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Storms and teacups

January 10, 2015

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,

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and to enjoy the way the long shadows stripe the fields.

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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…

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You might like to compare this with the violent winter storms of three years ago in ‘Many of those trees were my friends’.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2015 12:19 am

    Read about the wild weather there in the paper! Glad that you all made it through mostly unscathed…you deserve to enjoy as many warm cups of tea as you’d like after weathering the storm!

  2. January 10, 2015 2:05 am

    I have been following reports of this storm from friends and family back home. I am glad you were not without power for too long. It doesn’t take long for even a regular house to become extremely cold so I can well imagine the challenges you face with such an old home. Stay cosy!

    • January 10, 2015 10:19 pm

      Thank you. There are still some people without power tonight, poor things, but most of us are back to normality.

  3. January 10, 2015 9:54 am

    I’m glad to hear you didn’t have any damage, and that your power was back on quickly… the past two nights have been horrendous! We’ve blue sky at the moment but it’s got a lot colder and snow flurries are coming across. Love your photos of the hoar frost. Let’s hope for more of that to come! 🙂

    • January 10, 2015 10:24 pm

      Hear hear! A bit of snow lying here today: we enjoyed watching the snowstorms sweeping in across the hills from our eyrie this morning.

  4. Toffeeapple permalink
    January 10, 2015 1:24 pm

    It is good to know that you are free of damage, I have been thinking about you and my friend in Argyll. She lost power for 12 hours and still has no internet access but again, is free of damage. I hope you survive the coming onslaught as well.

    • January 10, 2015 10:27 pm

      Thanks – glad your friend is ok too. I think the worst is over for this time, touch wood!

  5. hmunro permalink
    January 10, 2015 4:15 pm

    I’d read about the storms in the news and am relieved to hear you weren’t without power for too long — and that you didn’t lose any more of your tree-friends. I must say (in hindsight, knowing you’re OK) your description of the “banging of doors, rattling of slates and the roar of the wind” sounds rather exciting. Though I do hope the next round is significantly less so.
    PS: Beautiful hoar frost photo! In Minnesota it’s been far too cold for that; I miss it.

    • January 10, 2015 10:40 pm

      Given the severity of winter weather which can hit the Midwest (let alone the severity of other recent global events) I am rather flattered that our little taste of storms has reached the news in the States! It is actually rather nice to have a smattering of snow today.

  6. January 10, 2015 9:36 pm

    Glad there was no major damage for you. We’ve had a taste of those winds in the north east, though nothing like further north of course. But your pictures and images are beautiful.

  7. January 10, 2015 9:41 pm

    trying, like a gull on a cliff, to sleep.
    We stayed in a guesthouse in Simon’s Town. A wooden house, and our room was in the attic. Howling Southeaster and I spent the night awake, feeling as if we were about to be swept out to sea. Not actually in danger, but there’s something bone-jarringly disturbing about howling wind.
    Glad your trees are mostly survivors!

    • January 10, 2015 10:48 pm

      Yes, that’s just it, the wind is ‘bone-jarringly disturbing’! Even the animals feel it.

  8. January 11, 2015 2:08 pm

    Captivating hoar frost image.

    • January 13, 2015 10:10 pm

      Thanks, glad you liked it – hoar frost is always ethereally beautiful, isn’t it?

  9. cath permalink
    January 11, 2015 4:17 pm

    The first lines and the photographs are so much about awareness/mindfulness to me. They both are beautiful.

    • January 13, 2015 10:11 pm

      Thank you. In essence I think this whole blog is about such things: ‘noticing’.

  10. January 13, 2015 10:05 pm

    I so love your writing. It’s so evocative. And Westerly is the direction of wind I dread too. Straight off the Atlantic. Brrr… But at least we stayed warm and dry with only a short power outage so all is well.

    Love your frost photos! As you know we don’t get much frost/snow in Orkney and I do miss that. I prefer a nice crisp walk rather than a battle through the wind!

    • January 13, 2015 10:25 pm

      Hello, o star of my post! 🙂 Thank you for the kind words.
      I’m glad to hear that all is well with you. There doesn’t seem to be much let-up for you in the storms at the moment. I loved the blowy walks we had on the beaches of Orkney, but constant wind is very wearing, I think – so I’m in agreement with you on the preference for a nice crisp day!

  11. January 14, 2015 9:12 pm

    There’s your lovely bike!
    Saw the storms headed to Scotland. Goodness the noise of a storm battering an ancient building must keep you awake. (Although the idea of breakfast by candles sounds like a nice break from the modern frenzy once in a while.)
    Bless and keep all those brave souls out there repairing lines and getting the power back on to folks.
    Stay warm and enjoy the winter’s paintings from a nice spot indoors

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