Monday, December 20, 2010

I love Dylan Thomas

My little camera can't cope with so much brightness. Most of my snow pictures are just blindingly white blurs. This photo was taken yesterday before Mr Life and I dug out the drive, the street and quite a lot of the street at right angles to ours. Then it snowed a lot more. This morning I did it all again - not good for a woman with a bad back. But we're keen not be be left with solid packed snow-turned-to-ice on the road. Last time, we didn't take it seriously because, as I keep claiming, we don't really get much snow. (Hollow laugh.)

My brother, wife and offspring are supposed to be coming up from Surrey (near London) on Christmas Eve. They did plan to drive but have now bought train tickets. Darling Daughter 2 and her fiancé are coming from London by train on the 23rd, fingers crossed, and Son on Christmas Day. I don't see all of this happening. Son currently lives north of here and will have to drive. Anyway, this is why I'm trying so hard to make our streets passable.

Meanwhile, here's a bit of Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales", which I LOVE. No one uses language as he did. I've read this with classes at Christmas for thirty years. It makes me squirm with pleasure - and at least while I'm reading it, I'm reconciled to the Arctic scenes outside.

Years and years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the colour of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlours, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor-car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed.

But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from whitewash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely white-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards."

"Were there postmen then, too?"

"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all the children could hear was a ringing of bells

"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat and the doors rang?"

"I mean that the bells that the children could hear were inside them."

"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."

"There were church bells, too."

"Inside them?"

"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged towns, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy beneath my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence."

"Get back to the postmen."

"They were just ordinary postmen, fond of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on doors with blue knuckles..."

"Ours has got a black knocker..."

"And then they stood of the white Welcome mats in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out."


  1. Thank you for posting this. I love Dylan Thomas too and have shared his wonderful language with children over the years. I bought a beautifully illustrated "Child`s Christmas in Wales" when we visited the Dylan Thomas Museum in Swansea , some years ago. Somehow it has got lost and must still be at school somewhere.....

    I do hope that your family reunion can happen in time for Christmas, although things don`t look good for travellers this week. Snow is falling fast and thick in the south of England today. Fingers crossed for a timely thaw!

  2. To take photos in the snow turn the little dial on the back of the camera to "Scene". I'm fairly sure that this is currently set for snow scenes.

    "Helpful" advice from Mr Life!

  3. That book is always brought out at Christmas here.

  4. Thank you for this....have just spent a happy moment or two savouring each sentence.

  5. His language is magic.

  6. Ah Dylan.....

    Thankyou for reminding me. I was imagining my Welsh Nanna's accent when reading this.

    Happy Christmas Isabelle. Hope all the family find you.

  7. Hahaha -- I love that Mr. Life posted a comment! I wouldn't know how to handle myself if TMotH commented on my blog.

    Thank you for posting that beautiful passage. See, the snow IS beautiful. I do hope everyone makes it to your house safe and sound -- it sounds like a wonderful gathering of everyone in the Life family!

  8. How absolutely gorgeous, thank you so much!

    I hope you and yours are safe and warm wherever you are, and wish you many joyful reunions whenever they may happen.

  9. I read this the other night after watching the news about all that snow, and I found myself wishing you had been my English teacher...

  10. Many thanks for the re-introduction. Dylan Thomas makes me 'squirm with pleasure' too. Last home was in S Wales, and he captures the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of Welsh-English beautifully, making them all dance to his own tune: gorgeous!
    Bonne année.