The White

Richard Lutz is buried by another seven days.


The digi-photo world is overloaded by now as Kodaksville runs amok. It’s snowing (up to 14 inches on the Welsh borders) and that’s a lot in snow-starved England. It means the phones come out and the odd old fashioned SLR too, to capture the white.

Everyone’s taking pictures of the stuff including me (see above of my back garden). Snow is silent and, to steal a phrase from a writer, silent and secret. Yes, of an evening it is soundless as it builds up. And in the morning, it sits, lays, sleeps, pristine and untouched. But it is also deeply personal. Maybe that is why so many folks (once they’ve taken their obligatory pics) just stop to look. It brings out something inside yourself. I’ll leave it at that.

The snow didn’t descend abruptly. It has been cold for the past 4 or 5 days. The frigid days and today’s storm means Britain defaults to its favourite topic: the shock fact that it gets cold in winter. Two days ago, before the snows, I walked on the freezing Stratford Canal (below) from South Birmingham to a hamlet called Illshaw Heath with its great little bakery. Out I went out into the wilds of Warwickshire’s pastures and rolling hills.


You felt as if you were travelling through a city inside out, as if you trekked alongside a vein of your hometown. You could scamper up to a canal bridge just to see if you could recognise a street, a church or a road junction. Then clambered down to the waterside and continue on the canal route out of town. You saw your town from a different angle, not from a car nor a bus, not even a pedestrian pavement. But from a quiet forgotten canal that most ignore. You were invisible. 

There near the water, a giant sparrow hawk hunted, millions of droplets of ice plunged from trees onto the quiet canal and changing faces of stone and bricks on the bridges, bungalows and pubs lined the route.


What the Dickens….?

Slowly the homes became grander as we hit South Warwickshire. At a former little village called Dickens Heath we were greeted by a giant arcade of flats (see above) built like an ancient ziggurat with a cascading waterfall, an open plaza and its own handsome metal bridge spanning the canal. No-one was was about.The luxury development loomed above us, modern, brash and silently crowding out everything else; the barge moorings, the funky little houses with their rickety landings, the pubs and cafes. Now, today,  it all must be covered in white.

At Illshaw Heath, we pass the Blue Bell Cider House, a bikers’ pub. Then, just short of the maw of the M42 motorway underpass with its constant traffic roar, we scramble up the canal bank to the bakery with its fresh mince pies, its florentines and, since this is a simple stone’s throw from Birmingham, lamb samosas fresh out of the oven.