Jonathan, wrapped in a blanket, looks out of the window, cursing the blizzard. Lucy watches him.
LUCY: A watched pot never boils, y’know.
JONATHAN: I beg your pardon?
LUCY: The blizzard. It’s not going to stop anytime soon; if anything it’ll get worse before it gets better. You’re lucky you found us when you did.
LUCY: Oh, here’s your cocoa. Should warm you up.
LUCY: So… where were you going?
LUCY: (Rolls her eyes) I think the cold has made your brain numb. I asked where you were going before the snow got worse.
JONATHAN: To a party.
LUCY: I see, I see. Hence the smart get-up. You look very handsome.
LUCY: Trying to impress someone, were you?
LUCY: A girl?
JONATHAN: (Sighs) Yes.
LUCY: A girlfriend?
LUCY: What’s her name?
JONATHAN: Mary. Her name’s Mary.
LUCY: How very festive.
Jonathan cracks a smile
LUCY: Ah! He’s beginning to thaw! …How’s the cocoa?
JONATHAN: It’s nice, thank you.
LUCY: That’s alright. …I’m Lucy, by the way.
LUCY: Well, Jonathan, it’s nice to meet you. Can I call you John? Like John Lennon.
JONATHAN: If you like.
LUCY: Do you like The Beatles?
JONATHAN: I don’t know. I don’t really listen to music.
LUCY: Well, I do. I saw them in London.
JONATHAN: I’ve never been to London. What’s it like?
LUCY: Very big. Very exciting. Full of new experiences.
LUCY: So, this Mary. You like her, do you?
JONATHAN: Of course I do, I wouldn’t be going to her party if I didn’t.
Jonathan looks at her blankly, while she looks knowingly back
JONATHAN: Oh, um, I suppose. I don’t know.
LUCY: Have you ever stepped out with a girl before?
JONATHAN: You’re very forward, aren’t you.
LUCY: I try to be. …Well, have you?
JONATHAN: I’m not going to answer that.
LUCY: I assume not then.
JONATHAN: Well… have you?
LUCY: Yes, of course I have!
LUCY: Have you ever kissed a girl before?
JONATHAN: …my mum.
LUCY: That obviously doesn’t count.
Pause. Jonathan goes back to look out of the window.
JONATHAN: Thanks for the drink.
LUCY: I hope it’s warmed you up inside.
JONATHAN: A bit. This is quite a cold house.
LUCY: I’m feeling a bit chilly as well. Mind if I came inside that blanket too? We can share our heat.
She does so before Jonathan can answer.
LUCY: I think the snow is really rather beautiful. The way it flattens everything out, makes everything look so new and simple. Like a piece of paper waiting for words. What do you think?
JONATHAN: I think it’s inconvenient. It cuts everyone off from each other.
LUCY: But it also brings people together.
JONATHAN: I suppose.
LUCY: Do you think I’m beautiful?
LUCY: Do you think I’m beautiful?
JONATHAN: I’ve only just met you.
LUCY: That doesn’t stop you having an opinion.
JONATHAN: You’re… alright.
LUCY: Alright?! Aren’t you a little Romeo. Mary’s a lucky lady.
Jonathon gives Lucy a brooding look
LUCY: I know what’ll cheer you up. We go to my room and listen to my records. Should be a new experience for you. There’s more blankets there too. We could curl up in bed and keep warm.
JONATHAN: I was really looking forward to that party.
LUCY: (Snaps) Well, you’re stuck here now, so you may as well enjoy yourself.
She gives Jonathon a little kiss on the cheek. He goes a bit red, which makes Lucy giggle.
LUCY: Come on Romeo, let’s warm you up properly.
