The snow was on the rooftops this morning. I had stood up to look out the window because the wind was calling me. Old trees bent dark over twisting, snowy lanes; high hedges and old stone houses dotted with golden-lit windows. You can see the moor in the distance from the old sash window in your bedroom, my brother-in-law told me.
A very northern English scene – I could have been engulfed by the windswept romance of a Brontë novel; but then again I am in the wrong county – Lancashire, not Yorkshire. Furthermore there is no Heathcliff or Mr Rochester roaming the wilds or speaking in dulcet tones by the fireside.
Teenagers are walking to high school in cool hats, uncool hats, skirts too short for winter – too short for anytime. Some are with friends – confident, smiling – some on their own, heads down – unsure. They are spilling out of Bromley Cross railway station – a surge of people; most of them are wearing dark colours, Lowry scene 2010 style. The girls have their hair tousled, bits pulled up at the back and across to the side. The boys have hair swept round their foreheads, some wear beanies flopped at the back.
A woman walks briskly along the road with bright pink fur at the top of her boots. The traffic stops and starts along the main road. The road to the Last Drop has been cleared but a bus struggles up another street. Jessie, my oldest niece, purses her lips, her agitation growing as the minutes tick away. She does not like to be late. Rosie, my youngest niece, sits with sleepy eyes, pink earmuffs and pink fleece hat on against the cold.
I walk my nieces to the door of Walmsley School in Egerton, clumps of dry snow sticking to our boots. They change into their shoes before going into their classrooms carrying their boots in bags – wee heads pass me with bobbled hats and twinkling eyes. I walk back over hundreds of small footprints in the snow, the children’s shrill voices gone into the school building for the remainder of the day.
I learn my friend’s 20-minute train journey has taken three hours because of the snowfall in South Queensferry. Another friend has cabin fever in the small settlement of Redpath, her children snowed in at their father’s only a few miles away. Another friend near Haddington has built an igloo; we may need one of these if the economy does not improve.
Davy phones to tell me not to travel today; I was not going to anyway. I am drifting into my two-week holiday like the snow that has fallen silently in the night. Perhaps a small part of my consciousness is gripping on to the Brontës’ stories, most of which I read in my teenage years. I dip in and out of these ridiculous thoughts as I shadow my sister around from place to place, errand after errand.
Then, at night, when the pale winter sky has completely faded into blackness, I sit in the porch, partly sheltered from the wind. I begin to hear a strange whirring metallic or plastic sound; it is constant and fast. I find the cause just off the lawn. A metal great spotted woodpecker’s wings are spinning round at great speed.
In a small moment, the Brontë-fuelled environment seems like a strange little make-believe world that I have been trapped in. I look closer at the metal bird. It is stuck into the ground with a long metal pin. On the large wooden door is a big metal handle. I need to get there and back into my sister’s home. I feel very small as I look at the large door, it will swallow me up into another day with the Harpers.