Winter Wonderland

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Only even more so than last time.  Current ‘feels like’ temperature according to the Met Office: -6°C.  It is 19th March, right?  I’m not trapped in some sort of time warp, right?

And lo, there came a time when the weather resolved to do just exactly whatever it felt like, irrespective of the long-established norms of socially acceptable behaviour.

And yes, I know I’m supposed to be providing Part 2 of my previous post.  I will.  Any day now, honestly.


Life on the Cusp

Last week, I was pretty sure it was Spring.  Sunshine, blue skies, birds singing their little hearts out.  All that.

Yesterday, not so much:

It’s on the cusp of a change in season that the world – certainly its weather – feels most alive. Outside the Tropics, anyway. It’s in those days and weeks when change is running strong and urgent. But it’s seldom a simple, smooth change. There’s always a day, at the start of every season, when you wake up, step outside and instantly just know from the feel of the air that a new time of year is upon you. Each season has an unmistakable feel, which you lose the habit of while the other three are cycling through, so that when it comes back, and you feel it on your skin again, it’s instantly recognisable as different from what’s gone before. I love it when that happens.

Except sometimes things go backwards, of course. Last couple of weeks, it was unmistakably feeling like Spring. A freshness to the air, a deeper blue to the sky, a hint of genuine warmth in the sunlight. Here we are today, though, and I wake up to ice, crunchy snow left over from yesterday’s falls. And though the sky’s a luminous blue, the only thing really deep about it is the cold. I don’t mind. I like it, in fact. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s good to be kept on your toes.

It’s not just the weather, though. All things, all systems, are a their most vigorous, unpredictable, energetic, rich on the cusp. In their transitional states.

It’s true of the natural world in many profound and interesting ways. By education and inclination, I’m in large part a biologist, environmentalist, naturalist, whatever you want to call it, and it’s striking how much of that stuff is concerned with boundaries, states of change, cusps. One example: the physical spaces where one kind of habitat merges or changes into another – like woodland, say, giving way to grassland – often hold the richest, most diverse wildlife in any given area, and are often the most dynamic and changeable zones in that area. It’s such a significant effect, there’s even a special word for these transitional zones: ecotones.

Ecotones are bits of land that are physically transitional – or on the cusp, if you like – between two states. The weather’s currently in a temporal ecotone, if you ask me.

And it’s true of all things, isn’t it?  The most interesting, diverse stuff is often in the borderlands.  Fictions that combine two genres into something rich and different from either.  Communities that merge into one another (peacefully, hopefully) and in those places where they merge perhaps have the best of both worlds.  The border between town and country, where you have both the comforts and ease of the urban and the space and air of the rural.

Ecotones.  Maybe not the most comfortable, but perhaps always the most interesting places, times or states to be in.

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It’s been snowing on and off for a while now. Not cold enough for it to accumulate in truly entertaining quantities, so no repeat of the quasi-Siberian adventures of a couple of years ago.

Nice, though. I ventured out and made a snow angel for you. Yes, you.

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I’ve got a guest post over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist reviewing Locke and Key, a horror/fantasy comic series by Joe Hill (yes, that Joe Hill) and Gabriel Rodriguez, which is assembled into very nice collected editions.

Short version: it’s good, and recommended even if you don’t think of yourself as a habitual reader of comics/graphic novels.  But do go check out the review for the longer version.

And a Big Freeze update.  The scene outside the bedroom window this morning:

This really isn’t the sort of stuff you see in Edinburgh very often.  Pretty though.


It’s Thursday.  The first snow fell around midnight last Friday.  The car has been trapped, shackled by the white stuff, since Sunday.  Food stocks are running out.  The only shop within non-snowshoe walking distance has run out of bread.  It’s down to its last couple of boxes of corn flakes.  Life without corn flakes looms!  Morale is at a low ebb.  To keep warm, we are burning the complementary copies of my books that the publishers send me.  Saw a postman for the first time in days this morning, but he didn’t make it up our street; I fear he may have fallen victim to the ravenous wolves that now roam through our gardens and sidestreets, pressing their noses up against our windows after dark and drooling.  The snowmen we built in the first happy days of our wintry imprisonment are crushed and fallen, submerged beneath the prodigious further snowfalls. 

The birds – poor fluffy little birdikins – gather in disconsolate groups to bemoan the closure of the world.  There is an eerie silence, save the occasional crunch and rumble of a 4×4 patrolling roads that are more like skiing pistes.  It’s a fraught kind of peace.  Residents keep themselves busy bombarding the local council with demands for snowploughs, gritters, skis for those poor postmen and their waste collection colleagues.

And now and again the sun breaks through and the world is as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen: great undulating mounds of gleaming, powdery snow; icicles – proper, clear stalactites of pure ice – adorn every gutter.  It’s snowing again now, as I type, but without the conviction of recent days and nights.  Forecasters say it’s just about done with us for now.  But it’s going to get colder, not warmer, so what’s already fallen isn’t likely to be thawing any time soon.  The wintry fantasia is going to be with us for a while yet.

I fear for the postman, if he does arrive at the door of some particularly desperate, deprived house, its residents driven mad by their enforced seclusion.  Hunger and cold do terrible things to a person, and a plump-looking postman might be just the nourishment they need.


Narnia’s Back

Last year it took until about mid-December, if I remember rightly, for unprecedented snowfall to convert my surroundings into a film set for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Mother Nature is not messing about this year.  She has brought the unprecedented forward, and made it bigger.

Getting on for a foot and a half of the fluffy white stuff has descended upon us in the last 48 hours (that’s 40cm plus for those who think metric).  It’s entirely ridiculous for Edinburgh in November (I mean, it’s not even winter yet, for Heaven’s sake).  The local roads are impassable.  The silence is frosty, in the literal rather than metaphorical sense.  There’s not enough milk in the fridge to last past tomorrow morning.  Come to that, the car’s supposed to be going in for a service and MOT tomorrow am.  Not going to happen, I don’t think; particularly since, if I turn my head through ninety degrees and look out the window: it’s snowing heavily again.

All of this inconvenience and hassle is, I can report, absolutely fantastic.  Love it.  I started laughing when the first snow began to fall late Friday night; I’ve been smiling more or less ever since.  My life is being messed with, and I find it absolutely wonderful.  Although there is a limit.  Another day or so is probably mine.  Just saying, Mother Nature, if you happen to be listening.