74. Winter in Thrush Green - second in the Thrush Green series
by Miss Read
first book for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge
You may remember when I wrote about the book, Thrush Green I said that the whole collection was given to me by a most kind and generous reader of my letters. Along with the books, she also gave me two handmade bookmarks - a Christmas one and a New Year's one. She asked me not to mention her name, but I would like to thank her again for her thoughtful gifts.
This installment of the Thrush Green series begins in October and continues on into March, divided into three sections: The Coming of Winter, Christmas at Thrush Green, and The New Year. The weather and the seasons get star billing in the Miss Read books.
Unless one was prepared to get one's washing out really early in October, then one might as well dry it by the fire, for the days were so short that it virtually didn't dry at all after three or four in the afternoon.With such descriptions does Miss Read, the pen name of Dora Jessie Saint, keep the weather in the forefront as her characters go about their lives. There is a winter episode which brings a literal and figurative chill to the reader. Dotty Harmer is one of the real 'characters' in the Thrush Green series. She makes up herbal concoctions, and various foods which too often give their receivers 'Dotty's collywobbles.' She lives alone, still basking in the memory of her beloved schoolmaster father. She keeps chickens outdoors and cats indoors. They are most precious to her, indeed they are her family. When there is a big snowstorm which closes the roads and pathways around the town, Dotty gets sick without anyone knowing. There were no cell phones or alert bracelets then. She went without heat or food for days and if two young boys hadn't been 'trespassing' in a man's hedge, using it as a hideout from the world, they wouldn't have seen her across the field, leaning out her window and ringing a bell for help. On such a small thing does life often depend.
Rain continued to sweep the Cotswolds throughout November and the wooded hills were shrouded in undulating grey veils.
Young Doctor Lovell found his hands full. Coughs, colds, wheezy chests, ear-ache, rheumatic pains, stomachic chills and general depression kept his car splashing along the flooded lanes of Thrush Green and Lulling.
It was one of those still, quiet days of winter, when everything seems to be waiting. No breeze disturbed the plumes of smoke from Thrush Green's chimneys. The trees stood bare and motionless. On the hedges small drops of moisture hung; no breath of wind disturbed them, no beam of sunlight lit them to life. The sky was low and of uniform greyness.
It snowed for two days without ceasing, and an easterly wind, which sprang up during Sunday night, caused drifts several feet deep.
The mild weather allowed the schoolchildren to play outside, much to their teachers' relief. ... and the good people of Thrush Green, so long winter-bound, pottered about their gardens, admiring the silver and gold of snowdrops and aconites, and watching the daffodils push their buds above ground.
And whatever the weather outside, there is nothing like a Thrush Green fireside for ease and comfort.
The fire crackled and blazed hospitably giving forth a sweet smell of burning apple wood.Change is brewing in this book. Surprising, and not so surprising, romances bloom. An older person is even more ill than in the first book. A newcomer moves to town bringing much excitement. There is an attack on the schoolmistress. As in life, there is no sense of time standing still in Thrush Green. The seasons of the natural life and the seasons of peoples' lives move along as the books progress. The Christmas season is quite beautiful as you might expect in a small English village.
With only a fortnight to go before Christmas Day Lulling [a nearby village] people were beginning to bestir themselves about their shopping. London might start preparing for the festival at the end of October; Lulling refused to be hustled. October and November had jobs of their own in plenty. December, and the latter part at that, was the proper time to think about Christmas, and the idea of buying cards and presents before then was just plain silly.To which we, fifty years on, might heartily say, amen! Spending a little reading time in Thrush Green might be just the cure for the hustle and bustle of the season.
'Who wants to think of Christmas when there's the autumn digging to do?' asked one practically.
'Takes all the gilt off the gingerbread to have Christmas thrown down your throat before December,' agreed another.
This is my first adult book for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.