In the morning half-light of the school run, gulls glimpsed on ice with my kids’ school in the background.
Tonight and tomorrow has been predicted to be as low as -12, which is pretty unheard of for Manchester. Bring on the school run tomorrow then. Long Johns Sally weather.
Officially it is not winter for five weeks or so, but the seasons sometimes blur the calendrical boundaries and fixed points that we like to attribute to them.
Yesterday was the first real cold morning of the year. Crisp and clear, a light frost covered everything, a promise maybe of what is to come. And, perhaps with a sense of the shift in things, it seemed that my Facebook feed was filled with photographs by people drawn to mark this liminal time.
An old school friend by the name of Dave Wright lives up in Inverness, in Scotland. He has two things up there that I don’t have: a decent camera and the northern lights.
He took this photograph as a cold dusk fell upon the land, he himself hunkered down for the night. The tree serves as a point of focus in an otherwise horizontal sweep.
And then, as he quite aptly described it: the moment the sky danced.
Further south, across the English border (how we like to divide and designate, whether with land or time or people) another old school friend, Derek Bates, paused to take in the view from his works window. This was in Duckingfield, a town in Greater Manchester, with light struggling slowly over the bare hills, the low-lying land shrouded in mist.
To the east of Duckingfield, in my hometown of Middleton, the temperature stubbornly refused to rise. The mist appeared hesitant beyond the trees.
And then the school run beckoned, drawing us out of our heated home. Ignore that sun, it may as well have been a snowflake.
“It’s cold,” my daughter exclaimed as we hurried along the main road. “I can’t feel my legs.”
“They’re still there,” I replied. “Keep going!”
Though it may be August, and the sky (fleetingly) blue, these local starlings have already donned their winter plumage and started gathering together. Maybe a sign of a cold, hard winter? I don’t know, but as a winter lover I can live in hope.
Looking up at them, the words of Dire Straits came to mind:
And the birds up on the wires and the telegraph poles
They can always fly away from this rain and this cold
You can hear them singing out their telegraph code
All the way down the Telegraph Road
They can always fly away from this rain and this cold. Or they can stay, if they want, in their winter plumage, hustling me for chips on frosty grey days.
We, At This Time A virginal shroud settles upon our abodes. Fairy lights flicker in the long night. Inside, all manner of songs and odes are offered to acclaim our rite. Those of us not overtly religious indulge themselves out of tradition. Those of us not openly pious offer tacit prayers without petition. But all desire to feel the joy that shines forth from every child's eyes. An augury, in innocence's employ, that lifts the soul amongst the winter skies. Though we partake in the gathered feast, and survive the night imbibing wine, we recognise, when all has ceased, that part of man inherently divine. ©Andrew James Murray