A Thief In The Night

The first of two passages from Next Year In Jerusalem



Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Snow fell unexpectedly in my hopeful seventh spring. It made shadows of the bare boughs. It sent shivers down the spindly spine of young birch. It found out the eroded pointing in the brickwork. With a gentle insistence it gathered along the window-ledges, made portholes of the panes and silenced the astonished birds. Flake by flake, it settled upon the lawns Simms had already mown twice that season, and obliterated the paths as though it meant business. Soon it had created a ghostly monochrome world. A child’s world.

No one guessed it was coming. The weather forecast had been promising. It came without warning, this taste of winter in May; a thief in the night.

Mrs Simms, housekeeper at St. Mary’s declared: “Well, well, I never! That’s put paid to the picnic, then. Nipped our plans right in the bud, that has, dear.” She liked things to be orderly, predictable.

“Never mind, I suspect the children won’t be too disappointed,” Sister Joseph said in a pleasant rallying tone. “They’ll be just as happy making snowmen as picking cowslips. You can’t order the weather, I’m afraid.”

She was right. We whooped with delight and scrambled on to the sills to watch the sky come tumbling down to earth at last. We had longed for snow and felt cheated. Unlike its predecessor, the winter had been a sequence of lethargic days, of damp pavements and mild winds that never got off the ground. There was no cutting edge to it. No blade-bright December or January to sting colour into your cheeks and pinch your toes. Spring came unheralded, robbed of its magic. Even the snowdrops flowered unremarked.

But the advent of snow put a new complexion on things. It lent poignancy to the frail evidence of rebirth.

Throughout lunch that day, which included mortifying wads of bread-and-butter pudding I shall never forget, we agitated to be let loose on the sugar-frosted landscape and, as soon as it was over, crowded the exit noisily. We rolled in the snow, scooped it up and stuffed it by the fistful into our mouths, tobogganed in the dell where the oaks were strung with rubber tyres. Long earthen scars appeared upon its slopes. The air was thick with shrieks of glee and icy missiles exploding on ducked backs. Some built a fortress in the shrubbery, irrigating its mote with a length of hose burgled from Simms’ shed, until the brindled snow had turned to slush, the towers sank in ruins and the ramparts were no more.

“I know,” cried someone, “let’s dig for buried treasure!”

And as enthusiasm quickened among us, we fell to seeking our fortune in the swede patch Simms had painstakingly prepared for the new crop. The primary colours of our spades struck a contrast with the snow and with the cheerless garments thrust upon us in those years of rationing after another fullscale war. The world had not entirely awakened to its own survival.

Fortunately, Simms had gone into town on an errand for Matron, and was not around to see his beloved domain turned inside out, soil and snow and clods of clay flying from the trench. The going was tough. The purposeful were soon singled out from those in search of aimless distraction.

“The ground is hard,” complained the whey-faced Polish boy Matron fed with iron pills and spoons of loathsome fish-oil he spat out at her. “I try somewhere else.”
A groan went up from the rest of us. We knew him of old.

“Novak’s chickened out before we’ve started,” sniffed Thomas in disgust, a good-natured elderly boy of eleven who took command of all our enterprises.

“It’s all right for you, my spade’s too blunt,” the quarrelsome Lucy told him.

“Mine’s broken,” wailed little Humphrey, and the corners of his mouth curved down and the beads of moisture in the corners of his eyes filled out.

“Have mine, then,” I said. I was dizzy and my chest felt sore.

“You’re my best friend,” he beamed up at me. “You can have my pudding tomorrow. Unless it’s treacle tart!”

"Old Beaky says she's got a dicky ticker," Thomas informed them, mopping his overheated brow upon his sleeve. "Reckon he could be right. She's always out of breath."




Next Year In Jerusalem was originally published by Robert Hale Limited (now The Crowood Press) in 1980

190 Hits

A Stepping Stone












For Easter, a short extract from my first litfic novel, published in 1980, entitled NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM. (Re-issue  2016.)


After a while, I emerged from that winter solstice of the spirit, entombed by dark days, as out of a long, long dream. It was far worse than anything yet endured. I had not known what it would cost to see things for what they were worth. I only wanted to sleep, forget. The very daylight impinging on the room each morning brought a flood of dread. Another day. Another battle for survival. Nothing could be taken for granted. The fastening of buttons, the shaking of quilts, loomed insurmountably ahead, an art to be learnt all over again. I was bound by a torpor wound round and round like bandages from which I had neither the strength nor the will to break free. “You must try to pull yourself together,” Jude insisted. “Get out more.”

Then one morning, I woke to the epiphany of sunrise, watched its arc widen over the rim of the howe and turn the loch to liquid fire. As it was slowly delivered of the earth, I felt I was being reborn. The stone was rolling away. The sun was round and pure as optimism. Independent. Made whole. The tears long imprisoned behind my eyes fell copiously. This was how Lazarus must have felt when he came back to the land of the living.

It was all over then, death, already behind me. And what was it but a nightmare banished at dawn? Or perhaps the draught moaning through a warped lintel against which you might turn up your collar. It wasn’t an event, yet you saw its effects, felt them. Death was a vicarious thing, a term used when others could no longer be seen.  












Wishing you a Joyful Easter Season



© Copyright Rosy Cole 1980, 2008, 2015

1443 Hits

Latest Comments

Ken Hartke The Architecture of Trees
20 March 2018
To marvel is to live...even at the engineering of a lowly dandelion. Marvel mar·vel /ˈmärvəl/ verb:...
Rosy Cole The Architecture of Trees
20 March 2018
Beautiful. We labour under the misconception that all knowledge passes through consciousness.
Stephen Evans Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey
18 March 2018
Your quote of "I waited for the Lord" struck a chord with me, but I couldn't think why until I remem...
Rosy Cole Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey
17 March 2018
Ken, we shall look forward very much to hearing about your travels! :-)
Rosy Cole Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey
17 March 2018
Certainly, I've experienced some serendipitous revelations, often when dog-walking in the country an...

Latest Blogs

The architecture of trees fascinates me. How do the branches know how to grow? Complexity theory? Fibonacci Sequences? Artificial intelligence? ...
Taking yearly pilgrimages started after my serendipitous journey to Sedona.  What made that such a pivotal point, was the juxtaposition of entrapment ...
My train home wasn't due for another half hour and I strolled up the platform, looking for something to snack on. There wasn't anything particularly a...
I’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones for the who-knows-how-manyieth time. And in the process, mainly while the credits roll or I’m fast forwarding...