That night in the villages along the edge of the moor, spindrift eddied stealthily in the almost lemon yellow light of the sodium lamps, plastering the walls, furring the doors and padlocks of the coal sheds, piling up in the straw-filled ruts of the farm yards until they were covered up bland and spotless. When Sankey came home from work the wind had changed, thunder growled and banged distantly above it. By the next morning he thought the waterfall in Issue Clough might be frozen hard enough to climb: there were jackets of ice on the electricity supply cables where they drooped slackly from barn to barn, icicles developing along them at intervals like the spines and barbels of pale exotic fish; long lines of icicles hung from the corrugated roof of the milking shed. But by mid-day when, bundled up like a middle-aged farmer’s wife in a dirty nylon anorak, he plodded through the village to get coal, his hands hanging in front of him, they had begun to melt. Light poured in over the blackened threshold of the old smokehouse, falling among the eroded beams on to a clutter of broken ladders. A few dry beech leaves blew about in the heap of coal. As he stood there looking in, thunder banged tinnily again over towards Huddersfield.
We went to see him at the weekend and found him drowsily watching “Grandstand”. In the winter the downstairs room of his cottage was always full of fumes from the grate which slowly sent him to sleep. “The young man,” said the television, “whose odds have fallen so dramatically from eighty to one to ten to one overnight.” Sankey turned it off and gave us instant coffee grey with powdered milk, then hunched his shoulders and folded his arms, bending forward in his chair to gaze into the hearth.
“No drink seems hot enough to me today,” he apologised. “Everything seems to go down lukewarm today.”