THE WILLOWS SEEMED DREAMLIKE...
Excuse me for paraphrasing
a line in James Taylor's, "Sweet Baby James":
I really can't think of a more perfect way of
describing Cornwall in the snow. It's magical.
A dreamlike, white silence descends as the trees
are sprinkled with the finest dust of frosting
transforming leafless trees into a monochromatic
fairyland. An untouched purity where you hold
your breathe so as not to disturb it.
"It doesn't snow down here", is one
of my perennial brags to our up-country friends
and family who tolerate cold and frosty winters.
For those of us living in Cornwall, we've come
to expect wet, warmish winters and certainly not
snow in March...twice!
What has happened to the
weather? This has to
have been the wettest, muddiest winter we've ever
had. Global warming, or no global warming, it seems
that since the Coverack flood last July, barely
a day has passed without rain; bright days when
the sea sparkles and glints are rare. Perhaps,
it's simply cyclical patterns. As a child, winters
were so cold, my sister and I had ice on the inside
of our bedroom window and heavy, school coats on
the beds for extra warmth. I'm sure it's as simple
as homes weren't insulated and had coal fires that
went out at bedtime and the luxury of drowsing
under a duvet's downy warmth hadn't happened as
they were yet to find their way across the Alps.
Schools never closed and we made huge slides on
the ice and snow in the playground back in the
days before the tzars of Health and Safety stopped
kids from having fun. Then again, that was back
in the days of endless summers!
It's eight years since
we've had snow or frost
in Coverack and we're deluded into believing cold
weather is something that happens up on the moors,
or over the border in Devon and beyond. We depend
on the Gulf Stream's warmth to grow tender, sub-tropical
plants; the agapanthus, aeonium, echium and ferns
can't cope with below zero temperatures and their
moisture retaining succulent leaves freeze and
reduce to slime once they thaw.
We had fair warning that we were in for a battering.
The first fall of snow was preceded by days of
a bitterly cold east wind. The forecasters had
threatened that the' beast from the east' would
come snapping across the Siberian Steppes, biting
with spiking ferocity into the face of Storm Emma.
She was another weather system making her way up
from Spain and Portugal. And when they collided,
it was cruel.
We were caught in the middle; snow
from one direction and freezing rain from the other.
it was the wind that caused damage to the village.
Enormous waves swirled round and over the harbour
creating a vortex of water that ripped out massive
rocks from the steps of the inner wall. The car
park at Dolor Point was undermined by the force
of the heavy sea causing loss of boulders and it
is in vital need of repair. Huge walls of water
hurled seaweed over homes and onto the road, which
was shovelled into stinking, piles
of rotting marine detritus. A villager told a story
that the waves scooped up everything from the
sea bed and he had fish in his back garden! I'm
prepared to take that 'fact' with a pinch of Cornish
Once snow does fall, for those of us living in
outlying places means being marooned. The hills
are too steep and lanes too narrow to risk travelling
by car and with the nearest shop about three miles
away, being prepared is essential. Being cut off
has a plus side as I enjoy the cooking challenges
of a 'seige' and a store cupboard state of mind.
I like to open the larder door and instead of taking
out what I need for a recipe, the cupboard invites
me in; rice, all shapes of pasta, spices, garlic,
tinned things, flour, sugar... packets and tins
waiting to be brought to life. I had no idea how
long we'd be housebound, so there was a need to
be frugal. Rice pudding made from tinned evaporated
milk instead of fresh was indulgently luscious,
minestrone soup from manky vegetables and a handful
of pasta shapes; a pack of two chicken fillets
and a tin of tomatoes transformed into goulash
with caraway dumplings, and the other bashed flat
to make two escallops coated in Parmesan bread
crumbs with a pasta sauce. Being marooned is a
valid reason to shelve The Hairy Dieters cook book
and forget calories.
Ironically, we're now into
British Summer Time and
the season has slumped from wet winter into wet
spring. The daffodils are bringing a glow to the
drab garden, even the brave little primroses along
the river bank have survived the flood and the
snow; the pearl-like buds of the willow trees have
shaken off their snowy frosting and will soon open
into fuzzy yellow flowers before green shoots appear...
it just has to stop raining!
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