Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cold spell...

Winter has arrived with a vengeance; the long autumn with days of flying brown leaves herded by warm, favourable winds have gone, replaced by the shock of cold. Bitter cold and fierce, it bit down on us like teeth and left the landscape scarred with frost so that the earth seemed skinned raw and the trees bared down to the black bone of branches.

And then, wave 2,  a downpour of snow - voluptuous flakes that fell with a mournful beauty, silent and steady - this was no peppering - roads and pavements were quickly covered and by morning my car seemed like a small white mound on the drive. Almost always after snow the sky clears. It becomes cloudless, more blue than summer; the sun and snow dazzling as light from a reflected mirror. For a day there was intense frost, then a thaw. And by the end of the week it was as though nothing had happened - at least not in the city where I work. The collective warmth of the huddled buildings had resisted the worst and while I set off from home with some reminder of winter, in town it is more like early spring.

I ventured out for a 15 mile ride yesterday - and a short 6 miles today - both in temperatures hovering around zero - but with a bright sun, azure blue sky and no noticeable wind, both were enjoyable excursions. Along the lanes dropping into Congerstone I notice catkins dangling from branches like left over Christmas decorations. Absurdly fragile and ephemeral yet exposed to the harshest of weather - a sign of spring, just as winter proper arrives?

I pass over the railway bridge and glance along the track as light floods between the trees, everywhere is silent, peaceful and calm - no sign of any other cyclists or walkers - I'm on my own and my mind flits and darts as I pass through Shackerstone and round in a loop through Newton Burgoland and back towards Congerstone. There is still snow on the fields - broken and patchy and arranged by the wind so that the effect is like sea-waves of white marble.

A solitary ride in freezing conditions can be a challenge - not least the motivation to gear-up and get out. But the effort was worth it today. I'm glad to be home in front of the fire - but getting out makes me more grateful for home comforts.

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