“As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens”. Katharine Stewart starts her January 25th essay with this well-known Scottish saying, commenting that “These old sayings invariably ring true” (p. 34). After a week of ice and snow lying over much of Glasgow, we had a bit of a thaw, but rain falling at freezing temperatures has meant ice and black ice again (the poor postie took a tumble).
Stewart goes on to talk about changing weather patterns: “Something has happened, lately, to the direction of our wind-flow. The prevailing westerlies, reasonably mild and bringing welcome soft rain, have been swinging to the north, and even to the north-east or south-east.” I believe she was writing in 1994. Twenty years later, I at least have adjusted to the idea that the weather patterns are clearly changing. There’s no longer a sense that we can look back to former times to show us what to expect. One thing remains the same: “The television weather-men rarely get their suns, clouds and arrows quite right for our particular area.” We now have as many weather-women as weather-men. (Does anyone else miss “Heather the Weather” – pronounced Hayther the Wayther with a slightly rolled r at the ends? She always stuck in the word “old” – “It’ll be a chilly old day near Auchterarder”.).
It does still seem to be the case that tv weather forecasts are only very general indicators of what actually happens. I’ve noticed over the years of visiting the Hebrides that it’s almost pointless to watch the weather report, as the reality so seldom matches, unless it’s a very obvious matter of a huge Atlantic storm coming in. Many people nowadays rely on weather websites online (xcweather is meant to be good, particularly in predicting wind strength and direction – something people pay attention to here, just as Katharine Stewart did).
In her garden, “Branches and twigs lie in unusual places, scattered by those alien gales.” This has been a common sight here in Glasgow for the past few weeks. Most of the pathways have been cleared now, but if you look, the ground is littered with branches and twigs:
Because I love trees so much, I used to find the sight of broken branches very sad. Now that I am older, if not very much wiser, I understand that the winter storms have their use. The trees are thinned out by the winds. It’s the weak branches that break off, except in exceptional circumstances. Just as it’s nice to give the house a really good clean after Christmas, the winds leave the tree a bit cleaner, and even more ready to withstand future storms. Having said all this, I was weeping the other morning to hear the whining of chain saws at the back of the house and see a beautiful mature tree – one branch had come off in the storms – being killed. The moment when the branch with the crow’s nest toppled was the worst and I just went to the other side of the house and covered my ears. It is probably true that the tree had grown too large for a city garden and lane. But the birds and I will miss it very, very much.
Stewart writes that “In a sheltered corner… I come on a tiny primula, blooming quietly to itself. That atom of reassurance is enough to make the day.” (35) Spurred on by her discovery, I went to look in my own garden. Sure enough, there is a small pink primrose just putting out a flower. But the primula she was writing about was surely the native primrose, and the ones in my garden are blooming away:
She ends her essay by describing her Burns’ Night Supper, as January 25th is the birthday of the Bard: “In the evening, sitting at the fire, I eat supper of mashed neeps and tatties, with a mealy pudding (haggis is not for me) and drink a small toast to Rabbie. He had a kinship with animals and flowers, with the whole earth, which so many have lost. His ‘Red, red rose’ is surely the greatest love song of all time.” (p. 36)
So I will finish with the first verse of Robert Burns’ famous poem, and you can judge for yourself:
My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June
Oh my love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
If you’d like to hear the song, here is a link to Karen Matheson singing it.
I wish you all a good Sunday, and a good start to your week.