Sometimes, an illustrator also does music and he does it so well, that all people know him for is his music. And because maybe he is humble or maybe he does not yet know what to draw, one day he does music and lets another illustrator draw the story for it and then one day, the music as he did it before comes to an end and now there’s time and there’s an idea and there it is, a book, a picture book full of snow.
To be honest, I saved this one, because that’s what I do. I keep the thing that I want most on the plate and eat everything else, so I can have it for myself without anything else distracting me. And sometimes, I wait too long and then I am full and don’t want it anymore or the story about a gritterman on his last day of work in the midst of Winter feels awfully out of place on a warm day in Spring. But here I am and here is the book full of snow and here is also, a lovely audio book but also an album that feels like a radio play that has fallen out of time into our time, right into Spring, as it is.
“The Gritterman” is – first and foremost – about saying goodbye. On many pages, we see him on his own in his flat, sitting by himself – his “Joy” died a while ago – and going about his day as people do who feel something’s missing but don’t feel like giving up.
“Truth of the matter, it’s always the same. You dress for the sun and down comes the rain so you dress for the rain and the sun’s out again. It’s as old as the weather.”
The Gritterman has his last day as the gritterman on Christmas eve, they don’t need his old van anymore, nor his grit, nor the shaky headlights nor him. So we go along with him, on his last drive.
The accompanying record is narrated by Paul Whitehouse as Gritterman. The songs and the music are by Weeks who is incredibly soft-spoken, a warm piano like a blanket. It’s like a Christmas tale by the fire, such a lovely, gentle story, such a beautiful and sad story, something that doesn’t feel like it ever was written but was something that one person told the other and so on.
“I love that one. You never think of someone having to write Christmas carols. They’re just sort of there, aren’t they, like the AtoZ.”
You can wonder whether it is the loss of his job or the looming loneliness that awaits without anything to look forward to, without his Joy to be “company on the slower days”. Is “The Gritterman” about grief that is buried under the snow or is it about an old thing coming to an end because the time has come for change and some things don’t fit when things have changed?
It’s equally open to interpretation (or maybe not so much) how the Gritterman ends his last day of work. Alongside the smaller and smaller illustrations of the places his van has driven by all the years and the small shining light in the dark and stormy night, the story itself grows into fragments of thoughts and images and finally a dark starry night.
When one thing ends, it’s sometimes hard to grasp how anything can go on afterwards. In small ways, it can be the end of a band you’ve listened to since 10 years and more. In big ways, it can be the loss of a person who you were so close to and who was as much a part of your life as you were part of theirs. And without them, your life feels a little lonelier but you’re also missing some parts that went with them, maybe the person you could only be when you were with them.
Sometimes, though, there is a moment, when everything is calm and peaceful, like a starry night, like snow on Christmas, like a last journey on well-trodden paths. Sometimes, in small ways, someone might pursue what they intended to do in the first place and create a book full of snow and create music full of warmth and love and create a story about something that is sad but hopeful. Sometimes, in big ways, you find that the loss has grown into a new part of you and it might not only be filled with grief but also with love and memories and dreams that allow you to see them, if only for a while, if only at night.