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Another week bites the dust

Snow, snow, and more snow....


Well, that's another week I'm glad to see the back of. I have been cut off by snow, detached from the internet, alone in the house as the DH was on a business trip abroad, suffering from bad eye strain that entails creams and gels every few hours, splinters in both hands, and feeling fairly frazzled. 

It started on Monday with delivering him to the TGV station in absolutely torrential rain. This, if only we had known it, was the start of the big weather system that was moving in. Having seen him off to Amsterdam, I turned home and drove an hour over sheets of water, with almost zero visibility, surrounded by turbo-nutter French drivers. The indicators had stopped working too, but the garage fixed them in about five minutes, so I did a quick bit of shopping, then, glad to get home again, I parked the car at the top of the garden, as snow was forecast. A friend emailed to say that needles of ice were now dropping out of the sky. 

When I awoke in the morning, there was that muffled silence and darkness that always means snow on the Velux. I took a peek outside and thought: what's wrong with this picture? The edge of the patio was invisible. There was a drift about three feet deep in the centre of the courtyard, which had sculpted itself like a sand dune. The car was a big blob of white. 

Mmn. I tried to log on to the internet to see if I could get a weather forecast, but it was down. Cut off then.  At least the phones were working, so I was able to tell people I was cut off, but then so was everyone else. 

The snow began again and high winds with it.

When the winds died down, I cut a path to the woodshed, where the snow had piled up to my mid-thigh height, and found the woodpile also covered in snow, driven in by the blizzard-strenth winds. It's all soaking wet and it wasn't good wood to start with. Oh dear. As I was struggling back with logs, up turned a friend with his daughter, having walked 2.5km through the snow to borrow a DVD. It was good to see another human being, and they stayed for tea and biscuits. Their internet was up, but down to less than 56kbps. 

Still no internet here, and another four inches of snow. I rebooted the router every hour but nada. And thus endeth the first day.

Fortunately, the snow now stopped , so the next day I set to and dug the car out. Being a nerd, I measured the depth of it on the roof and windscreen - 32cm - and under it found a layer of frozen hail like tiny glass beads, Velcroing the snow to the car. I inched down the packed snow on the driveway and - thank heavens - found the road at the bottom had been cleared by a tractor, so I was able to creep as far as the village rubbish bins and come back again. This meant that I could at least access a neighbour's house in an emergency (my nearest being about a quarter of a mile away).

By now the cats were behaving like bored teenagers, attacking the curtains, wailing at me to make it all go away. I was feeding the birds once an hour. The dog wanted a walk but was confused about disappearing in snow over his head. Still trying to log onto the Internet. In Amsterdam, where the DH said it was Baltic but dry, he found that our ISP had put up a notice saying the fault was with the infrastructure, so there was nothing to do but sit it out. A friend here, also stranded in snow that was up to her knees, phoned to say that supermarket roofs and the exhibition centre roof at Caen had collapsed under the weight of snow. 

By Thursday I was going a bit nuts. I'd managed to phone my editor and produce a news list - she picked out the stories she wanted as I read them out - but now I really did need to work. But the snow on the cleared roads had melted sufficiently for me to get to a friend's house, where she had internet, albeit at glacial speeds, so I set up my computer next to hers (her wifi wouldn't accept me) and managed to get the content I needed onto a USB stick, enabling me to start working.

Got home to find the internet was up again. Then down again. Luckily, in the meantime, I'd loaded up a ton of pages, so I worked until 11.00pm and then collapsed. 

By Friday morning, the internet was up again (it's still up but very slow) and the snow was clear enough to get up to the TGV station for midnight to pick up the DH. In Ile et Vilaine, there was no snow at all and the DH persists in believing there never was any (he says). Trouble is, I don't have a camera, so I can't even show him what it was like here. The above picture is from elsewhere in this region, but does give a pretty good idea of what it was like. 

Or perhaps it was all a dream....  



Snow truant

Feels like playing hooky...


I love days like today: it's like playing hooky.

