Wailing winds

My sister’s Chihuahua and Maltese were ready for their evening walk. They barked impatiently waiting for their leads.

Only as we stepped out of the door did I remember how dark nights in rural Somerset could be. No light from the sky broke through the thick cloud cover. Once we would have stepped back inside the door to find a flashlight. Instead, smartphone torches provided the illumination that would once have depended on Ever Ready.

The dog end of October always seemed a time when the year was dying. days and months were in double figures and the disappearance of the daylight was always accentuated by the turning back of the clocks. The deep gloom of the road toward the windmill captured the mood of the season.

“Less than eight weeks to the solstice,” I said to the night air.

The mild breeze grew into a blustery wind of a force that would make sea travel unpleasant, its presence audible in a deep moan from the overhead electricity power lines.

The sound brought a momentary recall of a day in childhood.

The road is a place where the wind blows steadily and consistently, as one might expect of a place where a windmill was built two hundred years ago, but there would be moments each winter when the steady wind would grow to gale force and there would be a threat of damage.

The day was one when my father was away, probably working at Lossiemouth or at Kinloss, air stations in Scotland where the air came down from the Arctic, places that made Somerset seem a year round summer land.

Perhaps the weather forecast had been severe for it was with a sense of urgency that my mother gave instructions to “batten down the hatches.” Anything that could be stored away was moved, covers were weighted down, doors and windows were secured. It seemed activity more appropriate to the high seas than to a council house garden distant from the coast.

The storm arrived with a wail of the wind through the wires, the sound a lament, a Banshee cry, a mourning for the loss of the summer and the daylight.

Since then it has been a mournful sound, a sound of the restriction, the isolation brought by the dark months of the year.  The wind blows in mocking tones, aware of its power to bring confinement, to intimidate, to spoil. On a late October evening, it was an anticipation of winter.


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