If I use the word ‘snow’, what image does it conjure in your mind’s eye?

Is it a Christmas scene of rosy faced children playing in a glowing white landscape, or perhaps a high altitude mountain trek requiring the expert use of ice axe and crampons, or sitting inside beside a roaring fire while great fat flakes settle in cushioned mounds outside, or skiing and sledding, or a bit of city traffic chaos and closed airports, or maybe an igloo?

They say that in some languages of peoples who live in cold countries there is a multiplicity of words for snow, and mountaineers say they can identify different types, which, they say, helps them determine the level of risk in each step.  Even a city dweller unused to severe cold can distinguish the crunchy stuff that will afford some traction, from the compressed slippy- slidy stuff that’s going to rob you of your dignity and send you flying.

But back to the original question, if all I do is write ‘snow’ what do you imagine I mean?

Whatever has come into your head, it’s white, isn’t it?

Maybe it was wearing my Moscow hat for the first time in 10 years (it has to be properly cold otherwise my head near explodes with the heat of it; it is like walking around with a cat on my head after all), or maybe it was the icy air and the slipperiness of the pavements, but being in Paris reminded me of the time I had forgotten that snow was white.

I forgot about the whiteness because, in the depths of winter, snow in the centre of Moscow always seemed to look like this: a grey black mush mounded in piles at the side of the pavement and lurking in the gutters and the curb’s edge.  Sometimes it was solid and you could risk stepping onto it to start the walk across the road, but, most frequently, it was but a crushed ice topping to a deep puddle underneath, ready to wash over the top of your boot if you made the mistake of stepping in it; and sometimes there was no avoiding it.  It was taking that one huge stride to get over it at the pedestrian crossing at the bottom of the Champs Elysees on Saturday that reminded me where I had learned the skill of distinguishing one type of grey slush from another.

So next time you use the word ‘snow’ remember, it’s not always white.

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