Of April Snow and Pathetic Fallacy

Only last Friday it was still spring – a hot spring at that. I travelled to Glamorgan University to take part in a workshop, lecture and reading on the residential component of their MPhil in creative writing. It’s wonderful to have an attentive, engaged audience and it was good to read with Kevin Mills, whose next collection, Libra, is simply stunning, at an event hosted by Philip Gross and his colleagues. Afterwards Philip took me and Kevin for an Indian meal at an unlikely looking place on an industrial estate in Trefforest – just to show how deceptive appearances can be (it looked like a converted fast food place from the outside), the meal was excellent, and the place was even called The Cinnamon Tree.

It was still spring on Sunday when Mavis Gulliver and her husband Richard called in after exploring Cwmorthin. Like me, Mavis is working on a poetry sequence inspired by abandoned slate workings – in her case the Scottish slate islands – so it was fascinating to compare notes once Mavis had seen ‘my’ village.

Then on Tuesday it was suddenly winter again and today I woke up to an odd noise coming from the phone as the power went off. We were only without electricity for a couple of hours, the shortest cut I think we’ve had in Tanygrisiau in the last ten years, but it was so cold. I was grateful that Rowan had already got the wood burner in the kitchen going and it didn’t need much encouragement with a gale roaring down the chimney while outside there was a blizzard of snow.

There are times when the mood of a place or weather acts as a metaphor for an emotional landscape – in writing the device of pathetic fallacy can be used to great effect – Emily Bronte is the queen of pathetic fallacy in Wuthering Heights – those gales on the moors mirroring the emotional upheaval and violence. As Anne Carson says astutely in her poem ‘The Glass Essay’, after reading Emily Bronte’s depiction of Heathcliff calling the ghost of Cathy to come in as another storm rages:

I fell on my knees on the rug and sobbed too.

She knows how to hang puppies,

that Emily.

Looking out of the window this morning at the snow hurtling in every direction, frenzied by wind, I wondered if I’d summoned the April snow. On Monday Cinnamon’s Paypal account was hacked. I was at my desk so saw the email saying I’d just bought an iphone (which I hadn’t) arrive. While I was filling in the fraud form online another email arrived and another so I had to abandon the forms to shut down my card while the business was still solvent before going back to sort out the mess. The subsequent form filling and phone calls took all of Monday and going over all my online accounts to change passwords ate up a chunk of Tuesday.

Then I got a text to say my youngest daughter was in hospital. She was hit by a bike and had a head injury. When I finally got to talk to her she was leaving the hospital for home, but had to put down the phone and return quickly when the staples popped out as she was walking. She’s much better today, but I hate that useless feeling of being so far away when there is an emergency and it’s exacerbated by the fact that tomorrow my other daughter will be twenty-four – wonderful, except that this is the first of her birthday’s that we won’t be together. The very good reason for that is that she is having a break away in Somerset and Bath with her partner. It’s a well-earned treat and I’m delighted she is off enjoying it, but I still miss her.

Somewhere in the daze of fraud and accidents and nostalgia for birthdays past I’ve done a very odd thing – I have a system for train tickets and they are labeled and put in one place only as soon as they are opened – but in the melee of events I’ve lost two envelopes of tickets. I’ve searched all the sensible places. I’ve tipped out bins and recycling boxes. I’ve even looked in the towel cupboard and underwear drawers.

It is so easy to lose attention for a moment and then… the tickets have disappeared, money is leaking away before your eyes, a bike is on top of you, your baby is twenty-four, the hot spring sun has turned to furious flurries of snow and the world is cold and white and slippery. Soul is ‘hewn in a wild workshop’ Anne Carson says, quoting Charlotte Bronte’s preface to Wuthering Heights. Indeed it is, and yet this snow won’t last – soon we’ll be able to sing with the writer of the Song of Songs:

See! The winter is past;

the rains are over and gone.

Flowers appear on the earth;

the season of singing has come…

And, of course, happy birthday, Tamsyn.


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8 responses to “Of April Snow and Pathetic Fallacy

  1. Oh heavens, what a week! I hope you find the tickets and get all the stolen money back, that spring returns to you quickly, and, most importantly, that all of you are soon well again. xxxx

  2. Thank you, Bobbie

    I unearthed the tickets at midnight last night 🙂
    Cottia is doing fine and Paypal will chug along – they did take it seriously and were helpful and not hard to contact, so that was all worth knowing.
    we’ had another power cut today – 3a.m. till a few minutes ago, but the freezer seems to have held up 🙂
    And despite bits of lingering snow – it looks like spring out there 🙂

  3. A lovely, meditative response to the ordinary muck of life. Thank you.

  4. So, so sorry you’ve had so much hassle and I hope everything sorts itself out soon. Cwmorthen is still on my mind. I took copious notes and will have a poem or two to send to you fairly soon – first drafts at least. I checked the map and realise we climbed 1700 feet to the quarry, a height I haven’t reached for a very long time; but those amazing inclines, and a determination to see as much as possible of the Welsh slate industry lured me on. We drove home through alternating swirling snow and persistent rain; but woke on Islay this morning to sunshine. During our three week absence the garden has come into bloom with forget-me-nots, daffodils, tulips, primroses… The trees have yet to come into leaf – clearly showing the difference between your Welsh countryside and our windblown island – but a robin is nesting opposite my kitchen window and Spring is definitely on the move.

  5. The garden sounds gorgeous – and I’d love to see the slate islands. Really looking forward to the poems in response to Cwmorthin too.
    Have a lovely Easter 🙂
    Jan x

  6. How I empathise with the baby turning 24! How that blinking Paypal is a problem! My hubby has started using a thing called Cardsave (not so good internationally perhaps) but you could google it and see if it would work for you. At the mo it seems to work for him but he’s not even as big as a small press in a small village. Glad everything got sorted in the end except for the wild weather …..thunder and hail one minute and cold sunshine the next! Hope all the baby birds and snails and bees who thought it was spring will survive. But I do want to go to the slate islands……

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