Water and ice



A bright cold day, the hedges crisp and bare and the sky blue and pale behind the leafless domes of oak.  Behind the hut the high wall of holly takes some of the wind but the hazel in the hedge outside my window shakes and flutters its last rags of leaves as a gust goes by.  I am sitting in the shepherd’s hut and have just lit a fire in the stove.   The wind catches the smoke as it leaves the stove pipe chimney and a puff blows past my window and away over the hedge, down the field and into the valley.  Soon the hut will warm up but for now I am still wearing my coat and my second pair of socks.   The blanket I crocheted so obsessively a few weeks ago is now finished and a wonderful thing to wrap around you while you read or think.


Somehow it has very suddenly become winter.  When I drove away last week to spend some time first with my daughter and her family and then with my parents, my sister and her family, the rain was thudding on the car.  I drove through a saturated land.  In a long diagonal from North Wales to Oxford and a couple of days later in another trajectory from Oxford westwards into North Devon, on either side of the motorway fields were under water, rivers had burst their banks.  Trees floated above flurried lakes of grey.  Cows stood disconsolately on little islands, their backs to the driving rain.  While I was away the television showed desperate flooding in St Asaph, only a few miles from here and one elderly lady lost her life.  In Devon I walked out with the dogs onto Dartmoor and the land squelched like a giant brown sponge, pooling into my footsteps as I walked.  It felt as though the whole country was simply unable to hold any more water.

On Thursday I woke in my sister’s house in a village on the edge of Dartmoor to a hard frost and a diamond bright morning.  There was ice on the road and a rime of frost on grass and hedges.  As I walked along the lane to my parents’ house a horse whinnied and galloped up and down the field, his breath streaming above and behind him like steam from a train.  The bird feeders in my mother’s garden were crammed with great tits, blue tits and chaffinches which skittered away as four huge black crows flapped down.  A jay fought with a too large crust of bread on the outside table.  Magpies hopped across the grass, waiting for the crows to go.

When I got home here on Saturday night it was a cold bright night, full of stars and a big moon.

Before I left the trees were still holding onto their leaves.


This horse chestnut is now bare and the big ash trees over the hedge are bare too.


The willows being grown for their canes for basket making are bare and nearly ready for cutting.


Maybe tomorrow when I am going into Manchester for an appointment I might finally engage with the idea of Christmas and do some shopping, never my favourite acitivity, but for now I shall wander around my high cold world and then come back inside to the warmth of the hut and the blanket.


Comments

  1. I love the story your words share . . . and the photos, the blanket colors charm me with warmth. Beautiful post . . .

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    1. Thanks Lynne. The colours of the blanket are gorgeous aren't they?

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  2. Hello. Haven't heard from you for ages do it is good to catch up here with your travels. I liked your observations of the fauna you came across. Keep warm in that lovely hut.

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    1. The hut becomes very snug indeed! After a few hours with the stove going I even need to take my socks off!

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  3. It does feel like winter has come upon us quickly, doesn't it? I was sleeping in the shed with Dylan this weekend - our lad's den - he loved it, like eight year olds do; I just froze!

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    1. Ah, see above! A woodburner is the answer!

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  4. what joyful colours, warms the cockles of the heart.

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    1. Thanks Diana. Don't suppose you are cold where you are!

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  5. You've painted some wonderful pictures with your words. Love to think of you snug in your cosy hut. Feels wintery here too but rain has been pounding on the roof again.

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    1. We slept in the hut the other night and there was so much rain I dreamt of floods and leaking roofs. Woke to find all was fine! Now it is very cold but dry and crisp.

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  6. Your blanket looks lovely and I do like how warm it looks and the cheerful colors. It is something perfect to snuggle under.

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    1. I totally love the colours and the wonder of stripes is that you find that you are drawn to do some more crochet or knitting just to see what it looks like with the next colour - it is quite compulsive!

