I came the closest I’ve been in recent years to getting nicked by the police yesterday. Thinking to take my Visitor from the North to have a look at the school where my children went when we first came to the Edge, we drove into the grounds (once the estate of the Lord of the Manor in these parts) and up to the Kindergarten where we were graciously welcomed in by one of the current teachers there who also happens to live in my road. It looked very much as it did when my son of four and daughter of six first went there – aesthetically pleasing with all the things made from natural and beautiful materials, it being a Waldorf school. I wanted also to show her the upper school building where the older children went, and where I myself had once been for two years as a child. The grounds seemed empty of children, the term not yet begun. An angry-eyed woman with metallic hair and a steely expression had been watching me as I drove slowly to and from the Kindergarten. She jumped into action as she saw us drive (very slowly) along the tarmac road within the grounds that led to the main building. She sprinted towards us and began shouting. Driving rather than walking up the path was never encouraged (I used to give myself license when muscles were bad) but now it was clearly forbidden. I indicated that I was leaving, but she ran in front of the car and blocked our exit. I’m not entirely sure what took hold of me, but instead of stopping and engaging with her I decided to reverse the car and drive off (slowly) the way we had come. She banged on the window, shouting that I was a health and safety menace and I saw her following me with a baleful stare from the rear-view mirror.
Back in the village centre, I felt uncomfortably that I ought to go back and find a way of apologising, partly for the sake of expedience – it doesn’t do to make enemies in a village on the Edge where you never know where or in what circumstances you will bump into a person – and partly because of (I am telling myself now) my naturally good disposition. And, I supposed, I had behaved like a bit of a plonker. I didn’t know if I would find her there, but clearly it was karmically ordained and she came over and began her tirade. It took a fair amount of time for her to hear my apology, let alone accept it. She made stabbing movements with her finger and anger rolled from her like big waves looking for somewhere to crash, but they washed over me and I kept surfacing, still able to keep afloat. I am not a bad person, all said and done, had just been a bit thoughtless about current health and safety regulations and the anger that kept coming was hers and did not belong to me. When she had done ranting there was a flicker of something else that crossed her face; helplessness, perhaps. What does she do when she is not angry? She might be the perfect person to have on one’s side when fighting for some cause, but on this occasion all she had was me in my Nissan Micra, an insubstantial demon who was trying to apologise but would not be diminished by her, however long she kept stabbing the air. Less than an hour later the police were at my house investigating, thinking to find a couple of drug-fuelled teenagers out on a speed-crazy joy-ride.
But all’s well that ends well, and we had a merry Epiphany evening chez Signs with some Edge-dwelling friends who came to meet the Forriner and melt the pewter horseshoes she had brought with her. Extraordinary stuff, you hold it in a large, flat metal spoon over a gas flame and when it is molten pour it into a bowl of cold water where it forms into a new shape, which you hold in candlelight to see what the silhouette might reveal about the year to come. Mine was in the shape of a Madonna, with a mermaid’s tail: Stella Maris, Star of the Sea – one hundred percent auspicious, by anyone’s reckoning.
And today the Icemaiden flew north to stay with NMJ and become Scottish for a while. The snow, it seems, has flown with her.