An itch you can’t scratch

Sunday March 5, 2006

There’s been a covering of ice on the pond each day now for something like a week, broken during the fruitless fishing exercise and thawed daily at one corner as the winter sun reaches it about mid-morning. Lacking an external thermometer, I tend to regard the pond as a rather more interesting and organic measure than a column of mercury rising and falling against an artificial scale. A thermometer registers the temperature in its immediate surroundings only. A pond breathes and changes to a complex of factors as temperatures rise and fall in the air, on the surface, and in the earth itself.

Each morning, when the sun reaches the pond, I turn the pump on and watch in fascination as the water stream hits the surface of the ice, spreading out over it while thawing a hole where it falls. Soon enough, the first sign that an opening is just about to be made, bubbles of air form under the spout, grow, and move in flattened discs under the ice towards the edge where they gloop against the pond wall in search of a way to rejoin the atmosphere. A little later, a real opening is made, the water on the surface drains towards it, and that end of the pond slowly loses its icy covering.

As the sun goes down, I turn the pump off once more, the water stills and, in the darkness, freezes over once more.

Inside the house the air grows drier and drier, creating a sparky environment like nothing so much as it might be inside of a Leyden jar, with an increasingly cross and angry Dolly the Mega-cat wandering about, doing a fair imitation of the way a wild Wimshurst machine would behave if it had hair and a major attitude problem. In fairness, static electriity does sting a bit.

My own body measures the atmospheric conditions, too. Joints get stiff and cranky; nothing new there. In this protracted period of dryness however, my skin protests by getting all itchy and scaly, requiring a liberal daily application of coconut butter to keep the itching bearable and to avoid splitting. You can tell how cold and dry it’s been by the intensity of the chocolate factory aroma as you walk past me.

I seem to be closely in tune with the natural metrics in the house and garden and the surrounding countryside just now. More so than I can remember since, years back, I kept a nature journal in which I noted the slow measures of change in the world about me. Might be time to start that again… when we’re settled once more.

When we’re settled… I could do with a measure for the feeling behind those words. I’m enjoying the build up to change, and shall enjoy the change itself, along with the house hunting and business side of acquiring a new dwelling place. But if you engaged me in that still, quiet moment of the evening as the sun seems to hesitate on the horizon before dropping away out of sight, I’d probably reveal the depth of my feelings of impatience, anticipation and, yes, irritation at the slowness of it all. I do so desperately want to be settled once more.

Hey ho. My life today has been characterized by an avoidance of scratching. Of the irritation of dry skin, which I mustn’t scratch, and the irritation of mind that comes with moving house, which I can’t. Nothing quite so all-pervasive as an itch you can’t scratch.


A sandwich you can’t bite
“Did you just take a photo of me?” I asked.
“What on earth for?”
“You’ll know that when you see the expression on your face.”

* * * * *

As a footnote, the Hollywood Oscar results were being covered on the early morning radio news programme while I was formatting and proofing the above. The Curse of the Were Rabbit took the prize for Best Animation and, for a moment, the Wallace and Gromit theme tune wafted over the waves.

“We ought to adopt that as our National Anthem,” I said.

“How do you mean?”

I paused for a moment only, then sang (to the Wallace and Gromit tune, please):

“Oh, ain’t it great to be British,
 British is best by far.
 Oh, ain’t it great to be British,
 Every Briton’s a star!”

“Bloody hell, that’s impressive,” Graham said. “And funny, too.”

“Thanks. It helps to be a poet, sometimes.”



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