A midwinter miscellany

A midwinter miscellany

Finally, the snow has melted and gone. It looked magical of course, particularly as the daylight started to fade – last week we walked home up the hill and marvelled at the sparkling diamond dust catching the last pink rays of the sun. Clusters of icicles, chandelier-like, hanging from the rocks at the roadside.


But as the days went on, walking Joe to the car (stranded on the main road as it couldn’t make the steep climb) became more precarious. Powdery snow developed a tough crust, creaking and groaning underfoot. The track to the house slippery as an ice rink with the added obstacle of a cattle grid to cross. Snow then hail then ice, layers of them, day after day. And then all of a sudden yesterday morning we looked out of the window and it had gone.

So now we have heavy rainfall and howling winds. The ground is saturated with melt water and precipitation. But the roads are once again clear. We can get to town easily without trudging half a mile uphill with shopping bags. Two things to add to the list: a sledge and snow tyres.

I consulted my much-loved, battered Roget’s thesaurus for this post as I think it probably describes last night’s weather better than I can:

Adj. windy, airy, exposed, draughty, blowy, ventilated, fresh; blowing, breezy, puffy, gusty, squally; blusterous, blustery, dirty, foul, stormy, tempestuous, boisterous adj. violent, windswept, storm-tossed

There’s a lot more but that probably illustrates it well enough. Today’s the same. Down at school it was a bit calmer but up here we’re high on a hillside with no trees or banks to shield us from the wind. The valley below acts like a funnel, channelling the wind upwards from the sea. Sometimes I wonder if the house should be chained to the ground at all four corners, like the one in The Shipping News

So the ‘hill road’ is passable again. Which is good news as I need to go and collect some art supplies from the storage unit: inks, paper. As mentioned a few posts ago I’m working on a few ideas for maps of Skye. One linocut print and one pen-and-ink. Naturally, that means I can seek inspiration by looking at illustrations by Bawden and Ravilious and Emily Sutton. I’ve also been jotting down a list of nautical emblems and plan to do some sketching later this week.

Speaking of illustration, I picked up a few more library books last week. I’m not embarrassed to admit I judged both entirely by their covers. The first (which is turning out to be a really good read) is Rachel Malik’s Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves. The second is Midwinter by Fiona Melrose. Apt for the time of year. I like to read seasonally when I can (viewing, too: the latest season of Fargo is our current Netflix go-to).

Joe’s been bringing home any number of books from school: guides to coastal habitats and birds, books of fairy tales, stories about animals. He’s also a fan of the library (although I suspect that’s more down to Lego Club and the fact that the librarians let him stamp his own books).

He’s just written a postcard to his old classmates. I have no idea how he really feels about this big move, but he seems very happy and adjusted and assures me that he prefers this school to his last. Over the weekend we made bird feeders and he proudly took two of them into school.

It’s a relief to have my desk back in the house again. I can work and look down the valley to the bay. But sometimes I hole up in the warmth of the other room with my laptop. I love that room – it’s a proper old house-by-the-sea room, big and square with a matchboard ceiling and panelled door. We have a heavy mirror over the mantel to reflect the ever-changing light, and on the opposite wall my map of Nantucket from the Whaling Museum.

Another domestic snippet: I’m craving flowers. A bit of life and colour. When we go to Portree this week I’ll get something, a little bunch of daffodils or maybe a stem or two of something from the florist. Waxflowers would be perfect but I’ll see what I can find. It’s a long winter here but a good one; we continue to sleep well and stay warm. It won’t be long until the café reopens and the new gallery in Dunvegan opens its doors too. We’ll have a few more months until the tourists come in larger numbers, a bit longer to acclimatise to and embrace this new island life.