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Spring gale

From indoors the noise is the first thing we notice, a deep, machinery roaring that seems to be direction-less, like a far away aeroplane at first but then it rises in volume and there is a burst of sound as a gust tries to pick up the house and carry it away. Everything is in motion outside. The upper branches on the trees behind our garden fence thrash about in a frenzy, as if trying to shake off something unpleasant. Each leaf flashes its pale underside to the wind as it hangs on grimly; it is the first experience these leaves have had of this as they are not long unfolded. Now whole trees give before the blast, bending to an impossible angle, each young branch lining up downwind. The air is suddenly full of debris, green leaves, some still attached to twigs which have reached breaking point and been torn free.

There is a brief moment, a false calm where the gale seems to recede, to gather its strength, but it is momentary and the roaring comes again, hissing through the tree-tops, then flattening the grass, dropping down to ground level to pick up what it left before. The glass in the window through which we are watching creaks and gives slightly to the wind but holds firm. Leaf debris patters against it, a sprinkling of rain now, although the sun still shines down and warms us. Our garden birds have gone to cover, most of them, although there is one opportunistic blackbird pecking in the garden trying to ignore the indignity of having his flight feathers turned inside out by the wind. He flies off but remains low, picking his moment to dart into the shrubbery.

The sky darkens and more rain comes. It sweeps down from the hill in misty waves, moving rapidly along the conifer backdrop before it spatters angrily against our glass. The rain is there in the wind although we don’t see it as it moves too fast and hardly wets the ground. It comes in a squall which whines and screams under the eaves but the wind is invisible still, only its ghostly touch is felt and the clouds race by.

Although it is our first gale since moving here, we are not surprised to find ourselves in such an event. We are fully aware that we now live close to the usual track a depression tries to follow on this side of the Atlantic and a natural consequence of this will be periods of strong winds and heavy rain. There are many compensations to living here, too many to mention, but whilst we can see them, others may see only the worst. Strong winds can and frequently do cause havoc; we can expect them to disrupt our comfortable lives.

An hour ago I was speaking on the phone and just as the conversation ended our electricity supply was cut off, as if it was only waiting for the moment the receiver was replaced. Like many others in the village now we are without power and many of the things we take for granted are lost. We cannot heat ourselves nor cook. The kettle lies idle. The freezer is silent (now slowly warming) but daylight means we do not lack for light. So long as our mobile phone batteries last we can still communicate with the outside world but we assess our situation, making ready the candles and torches for later in the day. Our house is heavily reliant on electrical power, but no more so than those of many of our neighbours. Our plans to install a coal stove will eventually rectify this, so we are better able to cope with power cuts when they occur in winter, but this is some way down our list of priorities at the moment.

It is not just windy, it is exciting. Kate in a galeSo unable to stand it any more, we pull on our coats, zippers are yanked up and we stride off to the beach just in time to catch a heavy shower which soaks everything that is not waterproof, drenching our legs and shoes. The cold water has barely time to penetrate though for within minutes the sun has popped out and we are drying again as we battle on against the gale, which now begins to taste salty from spray picked up in Carradale Bay and being blown ashore. The tide is high now, made higher with wind behind it, and the sandy beach has vanished beneath a veil of foam which comes streaming off the wave crests. Spume wobbles up against the turf of the dunes or rolls along the shore like big lumps of sponge. We struggle to stand, overawed by the sheer wildness of what we are seeing, thrilled as young children.

Returning home via the village shop and bakery we find that the electricity has been reconnected and our preparations for a cold, candlelit supper are put on hold. Perhaps the sense of excitement we feel is not shared by the whole of Carradale, it is not an unusual occurrence after all, but this does not mean we cannot enjoy it.

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