Where are the Songs of Spring?
Author(s): Prof Christian Kay
Copyright holder(s): Prof Christian Kay
“You’ll freeze to death”, they cried, picturing me wrapping my plaidie around me and struggling back to my comfortless clachan over the windswept moors.
Having spent the larger part of three Massachusetts winters surreptitiously turning off radiators and opening windows, I did not share their fears. “When I get back, it will be spring”, I boasted. With their minds full of sad tales of American tourists returning frozen from British summers, they seemed to think this small consolation.
Spurred on by such obvious scepticism, I held forth on the subtle delights of a Scottish spring, describing the gentle blossoming of tree and flower, the pale but cheerful sunshine, the fresh sweet smell of the awakening earth. In my ecstasies, I paused to pity them, for in New England spring scarcely exists.
Indeed, the lack of a real spring had been a great disappointment to me during the years I spent studying in Massachusetts. No-one had warned me of this deficiency in the American climate. The first winter, which began with heavy snowfalls in November, seemed very long, and I fully sympathised with the student who wrote “Melt blast you” in yard-high letters on one of the piles of frozen slush which lingered into April. When the thaw at last came, I was constantly outside, sniffing and listening for the first signs of the burgeoning of nature. I felt cheated when nothing happened, and even more cheated a few days later when the temperature soared to 70 degrees and summer was upon us. By returning home in time for spring, I hoped to compensate for this deprivation.
Despite my enthusiasm about “better things” at home, my friends were unconvinced. They watched anxiously as I stowed winter woollies in the bottom of my seabound trunk, leaving only the lightweight garments for the air trip. Still anxious, they accompanied me to Kennedy airport, where, in a final gesture of confidence, I threw away my favourite fur boots and strode out over the snowy tarmac in shoes alone. There were tears in their eyes as they waved farewell.
It did seem somewhat chilly when I stepped off the plane at Prestwick, and the inevitable rain had a decidedly sleety quality. But on the way to Edinburgh, I spied snowdrops and crocuses in the gardens and felt that all was well. American gardens usually run to little more than grass and a few bushes, so flowers were another thing that I missed.
Nevertheless, when the spiritual warmth of the first welcomes had died away, I found myself clutching my light spring suit around me and creeping closer to the fire. I even felt some regrets for the warm, stuffy rooms I had left behind me. Americans, I used to say scornfully, sealed themselves in for the winter with central heating and double glazing as the Scots used to sew themselves into their heavy jerseys. One felt that one breathed the same air indoors for the whole season. Now, with healthy draughts whirling round me, I began to see the method in their madness.
Luckily my relatives perceived my distress, and a few hours later, wrapped in layers of old sweaters, padded with hot water bottles, surrounded by electric fires, and with every window closed, I began to feel almost warm again. But this was hardly spring as I had imagined it during my exile, and I waited hopefully for better things.
Things got worse, not better. A few days later I was awakened with the dramatic announcement, “It’s snowing”. Thinking that this was merely an example of pawky Scottish humour, I smiled weakly – but not for long.
Sadly I gazed at the drifting flakes and listened to the grim jests with which T.V. announcers heralded the beginning of summer-time. As I watched the tragic pictures of stranded lambs and snowed-up snowploughs, I wondered whether my visions of spring derived merely from the nostalgia of exile or a mind heated with too much study of romantic English literature, or whether the weather had indeed suffered some drastic change.
I added another sweater to my inelegant garb, prodded the fire disconsolately and said goodbye to my illusions of a bonnie Scottish spring.
So far, I have not dared to write to America and confess my mistake. Now I am contemplating a desperate S.O.S.: “If anyone salvaged a pair of boots from a cloakroom in Kennedy Airport, would they take pity and return them?” It looks as if a housebound Scot is going to need them!
A few days later the weather changed. But I’m keeping the warm clothes handy . . .
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Where are the Songs of Spring?. 2021. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved January 2021, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1534.
"Where are the Songs of Spring?." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2021. Web. January 2021. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=1534.
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