Storms and teacups
A belated Happy New Year to you! The first week back in reality after Christmas is always a pretty bleary one, isn’t it? Our alarm clock drags us from sleep in the black dark of morning, at least an hour before our holiday wake-up time. It is pretty hard to motivate oneself out of bed in early January. I well remember sitting at my desk in my city job days, nursing a cup of coffee and pleading with the phone, ‘don’t ring, don’t ring,’ as the working day began. Now my day at home begins with nursing a cup of tea in the kitchen, thinking ‘just one more cup, just one more…’.
However, the daylight is definitely growing, if only the teeniest bit. Have you noticed? On bright days I remember how much I love winter, with its clear sunlight and white frosts. Out of the rat race now, I have time to notice the feathery hoar frost on dead grasses,
and to enjoy the way the long shadows stripe the fields.
I love the stillness you can get in winter. With nature in its dormant phase, one’s own energies naturally turn inwards too. It is a time for reflection, introspection, planning and dreaming.
Having said that, the past twenty-four hours have been anything but still! Winter storms sweeping in from the Atlantic are chasing each other across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Last night we barely slept. Our bedroom is west-facing and high up on the top floor of the castle, below which the ground drops away to the fields. In a westerly gale like last night’s, we feel like gulls on a cliff-face above a roaring sea. (A westerly is the one we most dread in this house: it finds its way through every chink in the ageing window frames, chilling the whole castle with draughts.) Even huddled under the covers, I felt too shivery for sleep to come. As the storm built to its peak in the wee hours of the morning, the power went off and the blackness was noisy with the banging of doors, rattling of slates and the roar of the wind. We finally dropped off some time after five, when the the wind died down to a muted bellow.
Breakfasting by candlelight this morning, things didn’t seem so bad, of course. We were able to weave our way between fallen branches to the village for a scheduled meeting, and then spent an hour in a cafe for warmth, coffee and internet access. With thousands of people across the Highlands having lost their power supplies, we were resigned to a long wait for reconnection. Who would be an electricity engineer in such conditions: the wind still high, thousands of trees across power lines and more gales with blizzards forecast tomorrow? Bless them, though, they had us back on power by late morning and we were able to get on with the day, stopping every few yards on the way home to drag branches from the drive. Sudden gusts have snapped a number of full-grown trees in two, but there are no significant losses and really there has not been much damage here.
It is further north and west that is bearing the brunt of the storms, with winds of well over 100 miles per hour recorded in the Outer Hebrides last night and Storm force winds forecast tonight and tomorrow as well. We have been thinking of Sian, who blogs about her life in Orkney over at Life on a small island: looking at the weather reports for Stromness recently, I know I am too much of a southern softie to stick life in the Northern Isles! Slow and cold from lack of sleep this afternoon, I put the kettle on and curled up for some introspection again by the fire, with a cup of tea, and just one more…
You might like to compare this with the violent winter storms of three years ago in ‘Many of those trees were my friends’.