Friday, 22 February 2008

Fog, Love and Absence

It has been a foggy week out here in the fens. The last post I made was about love and how unclear a definition of that can be and now this week has been clouded in spectacular freezing fog. I decided to research what fog and freezing fog actually is; having done Latin instead of geography my science of weather only ever amounts to that diagram of the the water cycle most children are forced to do when at primary school. I do have a hazy recollection of the formation of ox-bow lakes and limestone pavements but that isn't about weather or only tangentially. Here is a definition of fog I found lifted from a dictionary ( I swear nothing has been changed only omitted), it sounds as if it could be a a whole metaphor for love, mere fondness and poetry.

Fog is a cloud in contact with the ground.
Fog differs from other clouds only in that
fog touches the surface of the Earth.
The same cloud that is not fog
on lower ground may be fog
where it contacts higher ground.
Fog is distinct from mist.
Fog is a cloud which reduces visibility
to less than 1 km,
whereas mist is that which reduces
visibility to less than 2 km.
Fog can form suddenly,
and can dissipate just as rapidly.
Localised fog is especially dangerous.
When freezing fog occurs
fog droplets freeze to surfaces,
forming small splinters of
white ice, called rime.
It seems to make fog tangible,
as if one could grab a handful.

I have been driving through a great deal of freezing fog this week, the fens are very spectacular in freezing fog mainly because all one sees is grey absence and then suddenly the odd tree or hedge appears covered in rime. Driving is a slow and tentative act of faith on twisting back fen roads. Now and then kinesthetic memory kicks in and your hands recall a sharp bend left or right. You therefore tend to drive more slowly, but then there are the mad people who don’t; who overtake and roar past defying the deep dykes on either side of the road. One wishes them in the old fashioned phrase ‘God speed’, (note the heavy sarcasm in my breath when I whisper that after them). On Tuesday I create a whole story in my head about the over-taker meeting the undertaker.

If you skid into a deep water filled dyke in fog, as in space, no-one can hear you scream and you may not be found until some office in a small Fen town selling bricks or pipes or IT packages decides that it is odd that they haven’t seen Mr X at his desk for a while. His diary says he was out on calls for two days and won’t be in until Thursday. Two days later on Thursday a man from Peterborough has an appointment with him at 2pm about a job and is still waiting. Mr X’s secretary makes this man a third cup of coffee and appeases him with the best chocolate biscuits she found in the tin in the small kitchen on the ground floor. They are rather stale but the waiting man eats them anyway just to be polite and besides he has a small ulcer and eating little and often was what the hospital said he should do.

Meanwhile the secretary of Mr X is in a predicament, initiative is not her thing; her last appraisal said she should have more but if she exercises it something is bound to go wrong and she will be accused of overstepping her job boundaries. Mr X , she knows, lives alone, having separated from his wife; his anger management whilst driving having been cited in their divorce. She has tried his mobile phone several times but it just goes to voicemail. She decides initiative in this instance involves asking Mr Y in the next office what she should do. She decides to go and see him rather than phone although that means walking past the waiting job seeker outside, who she notes as she hurries past is nibbling rather tentatively on his chocolate covered hobnob which she thinks is rather churlish seeing as she doesn’t usually offer chocolate biscuits to men who want a job.

Mr Y says nothing as he doesn’t want to be the man brought up at office parties as the one who over reacted by calling the police, his last appraisal said he over reacted in certain situations. He tells the secretary to send the waiting man home, he is only after a job after all. He suggests telling him that Mr X has just phoned in saying his car has broken down in Grantham and he is still waiting for the AA as he can’t pull the ‘I am a woman on my own’ card to ensure a faster service, which is what Mr Y once made his wife do when they broke down on their way to see her mother in Leeds. She was reluctant as she wasn’t a natural liar, unlike him, but she did it anyway to try and stop him telling her over and over again that this was all her fault for having a mother and for having a mother that lived in Leeds. Mr Y decides it is over reacting to call the police and when they call up Mr X's personnel file from Human Resources his person to contact in an emergency is still his wife at their old home number; he hasn’t bothered to change it since the divorce five years ago. The truth is that Mr X didn’t have anyone to change the emergency number to apart from perhaps his sister Chrissie but she lives in New Zealand. They will wait until Friday, if he doesn’t turn up then he, Mr Y, will do something about it , as that couldn’t be interpreted as over reacting by head office. It is Friday as I post and Mr Y’s slight cold has developed and become a rather nasty cough so he decides to have the day off as his diary is clear. Mr X’s secretary is wondering whether she should exercise her initiative again. She is not sure whether she should, perhaps she should wait until Mr Y gets back into the office on Monday morning as he is paid more than her for precisely this sort of problem.

Meanwhile the last thing Mr X didn’t hear was ‘God Speed’ uttered sarcastically by a careful woman driver feeling her way through the fens in a blue Renault Clio Dynamique.

I feel a little sorry for the over-taker , perhaps he should be missed sooner than a Friday.

For those of you who liked the last Carl Sandburg poem, here is another about fog.

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