The weather up here has been appalling, ever since yesterday afternoon when the squally wind got up and bursts of violent rain began to hit us, both driving from the north – the worst direction of all. This is an epic storm. In keeping with the pathetic fallacy, turbulence is everywhere: the cat flap blocked overnight; a cold blast driven through our kitchen where warmth from the range is usually constant; the morning run abandoned perforce; that feeling of impending doom pervading everything. Out on the islands, the wardens are worried about the safety of the baby seals, so mountainous are the seas which are obscuring land. With neither electricity nor running water on Inner Farne life is always harsh for the National Trust workers but in conditions like these it is frightening, as the fear within tightens its grasp on the guts and the claustrophobia of helplessness intensifies. Sometimes they are stranded out there for weeks at a time, reduced to a few bars of chocolate to get them through. Here, battling as we do against the elements in our own little House of Shaws, dismissed in half a sentence by the BBC radio forecast, we focus on a private need for fortitude and patience, that most mature of virtues. Somewhere deep within the bushes, our little sparrow friends are holding fast with locked knees, longing no doubt to feed once again on the various provisions they expect to find. Where do the chunky wood pigeon hunker down, so proprietorial and stately? Unable to move the world on one jot, or extend a life one day by worry, we all busy ourselves by leaning hard and cuddling up. Good that the feeders – with their nuts, nyjer seeds and fat balls – are swinging in waiting. Good that the bread has been crumbed, ready to be put out when the wind abates. Good that more logs were delivered and despatched into the store early yesterday morning, before the chaos came – it was never predicted by anyone. Good that we are warm and dry and the new roof has passed its first test; that we have a full mixer bin and the butcher will have new jellies for us today. Good to have decided to stay put, there being strength in numbers, when all one can think of is the past and the future seems so uncertain. In circumstances like these, everywhere else seems so far away from our little corner of the world but while they are here with us, there is nothing to fear. As someone famous once wrote:
When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
Without bad weather, we would never be able to enjoy a fire!