the sound of snow

“I just want to share with you that childish moment of excitement when the snow begins”

wrote  SR from the West Country.   I loved the fact that she shared it and I know exactly what she means.   Before we have to go back for a scarf or the train doesn’t come  or the  streets are sloppy and grey, there is this moment of  softness, a strange yellow light in the sky, everything looks more symmetrical, less rough edged and the sound is no sound –  as hushed as swans’ wings look.

Perhaps this year more than ever snow is emblematic of where we are up to.  It looks lovely until it doesn’t,

it looks benign but gets in the way.   It’s just enough to remind us of how punishingly cold the weather will be through Europe where people are living in what’s left of houses, without heat, without light.  And you don’t have to go very far to hear about that.   They have their war zone, we have ours.  Theirs is acknowledged as one, ours is just the worst kind of fudge and mess.  Snow is the weather blanket which comes down unbidden, to make everything look better for a bit.

I have wonderful memories of Christmases past and I recall easily and often, but I don’t try to revisit.  Once I was alone and my son had gone into his life, I began to reinvent the trappings of Christmas.  I love the Christmas story and I am perfectly prepared to believe that it is an archtype, dating from thousands of years before the birth of the Christian Baby.  I don’t care where it comes from.  It is a story about love and hope and a few hours when – like the snow – everything is united, momentarily peaceful, better looking than you could believe and thus , joyful.   And I believe in joy. 

Never mind “joy cometh in the morning”, I will mark it whenever it comes.

Christmas is as personal as anything else important.   For some people , you must eat this, wear that, do something else, deck the halls with banners and buy a Christmas tree.   Promoting it starts earlier every year, because of the numbers involved and the cost of it.  I think because of my mother, I only ever put up cards or decorations on Christmas Eve – and they all come down and go out on Twelfth Night.  Christmas is a season which deserves better than endless marketing and money.

People flee Christmas, to the light, to the warmth, no turkey, no plum pudding, no Christmas cake  –

to have a few days away, to see family or friends who feel the same.  My favourite Christmas treat is pannetone which a beloved friend sends me every year.  I eat the first piece on Christmas morning, with my coffee and the last piece, probably toasted (with butter and bitter marmalade) the same way. 

I love cards but the sending and receiving of them is uncertain this year.  More importantly, why hasn’t the Post Office settled with the subpostmasters it defrauded and drove to divorce, debt and death ?  

And on the other hand, this year, in spite of a list of all too familiar horrors, I have had gifts to rival those of the Magi

who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.  

In the 20 years plus I have l lived here, I have one neighbour who is ace.  Sarah is a single professional woman nearing retirement and everybody deserves a Sarah – sensible, kind, private, reliable.   Beyond Sarah, she and I have had some gruesome experiences with neighbours.  But for the last year and more, you could truly say Christmas came to stay.

On one side, there are The Boys (early 20s), occasionally noisy, always helpful, cheerful and polite.     One the other side are The Girls – one is an art teacher, one a journalist and I haven’t met the third because she travels constantly.  But Phoebe the teacher rang from Cornwall when we had flooding to make sure I was all right.  They offer to do things, they smile.  And after Italian Annie moved out from upstairs, I was second time lucky in Amy Able, a Northern Irish farmer’s daughter for whom everything is possible.  

Surrounded by positives,  I’ll light candles as I do most nights.  And count my blessings which I do with monotonous regularity.

better days to come!

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