coverack in the snow



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.

our driveway  lane in the snow Garden in snow Our visiting fox was confused view from balcony signs in snow

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 salt!

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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