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  7. Your hut sounds nice and snug and your blanket is wonderful colours. It is hard to imagine winter coming so quickly over there. Spring has arrived here but everything is still very dry.

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    1. I always struggle with imagining seasons on the other side of the world!

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  8. Brrrrrr, but your hut sounds just perfect and I could quite happily steal your blanket! What a wonderful way of using up your stash... hmm - may have to think again about my inability to crochet....

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    1. I promise you it is easy peasy, way easier and faster than knitting! You would have no trouble at all I bet.

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    1. Just have to resist the urge to sneak under and refuse to come out!

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  10. Elizabeth, your writing has given us an insider's view into winter's steady arrival. All that excess rain and flooding seems to be affecting many parts of the world this year. It takes a slightly different course in each area. I'm glad that you were able to make your long car trips safely!

    Thank you so much for the photos and descriptions of how your garden is changing. I look forward to seeing more about the basket making. How cozy that blanket looks...its colors send a warming message to go with the effects of its fibres. It must be quite wonderful to be in your hut feeling nature all around you, and being able to capture some of that sense in your fine writing.

    xo

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    1. Ian is the basket maker Frances and it will be good to see what else he comes up with. We have quite a bit of our own willow and our son also has some so I think there will be a special satisfaction in making things with willow you have grown yourself!

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  11. I love to think of you tucked up in your hut, snuggled in the blanket as the fire in the stove catches. Your description of the end of fall and start of winter gave me a clear idea of what it must be like along your route. I especially enjoyed the scene at the bird feeder.
    I hope you'll have many cosy afternoons in your hut this winter.

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    1. Today I am in the house by the fire, looking after our daughter's dog. The trouble with having two great stoves is that whichever one you are by, it is hard to leave!

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  12. Gorgeous - all of it, and especially that rainbow of a blanket! Enjoy it in good health and much snuggliness!

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    1. I am delighted with the blanket Marcheline. I have another huge one I have been making for two years but this one sort of jumped the queue.

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  13. Beautiful! Lovely descriptions. Think well under your obsessively crocheted blanket!

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    1. I am not sure about thinking well! I can do you musing and dreaming and mulling...

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  14. A hut with a log burner, a bed and a beautiful blanket - what a perfect place to escape the cold, dark, wet days. Do you take commissions for crochet blankets?!

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    1. The crochet blanket is a perfect example of how hard it is to make financial sense of craft! If I wanted some reflection of my time and to pay for the wool I think they would be too expensive for people to buy when you can have something machine made from abroad for a tenner!

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  15. Looks so cosy Elizabeth - a perfect retreat. I was away too last week visiting my mother and traveled by train from the north west through Birmingham and then on to Peterborough. I've done that journey more years than I care to remember but have never seen so much water. At one point it seemed that the train was making its way through a lake - disorientated swans and ducks sailing past the windows - all most surreal.

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    1. It was very strange Anna. Things are pretty much back to normal here in North Wales, although there will still be much cleaning up to do in St Asaph and Ruthin which had the worst of the floods.

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  16. Oh my gosh, I feel like I've just read the first words to a wonderful book, and am all ready to settle in for the rest of the story. Beautifully descriptive writing.

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    1. Thank you Nan. What a lovely thing to say!

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  17. You sound very content with your shepherd's hut and it certainly comes out in this beautiful prose.

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    1. Thanks Chris. I am loving having the hut!

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  18. That's a mega-picture of the ash. Good to catch up with your chestnut too. Do you have to take great care of your crotcheted blanket when you wash it or is it tough?

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    1. Haven't dared wash the blanket yet Lucy. It is supposed to be washable but will probably do it by hand first as I couldn't bear to spoil it!

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  19. Love the shepherd's hut and new to your blog, really enjoying your evocative descriptions and lovely pics. Looking forward to hearing more about life on your Welsh hillside.

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    1. Good to meet you Andrea and glad you enjoy the blog.

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