Not that I ever played hooky, that I remember. And not that I'm not working - I'll be back to it in a minute.

But when you're snowed in, and you have to cancel your appointments, and you know no-one's coming to the door, the day feels like bonus time. You can eat what you like, have a nap if you want one. It's a white world out there and nobody's looking.

I should have been at the dentist this afternoon, but the inch of snow that fell in the night is more than enough to make driving here impossible. There's a hill from our house to the gate, from the gate to the end of the drive, and from the end of the drive, in either direction, you once again have to go uphill. Without a 4x4 it's a no-go.

So, here I sit in a big leather recliner, wrapped up in a slanket (courtesy of my sister last year). We knew this was coming, so we got plenty of food and drink in. We lit the woodie first thing and the house is toasty warm, as are we in our fleece layers. The dog and the cats are arrayed around the fire (curiously, they never seem to GO anywhere in this weather...). Ravel on the radio. Had a walk round the garden earlier, with the dry powdered snow blowing off the barn roofs and the frozen ponds covered in rabbit footprints.

The parrotia tree, which came into bloom a week ago with its tiny crimson jewels of flowers, is alive with coloured flutterings. I'm about to feed the birds for the fifth time and so harsh is the weather, we have a whole new set visiting us outside of the usual titbirds and robins. A yellowhammer turned up this morning - the first I've seen at the bird table - and a multitude of greenfinches and chaffinches, dunnocks and nuthatches, all vying with the great spotted woodpeckers and blackbirds for our wild bird seed mix, chopped cheese and fatballs, not to mention water. The poor beasts need all the help they can get and I'm glad I bought a 5kg sack of seed. 

Right, that's me away to work an hour or so before a hot chocolate and ginger cake call.

Stay wrapped up, people. And if you venture out, do it carefully. 


Winter's bone

Winter's here, then....

Well, that was a bit of a shock, wasn't it? Snow? I must admit that wasn't what I was expecting. 

On Monday I did the shopping in a t-shirt. In our local town, it was 20 degrees - astonishingly warm for the end of October - and although since then it has rained, which lowered the temperature somewhat, I had quite forgotten what a stiff nor'easterly can do to the atmosphere.

Last winter was unusually still, given that we live on a hill. Normally in winter, one characteristic of this house is the crashing, booming, creaking sound of beams and timbers shifting in the wind like the rigging in a ship. So when it started up last night it felt comfortingly familiar. 

The bedroom temperature too was familiar, though not quite so comforting - 13 degrees. Too bloody cold by half when I've got used to 17-19 degrees in there. We still had the summer bedding on and our 4.5 tog wool duvet, plus a couple of wool blankets just didn't cut it, especially with our stay-cool bamboo sheets, and we both kept waking up cold all night. So today I've stripped the bed, put the electric blanket on number 1 to take the chill off, and added a huge vintage wool-stuffed quilt. I have no idea what tog it equates to, as I found it in a local brocante, but I think it will do for now. 

We got up pretty early in order to warm up, and today is the day I've cracked out the thermals (the DH succumbed yesterday). So, that will be me in my Superwomans from Five Seasons for the rest of the year.  

The forecast for today was 7 degrees but actually it's 2, and we've had snow, rain and hail. The snow didn't settle, just flurried down in gigantic flakes the size of postage stamps. I walked the dog in it later and it was beautiful, with the golden, still unharvested maize, and the sun shining on the stubble. The sky alternated between charcoal and a brilliant blue and with the standing water in the paddy-like fields the whole landscape turned into a mirror. 

Back home to camomile tea and chocolates, lately brought back by the DH from Brussels, and a roaring woodburner surrounded by sleeping cats. I must admit to loving winter when it's like this - when I can get out in it, get soaked, then come home, get dry and warm again and just relax in my big new black leather recliner (el cheapo, courtesy of a friend who was having a chuckout). It's one of the rare occasions that living in the country is exactly like you thnk it's going to be. 





More snow!

Well, they said snow. What they didn't say was 70kmph winds, blizzards and six inches of the white stuff

Trust me to open my big mouth yesterday. What did I say about the snow?

