Monday, 9 February 2009

Winter 46/47

Finally, the siege is over for the moment; we have today managed to get the car out of the garage for the first time in over a week. Mind you, only after the afternoon's rain; this morning the courtyard was still an ice rink and the car performed some quite graceful waltzes before we gave up trying. I only found out today that one can help oneself to grit from the gritsalt boxes in the village car park, a shovelful or two would have come in very handy.

And still, this winter is a doddle compared to the winter of 46/47. I slept in a tiny glory hole under the roof. The room had a small window with thick panes of glass. Every morning this glass was covered in the most wonderful and intricate patterns of ice ferns and flowers,
which I traced with my fingers until they became numb with cold. These patterns were a daily fascination and wonder to me. There was no way of heating the attic, the flowers therefore stayed on the window all day and all night, the designs changing into ever more spectacular forms, giving me endless delight.

On several occasions the villagers were allowed to gather firewood from the nearby woods, the same woods which helped to hide the coal thieves; however, this permission was granted by the parish authorities under the strict understanding that no live wood was taken and certainly no trees were felled.

Again, mother, father and I set out, joining the villagers in their quest to gather as much firewood as we could transport on our bicycle. We had also borrowed our landlord's handcart
(this is another story for another time), we were therefore well equipped. Dad had brought an axe - to chop up fallen branches, he said.

Once in the woods we set to work, mum and I dragging fallen branches to Dad who chopped them up. We picked up as much of the smaller brushwood, twigs, sticks and kindling as we could, but the whole haul amounted to very little. Dad decided to chance his luck; there was a small tree very close by, nobody was watching, the axe swung --- and landed in Dad's foot, cutting through his boot. There was blood on the axe, on the boot, on the trampled snow; there was also no help for it, we had to collect our belongings and get home as soon as we could, Dad still trailing blood. At home, Mum bandaged up Dad's foot as well as she could; I was sent to fetch an old nurse; she came, understood what had happened and did what was necessary. Dad kept his foot, but for several weeks afterwards our little family remained housebound.

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