How this slim hardback arrived at my bedside I know not. Laurie Lee is best known for `Cider with Rosie` a book I have never read. But the book appeared, and its cover photograph invited closer inspection. Inside in short `notes` of a few pages each is some of the best writing about the magic of the English seasons seen through the eyes of an unusually perceptive and imaginative writer of English prose.
Just read this, entitled `A cold Christmas walk in the country` written from memory of his childhood in a now-vanished Gloucestershire:
"Pushing the cold before me like a sheet of tin, I set off up the Christmas road. It is a morning for heroes and exhilarating exile, a time to shock the blood back to life, while I go stamping frost-footed along pathways of iron, over grass that is sharp as wire, past cottages hollowed out like Hallowe`en turnips all seething with lights and steam.
I climb up the valley, breathing hard the sharp air which prickles the nostrils and turns to vapour. To be walking today is to be followed everywhere by private auras of pearly cloud. The wandering cows are exhaling too - pale balloons of unheard conversation. The ploughed fields below me have crusts like bread pudding, delicately sugared with twinkling frost. the distant pastures are slivered, crumpled and bare. Even the light they reflect seems frozen."
Reading this on a kodachrome February morning in the cool blue winter suntrap that is the flat roof of our Tokyo house I thought of a painting I love to gaze at in Sydney`s Art Gallery of New South Wales, called `Spring Frost` by Elioth Gruner.
There is something magical about those frosty white-bright winter mornings in the English countryside when the world seems to stand still and wait in a spell-like silence. Laurie Lee continues:
" Where was this valley last summer? It was not here then. Winter and summer are different places. This beech wood, for instance, so empty now, no more than a fissure of cracks in the sky - where is the huge lazy heaving of those June-thick leaves, reeking of sap and the damp roots of orchids, rustling with foxes and screaming with jays and crammed to the clouds with pigeons? The wood, for the moment, is but the scaffold of summer. It stands stripped to the bruising cold. A dark bird or two sit along the bare branches. None of them move. They might be caged".
Wonderful stuff. Inspiring. Do you long with a kind of sentimental rose-tinted recollection for the salad days of childhood, messing about outdoors with pals in the winter snow? Sledging for dear life, skidding on frozen ponds, snowball fights and red-nosed glee. If you like this writing, buy the book! www.amazon.co.uk/Village-Christmas-English-Penguin-Classics/dp/024124367X/ref=sr_1_1?srs=1648031031&ie=UTF8&qid=1486865485&sr=8-1&keywords=village+christmas