First came hail. Then stinging sleet, whipping my cheeks like an angry weather monster.

Later, lonely white flakes fell – dawdling down in isolation. Mere afterthoughts. Certainly not a snowfall.

The clouds passed, their smoke-grey curtain drawn back, revealing a bright blue sky and sunshine.

But it was cold.

A pretty dance of frost filigreed our car’s windows. Icing sugar dusted the golf course greens. The sandhills, pines and holly glistened.

It was a day ripe for returning. It had been a while since I  visited my sanctuary-place.

Two months ago, we had a date to see a comedian, Rich Hall. Hurrying to catch a train, fumbling for coins in my purse, I tripped, in my headlong haste, over a paving stone.

The Prof grabbed my left arm but couldn’t stop the descent onto my finger – third finger, right hand – and wrist.

Vanity overriding the shock, I rapidly assumed a sitting position, aware of traffic passing by.

My finger wasn’t at a good angle.

I took the Prof’s proffered hand with my undamaged one. Climbed to my feet feeling slightly sick.

Blanking any questions, I went straight to the station platform without a word, leaving him to buy tickets. And when at last I spoke it was to ask the most important of questions.

‘Have I scratched my jacket?’

Second time of wearing. Soft, supple Italian leather. Black and biker-chick style. But sophisticated for all that.

The meal – Sardinian – was probably good, but mostly I recall the ice wrapped in a napkin on my side plate, where I rested my ballooning hand.

Red wine helped. And Rich Hall was diverting, but I couldn’t clap.

Next day, with my hand bruised and swollen, I found it hard to type. To work, cook, dress – do anything.

Five days later I was longlisted for a first novel award. I had two weeks to lick 99,000 words into better shape.

Another five days passed (and 11,000 words were cut) before I resorted to A&E. Five hours later, an X-ray and turquoise-blue cast had shattered my illusions of being badly-bruised.

Six weeks dragged. Finally, the cast came off and dandruff of the arm descended upon my world like the snow that didn’t fall.

I could drive again, hooray!

But my burst of joy was clouded by the news I’d not been shortlisted.

The editing had been painful and inadequate, I knew. I was prepared for the decision. Still, it was another falling. Another bruising. And another attempt by me to dismiss it as trivial ensued.

But fall I did.

‘Don’t let that black dog in,’ warned my sis-in-law, nagmailing from Texas.

He growled, that dog. He prowled, whined and poked his head through the door.

Then came Monday.

Jack the Frost had danced his jig on the golf course overnight. The sun shone in a sky so blue the Virgin Mary could have worn it.

And a door opened in my head. I could drive to my special place.

I scraped the windscreen till my wrist ached and my fingers burned. Then I drove.

Seven miles later I stepped from the car and the cares of the world fell noiselessly, to the ground.

From behind a bird hide the sun casts shadows on reeds at the frozen edge of one of the lakes

Ducks laughed and birds on the ponds whistled.

Geese honked and wheezed as they flapped in straggling v-formations.

I walked along the riverbank and something undiscernible made me look up. As I turned my eyes to the heavens a swan flew by, low in the sky, then glided to land by its friends on an icy lake.

One of the three swans in the distance had flown over me earlier

I stopped at all my usual places. Spied on my old summer sights in their winter déshabillées.

I entered the young woods, through shaded sentinel posts.

Blades of grass and edges of fallen leaves were frost-touched. Spiny arching brambles, clouds of decaying nettles were delicate white traceries.

Tree tips yearning for heaven burned orange in the sunlight.

Standing among the trees, luxuriating in the peace that is not silence, I saw a sight and heard a sound.

A leaf fell.

And I heard its falling.

The leaf with spherical hitchhikers wasn’t the first I heard, which I couldn’t see landing among the trees, but I saw this and heard it fall

There, in the wood, amid falling leaves and dancing frost my spirits rose from the icy ground.

With the gift of a beautiful winter’s day, I was one with Mother Nature, in her shape-shifting, ever-changing, transformational glory.

As Leonard Cohen (in a different context) sang, ‘for something like a second, I’m cured and my heart is at ease.’

Pride – and many other things – may come before a fall. But resurgence, like spring after winter, can surely follow.

Posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Nature notes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments


I’m thinking about time. A subject about which I am very dubious.

I’m not sure I really believe in it.

But earthly time, as measured in hours and days and weeks, does have its practical impacts.

I now have a date for the removal of the pot – or cast, or whatever you like to call it – from my right (writing) arm. November 30th: an earthly day that cannot come too soon.

Thus, whether or not I believe in it, time seems to be relative.

A theory supported by the evidence in this picture, taken at one of my favourite places,  Jodrell Bank. Where it’s either time – or not time – for a nice cup of tea and a sit down. A chance to ponder the meaning of signals from outer space – and the probable dearth of leaf tea in a black hole.

Some final words now – if it is now as you read this – on time past, present and future, taken from the Four Quartets. Because TS Eliot describes how I feel (fleetingly) about time better than I ever could.

For this I forgive him for measuring out life with coffee spoons (The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock), when it should, plainly, have been teaspoons.

And he was, after all, born American.

[I didn’t scrawl on my copy, that’s Microsoft Photo pencil]

Speed is also relative, at Jodrell Bank



Posted in Britain now & then, Thinking, or ranting, or both | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

What lies beneath

I asked permission to take a picture at the fracture clinic in our local hospital yesterday.

At first I couldn’t decide how I felt about the poppy, the symbol of remembrance for those who died in conflict, serving their country.  But then I thought, it’s a pretty stark reminder of what ‘the ultimate sacrifice’ means.

Tomorrow, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, some of the Saturday hustle and bustle will stop for one minute. On Sunday, services of remembrance will be held at war memorials around Britain and, in our local town’s case, around the peace memorial.

One side of Southport’s majestic peace memorial

The names carved in stone on these memorials, or engraved in metal, are predominantly of  those who died in the two world wars of the twentieth century.

Every small village seems to have its own tragic reminder of families who gave lives to the nation’s cause. And I believe it is fitting to honour their sacrifices.

Whether the cause is judged, with benefit of hindsight, to be worthwhile, mistaken or futile is not the point. They fought, they died, they served their fellow citizens to their last breaths.

But it is always a sad reminder of how easy it is for humans to choose to go to war. As they continue to do – and as more threaten to do, as I write.

As we slip further into the twenty-first century, thanks to certain men in power,  the threat of a nuclear conflagration rears its horrific, mushroom cloud of a head again.

For some of us it has never, of course, gone away.

When will we ever learn?

Why can’t we humans give peace a chance, as a boy from Liverpool, who would later be shot dead in New York, sang long, long ago.

Posted in Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Thinking, or ranting, or both | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments