Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gods and rural paranoia

The gods, the weather gods are angry with us! Never should I have mentioned the mildness of this year's beginning. The Blue-Faced Hag, 'Cailleach Bheur' the Celtic goddess of winter, woke up, dumped some 10 cm of snow on La Chaise, its fields and the roads around. Given that we are northerners, she probably had help from Ullr the Norse god of snow, stepson of Thor, the thunder-bolt thrower. Certainly there was help from Boreas, the Greek lord of winter in charge of the North wind. I know it was a collective god vendetta directed at La Chaise because there was no snow in the valleys! The snow did not start until the land had risen to some 200 metres, our level.

Legend has it that the BFH is re-born on All Hallows Eve every year (October 31) and dies again on Beltane's Eve, the night before May Day. In between times the BFH creates havoc with ice and snow where she can and where you would rather she did not. The result was that we were blocked on top of our hill for four days mostly because I was too pusillanimous to drive in the snow, even when the main road cleared. But also because I judged it not necessary. No way was I going to risk sliding into a ditch just for a loaf of bread or to collect the 2 kg of Seville oranges I had ordered from the fruit seller in St Astier market. And every which way to towns from La Chaise involves going down hill. I have experience of these conditions and anyway I had supplies.

Did you know that a Peugeot 504 estate car flies beautifully? Not very high, admittedly, but on a level trajectory and with only a short run needed to stop. I was coming from from the baker in Mensignac, had just turned into the road leading up the hill to La Chaise when the hail started. Some unspeakable driver coming the other way made me brake for the road there is very narrow. ( I know, I know – never brake in snow or on ice – now.) The Peugeot, which I loved dearly, took off gracefully, managed to fly between two clumps of trees, and landed, all four wheels in damp soil. I switched the engine off and breathed. I switched on again and tried to move – no way, up to the axles in mud. Fortunately Farmer Duchoze, our neighbour, came by on his tractor and the rest is history.

At the other extreme of vehicle range, the little Renault 5 does not fly, she slides. Not my fault this time, I did not brake but the tracks made by previously passing cars were too near the ditch. Down went the car and I got out disgustedly. No friendly farmer came but, fortunately, this time I was only 200 yards from home. Got home and telephoned for help.

No way was I going to repeat history. My number one grandson is due on earth any minute and he would be justifiably cross to have such a stupid Oma.

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