Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Snowmen Cometh

(After reading advice from the Environment Agency asking people to build snowmen to reduce flood risk.)

Something odd happened this morning. When I drew back my curtains, there was a large and flustered-looking snowman in the back garden. I hadn’t built it. The children hadn’t built it. They didn’t seem as surprised as I was, and said perhaps it built itself.

‘Snowmen can’t do that.’ I said.

‘They might,’ they said.

‘They don’t because they haven’t got hands to build themselves with, until they’re built.’  Well, I knew what I meant.

We examined him after breakfast. I’m not what it was about him that looked flustered, but he did. Something in the angle of his carrot nose, perhaps. A startled expression in his sultana eyes.

‘Maybe he was in a hurry to get here,’ suggested my son, adjusting the snowman’s scarf. It was very cold out in the garden.

As we walked to school that morning, there were two more snowmen, one with a briefcase and one with a shopping bag, heading down towards the station, although of course they weren’t actually moving.

‘They can’t walk,’ said my son in his matter-of-fact tone. ‘Because they haven’t got proper legs.’

‘Maybe they slide, slowly so we can’t see them. Like glaciers,’ said my daughter thoughtfully and we stopped for a little while, just in case we might catch a tiny movement.

There was a little huddle of them at the bus stop. One was reading a newspaper and looking pleased.

‘He’s probably glad about this weather,’ said my son.

We all looked at each other – ‘I didn’t know they could read…’ we said in unison and laughed, our hot breath puffing the icy air. Clearly, there was a lot we didn’t know about snowmen.

Near the school were many more snowmen with what I supposed were their children. (Who else’s are they going to be?’ said my daughter. Good point, I thought.)

I dropped my children at the school gates and walked home, wrapping my coat tightly about me to keep the weather out. ‘Morning,’ said one of the snowmen, walking a scruffy little snowdog. ‘Morning, I said then thought, did he really just speak to me? But it was hard to tell, as he’d pulled his hat further down over his face. Or maybe it had just slipped.

The snowmen stayed for a week, then it got warmer. Overnight, they were all gone. But the garden and the path to school were strewn with carrots.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Excerpts from The Colourist

‘I’ll leave you to unpack, Miss Carmichael.’ Ellis withdrew himself and softly padded back the way we’d come. He was a very quiet man, Ellis, and like his master, not much given to small talk. One rarely heard him approach.
‘Thank you!’ I called after him, then flung my suitcase on the high, rather unforgiving-looking bed. It creaked when I sat on it, but in a friendly, well-used way. Someone had thoughtfully placed some gypsophilia on the dressing table and now their tiny petals lay like a lace mat around the vase. The room was furnished with cherry wood, the walls painted an old-fashioned, knowing pink; full of face powder and gossip. I wondered if it had once been Nathan's mother's own room, or some female relative before her, for its atmosphere was heavy with the rustle of women. In one corner stood an armchair covered in pale blue velvet which I quickly smothered with the coverlet from the bed, for as much as I love the purr of velvet, it seemed so discordant in that flimsy colour that I couldn't feel comfortable until it was hidden. Velvet has to be dark, cloaked in the sort of colours that hold back storms.

We wandered from room to room, Sylvia and I; she chattering about this and that until we found ourselves in the small drawing room.
‘That’s a pretty dress you’re wearing tonight, Rosa. Is it new?’
‘Not very, no. But I haven’t worn it often. You made me realise that I should make more of an effort - you always look so elegant.’ I smiled at her. This was the sort of conversation she liked. I wondered what was coming, for I was sure that our wanderings were not prompted by after-dinner ennui.
‘Hmm, well I try…But I do think you could wear a better colour; that green does make you look a little flat, if you don’t mind me saying. You don’t, darling, do you? I just want to help. Maybe a pink would do the trick, don’t you think?’
I was going to say something, then didn’t. I raised my eyebrows in what I hoped was a non-committal but open gesture.
I never wear pink. Pink is like a house guest whose arrival has been much vaunted, but whom one wishes would leave after a couple of hours. I find it too slippery and impossible to capture; it sidles up to blue to create fuchsia, joins with orange to make salmon, has an unhappy marriage with yellow to give a sickly sweet calamine colour, nestles ingratiatingly with brown to make antique tea rose. It thinks it is cleverer than it is. No wonder Sylvia liked it so much.
She had paused at the window and spun around to face me, our conversation about my choice of dress forgotten.

If you’re interested in the use of pink in art, this might tickle those cones http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/great-works-painters-table-1973-philip-guston-1903803.html