Thursday, 13 January 2011

A dangerous season

Tsubame gather together to get through the winter

Small birds fly up in a wheeling cloud and re-settle on the snow-covered rice drying rack. They have cause to be nervous - this is winter and they stand out in sharp contrast with the white ground, and there are eagles patrolling. People get together to get through the winter too. You need your neighbours even now that there are ploughs to clear the roads. In the old days life here must have become concentrated into a very small area, with travel all but impossible. People still have to keep on top of the snow, literally, especially if their roof is flat, unless they want it to collapse. The mayor's wife, no spring chicken, climbs out of her second floor window, then up a ladder to the flat roof, and leans far over to deal with the four foot cornice.

Workmen tackle the flat workshop roofs at the back. I am helping my next door neighbour clear the snow in front of someone's garage. He leans down to pull up one of the heavy metal grids over the drain, and the one next to it comes crashing down on his wrist with a sickening weight. My cry is louder than his grunt. The flesh is crushed to the bone but he shrugs it off as I hurry him home so that his wife can take him to the doctor. He is a very tough man and his body has the easy swing of a teenager. He nearly stumbles into the path of a truck. Amazingly it isn't broken, but it is very deep and needs stitches. The nurse tells him off for looking forward to his nightly sake as a pain killer. "No! No alcohol for you tonight!" What a shame, especially as both he and the mayor's wife had kindly given my son a traditional gift of money today.

The village is disappearing. Roofs, trees and river cuttings are barely recognisable under great pancakes and wedges of snow. There is less than usual, apparently, though 4ft fell on Christmas Day, making the news as the most in the country that day, and it is colder than usual too. The clank of chains on bulldozers wake us in the early morning, and the drivers wave cheerily from the high cabs, kings of the season.

Honna station on the Tadami line

The weather is blowing in from Siberia, and there are avalanche warnings every day, but no quarter is given, and life goes on. A woman walks her Dachshund on the main road, hemmed in by five foot banks of snow, cars and trucks batting along, swerving around her, the dog reined in just in time.

No comments:

Post a Comment