Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Winter reflections

I can't say that the shades of winter have been hazy, but there haven't been 50 of them either.  We have, though, had three very different forms of this season in the past few days.  We had perfect winter conditions on Friday and Sunday, ie a hard frost with a perfect blue sky and plenty of sunshine.  Inexplicably, the intervening day was shocking: Saturday wasn't warm enough for there to be any significant thawing of the ice, but it was, bizarrely, 'warm' enough to rain most of the day, not that at the time you'd have realised that it was warm enough for anything.

So between those two lovely days, photographs of which have adorned the past two chapters, we had a day as illustrated in the first paragraph: it wasn't actually raining when that photograph of me trying to keep warm was taken, but that was only a temporary respite - and you can see that the rain wasn't doing anything to melt the ice which covered the many puddles in the yard.  I was rather puzzled on Sunday evening to see that the overnight forecast was minus 3 and rain, as one would think that those two things would each preclude the other, but what happened was that we were bitterly cold until a 'warm' front moved in from midnight onwards, so that dawn broke on Monday with the temperature about plus 1 - and it was raining.  Ugghhhh!

Anyway, after Monday and Tuesday being extremely grim, it was almost a relief to wake up this morning to see the place covered in snow, which was already starting to disappear by 9.00 am, which was roughly the time that these three photographs were taken.  It mostly melted during the day, but we're forecast minus 4 tonight, so no doubt we'll have more winter conditions to entertain us tomorrow - and let's hope that we get more of the idyllic frosty/sunny conditions in which Bean and Gus are seen luxuriating on Sunday in the final paragraph.  Today's slowly-melting snow, though, provided the back-drop to the funeral of Barbara Morris in St. Mary's Church, and that was a very sad occasion.

For those who didn't know Barbara, she was a lovely lady who lived for racing, horses, dogs and family.  She was for many years Nick Lees' secretary in what now seems a long-lost age, when two people could run one of the best racecourses in the world (ie Newmarket - which now has around 20 people doing the work which those two managed).  Sadly, Barbara made an uncharacteristic error of judgement which saw her leaving the racecourse earlier than she would have chosen, and also leaving this area.  She made a mistake - and we've all done that - but sadly she paid a very and unwarrantedly heavy price for that, and it meant that her final years were not as she would have wished.  Happily, though, just when Barbara needed an ally, her namesake and friend Barbara Lockhart-Smith, whom the words 'redoubtable' and 'formidable' don't usually even begin to cover, proved truly a friend indeed.  Barbara Morris ended her years living near Frinton close by the other Barbara (who, sadly, was not able to make it to town today for the funeral, I presume because of the snow and ice on the roads) and bidding her farewell in what always used to be her local church really was a very poignant end of an era.  It was a service which really made one hope that there is indeed an after-life, because Barbara deserves a place in heaven considerably more than most.  In racing one comes across many rogues and many saints, and Barbara stands well towards the front of the latter category. May she rest in peace.

I know that when one goes to a funeral one should leave one's 'pedantic twat' hat outside, but during the service I couldn't help reflecting (for the umpteenth time) that progress is usually regress.  When the vicar was making some supposedly appropriate reflections, he reached a stage where, by any traditionally accepted standards, he ought to have said, "There's a time to sow and a time to reap".  I am aware that it is arguably a good thing to have rephrased some parts of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer so that it's not as indecipherable to a modern audience as if we were reading Chaucer, but really is it an improvement to say, as he did, that "There's a time to plant and there's a time to pluck what you have planted"?  Maybe sow and reap are no longer used every day, but that's surely only because we're a less agrarian society than in days of yore, so we both sow and reap less frequently.  But if Lou Reed can cope with sowing and reaping (and we've all heard him doing just that in 'Perfect Day') then these words can't, surely, be regarded as unacceptably staid?  Or maybe I just have no feeling for the language.

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