This year the weather people are again talking about the cold that’s coming, the hard, icy winter - last year was supposed to be colder than any since 1962, the year that Sylvia Plath died, that terrible early February of the full moon and the howling wolves. I lived around the corner from her and remember it well. Or to be more precise the details I learned later became the imagined past and filled the place of memory. I read Ariel when I was fifteen, heard what happened just a short walk away from the flat where I lived with my mother and sister near Primrose Hill and I thought that if only I had known her I could have done something to change the situation, that we could have been friends and I could have saved her. That she may not at that point have welcomed the friendship of a nine-year-old child didn’t occur to me until years later, but by then the idea had lived in me so long it had taken a kind of root. And I wrote a story called “Saving Sylvia”. So it goes.
My neighbour says he is ready now for whatever comes. It can hail and sleet and huff and puff and his house can withstand it all. He is a builder. He has filled in all the cracks, lagged and plastered, rendered and made good. In our house there are cracks and imperfections but I think it will do and can’t help wanting the clean, sharp bite of real cold, something strong enough to harden the earth. Clear bright nights with stars. I fear it when I think of my children, grown as they are, out in it without enough warm clothes, but want it too, more than the long, grey, warm and wet days with cars slushing through congested streets and flooding in the low-lying parts of the county, the sky with its endless incontinent weeping and mutterings about the effects of global warming. I am ready for the cold.
And now it is almost epiphany. Here is the beginning of T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi”:
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’