Snow in my street


I love snow. After days of snow being promised, and seeing only minor flakes at half one in the morning that didn't settle, I was starting to feel snow just wasn't going to come, and so when I was getting ready to go out to the pub yesterday I didn't really think that the reports of motorway blizzards hitting the rush-hour traffic 50 miles north of London really meant it was going to get here.

As I open the door to leave there's a gorgeous snowstorm out there, a joyous surprise, it's just started, the streets virginal, unfootprinted, the snow already fairly thick. Change of plan needed. Heavier coat required. Just as I'm buttoning it up, the middle button comes off, so with some urgency in mind, as I want my footprints to be the first ones on that snow out there, I sit down to sew it back on. Never sewed a button on so fast, usually takes six months just to get round to it. Stabbed my finger several times with the big needle, tissue paper to avoid getting blood on the coat, I worked like a madman to get this button sewed back on. Done! Now the mountaineering boots, these had to be distinctive well-placed footprints, jumper, scarf, woolly hat, umbrella. Ready for the ascent of the north face of my street.

Open the door again. Damn! One set of footprints! Bastard! But they were already getting filled in with snow and as I stood at the edge of my front garden looking up the road I realised the footprints were coming down the road, so at least mine would be the first set going up the road. Better than nothing. Off I set, my coat a snowman in seconds, umbrella superfluous really but it made me feel prepared. Passed some guy awkwardly pulling his short coat up over his red face, he looked like a lonely child with stubble and glazed alcoholic eyes peeping out of a sack, he was not prepared, he looked cast adrift in a world he did not understand. Further up the road a girl in a bobble-hat and mittens ran out of the house and into the middle of the carless road to take a photograph down the street of the snow falling in the sodium street-lights, it was then I noticed the exquisite dance of the dark snowflake shadows cast on the sodium-white ground. I was trying to remember whether I had seen snow in this street in the five years I've been here. I exchanged smiles with the girl, returning now to her house, our eyes said in the silent exchange: 'It's like being a kid again!'

I crossed the street, the snow untouched by car or foot, and now on the other side of the road I was certainly the first person here. I was claiming the street with every step taken, snow clung to the London planes on the side where usually in the rain the green lichen glistened. A man is out with his video camera getting his girlfriend to walk along the pavement towards him in the snow, directing his own snowscene, she gathers snow off a car and throws a snowball in his direction, making sure not to get the camera, door to their house wide open. I pass by on the other side of the road chuckling, recording these things with my eyes, playing them back now with my words on the screen of imagination.

By the time I got out the Tube at Oxford Circus, after spending almost the entire journey suppressing laughter watching a woman trying to get the cellophane wrapping off a cassette, it was already sleet, the pavements were dirt-black slush, trampled under rush-hour crowds, only the snow-clad barrels outside the Argyle Arms offered any evidence that for a few moments there must have been a little delight when the snow came, but what delight there had been, if any, was now most assuredly gone.


And what am I doing sitting here in my dressing gown this morning with the sun out when I haven't even been out in the back garden yet to look at my Buddha statue in the snow.

So, out I go, all clobbered up, in the snow, in the sun, hot mug of keemun, watching the horses slowly walking at the edge of the reservoir, rooks cawing in the bright blue cloudless sky. My eyes water from the cold. Final proof of the pathways the cats take across the garden, from that hole in the fence to this hole in the fence, down from that fencepost, dawdle a little probably attempting to sip from the watering can's melting icicles, and then over to that gap in the bush. I knew this before of course, sitting watching them in the summer, but somehow it's pleasant to see their tracks in these places and nowhere else. Just as I cross the road nearly always at the same spot, only crossing somewhere else to avoid people, as they do other cats.