AS I write, it has started to snow again. We’re catching up with the rest of the country, I think; my social-media feed has been white for weeks, but it hardly ever seems to make its way into our cosy corner of Suffolk.
Snow never fails to remind me of the birth of my eldest, amid the relentless snowstorms as the year turned from 2009 to 2010. The weather almost caused her arrival to be in an ambulance on the slip road to the A14; and for the first few weeks of her life we used to joke that her frequent bouts of hiccups brought on snowfall.
Today, when I called her attention to white flakes falling once again outside our window, she responded mysteriously: “Oh, good; that worked, then,” leaving me to wonder, once again, whether she is in fact some sort of changeling from a winter fairy.
This would not explain her aversion to actually going out in the stuff. I have to rely on her little brother for the necessary ritual of snowman construction. This comes with its own peculiar liturgy: from wondering whether there will be enough snow, to reciting memories of snowpeople long since melted, to the final solemn placement of the nose and deciding who it looks like. The ritual finishes, of course, with the dismissal:
Mother: “Let’s go and make hot chocolate. I can’t feel my fingers.”
Child: “OK, but take a photo first.”
I’ve noticed that the snowpeople, like the children, are getting taller with each picture.
THIS time of school closure has been harder than the first one: we don’t have the adrenalin of being in a new crisis, only the tired drudgery of an old routine that we didn’t enjoy the first time around. We’re back to putting aside an hour to go for a walk, only to spend 20 minutes of it fighting to persuade the children outside, and another 15 minutes looking for lost gloves; back to creating foolproof timetables every evening, only to have them completely overturned by lunchtime.
We haven’t had the heart (or the time) to break out the board games that we enjoyed in the first lockdown, perhaps because tempers are shorter and I don’t fancy picking up all the little houses and roads when somebody wipes Settlers of Catan off the table.
But oddly familiar, half-forgotten tropes have resurfaced: a muntjac deer has taken up residence in our garden, echoing all those stories from last March of dolphins in canals and sheep wandering the streets of town centres. My daughter has named the deer Daffodil, because that’s probably what it’s eating. Spring might be a long time coming.
FOR Christmas, I sent the new biography of Victoria Wood to my parents in France. On Christmas Day, I opened their gift to me and found that they had sent exactly the same book. It’s quite a heavy hardback; so, if only we’d known, we could probably have saved the price of both volumes on postage.
I’m enjoying reading about Wood, whose stand-up routines and songs were part of my teenage years. I was a bit miffed to find that, by the time she was my age, she had written countless television scripts and was filling West End theatres on tour. But, then, she wasn’t trying to home-school two children in a global pandemic.
One memorable early scene in the book is her childhood theatre trip to see Joyce Grenfell: a woman alone on the stage, making people laugh, must have stuck in her imagination like a signpost. A baton being handed on.
Eye of the beholder
I AM back to spending my daytimes ranting about primary-school grammar requirements. (Do you know what a fronted adverbial is? Have you ever needed to know? Well, then.) So I’m snatching the witching hours of the day to work: preparing a book proposal, editing two proofs currently with their publisher, marketing existing books online.
Besides my own writing, I have the joy of compiling a book in celebration of 50 years of the Association of Christian Writers: it’s a compilation of fond memories and sound advice for the next generation of those who faithfully put pen to paper. Like everything else, the jubilee celebrations have been nudged forward by the pandemic, but the launch of the book later this year is something to look forward to, whatever happens.
With all these publications at different stages, I learned with sadness of the passing of Kevin Mayhew in January. It was when he was the organist at one of our churches that he watched some of my puppet sketches, and asked me to write my first book. I’m very grateful to him for his ability to look at a ventriloquist and see a publishing opportunity; and I know, from reading the memories of others in the Christian publishing industry, that I’m not the only one whose career was sparked by his keen eye and encouragement.
ALWAYS we begin again, as St Benedict said. Although it feels disheartening to have slithered down the Covid snake and ended up in a place not much further forward than square one, the vaccination programme promises ladders ahead; so we’d better not overturn the game board just yet.
I got up early to finish this Diary, and the dawn chorus is already striking up outside my window in what looks to me like pitch darkness; but the birds sense sunrise. Another day is on the way. I’d better get started.
Amy Scott Robinson is a writer, performance storyteller, and ventriloquist.