Wednesday morning. Birdsong, drizzle. The constant background roar of the bypass, the occasional metallic ululations of a passing train transporting early-morning commuters into the capital. A typical Hildenborough morning soundscape in early spring. While not understanding the mechanics of the process, I have noticed how rain – all rain, but particularly a thick curtain of fine rain or mist – magnifies the sound of the distant trunk road and the railway tracks that bisect the fields behind. Pondering on these things, I realise why I have missed the snow, why I always long for the snow when it seems that all around me dread the faintest rumour of its arrival. It’s not so much the excitement of looking out of the window in the morning to discover your world blanketed in white. Nor is it the prospect of snowball fights and sledging, of watching Bill testing the alien coldness with a tentative paw before diving in, tail up and head down, nose bent to the trail with that degree of focus and determination only seen in snow or after a heavy frost. Nor even is it the pure, childish pleasure of being the first to arrive at some virgin drift, boot-clad feet breaking through the taught crust, descending through the powder beneath, crushing and compacting ice into chunky treads. I love that about a good, deep fall of snow. But it’s not what I miss most.
It’s the silence.
I miss the silence. In order to maintain a sense of balance I need to spend a good proportion of my time outside, working in gardens, running or walking through woods and fields, and I’m aware how fortunate we are to live in a county where this can be a daily reality. But appreciative as I am of our surroundings, I can’t fool myself for long that this is anything approaching wilderness. Stand still and listen, deep into country footpaths almost anywhere in Kent, and beneath the sound of the birds and the animals, and the wind in the trees, you’ll almost certainly become aware of the noise of the transport systems that crisscross the countryside, not to mention the ever present rumble of air traffic far above. Much of this is necessary to maintain the lives we live – I don’t dispute that. But a heavy fall of snow stops the lot. Inconvenient, undoubtably. But, for a few days, silent.
I wonder if the snow will come this year? I think probably not. But I take comfort in remembering.