Lucy guides Jonathan off to her room
Scene: A room in Phillip’s house (Sarah Hart verbatim material, script MARK BEESON – NB Phillip’s first speech is based on the writer’s own experience of 1963)
PHILLIP: I think I can remember the aftermath of the blizzard and seeing everything completely white up to the hedges – extraordinary really. I remember the impression of lots of whiteness. Huge layers of whiteness. In some places snow was 20 feet deep – the drifts… It went on and on – it was the length of it – the coldness – below zero every day after day after day. People were cut off. People got used to it. My memory is that we walked through snow to the local shop about 4 miles away. It was a difficult walk through the snow and obviously then you had to carry the provisions back in your rucksack or on your sledge.
The snow was up to the top of the hedges and you had to walk across the land on the tops of the hedges, because they were solid underneath. It was impossibly exhausting to keep pulling your feet out in the deep stuff.
Our farmhouse where we lived was warm. It was cosy inside the house while the wind was howling and snow building up outside.
I remember the pain of coming in out of the cold. The pain of feet thawing out was really terrible. When they’re really cold and you start to get them warm. My mother said never to put your hands in hot water – it had to be tepid. I remember coming in from outside with hands painfully red and nose stinging from the cold and stamping boots to get the snow off. And all the clothes getting wet as soon as you got warm.
The smell of wool. Everything seemed to be wool. Woolly hats. Woolly socks. Woolly mittens. Woolly jumpers. Wet wool. The smell of wet wool.
The blizzard, the wandering of the flakes; the white expanse of snow; the wind whipping it up; the terrifying purity of snow; the idea of pitting yourself against something; the isolating nature of snow as well – a snow cocoon; the brown light before snow begins on Dartmoor and the silence that comes over the animals… and the birds…. Well I think that’s definitely everything I can recall.
ESTHER: Are you sure? Nothing else you want to tell me?
PHILLIP: Absolutely nothing. I can’t remember anything else in the entire winter, just more walking on hedges and lots of whiteness. Wasn’t what I told you good enough?
ESTHER: It was absolutely perfect. Thank you Phillip.
PHILLIP: It’s a pleasure. I’m amazed at how little I can be sure that I actually remember first hand – how much what other people have said over the years has mixed itself with my memories.
ESTHER: Memory is a living thing,
PHILLIP: I suppose you’re right. So what will you do with this interview?
ESTHER: Type it up and use it for my project on climate change.
PHILLIP: With the implication that winters aren’t what they were – apparently?
ESTHER: I’m not a climate scientist, I’m just trying to gather oral history material about past winters on Dartmoor.
PHILLIP: But you have an agenda?
ESTHER: If you mean I have my own private thoughts, we all have those. If you mean on the other hand that I have already made up my mind, that would be unfair.
PHILLIP: They used to be cold enough to kill off the gorse on the moor. It’s spreading everywhere now.
ESTHER: Is that a fact?
PHILLIP: It’s what the farmers say. Mind you, I’m not sure any farmer would want another winter like 62-63. So many animals died.
ESTHER: But isn’t that nature taking its course?
PHILLIP: On the other hand you could argue that being human is all about stopping nature taking its course.
ESTHER: Perhaps that’s where we’ve gone wrong.
PHILLIP: Nature’s course is often a very cruel one – sheep and ponies dying slowly of cold and starvation.
ESTHER: When there were wolves on Dartmoor, they would have killed the weak and the starving, putiing them out of their misery.
Are you alright? You’re looking pale…..
WOLF: The wolves around the house are treading,
Among the house-lit trees go threading.
Their green eyes split the grain of darkness
Beneath the heavens’ moonless starkness.
The stars are out, their shivering light
Sends sparks of gold through fur of night.
But gone’s the silver ruling eye,
A new moon hangs behind the sky.
The green of wolf must light the glen,
Must dot the crag and line the fen,
The eye of dog give character
To formless tree and stoneless spur.
A wolfy silence silent stirs
Through indistinguishable firs,
And pads and breathes and gleams around
Quietly sniffing the scented ground.
PHILLIP: Will you excuse me? I have something I have to do. Let me show you to the door.
Phillip looks round distractedly, and holds his head
Performance at Belstone Village Hall. Photo: Chris Chapman, 2009