Thursday, 4 March 2010

hope springs

Devon winters can be hard work. No, it's not the coldest corner of Britain. It's not the darkest. But I do believe it is the wettest part of the British Isles. Perhaps not in terms of total precipitation, but certainly in that damp feeling that permeates every corner of the home, pervades the air and penetrates the bones. From November to May, it can be very difficult to warm up. You know things are bad when you have to scrape the ice from the inside of the car's windows.

We moved to the Midwest of America for a few months last winter. Now that was cold! I'm talking about forty-degrees-Farenheit-below-zero cold. It was curious weather for a girl who had lived half her life in Florida and the other half in the south west of England. Almost every day was bright, with vivid turquoise skies, and the air was crisp and dry - so dry, in fact, that the skin on my knuckles became paper-thin and began to split open. The wind was bitter, and I had the remarkable experience of feeling ice crystals forming in my nostrils! Of course, there was much wearing of coats and scarves and gloves and snow-pants, but there was one thing in particular that became significant through its absence. Mud.
Devon winters (and springs and autumns) are full of mud. And this isn't just any old mud. No sir-ee. We're talking Devon red clay. Mud that stains your fingers with its ferrous goodness. Bright orange, sticky smears that insist on immediate removal and washing of anything they sully. The ground here stays wet for many months. The clay greedily holds on to every drop of moisture, and the sun is neither high enough in the sky nor present with enough frequency to encourage evaporation.

This makes for tough times when you have littlies who love to spend time outside. Trying to get my three little ones ready for an outing can take up to an hour. There are the wooly long-johns to go on, the t-shirts and trousers (or in Imogen's case, always tights and a twirly dress), the fleeces or wooly jumpers, the waterproof trousers, the gloves, the coats, the hats, the scarves and finally, the ubiquitous Wellington boots. But wait! The waterproofs and the boots are still covered in mud from the last outing. One of the hats is still wet. And where's the mate for this lonesome mitten? Then, just when you think you've got them all ready, a little voice squeaks, "Mummy, I need a wee."
But eventually, we are all ready. And in Devon, if you can just make it out the door, a whole world of adventure and beauty awaits. And in late February or early March, you might even just find a snowdrop or two. And that is when all the mud, all the wet, all the gray skies of the previous months fade into distant memories. And the fun begins.


  1. Thank you! It's hard to take a bad photo in such beautiful surroundings, though :-).