Some things remain as much of a thrill when you're (supposedly) grown up as they are in childhood. And one of them, along with sitting at the front on the top-level of a London double-decker bus, is watching the world turn white moment by moment in front of your nose as falling snow settles on the roofs, twigs and a few last brave leaves that are still hanging on. The magical transformation of our landscapes may be short-lived - and a heck of a nuisance if you have to travel - but it can also make us see everything afresh. We spot things, we hear noises, we sniff icicles we would never otherwise trouble to notice.
The glow of lamplight reaching pale crystals gathering on the windowsill, or the purposeful direction of the paw-marks padding to the bottom of the garden, widening as the edges begin to melt, and the preternatural hush that creeps over the house - whether because cars can't get down the road or because the snow is a muffler to all sound, like white plush in a concert hall. All of these can bring us the rush of wonder and newness that we too easily lose in the daily grind.
Tomorrow is my birthday. It hasn't snowed on my birthday since I was 16, a long, long time ago, and we've had to wait until the only occasion when I actually have to go somewhere - with no choice, as some significant work depends on it - for a serious band of weather to strike. British trains don't like weather. But I'm off to Brussels and I have to hope everything will run OK and get me to where I need to be. Still, the prospect of a train journey is quite welcome because I like having time to think and plot, and here's what I'm plotting.
I'm going to fill Meeting Odette with snow. Winter sparkles, windswept blustery landscapes, Christmas trees and glittery parties, scarves and overcoats and mittens. Christmas is the right time for fairy-tales. And snow is a fairy-tale. It's magic made visible, because magic is transformation. Odette transforms us as snow transforms our surroundings.
And is there a Christmas message to Meeting Odette? Yes and no. Renewal and hope are pretty universal - but we do need reminding about them. It's difficult to write about renewal and hope when your country is being sold down the river by its leaders and the very existence of much of what we value is in peril. Still, maybe that's all the more reason to do so.
I hope that all of you who have so very kindly pledged to this contemporary fairytale will enjoy the atmosphere I'm planning to bring to it. And if you haven't yet placed your pledge, this just might be the perfect moment to do so - not only because it's my birthday tomorrow >ahem<, but because there's a good chance that the book can come out in time for next Christmas. And that would be really wonderful. (Plus if you go for the Flock bundle, that's five of your Christmas presents 2018 sorted in one fell swoop.) Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Love and best wishes,
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