Somewhere between sweeping the hall and getting my mop out, the steady rain turned to snow. Slushy snow, at first, more wet than icy. It dropped, novel and clean, onto the muddy lawn. The grey clouds turned from something dull to something special.
By the time I was rinsing my bucket I had trodden a definite path between the back door and the standpipe. The flakes, huge and heavy, redecorated my jumper and, uncertainly, the garden turned from green and brown to white and brown, and then pure white.
Nobody had expected it to snow. It was far too wet for it to stick. But it did so anyway, for an hour or two. My forlorn garden, the village rooftops, even the street outside looked lovely.
By the time I met Fliss in town it had long since melted. The ragged heaps of slushy brown, pushed irreverently to one side, had shrunk away in the sunshine. I took Fliss to the bakery to buy Chelsea buns for tea, and as we cycled home she pointed out tiny islands of white, hiding in the shade, dripping from low bushes.
It was only she and I, that afternoon. She laid and lit the fire as I warmed the pot and set our favourite tea things on the tray. I thought about the baby girl I had visited that morning, and about this girl of mine, old enough for matches and strong tea. I watched her over the rim of my cup as she nibbled her bun, engrossed in her book, and tried to remember her as a little thing, and almost couldn’t.
The rest of them trickled home, one by one, beneath the setting sun. Ben on his bicycle, squash racquet slung over one shoulder, satchel heavy with books. Isle, brought home by the mother of a little friend, having had a tea party of their own. Seb, with John, after an early evening jaunt in town. They had a present for me, a flat shape in a paper bag. A recording of a fantasie by Telemann: number three, to be precise. The fantasie I have been battling with for several weeks now, unable to turn the relentless semi-quavers into music.
I settled the needle onto it and set it turning while the potatoes boiled. And then, I heard how it should be done.
We played it again during supper, and once more afterwards, while I looked at the notes on the page. Now I saw them with fresh eyes. Not groups of four, marching up and down the stave, but threes and fives and, every now and then, a pause. Phrases. Consciousness.
I had a go, mimicking what I had heard, and what had been an excercise in reading accidentals became having a go at a piece. This was fun. Wobbly, far from perfect fun. Thank goodness for fresh eyes.