The grumpy month?

A friend and ex-colleague of mine recently commented on how people seemed to be irritable in March.  She had noticed this to be the case from looking at Facebook status updates from that month over successive years.  Not unusually, there was a strange coincidence attached…

Just swallowed a book…

At the same time I was reading a book called ‘Alaska’ by James Michener.  I’d never heard of the author when I spotted his book outside a charity shop.  In fact, I wasn’t even going to buy the book until Frédéric said “That’s for you!” (knowing that Alaska is one of the places that fascinates me). Since then it has been he kind of book that I devour.  It has post-its stuck in it, with page numbers and quotes.  I’ve re-read some bits three times.

On March

Anyway, just before reading my friend’s Facebook post, I came across this descriptive extract from Michener’s book:

“I’ll be glad when February goes,’ Tom Venn said as he watched the sea from his store, but a knowing woman customer warned:  ‘March is the bad month.  Watch out for March.’

She did not, during that visit, explain this strange statement, and when March did arrive, it brought such fine weather that Tom felt a surge of spring, and he was most pleased when the days began to lengthen and the sea started to look as if it would soon relax its icy grip enough to allow ships to arrive.  Four days later, when the weather was still perfect, the woman returned:  ‘These are the dangerous days.  Husbands start to beat their wives, and men sharing one hut as mining partners begin to quarrel and suddenly shoot each other.’

Shortly thereafter, news of two such scandalous affairs reached Tom, and when he asked why they had happened just as winter was relaxing its hold, the same woman customer explained:  ‘That’s the reason!  In dark January and February, you know you have to remain strong.  But in March and April, we have more daylight than dark.  Everything seems to be brighter.  But the fact is, we face three more long months of winter.  March, April and May.  The sun shines but the sea remains frozen.  We feel life moving but the damned sea stays blocked, and we begin to shout at our friends:  “When will this thing ever end?”  Watch out for March!”

I love the way James Michener writes.  The point he’s making about March is an interesting one, but his words create such an atmosphere of tension.  It is as though every feature mentioned is alive (even if frozen!).  This writing is full of active voice and personification, i.e. “When March did arrive, it brought ….”.  A lovely piece to study from an English Literature perspective or for when learning English as an additional language.  See my post on developing your reading skills in another language for more on this.

Not Alaska but…

I know, we’re not in Alaska.  Yet I feel that this extract applies here and now.  This month, we’ve had blizzards in a country, or at least region of a country, that is not equipped to deal with it.  During the first blizzard, I had walk to work and we have had a friend from Argentina staying who wanted to go out for coffee (always positive vibes!) even if he went skiing on the ice in his elegant suede shoes!  It would have been easy to feel hemmed in though.

Now, today we have the ‘Beast from the East #2’!  The sky is especially grey, the wind is howling down the chimney (no friendly seagulls can be heard) and the snow looks colder than normal snow – tiny hard balls.  The ice on the pavements outside our home has wind-sculpted bumps, as though fused together where it fell and then smoothed over.  So time for more reading, writing and baking to warm the kitchen…  I made some dhosa today and thought of southern India, not that I’ve been there.