Today was the first morning of this autumn with signs of frost on the ground. I sat down at my desk and saw the roofs across the street fringed with white at the edges of the tiles, as the sun rose in a clear blue sky. Winter is coming, and our Hallowe’en pumpkins are in a dark corner of the garden for the local slugs and snails to eat. A robin fluttered around the garden, getting ready for all the Christmas posing; I doubt they go for pumpkin. In the summer the garden was full with house sparrows, as nearly every house in this street has a few sparrow nests under the eaves; but now they are quiet and are staying inside.
A month or so ago, I talked about how awful the world of politics is, too awful to want to write about. This morning, with the results of yesterday’s American presidential election still entirely up in the air, that seemed still very true. This evening, the results of yesterday’s American presidential election are still somewhat up in the air, but not quite as awful. We can but hope.
Since the clocks changed it’s dark now before I leave my desk in the evening, and on nights with clear skies, at the moment, I can see Mars rising, the first “star” visible above the roofline on the other side of the road. It rises above them just as dusk falls, visible already as a dim orange pinprick whilst the sky around it is still blue. Over the course of this year I’ve come to know the roofline opposite my window intimately. I feel like I know all the cracked tiles and broken patches like the back of my hand; I’ve watched the missing tiles on a house down the street get worse as the year has gone on and wonder how the residents cope in rainstorms, and I’ve watched a house a similar distance up the street slowly have its roof replaced, its chimney repointed, everything tidied and neatened and primped. Winter is coming, we are a third of the way through the final quarter of the year. After that, though, things will be brighter again.
The temperature was minus 4 when I left the house today: not cold by global standards, but cold by my standards. When I left work to come home again it had risen to plus 3, but most of the buildings around, especially the big dull office buildings, had roofs still covered in rough, powdery frost.
Ah, snow. You can’t beat it for sending people a bit mad and panicked. Yesterday the roads were gridlocked for half an hour at lunch time, because of the number of people who rushed home at the fall of the first flake. Last night, the news was full of dire warnings. Don’t travel if you don’t have to. Stock up your car. Make sure you take a shovel, blankets, a flask of tea, a flask of soup, sandwiches, cakes, a propane stove, three woolly jumpers and the complete works of Proust, because you never know when you might get stuck. Make sure you have a propane stove and not a butane one because, as all hardy campers know, the boiling point of butane at standard pressure is only around freezing, so in cold weather butane stoves get sluggish, give up and go to sleep.
I was particularly impressed, though, by the words of one of the local police spokesmen interviewed on last night’s news. “If you wake up in the morning and your car’s all frosted up,” I’m fairly sure he said, “you should get up 30 or 45 minutes early and make sure it’s completely defrosted before you set off.” It took me a minute to spot the flaw in the statement – assuming I’m not misremembering what he actually said. I think it’s a pretty good plan, though.
No, that has nothing to do with the content of this post. It’s just a nice word that I’ve just discovered, flipping through the dictionary whilst chatting on the phone. Let me know what you think it means.*
Through the week, it’s been getting harder and harder to clear the ice off the car each morning. A light frosty sprinkling on Monday has become a thick carapace. At this rate, by Christmas we’ll have a small glacier on the front drive. My hands each morning are covered in a chilling icy powder from the scraping.
* without cheating, of course. That would be naughty and wrong.