Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve sensed such a pent-up longing for spring in the air but it’s just the early snowfall that’s made us think that this is what we’re now due. We’re clearly still thoroughly in the grip of winter. If anything, the strong winds of the last couple of weeks have robbed the trees of any last, lingering softness and their branches range starkly across the hill tops, linking their skeletal arms against the elements. It seems bleaker now than when snow lay on the ground a month ago.
With the temperature hovering around freezing, I crunched over the stiff worm casts or other animals diggings on the grass to inspect the garden. Rabbits are carving new burrows into the bank and dislodging small rocks in the process, flattening the burgeoning snowdrop buds below. The hellebores, short and sparse, came up so early that they’ve been killed, no, murdered, by the fresh drop in temperature. There’s one tiny, wild cyclamen – a minuscule patch of brightness in the garden, which appears otherwise quite desaturated of colour.
The pond is frozen again – the little ball being too light to stop the water freezing beneath it. We broke the ice in the hope that any remaining pondlife would survive this time. “They’re cold blooded,” said the Boy. “Not that cold blooded,” I replied, hoping that amphibians ‘in aspic’ are not on the menu.
We stopped for lunch at the pub in Bicknoller, sharing a long table with an elderly one-eyed man and his wife. He was eating beef Wellington and muttering, “oh God, oh God, oh God,” into his food. “I just wish I didn’t hurt so much.” “Well, if you won’t take your pills,” replied his wife placidly, feeding their poodle crisps. I wondered how he’d lost his eye; it wasn’t a recent injury or the cause of his pain. Despite all appearances, he put away two pints and when they left, he was going to drive them home.
In Watchet, our destination, the winds blowing in from the sea were so cold that we only managed a brief walk around the streets, taking in a few junk shops on the way, for warmth, of course. Usually bustling, the town was pretty much closed for business with only pockets of life. A tiny chemist’s shop, the size of my living room, staffed by three women, surprisingly offered up the twenty-first century contact lens solution I was seeking. But the station shop was closed, when we went to buy the Boy a copy of the poster below, which I bought about 18 months ago, and we hurried back to the car to hear football reports and warm our noses.
I love this poster, which is made from an original screenprint by an unknown artist. Exaggerating the bright colours of high summer, it advertises the famous steam railway that runs from Bishop’s Lydeard to Minehead. The poster cost £1.00 and I’ve framed it to hang in the kitchen at Spring Cottage, where there is lots of other brightness. But first I have to remember to bring drill and bits, as these are not walls into which a nail can simply be hammered.
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