The first snows of winter have fallen. We don’t get heavy snowfalls here in South Africa, the climate is Mediterranean and our winters balmy. But there are cold days and nights from time to time. No central heating, so we feel it when temperatures drop.
I’m drinking Horlicks out of a large mug with my fingers wrapped around the mug for warmth. A friend has just given us a basket of apples, bright red crisp and crunchy apples, the last and best of the autumn pickings. I am thinking about apple pie.
The small dogs are curled up tightly, like cats, against the cold. I am wearing thermal vests and the cough seems to be easing. Strong snow-laden winds are driving down the dark clouds rimmed with silver, clouds streaming overhead from the north. Acorns are clattering onto tin roofs and the trees are shaking themselves free of leaves. It is bitterly cold and the mountain peaks are ribbed with snow.
I have been lying under the duvet reading Kilvert’s diary describing the Welsh Borders in the 1870s, countryside little changed from the way it looks today. I feel so nostalgic for that sweet river-green and gentle countryside, sparkling in the spring with dripping greens and mists and a grey almost solemn beauty on cloudy days.
And the calm of days such as these is all to do with steady and unbroken sobriety, the peace and quiet of life lived without reactivity and excess. I would have enjoyed life as an Victorian spinster in a small village, baking apple pies and visiting the sick, staying away from the gentlemen’s port. But maybe not. Only in recent decades have women enjoyed enough freedom and independence to be able to say and write what they like. And even then ony a minority.And only recently have women had the same opportunities as men to get sober — but that is another story. I must go out and shell pecan nuts for baking, a large bowl of fresh pecan nuts from a garden in Berg Street. Then I shall peel apples and come back to write another great whirlpool of fiction. Freedom opens a life to the power of mystery and personal challenge.