16cm of the stuff fell in the night - that's six inches in old money. 6.3 to be precise. Not Washington or Baltimore, admittedly, but enough to bring the place to a standstill. We are once again in a white, white world. 

I went out for a walk in it just now, which was very hard going. There is, strangely, not a single animal track in the snow today - perhaps it's so deep they daren't venture out. Consequently I've given the birds a double helping of grub, plus lots of warm water, and put out vegetable peelings for the deer, if they should stray by. 

When the snow fell back in December, I didn't really get out in it much because I couldn't get my wellies on after my foot ops. So it was nice to benefit from it today - bitter NE wind and all. It is incredibly bright and sunny, with an alpine blue sky, so once into my kit I was as warm as toast. In case you're wondering, this is:

Cycling thermals, ski gloves, angora back-warmer and thermal socks from Lidl

Cashmere poloneck

Down jacket

Skiing trousers and microfibre balaclava from a local sports shop

Neoprene-lined wellies by Aigle

Guy Cotton yachtsman's jacket

Pull-on hat with brim. 

OK, I look two feet tall, but who cares? I could throw myself down and make snow angels without even feeling it.

The poor dog had to stop every five minutes to pull snowballs off his ankles, and every so often would disappear into a ditch, only his nose visible, but he's had a great time charging around. 

Once back in, I have again togged up: angora long-johns, silk vest, CC41 thermal t-shirt, cashmere polo, Shetland gilet, cashmere cardigan, merino trousers, thermal socks, Ugg boots, woolly hat and fingerless gloves. I seem to be wearing a small flock of sheep all to myself. 

Oh la, enjoy it while it lasts, I suppose - thank heavens I got in two weeks' shopping on Monday....



Cabin fever

We've been hampered by the snow for the best part of a month now - it's getting a little irritating

snowI must now confess to being somewhat fed-up with the weather.

We've been snowed in now for most of the time since December 13, only able to make odd forays to the (curiously empty) supermarkets, then sliding back down our snowy/icy hill (see pic) and lugging in the shopping from the gate because we literally dare not drive into the courtyard.

Friends have become phone and email entities (when we haven't lost web access, that is, like we did all this weekend) and there is not a sound of a car or a tractor to be heard. 

Here in mixed-farming country, there is little need for the farmers to drive their tractors on the snow-covered roads unless they have cattle to feed. The pigs and fowl are safely in their heated sheds, the winter wheat and oats are safely in the ground, and everything else won't be planted until spring. In fact, in this clayey country, the farmers are probably rubbing their hands at how the winter weather is doing their sod-busting for them. 

The main roads around us have been cleared by the councils, but the smaller roads remain untouched and lethally slippery, with more snow and freezing rain on the way. Today, therefore, we ventured out and stocked up for another good two weeks, as we just don't know if and when we'll get out again. The supermarket carpark was an ice rink and we've had one fatality up the lane where an old man slipped and cracked his head on the ice. 

Still, the enforced solitude and the inability to get on with the garden have finally spurred me to do some 'sorting' out and clothing repairs. I sat down last night to darn a cashmere sweater that had ripped in the armscye and found 10 small holes in it, mostly courtesy of the cats, and finally plugged them all up.

Darning was one of those things my grandad taught me to do and it's stood me in good stead over the years - I can still see him now, in his old people's bungalow, patiently darning his socks over a darning mushroom.

Oh well, off to light the woodburner, and as I type down comes the snow again, this time near-horizontal, driven by an easterly wind. The activities of daily living certainly do seem to take up an inordinate amount of time in winter....

»  Click here to see some photos of our local landscape ...


A slightly grumpy Christmas?

Now that I've got the Christmas spirit in, perhaps I can get more into the Christmas spirit

Christmas comes but once a year - a shame, then, that it's in winter.

One flake of snow and Britain grinds to a halt

Well, it's that - y'know - snowy time of year again and Britain, as usual, can't cope worth a damn

Maybe it's just the wrong kind of snow again...