Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Great Winter

"There will come the time called Fimbulwinter. Snow will drive down from all quarters. There will be hard frosts and biting winds, and the sun will give no warmth..."
No, I know it hasn't been as bad as the time Snorri was talking about - that's end-of-the-world weather. But when we were under this last week, it wasn't a big stretch to conjure up a picture of that archetypal death of time that the skalds spoke of, an absolute zero season where past and future are obliterated and the world slips into a kind of shivery dreamtime.

If a shortage of grit (both mineral and spiritual) has paralysed Britain in the last couple of weeks, spare a thought for our spunkier ancestors who were out there roasting chestnuts and baiting bears on the frozen Thames. The hellish cold spells of the late 1600s might cost you a few toes to frostbite but at least they saw off the plague. so it was said at the time. They were glass-half-full, those guys were.

I'll leave the penultimate word to peerless writer Verlyn Klinkenborg:
"I always imagine preparing for a winter you can't muddle through. It's a deep, wooded season. Time pauses and then pauses again. The sun winks over the horizon, glinting on a snow-swept lake - just enough light to wake the chickadees.

"The eaves are low all around the house that this winter comes to, and I've surrounded the entire house with cordwood, leaving gaps for the windows and doors. Winter will go nowhere until I've burned through it all."
Fenris breaks his chains in the new episode tomorrow. Brrr.


  1. Bloody Hell!

    The picture of Blighty minus Gulfstream is truly apocryphal.

    Trouble is when it's that cold you can't even arrange to meet your mates down the pub as the thought of the return journey, staggering back along pavements like skating rinks is enough to scare off all but the most determined boozers.

  2. Heh - my thoughts exactly. I think that's why the Vikings used to just get a hundred barrels of mead in, stoke up the fires, shut the hall doors, and settle in to wait for spring :)