Only a few days to go until December and the white stuff is now descending on Fyne Place.
No, not a hot latte or Milky Bar chocolate or Santa’s beard, yet, but the cold, wet white stuff that brings joy to skiers, misery to motorists, relief to unsightly gardens and more pressure on A&E departments as people pirouette painfully and skite about like failed auditionees for Dancing on Ice.
I’m fortunate to have an excellent, albeit occasionally noisy, snow-clearing machine here that handles all but the deepest drifts. It’s a joy to watch as daylight breaks. But enough about Mrs F. All I can usually see of her through her head-to-toe winter gear is her eyes as she manfully shovels the snow aside, looking like a picture of a coal miner in negative.
If the eyes are wide and bright, all is well, but if they’re narrowed and focused like an angry sparrowhawk, it’s time I stopped slouching and did more shovelling.
The first snow flurries not only bring out the skis and sledges but also those poor deluded souls who think that just because they have big four-wheel-drive vehicles in which they’ve lumbered around expensively since last winter, it now means they are immune from treacherous road conditions and can speed about like would-be Max Verstappens, cocking an arrogant snook at those of us in more humble modes of transport.
They are easy to spot; they’re the ones subsequently standing forlornly by their vehicles waiting for a tractor to come and pull them out of the ditch they’ve careered into. Touché, I say.
My diary shows that this weekend last year, we were enjoying the brief respite between the end of the summer lockdown and the start of the Christmas one by spending time walking in the hills in glorious blue-sky sunny weather.
I have pictures of us with not a snowflake in sight, and by that I mean the natural ones, thankfully not the modern Millennials of the so-called “Generation Snowflake”; people who are self-obsessed and fragile, easily offended, or unable to deal with opposing opinions.
There was a veritable blizzard of them exercising their indignation when the public artwork, The Gathering Place, was unveiled on the banks of the River Ness at Inverness last month.
I spent time sitting there this week, not only recalling my own eye-watering Highland gathering when I walked quickly away from the car not realising my kilt was caught in the door, but also trying to fathom how the brief to create something that “re-connects the city with the river, drawing out its stories, engendering a sense of place and creating access to the river”, became an undistinguished stone pier with, currently, no access for people with disabilities.
It’s not unpleasant. It’s arguably quite good. The Moray-sourced stone is a splendidly mellow colour and the structure largely inoffensive, but for the money I reckon an opportunity has been missed.
I like public artworks and many bring benefit to the places in which they’re found. Take the wonderful Kelpies near Falkirk, the iconic Angel of the North near Newcastle, the witty clock on legs near Glasgow’s Buchanan Street bus station, the M8’s heavy horse or Arria, the colourful female figure standing beside the M80 at Cumbernauld. Each is distinctive, photogenic and memorable. Even Evanton’s Fyrish monument has a certain mystique and beauty about it.
Not so The Gathering Place, sadly. I can’t imagine hordes of foreign tourists snapping away with smartphones to post images of it to family and friends back home, nor can I imagine visitors detouring just to visit it.
Inverness could have done better with a brochure-busting icon that said more about the unrivalled heritage and vision of the city, the Highlands and Scotland in general.
Perhaps opinion will see-saw in future, unlike the subsequently abandoned plan for such a structure beside the Ness, but I’m not convinced.
Anyway, Mrs F quite likes it so that’s the end of the matter.
Worryingly, she thinks I might have a hint of frosty snowflake about me now. I hope not, but her eyes are narrowing menacingly so that means it’s time I gathered my thoughts, boots and bobble-hat and started shovelling, too.