Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Eve Arrival

Spidery black fingers whip past, their forms keener than usual, crystallised against the mottled white background. The sun climbs with gargantuan effort from the horizon, as a climber negotiating a tricky overhang, tracing a shallow arc of iced fire: the most brilliant, blinding light, but imparting imperceptible warmth. A pair of geese, startled by the train, take to the air. A couple, layered in coats, gloves, scarves and hats, walk with their dogs along an icy path through the grass; a seam of silver bisecting the frozen field. The little rivers scattered across the Weald flow viscously between the matted remnants of reed beds. A heron imparts only statuary to the scene. On a day like this, even the chub and perch will be lethargic, and only the weekly meal of a pike, or the occasional bite of a grayling, will provide a whisper of hope of contact to the frigid angler.

Suddenly the fields, inhabited by flocks of Southdowns, turn a shockingly intense green, contrast which is jarring, though the hills are still white and grey. Arundel Castle stands stoically, overlooking the broad flood plain of the Arun. Soon the Weald yields to suburbia, then Portsea Island and Portsmouth - a dialogue between the proud, reserved architecture of its naval history and its post-war reconstruction. At last, the Cat carries me across the waters, and reality recedes.

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