Snowdrops 1

A welcome relief today from the bitingly cold and wet weather we’ve endured lately.  As the clouds cleared this morning, the snowdrops in the front garden might have nodded nonchalantly: ‘Well, we’ve been stood here all along.’

In her new collection, The Overhaul, Kathleen Jamie has a poem which also captures the feeling at this time of year, on a day like this when the warmth returns, that spring might not be far off.  In her case, it’s not snowdrops but the return of a pair of ospreys from their winter sojourn in Africa to their roost near her town in Fife that does it:

The Dash

Every mid-February
those first days arrive
when the sun rises
higher than the Black
Hill at last.  Brightness
and a crazy breeze
course from the same airt –
turned clods, gleam, the trees’
topmost branches bend
shivering downwind.
They chase, this lithe pair,
out of the far south
west, and though scalding
to our wintered eyes
look, we cry, it’s here

The next poem in The Overhaul is on the same theme, but reminds us that there could be a whole lot more wintry weather yet:


You’ll be wondering why you bothered: beating
up from Senegal, just to hit a teuchit storm –
late March blizzards and raw winds – before the tilt

across the A9, to arrive, mere
hours apart, at the self-same riverside

Scots pine, and possess again the sticks and fishbones
of last year’s nest: still here, pretty much
like the rest of us – gale-battered, winter-worn,
half toppled away…..

So redd up your cradle, on the tree top,
claim your teind from the shining
estates of the firth, or the trout-stocked loch.
What do you care?  Either way,
there’ll be a few glad whispers round town today:
that’s them, baith o’them, they’re in.

Note: airt, Scottish Gaelic: a cardinal point of the compass; teuchit storm: wintery weather in March when the lapwings arrive from teuch, rough, wet and windy weather & teuchit, a lapwing; teind: tenth part of anything, tax, tithe. For appreciating Jamie’s poems to the full, I’ve found the Online Scots Dictionary invaluable.

Snowdrops 2


4 thoughts on “‘Gale-battered, winter-worn’

  1. I’m not much into poetry, but I’ve been dithering about buying ‘The Overhaul’ on the strength of Kathleen Jamie’s two magnificent non-fiction books, ‘Findings’ and ‘Sightlines’. This post has convinced me to take the plunge, thanks.

    1. I’ve just read my way through Kathleen Jamie – Findings, Sightlines and Among Muslims, as well as The Overhaul. Love them all, and about to write about them here. Thanks, Richard.

  2. Lucky you – I will still have to wait a few weeks for my snowdrops to emerge.

    ps: Looking forward to reading more about Jamie, I really like her work too.

  3. Lovely to see – our snowdrops have just emerged! I’ve read Sightlines recently (I meant to write about it too!) but not yet the poems. Must get hold of The Overhaul.

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