Frightened of the wind – 24th May

Fear of weather is such an ancient, instinctive thing. I’m never scared of snow, rain or cold, but howling wind sometimes terrifies me beyond all logic.

All day I’ve watched the weather, feeling a nameless anxiety pinch at my heart. It’s freezing, and the wind is hurling itself around Horley like a vicious drunk – stripping magnolia brides, smashing the cups of tulips.

The dogs and I set out around half-two, both of them full of nervous energy, winding their leads around my legs, yapping at young leaves blown end-over-end along the lane. I shout at them and pull their leads to get them to heel, but two seconds later they’re launching themselves in opposite directions, and I haul them back. Through my general wind-induced bad temper, I’m aware of a flicker of something positive: hard to get bat-wings when you walk two dogs.

I stomp up the Jackie Chan, heading for The Clump, which I reason will at least be sheltered. Walking any of the meadows would be awful – the wind snatches at my cap, and shoves rude cold fingers up my jacket. It’s not May. It’s some dreadful mis-shuffle with the worst of March. A branch of lilac is torn free, and lands at my feet. The dogs leap on it, mangling the flowers, barking now. My eyes are stinging, my nose and mouth numb.

Outside St Ethelreda’s, there’s carnage. The wind is ripping free the blazing candles of the horse chestnuts, and I can hear the groan of the stiff old branches. There’s a lighter, skittering noise, like someone rifling a tray of bones; it’s the huge holly, shuddering on the corner of the graveyard.

I put my head down and march on, holding onto the dogs as if they were all that is sensible and rational.

I reach The Clump, and catch my breath, sheltered for a moment by the final fold in the hill to Hornton. I hesitate for a moment before letting the dogs go, but then tell myself off.

Of course there’s no malevolent spirit. Of course the dogs aren’t my protection.

I think of the stories of the Gytrash, and remember my own hell hound, with whom I was never frightened. For the millionth time: I miss him.

Our own benevolent hell-hound, Dark Archer (Archie). He died in September 2012.
Our own benevolent hell-hound, Dark Archer (Archie). He died in September 2012.

Arfa-Pants and Dora disappear in seconds, launching themselves into the banks of swaying cow parsley.

On my left is a field of rape, the flat light rendering the field a sickly yellow, liverish. Unwholesome.

I walk up The Clump, pulling faces and daring the wind to stick me. At the top of the first hill, I start to lose my nerve. Here, the wind has a run-up from one of the Taylors’ fields, and smacks full force into the side of The Clump. Great wands of sycamore spin down like shot game, and the noise is starting to hollow-out my head. It’s a low roar that I feel as well as hear – the resonance makes my guts shiver, my bones loosen, as if I’m about to fly apart in pieces. I clutch my jacket with both hands, and promise that the minute I reach the stone table, I’ll turn back.

I want my dogs to be here, in front of me, but the wind snatches my voice, renders my whistles and shouts puny and ridiculous. I keep my eyes up, scanning the branches of ash, of sycamore. Watching the treacherous elder, and knowing how suddenly they can fall.

I reach the stone table, tag it with my hand and turn for home, determined not give in, crumple up and hide in a badger hole.

Halfway back, I notice a gap in the hedge I’ve never seen before, about four yards wide. The wind has come through it as a solid thing, crushing flat the cow parsley and bluebells, ripping free their petals and sending them in a blue-cream swathe against the dried red-mud of the lane. I’m too afraid to cross. Both dogs are back with me now, fretting around my legs.

‘Go off!’ I shout. ‘Go on. Go off!’ But Dora just whines, and neither dog will go forward. A tiny, sensible part of my mind is telling me there’s nothing to be frightened of, but I am frightened, horribly. Every sense and nerve is at full-alert, telling me there is something evil, something there that will do me harm. The roar changes pitch around me, and I hear the rubbery squeak of two branches forced to move against each other. The light darkens still further, and I feel an awful desperation that spins me round to face whatever it is coming after me. The lane behind me is empty.

I swing back, just as the dogs dart forward. There’s a black cat, sat in the lane ahead. I’ve never seen it before, and it doesn’t move as the dogs pelt towards it. There’s a crack behind me, as distinct as a pistol-shot, and I run, flat-out, down the hill, as fast as I ever have.

Dora and Arfa-Pants are nowhere to be seen, but by my side is a black shadow, running with me as he always did. Keeping me safe.

Author: mrscarlielee

Mother. Writer. Wearer of frocks with wellies. Loves Dancing, Frivolity and Good Books. Tweet @MrsCarlieLee

13 thoughts on “Frightened of the wind – 24th May”

  1. I could feel the tension.
    Windy days here can be spectacular.
    A few years back a large twin Poplar snapped off at the base and flattened my neighbours house with her in it. Two amazing sounds, one the snap and then a few seconds later the bang as it hit the house. It took me a minute to get to her and I feared the worst. As I arrived she was crawling out of the wreckage unharmed. My other neighbour and I just stood there amazed.
    Sometimes your number just isn’t up.
    We live on the edge of a giant ash forrest, gum trees that drop huge limbs when it is dry or they feel distressed. These falling limbs tend to hit power lines so when the wind comes up the candles come out.
    I enjoyed your description. Thank you.


      1. Yes they do decide. As you probably know we live on one of the driest continents on the planet and drought is always a threat (our last drought lasted a decade). The native trees have worked out how to survive and certain gumtrees (the ones that inhabit our rain forrest) drop limbs any time they sense that there is a scarcity of water or if they are under attack by bugs (or man for that matter). In true Australian fashion the large limbs on these particular gums are known as ‘widow makers’ and Aussie kids (mine included) are taught not to play near these trees in Summer.
        At least once each Summer someone at a camping site gets squished by a falling branch and it is usually a tourist who camps under a tree.
        The upside is that it is excellent firewood.
        A huge tree limb came down in our tiny street at the end of Summer and everyone in the street had an excuse to be at work late as you could not get out of the street until the council moved it. They cut it into chunks and pushed it to the side of the road. Because it was summer it was not descended upon by people who own a wood stove. (If it had happened in Winter it would have been on the back of a ute before the dust settled!)
        One limb will have enough wood in it to get you through about two months of Winter but it needs time to ‘dry’.
        We had a massive wind storm here a few weeks ago and there were limbs everywhere………. which made for an interesting walk with the dogs.


  2. What a brilliantly evocative piece of writing. I can even become quite irrationally afraid indoors during very windy weather when dogs hackles go up but you can neither see nor hear any specific cause for their anxiety.
    One of our canine companions died last summer; the one who is left still looks for her every morning, I guess she still sees a shadow too.


  3. I really enjoyed your description – both of the fear, but also of your beautiful and benevolent hell-hound. I had an Irish Wolf Hound growing up and while he was as far from a hell hound as one could get (his own barking scared him), I still feel him following the car down the drive, his big ol’ ears waving goodbye!


      1. Too true. My son and I take a walk in our little town each night and we know the houses by the dogs that live in them – their people come out and wave every once in a while, but it’s the dogs that give the best hellos!


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