Unlike the U.S., Britain doesn't have a rodent to predict the coming of spring, like Punxsutawney Phil does in Gobbler's Knob, Pennsylvania every February 2nd. There isn't a Hedgehog Harry living in Helions Bumpsted ( I didn't make that up--it's a real village in Essex), to prognosticate the weather. If there was, Hedgehog Harry definitely would have seen his shadow and retreated back into his hedge on the outskirts of Helions Bumpsted, and wouldn't be seen again until March.
After a very mild start to the winter, we've been hit since last week by orange alerts, yellow alerts, and various other cautionary colors, from the Met Office--which is the next best thing to Phil and Harry in predicting the U.K.'s weather. Right now we are under a yellow alert for cold and snow, with up to 10cm of snow on it's way! That may sound impressive, but it's only (get this North Dakota) 4 inches of snow. The weather people raise the alarm over temperatures as low as -10, (oh dear!), except that's celcius, making it 14F. It's a little hard to take it all seriously, after living through winters of -32F, in places where we had to plug in our car at night. But it's all what you are used to, so I'll allow them all the weather drama and just enjoy the beauty the cold days bring.
A friend and I braved the windy cold last week to spend the afternoon in the Cotswolds. It was clear and frigid and the sky bluer than blue, and it looked so different in the winter's light. What a difference a few months make, from the days last June when I wrote about roses blooming in almost every doorway and along garden walls. On a January afternoon there was not a blowzy pink rose in sight. Just the clear, sharp lines of a winter's day.
As I'm writing this, the first flakes of the predicted snow are moving in from the west and starting to fall. By morning Oxford will be frosted with snow and look nearly as magical as Narnia, with all the spires outlined in white. Thinking about it, maybe there should be a green alert for 'beauty on it's way'. Time to put another log on the fire and I hope that wherever Punxsutawney Phil and Helions Hedgehog Harry are, they are keeping warm too.
*Photos above: Bridge over the river Windrush, a cottage doorway, The Old Mill and the church tower, Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire, February 1st, 2012.