The March of Time

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So here we are on the 31st of March and we reach my favourite time of year.  The clock has sprung forward and at last it feels that we have bested the winter and emerged again into the world.  The spring flowers are brightening up the sere landscape and the first tender buds are emerging from the hawthorns.

Time to get busy in the garden sowing the new season vegetables.  We play the annual game of chance with the weather.  When to plant out the seedlings nurtured in the conservatory?  Too late and they become pot bound.  Too early and we risk a late frost carrying them off and ruining weeks of work.

Frost and Spring….reminds me of a poem….

March 26th 1974 (R.Frost 100th B’day): by Richard Wilbur

The air was soft, the ground still cold.
In wet dull pastures where I strolled
Was something I could not believe.
Dead grass appeared to slide and heave,
Though still too frozen-flat to stir,
And rocks to twitch, and all to blur.
What was this rippling of the land?
Was matter getting out of hand
And making free with natural law?
I stopped and blinked, and then I saw
A fact as eerie as a dream.
There was a subtle flood of stream
Moving upon the face of things.
It came from standing pools and springs
And what of snow was still around;
It came of winter’s giving ground
So that the freeze was coming out,
As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,
Relaxes into mother-wit.
Flowers, I said, will come of it.

Frosty Moonlit Night

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So last night we had a power cut.  I got a phone call at the train station to pick up some burgers and chips for dinner, because we had no electricity, no oven, no grill and no lights.  So I arrived back to a peaceful house bathed in candlelight, no TV, no noise but human speech.  It’s actually quite nice from time to time to take a break from electricity.

The interlude was not long, but it was fun.  Later in the night the moon rose.  Moonlight would have been useful when the power went out.  Instead the moon lingered below the horizon until the power was restored.  Going to bed later in the evening there was little need to turn on lights to see.  The pale monochrome nightworld unfolded in the white light of our satellite.

It’s funny how photos can never seem to capture moonlight properly.  Moonlight photos are weak affairs that do not capture the magic of the moment.  Early this morning the setting moon was still bright in a clear starry sky.  It was practically a glare.  Temperature -4 degrees C, a nice sharp frost. Good for the garden.

 

A Frosty Night; by Robert Graves

Mother

Alice, dear, what ails you,
Dazed and white and shaken?
Has the chill night numbed you?
Is it fright you have taken?

Alice

Mother, I am very well,
I felt never better,
Mother, do not hold me so,
Let me write my letter.

Mother

Sweet, my dear, what ails you?

Alice

No, but I am well;
The night was cold and frosty,
There’s no more to tell.

Mother

Ay, the night was frosty,
Coldly gaped the moon,
Yet the birds seemed twittering
Through green boughs of June.

Soft and thick the snow lay,
Stars danced in the sky.
Not all the lambs of May-day
Skip so bold and high.

Your feet were dancing, Alice,
Seemed to dance on air,
You looked a ghost or angel
In the starlight there.

Your eyes were frosted starlight,
Your heart fire and snow.
Who was it said, “I love you”?

Alice

Mother, let me go!

Frosty Morning

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The first real hard frost of the year came last night. Winter has tightened its grip. But this is Ireland and “Hard Frost” for us is a joke for others. My brother in Canada laughs at our weather forecast which casts warnings of doom and destruction over temperatures that in Calgary would be considered a soft day.

It is 11:15 and the frost has melted and the roads should be safe.

Tonight is Cinema night. I am taking the boys to see the Hobbit: Battle of the 5 Armies in 3D. My daughter is going to the Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 with her friends. I am not allowed in that cinema.

I love the cinema. So many great memories of my own childhood, eating sticky toffees with my brothers and sisters and escaping into that great big screen filled with the wonders of the universe.

We used to go to local suburban cinemas to see old movies or low budget films.  All those cinemas are gone now, converted into carpet warehouses or bingo halls.

For the new release blockbuster movies we went into Dublin City Centre.  Some of those cinemas have survived, albeit following re-modelling into multiplexes.  They had fancy names such as the Savoy, the Ambassador and the Plaza.  They were the height of luxury with crushed velvet armchairs, acres of curtains over cinemascope screens that seemed to go on forever.  We were always on the ground floor in the stalls, and dreamed of the days when we might afford to sit on the balcony and eat Milk Tray chocolates instead of toffees and boiled sweets.

Queues were a vital part of the experience.  The stress and tension, wondering if you would get a ticket.  That sense of fear, wonder and delight enhanced the experience.

In many ways the Cinema experience is quasi-religious.  It is a rite, with its own rituals.  You go into that dark space and are transformed by the experience of the film, to emerge a different person.

The Cold Heaven; by William Butler Yeats

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

Lighting Up

I spent the weekend ferrying my son Jerry up and down to Clonmel, where he was packing bags in Tesco for his charity drive.  You can check out his progress here, http://www.mycharity.ie/event/raiseforcalcutta/  and he also has a blog on wordpress to track his fundraising and the trip to Calcutta.  If you are feeling all Christmassy and want to give him something you can donate as little as €2 on the website, and genuinely, all donations are very much appreciated.  OK, begging bowl away….

For those of you who don’t live in Ireland, the 8th of December is THE shopping day for Christmas.  In the Catholic Calendar it is the feast of the immaculate conception.  According to the church authorities in the middle ages, it was not enough that Jesus was born of an immaculate conception.  The vessel of his birth, the womb of the Virgin Mary, had to be as pure as driven snow, so she was also accorded an immaculate conception.  What this means for children in Ireland is……a day off school.

So traditionally Mammy packed the kids down to the drapery and fitted them out with new duds for Christmas on the 8th.  The tree arrived in the house, the lights went up and everything started to feel a lot like Christmas.

In the city the relevance of the 8th has declined, but down here in rural Tipperary it remains the big day heralding the Christmas season.  If you don’t buy your tree on the 8th you will be left with one of the lame, the asymmetrical, the mangy, the bald, the withered or the stunted specimens rejected by the early bird buyers.

And so it is that I was climing the ladder first thing this morning to festoon the front of the house with lights.  The tree is up and dressed, the star is attached, the ultimate christmas album is in the CD player.

So it feels like a night for Frost.  That would be Robert Frost rather than Jack Frost

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.