On the days after Christmas, it snowed here. A lot. What had been a bit dreary, a bit dark, landscape suddenly turned into a winter wonderland, just like the one we used know, so to speak. Bright skies, few degrees below zero, perfection. The low-hanging sun lit the birches with fiery red glow, and the snow covering the sea sparkled. I was still too much of a wimp to go on the ice (despite the fact that an attempt to swim last year proved the waters very shallow indeed). And unfortunately this is the only boat picture to be had – even if the snow wasn’t too deep, this one had been moved, filled with debris, and blocking the way, the scenery changing again. Next week is set to be cold; stand by for more pictures of winter.
Cold autumn, wan with wrath of wind and rain,
Saw pass a soul sweet as the sovereign tune
That death smote silent when he smote again.
First went my friend, in life’s mid light of noon,
Who loved the lord of music: then the strain
Whence earth was kindled like as heaven in June
Three months bade wane.
A herald soul before its master’s flying
Touched by some few moons first the darkling goal
Where shades rose up to greet the shade, espying
A herald soul;
Shades of dead lords of music, who control
Men living by the might of men undying,
With strength of strains that make delight of dole.
The deep dense dust on death’s dim threshold lying
Trembled with sense of kindling sound that stole
Through darkness, and the night gave ear, descrying
A herald soul.
One went before, one after, but so fast
They seem gone hence together, from the shore
Whence we now gaze: yet ere the mightier passed
One went before;
One whose whole heart of love, being set of yore
On that high joy which music lends us, cast
Light round him forth of music’s radiant store.
Then went, while earth on winter glared aghast,
The mortal god he worshipped, through the door
Wherethrough so late, his lover to the last,
One went before.
A star had set an hour before the sun
Sank from the skies wherethrough his heart’s pulse yet
Thrills audibly: but few took heed, or none,
A star had set.
All heaven rings back, sonorous with regret,
The deep dirge of the sunset: how should one
Soft star be missed in all the concourse met?
But, O sweet single heart whose work is done,
Whose songs are silent, how should I forget
That ere the sunset’s fiery goal was won
A star had set?
Autumn and Winter, by Algernon Charles Swinburne
When I arrived in Finland mid-December, the temperature was -18°C. That didn’t last, and on Christmas Day I was seriously afraid that all the snow would melt away – and that I’d spend the second week of my holiday listening to the sound of drip drip drop as the winter fades away.
That was not to be. By Boxing Day, the temperature had dropped below zero, and by yesterday, to a mildly terrifying (to a mild climate dweller such as myself) -16. The skies have cleared, and the arctic winter is at its best.The boats resting, (most likely) the final edition. The old marina took a battering in a pair of late autumn storms, which pushed these old boats from their usual stations to all over the place, scattering them around. I suspect they will be carted away with the rest of debris soon enough, so here is one last look. Previous posts with these boats can be found here, here and here.Frozen waters.Great tits, all fat and fluffy.I set out to photograph my hometown today, and ended up spending so much time snapping the frozen riverside seeds that I had to abandon the task early, because my memory card stopped working and I couldn’t feel my toes. From top – frozen attic windows of my primary school, an old textile mill, now a restaurant, “Iron Bridge”, the old Astronomy Tower.
This seems like a long time ago – on the one sunny day of the Michaelmas half term, I met an old friend I haven’t seen in years. We were driving back from Bampton (here frolicking in the leaves outside Isobel’s house), I pointed out how wonderful it was to listen to her talk like it hadn’t been six years since we last met. I’m so glad we have stayed in touch.From Bampton to London. I had a rather lovely walk along the South Bank, even with an Atlantic gale blowing. On my way I met the original man in tights, Laurence Olivier, and had lunch at the National Theatre restaurant. Sometimes I hate London, and sometimes she gives me a gift of a day.And from London to Oxford. The second half of the term was sometimes sad and often stressful, and the weather gloomy and depressing, but somehow we made it to the end of the term.We had one cold, crispy early winter’s day. One. But it was a lovely day.And then suddenly it was time for making decorations and presents, putting up the tree, and learning new crafts.And keeping up with the old.And now it’s Christmas.
Last look of London before traveling. I had a surprisingly successful season’s last outing on Monday (which turns out to be the best day to go; even Oxford Street was fairly quiet) two weeks ago. I walked along the river from Westminster to St Paul’s; I had planned to visit the Soutbank Christmas market, but was lured to the riverbed exposed by low tide. And what a treasure trove it was! – oyster shells and bones and pieces of china, with perfectly worn round edges. I even found a clay pipe. There are very few people down on the riverbank (though there was a very loud oompah band playing Jingle Bells again and again), making this a strangely solitary, quiet pursuit.
Day after, I was on a plane to Finland. The weather has been poor until mid-December, and I was dreading for another black, gloomy Christmas. Holidays last year were rather trying – the weather was too poor to go out and the arctic darkness oppressing without snow. This time couldn’t have been more different. The temperatures have dropped to as low as -25°C, the trees are covered in snow and frost, the skies have been clear. Days are still short and afternoons dark, but the snow makes all the difference. Spending time with my family has been surprisingly peaceful this time – my parents are elderly, and because of my mother’s Alzheimer’s, there usually tends to be some drama, but this time we have so far been spared from doctor’s visits and midnight ambulance calls. And it is Christmas.
The arctic winter has finally arrived, with temperatures dropping to -25°C, the sea freezing over and a sprinkling of ice covering everything. Days are very short, the sun barely rising above the horizon, and nights clear and starry – the council is saving by switching off the streetlights at midnight during week nights. I sneak out most nights and stand on the verandah, looking at the constellations until my toes are freezing. Sauna every night.
I seem to take the same photos every year – five years from now there will no boats left to photograph as they have fallen apart after years of abandonment though, and as the land rises faster than the sea level, the marina – already barely used – will have turned into mud. My mother swam here as a child, and so did I, but already the water is too shallow for anyone but dogs.
Those puppies were not too impressed by the slippery ice creaking and cracking under their paws. The temperature has gone from -25°C to -11° to -19° in about 36 hours, freezing any humidity out of the air and onto any and every surface, turning otherwise unremarkable or even ugly things into intricate, sparkling beauties.