Posted by Tania Kindersley.
The snow seems to have scattered my brain entirely. I cannot settle to any reasonable train of thought. (So hope my agent does not read this.) Each morning I wake up to another deep fall and I feel as if I am six years old. It induces a combination of holiday mood and slight emergency measures. I have already rung my mother to discuss a compound plan if the power goes out. Older niece's other half, who is known to me as The Man In The Hat, because he is a man, and he wears a hat, says the compound plan is: light all the fires.
'But I won't be able to cook,' I wail.
'Camping stove,' he says, firmly.
'We are a bit worried that all the trees will fall down,' says the older niece.
We all stare solemnly up at the trees, like Chicken Licken waiting for the sky to fall on our heads.
'I see what you mean,' I say. They are creaking and groaning under the weight of the snow. Two have already gone down in the beech avenue, and lie like sleeping giants in their blanket of white.
'I'm thinking of getting snow tyres,' I say. 'This bloody four wheel drive won't go anywhere. Get four-wheel drive, they said. You'll be racing over the Tomintoul road in February, they said. Yesterday, I was almost stranded in the Co-op car park.'
I had already got stuck while taking my mother some truffle cake I had made, and been mocked in Doric. I was busy blaming the stupid car, while my tormentor wondered if the trouble was not something that sounded like 'dochnail'. The worst thing about being teased in Doric is that old southerners like me have to ask what the speaker is talking about.
'What does dochnail mean?' I said.
'How do you spell it?' I said.
'I did once get through Glenshee in a snowstorm,' I said, indignantly. 'And that was in the crappy BMW. Get an Audi, they said. No more back wheel drive. And now look.'
More howls of laughter.
I should not complain about my little car (it is an A3, not one of those four by four monsters) since it did get me home all the way from London, but now the serious weather has come, it is skidding all over the shop. My biggest worry is that I am confirming all the old platitudes about women drivers.
To soothe myself, I contemplate the marvels of the Doric. It is one of the great dialects of the world, and one of the keenest pleasures of living in the north-east of Scotland. Even after ten years here, if someone is speaking it very fast, I cannot follow half of it.
There are the lovely words: bleeter for aimless chatter; clarty for dirty; loon for boy; sotter for mess. But much of the beauty comes from the lyrical pronunciation. Heart is pronounced heert; what is fit; home is hame; never is nivver; more is mare; none is neen. Reading it on the page reminds me of my schooldays, studying Chaucerian middle English, with my teacher gleefully saying: Emily's toow-ra, thick and strang-we. (Emily's tower, thick and strong.)
One of the things I love most about it is that it just exists, in everyday speech. It is not one of those dialects which has gone into the academy, to be fenced in with intellectual contemplation, as if it were a rare and dying breed. It is not poked and studied and examined. The young people speak it as much as the old, with a fluent lack of self-consciousness.
It is also a marker of acceptance. If people round here are not quite sure of you, they will address you in formal, standardised, almost Anglicised Scots. If they start breaking out the Doric, then you know they are pleased with you, and no longer regard you as some mimsy Southern interloper. So although my friend on the drive was laughing at me, as my tyres span fruitlessly on the snow, I know that he was doing it with fondness, because he teased me in Doric. Although I cannot find 'dochnail' anywhere (the Google is baffled), and I have a small suspicion that he might just have made it up on the spot.
And now for the pictures. You may be amazed to see that we are still on variations on a theme. No prizes for guessing what the theme is.
This is what I saw when I opened my front door this morning:
Then we ventured out and saw this:
Even though it was the middle of the morning, the sky looked as if it were twilight:
The older niece and the Man in the Hat and their dog came marching out of the woods as if they were on an Arctic mission:
That was when we gazed at the trees:
While the dog investigated who had been up the drive:
(Sniff, sniff, sniff, eh Mr Gibbon?)
Another of the whited out, almost impressionistic views that I love so much:
Then, of course, there are the mandatory SNOW DOG pictures. I like these next two, even though they are out of focus and not good pictures in themselves. They make me laugh.
The Pigeon suddenly decided she needed a bit of a sit-down, even though it was in the middle of a blizzard:
The Duchess did not think that was a particularly good idea:
Then I managed to sharpen my wits and actually focus the camera, in order to capture the full beauty:
(Again I say to you: YEAH, SNOW DOGS.)
A little burst of colour in all the white:
And a final sculptural effort:
Happy snow day.