The stories that surround a city are cast in the imagination like ghosts or dreams of times past, half-remembered through stories told at our bedside by grandmothers and aged aunts, all of whom had the best interests of their charges at heart. Who cares whether a story is the truth if it is a good story? What matters more, the meaning or the moment of understanding?
If you were growing up in Bayeux in the 19th Century, or before that, when actual wolves roamed the Normandaise countryside, it is likely that quiet reference would have been made to the wickedness of the Winter wolf. It was not a creature but a condition of the poor, the hunger felt by those starving and cold in the hardest months of the year.
The Winter wolf would come in the dead of night when the rivers had frozen solid and the sky hardened like glass, sparkled with cold ice-white starlight, and take the weak, the old, the hungry. It prowled the streets with the North wind, blowing in through cracked shutters and banging at barn doors, taking those who could take no more.
These days we are much more comfortable in our insulated and double-glazed homes, warm, draught-free and, thankfully, with cupboards stacked with food we did not have to harvest or barter for, unless we wanted to. And actual wolves have been spotted close by our home here too, these have been introduced in the Alps and since travelled all the way to this region. We wait in hope that the camera trap will catch one in the woodland at the bottom of the hill.
That would be a welcome Winter wolf…