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A Potter's Moll: Gritted Teeth

Elizabeth Robison tells of prolonged stay-at-home days enforced by snow and ice.

Have you noticed how bad weather brings on the clichés? As soon as there is an inch or two of snow, it’s ‘Britain shivers under a blanket of snow.’ We’re in the ‘grip’, temperatures ‘plummet’, and everything ‘grinds’ to a halt. Can it be a coincidence that when the grit runs out, we have to grit our teeth and get on with it?

All these weeks, though, we are bound to admit that this is the worst and most prolonged bad weather most of us can remember, and we have to find strategies to cope with our lives after the Winter Wonderland stage had passed. It’s ironic that with all the technology we have now we just have to grin and bear it and we are lucky that at this time in our lives we don’t have to try and turn out and try to struggle to work or rescue sheep from a snowy hillside.

Some of the effects of prolonged stay-at-home days are outlined below:

I’ve been doing more elaborate cooking, making sauces and trying new recipes because I have the time. My husband has been cooking! (The miracle of the snow?) Out of boredom one day he asked if he could cook the evening meal, and with me giving instructions, produced a very creditable Shepherd’s pie. He was not aware of the knock on effect of these achievements!

Neighbourliness reasserts itself as people help clear snow, push cars that are stuck, go errands, and generally talk to each other.

We have taken time to look after and watch the birds, and judging by their numbers in the garden, they are hugely grateful – anthropomorphic of me, I know.

Cabin fever sets in after a while and perhaps you might decide to get around to doing things that you have promised yourself that you will do ‘one day.’ I took care when taking down the decorations (trimmings here in Yorkshire) to sort them out into wanted/not wanted, working/not working. Things were labelled and boxed up to make things easier next year. With plenty of time available for the task there is time to ponder and reminisce.

First there is our Amputee Angel. This is a plastic pink doll with silver wings, a crepe paper tutu and a net overskirt. It has graced the top of Christmas trees in my family since about the 1950s. Somewhere along the way she lost a hand, but she still holds her ballerina pose, proudly holding her stump aloft. She is what represents the spirit of Christmas decorations to me.

Then there are a couple of cardboard snowmen decorated with glitter and cotton wool made at Upperthong J&I school c 1980. Who could consign them to the bin?

As always I turn to reading for solace and went at first to poetry. I sat by the window and watched a re-enactment of Thomas Hardy’s Snow in the Suburbs.

A sparrow enters the tree
Whereon immediately
A snow lump thrice his own size
Descends on him and showers his head and eyes,
And overturns him and near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.

A few lines of Shakespeare were floating through my mind: ‘When icicles hang by the wall, and Dick the shepherd blows his nail.....’ (What a wonderful image is that?) So I went to remind myself of what comes next and it is spot on. I think it’s the personalisation of all the people affected that makes it so memorable.

Tom bears logs, greasy Joan keels the pot, Marian’s nose looks red and raw and ‘coughing drowns the parson’s saw.’

More from me in a fortnight.

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To read more of Liz's brilliant columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Liz+Robison

And do visit the Web site of Liz's potter husband Jim Robison http://www.boothhousegallery.co.uk/


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