Book of the day: William the Outlaw, by Richmal Crompton
In the infamous words of William Brown, outlaw and Indian chief, today we are ‘macarooned’. We are (not quite) cut off from the rest of the world by several inches of snow, which has fallen heavily for the past two days, and venturing further afield than the bottom of the drive requires chaînes à neige for the car, a brave disposition and wellies. We are able to brave the elements if absolutely necessary, but barring the calamity of running out of milk for our chou (Heaven forbid such a ghastly prospect!) we are staying put for the rest of the day. I am looking forwards to ‘fridge surprise’ for dinner. Snow is a false friend, and I am already too old to feel much excitement at waking up to unexpected, dazzling whiteness. Happy memories from winters past of carefree snowman construction contend with the (more prominent) present concern about treacherous roads and icy drives. At times like this I am reminded of the wise words of the great Paul Simon, who wrote: “You know the nearer your destination the more you’re slip slidin’ away”.
Nothing could be more appropriate on a day like today. Even the local chasse-neige, attempting to clear the lane next to our house, was unable to make it up the hill to the ‘main’ road, and began slip slidin’ backwards in the ice and the snow. Its driver eventually resorted to begging for salt from my husband. Apparently his tractor only clears and does not grit the roads. His boss/father (and questionable owner of a gritter, not that we have seen any evidence of this judging by the state of the roads in our lieu-dit) is responsible for our current predicament, not wishing to part with any more salt than is absolutely necessary. I fear he may have succombed to the dangerous affliction of hoarding, and ought to seek professional help. If so, we were unwise to have aided and abetted his addiction by handing over our entire supply. Then again I wonder if this may not have been a ‘sting’, as part of a bigger ploy to gain control of the entire neighbourhood’s salt supply and thereby keep his snow-ploughing contract safe for next year (which I hope fervently will not be the case, since his performance has been indifferent at best this year). Or perhaps this could be the beginning of a neighbourhood racket, demanding salt with menaces. The monasteries only took a ten percent tithe even with their threats of excommunication and eternal damnation. Our local ‘Condiment Capone’ has managed to take a voluntary donation of one hundred percent, from our household at least, simply by threatening to flatten our house with a wayward tractor. How ingenious and how thrilling!
While the temporary inconvenience caused by being ‘macarooned’ is frustrating, I feel very grateful to live in an area well-used to reacting to snow. The plight of the snow-besieged in my little valley pales in comparison to that of those elsewhere in Europe. My poor countrymen back in Britain, for instance, are suffering woefully from the pandemonium caused by the relentless Storm Emma. I only hope that her reign of terror will be of short duration. Schools and airports have been closed and trains cancelled; motorists have been stranded for up to twenty hours at a stretch in queues on hazardous motorways; the armed forces are undertaking serious rescue missions; tragically, people have died. I am very lucky indeed that my share of misfortune due to the inclement weather buffeting across Europe amounts only to having to wear a few more items of clothing than usual and to being disappointed in my hopes of seeing my parents this weekend, whose lunchtime flight to Geneva was cancelled this morning. They too are now ‘macarooned’ at home. Still, hooray for Skype and for free flight changes.
The real danger where I live, however, is to be found indoors. Within the walls of a bitterly cold stone house it is wise to stay vigilant against the hypnotic wiles of the fire. Like a siren, her rays of heat reach out invitingly, but come too close and all will be lost. Once drawn in a lethargy will envelope the senses and you will be doomed to a lengthy captivity and a slightly singed back, whilst the washing up remains untouched, foretelling a busy evening of catching up later.
Still, the snow does have one advantage. The garden looks very neat for a change – but then all gardens are equal beneath the snow…
Mots du jour:
la neige – snow chasse-neige – snowplough chaînes à neige – snow chains lieu-dit – place known as… (similar to a hamlet)