Ahead lie only faint marks of passing traffic. All day long the snow has fallen. It whirls in my headlights, a dizzying spin of white. Slowly onwards I go, watching for the turning. The road is a narrow channel between white walls. A flash from the reflector on the fence warns me that I’m here. Slowly swing into the opening, then chug up the hill. I have arrived.
First time in a while to walk alongside the river. The constant cold this month means that it has almost frozen over, only a narrow channel left where the water rushes through. The fresh snow lies on top of the ice, creating the illusion of solid ground. If you listen carefully, you can hear the water shushing beneath. Step gently here.
The ice is back, thickly coating the streets with frozen snow. I venture out briefly to dust off the wall where the blackbird perches, scattering some birdseed for her. The sparrows are fluffed up like little balls of fleece. The robin watches me warily from his perch on the log pile. The chaffinch shrieks his objection from the rowan tree. This is my place, he seems to say. Retreating back inside, I stand at the kitchen window, hot tea in hand, and watch the birds descend.
The loch is frozen, with only a few patches clear for the wildfowl clustered together. From here it looks as though you can walk out to the crannog, although to do would result in an icy bath. Last nights dusting of snow has created a frosted effect, like sprinkles on a cup-cake. I tap it gently with my pole and listen. The sound rings out through the stillness, echoing like fairy chimes, raising a raucous response from the ducks.
Up the hill today ‘the rock of the oak trees’. A steep winding path heads upwards. Patches of snow and ice lay in the open spaces. Elsewhere, the lea of the hill gives shelter from the worst of the ice wind. The winter sunlight shines down, filtered through the bare branches. Last year’s leaves bury the path, a slippery trap for the unwary. Slowly I pick my way along, until the view opens out. The snow dusted foothills loom across the rooftops in the valley. Up above, a bird of prey circles, searching for movement below.
A miserable day. The sleet hammers down, lashing the windows. Grey light filters through dark clouds. The cold seems to get inside my bones, aching and weeping. I huddle under the blanket, hot water bottle at my feet, fingers frozen as I type. I must head out soon, but I put it off as long as I can. The sleet turns to snow. Hat, gloves, scarf and mask. Thermal trousers and walking boots. Outside the snow lands on sleet puddles, forming a thin layer of ice, a trap for the unaware. I scurry along as quickly as I can, anxious to return to the warmth of home.
The snow came again last night. Waking, I sense the hush outside, sound absorbed by the white coating. The morning blue light reflects from the ground. I head out to clear the car. The grass is covered with bird prints, from pigeons who hang about under the feeders, to the blackbird that hops along. A rustle comes from the ivy-covered wall, and out pops the robin to say hello.
Trying to avoid the frozen path, I head home across the golf course. The hoar frost is sticking out on the bushes, spikes in all directions. Autumn’s last leaves are outlined in white, and the blades of grass each have their own decoration. Each step has a soft crunch of accompaniment. A skating rink has overtaken the greens, melted snow now frizen solid. No way round. I slide my feet over the ice, one by one, carefully placing my stick ahead of me. Skating along until I reach the rough with a sigh of relief. Up now, through the birch trees, silver black in their winter dress. Then homewards bound for lunch.
A cold and icy trudge around the village today. The pavements have been ploughed and gritted – one of the delights of living up here. The paths by the golf course, river, and old line are too frozen to risk. There are quiet joys in the pavement walk. Lights and decorations up in windows, displayed on this dark day. The first hint of green emerging through the snow. Twinkling frost on walls, glittering silver. Friendly chat across the street. Dogs coming to greet me, while their owners stay at a careful distance. Such is life in this small community.
I climb the hill, puffing as I go. Sticking carefully to the edges of the path, where the grass provides some grip beneath the ice and snow. Up to the seat, where the mountains are on display. Pink tinged in the early sun. Then climbing further, past the old curling pond, ice so thick my pole can’t penetrate it. Up to the old trackway, under the trees, where patches of snow have faded to frozen mud, and the stream trickles by as I walk. In the conifers, a bird shouts an alarm call as I pass, and high up on the hill another bird sings out in reply.