Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snow reading

There is a good six inches of snow covering Brighton right now.  It won't last, of course, but it has turned us all into Narnia lovers merrily tobogganing (naked in some cases, check out Matt Whistler's Merry Christmas on YouTube) or grumpy old people muttering about how Germany, Switzerland and Canada doesn't grind to a halt for a few inches of the white stuff.  Me?  I veer wildly between the two camps.  But it did make me grab from the shelves Mrs Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. I can't work out when it was first published, but at least 50 years ago, I would think, and looking on Amazon I see that it has been re-printed and it can be bought at the bargain price of £4.50.  There is also a dim memory I have of a black and white film. My copy tells me that it was 10s 6d net.  Bless.
I fell in love with 'Mike' when I first read it, I guess I was about 12.  Gosh.  What a man.  Tall, blue eyes, handsome and no messing about.  He was a Mountie.  This was before Monty Python when Mounties became a bit of a joke, along with lumberjacks.  His beat covered thousands of square miles of untamed wilderness way back when men were men and women married young and had children.  End of.  He was priest, doctor, magistrate and horrifyingly - dentist to all his charges. (The scene where he pulls a bad tooth from a man in agony and they both have to drink whisky to fortify themselves may well be one the factors that has me squirming every time in in the dentist chair)
But really, it's a love story.  Kathy, a young Irish-American girl is sent to the alarmingly empty spaces of Alberta where she meets Mike.  Married almost immediately she sets out to discover life in the wilds of that wild country.  Snow and ice for six months of the year.  Mosquitoes for the rest.  Floods, outbreaks of diphtheria, bears, wolves and 'redskins' are all grist to the mill.  And I will never forget the scene of a forest fire where women and children along with cattle and wild forest animals seek sanctuary in the icy river.
Of course, Mike seems a bit heavy handed now, the language is dated but - oh - the descriptions of snowy wastelands, vast icy mountains and silent snow bedazzled forests are wonderful.  Now, if you'll excuse me I have some hot chocolate to make, with perhaps just a dash of rum in it.  To keep out the cold, you understand.

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