December 23rd, 2010


dawn light on the thames tow-path

The tow-path under snow is lovely enough that I'm glad I can still fit in my morning commute. This week I've been walking in snow and silence in the morning (and on the one day there was a gleam of sun, an apricot-coloured dawn). Ice began to flicker along the sides of the Thames, sending little sorties out into the main channel; the boats thinned out to a few hardy year-rounders.

One of these boats (Rum-Runner) always has a few crows hanging around outside it. One morning, a bit late, I discovered why -- they were tucking into a tray of left-over takeout (Red Star's Singapore Mee Fun, from the look of it) with the casual attitude of regulars. Since then I've treated them a bit more like pets, greeting them like a I do the tow-path's random dogs and cats. I like the idea that when Rum-Runner finally heads off, the crows will follow, riding its wake like flakes of ash, looking for the pickings to be had around the tables of human.

By the day after the snow, the ice had joined up across the river and the Thames was covered across with a thin, gappy layer of rotten ice. Where the seagulls and geese gathered, chatting and washing the ice melted through, where they stood still, roosting, it stayed solid. Another night left it more solid, and brought scatterings of fox footprints on the ice, little dartings out into new territory followed by sudden retreats as the ice flexed beneath their feet.

Near to where the boathouses start, I stopped to look at an unfamiliar duck - a Scaup as it turns out. My first Scaup! They're supposed to be deep-water birds but if the river is deep enough for cormorants it's certainly deep enough for Scaup. A flicker of movement caught my eye across the river and I saw a foraging fox drift through the brambles, down onto the frozen river, and back up into the undergrowth, exactly the pattern I had seen in footprints on the ice.

Apparently there's a campaign underway to get the clocks put forward so that the winter hours of light are 9am-5pm; I'd rather they didn't. That way I would be at work every daylight hour. The evenings are dark in winter, but an extra hour here or there makes little difference -- you're already operating in darkness. I'd rather have a little more light in the morning.