December 18, 2010


More heavy falls of snow; London a white whirl this morning, the cars at a crawl. The wind, bringing in a weather front from the north-east, helped with the finer details, too, and when the air cleared the trees wore white on one side of their trunks only, the twigs loaded asymmetrically and the air, finally, whisper-still.

Late afternoon and in many of the streets the distinction between road and pavement has been lost. It's academic, anyway; in the snow the city is at a standstill, post-apocalyptic. Lights burn dully in the tower blocks, the sky pressing dark against the high panes. The winter sun slowly ebbs and fails.

Where are the birds? Huddled, motionless, invisible. A magpie, calling 'cchhack' overhead, breaks the muffled silence, and a crow, beady-black, patrols the white sweep where once the road was. But the trees and thickets are still. Why burn energy when there's a freezing night to get through, and who knows how many more after that?

In the winter of 1947, and again in '63, songbirds fell dead from the sky and Arctic owls flew in from Norway to pick over the frozen animals in our fields. In the city we switch on the lights and turn the heating up. But we forget how fierce and near the wild is at our peril.