By Jac Dowling
It was actually a red mini. But that comes later.
A recent comment of Sue’s regarding the snowy landscape in her part of the world set me thinking about my snowy encounters in the dim and distant past. It doesn’t snow in Hermanus you see, and the closest we get is a panoramic view of winter peaks shining in the sun somewhere over Franschhoek way. ‘OOO’ we say, ‘just look at that . Better pop over and have a close-up and lunch.’ Which is what we did. Lunch at Boschendal in one of the old buildings turned into a bistro. Bare oak branches cast shadows on the white walls and thatch, daffodils bloomed around the base of orange trees and snow covered the surrounding mountains. Perfect.
In another country, Scotland to be exact – and it is still part of the UK as far as I know . . . we set off one snowy, blustery day, against all warnings from the met office and headed for the Highlands. Winter colours in Scotland are superb, they really are. Red rowan berries along moorland streams, tawny winter grass, deep blue/green lochs and a glacial turquoise sky over all. Add in the odd shaggy cow, deer and, if you’re lucky, eagles. We had ruined castles as well, which means we were pretty far north. The snow grew deeper – and deeper – and we didn’t have snow tyres or 4w/d. Suddenly there was no view other than high snowdrifts on either side of the car; the road was single track because we were at the highest point in Scotland, and the snow plough ahead of us wasn’t doing a good job at all. So, without any fuss, we slid backwards with no steering control, landed deep in a drift and the engine died. Nothing daunted, we scraped our way out through the little windows and were immediately bogged down tits high in the snow. From which we swam and waded our way back to the icy track and drew straws as to who was to go after the plough and explain our – position. Took me at least an hour to creep, crab-wise up the hill and find the driver, who was just on lunch and not a bit pleased to be disturbed. But he agreed that we should not freeze to death because of a couple of sandwiches, or ‘ma piece’ as it’s known up there, reversed back down, dug us out with the plough and sent us back the way we came.
A black cat crossed in front of us, stark against the white fields; its paw marks deep, silent. Soon covered by the falling snow.
That was just one one of the snowy happenings. I shan’t mention breaking my ankle on the Glencoe ski slopes and having to walk to work each morning on crutches…the Irish and Poles repairing the road were unfailingly rude about my predicament, in the nicest possible way of course.
The most beautiful memory however, is of a heavy snowstorm on Christmas eve. Our cottage lay in open fields, inland a bit from the river Avon. A hill led down to the river through a farmyard and, when the snow stopped and the sky cleared, we walked down to the river in crisp, sparkling and crunchy new snow. The stars were like crystals, so clear in a deep purple sky . The river was full of little icebergs; frozen at the edge, the sluggish midstream carried them in a cacophony of squeaks and groans towards the weir.
And then the bells from three parishes rang out for the midnight service. Across the snow fields deep into the thatch and tiles of house and farm they rang.
‘It came upon the midnight clear…’ but, in spite of the deep silence, I never did ‘Hear the angels sing’.