We had Half Term last week and a couple of daughters and a grandson popped up to see us. The weather wasn’t that bad until the day they were due to go home. We arrived at Talkin Tarn for a last opportunity to stretch our legs prior to the long journey home. As we drove into the car park, the heavens opened and dumped an inch of hail on us. It slackened off, and we decided on a dash for the coffee shop, we hardly had the car doors open and – the sun came out. Still, the decision to go to the coffee shop first, stood, I’m pleased to report. This turned out to be one of many such hail storms – almost as though, all through the half term week, the weather had been holding itself in until it burst. Since our guests left we have had those nasty cold winds and rain, hail, rain.
We popped down to see the beck this morning during a break in the rain and sleet. He had on his old brown overalls and was busy giving his bed a good shake-out, bundling all those odds and ends he had collected along the banks off down stream and away. One by-product of this enthusiastic life laundry, I’m pleased to report, is that the stick, which had become stuck in an eddy near the bank during last weeks Pooh Sticks league battles, has at last moved on.
This isn’t your last chance to have a Happy New Year – we still have the Vernal Equinox to come – so, if you find you are reluctant to allow yourself the luxury of a whole year of happiness, you can always wait for that.
One of the things that we do have in abundance around here is sheep. So to have a year of them won’t seem to be strange or different for us. Those of you who have had to struggle through years of horses, snakes, rats and monkeys, might be feeling a little relieved to have safely navigated the stormy seas of astrological beasts to reach Sheephaven. But for us – it will be business as usual.
The most important thing to remember this year is that friends and family are there to be imposed on. Got a problem? Don’t keep it to yourself for a moment longer than you absolutely have to. Get a friend to buy you a coffee while you immerse them in your troubles. Phone your Mum. Tell her that you really need her advice – and has she made any of those cheese scones lately? It is never too much trouble to organise your friends to listen to your troubles – you only get a year, so make the most of it.
By the way – do you know under what circumstances, New Years Eve and New Years Day fall in the same year?
We keep a sharp eye out for any sign of Spring. It’s not that we are impatient for Winter to be gone, we wouldn’t be so impolite, but we would like some reassurance that Spring still has us on her To Do list. We have snowdrops everywhere, and many green spear-like leaves promising hyacinths, bluebells, daffodils and crocuses.
Now, there is a difference between birdsong and bird calls. Birds call all year round, but most only sing during the mating season. The blackbird is one of those with a markedly different set of sounds for Spring. With it being such a long time since last year, he can’t quite remember how the tune goes. As soon as he’s sure that Spring is really on the way, he will find a quiet corner and practise a few trills quietly to himself.
We’ve caught him doing this a few times these last few days – so I wrote him a poem.
In the hedge as I passed by,
in winter’s branches brown and dry,
I chanced to hear a blackbird sing
stirring in me brief thoughts of spring.
The melody was not so strong,
as if some half remembered song.
Softly, he sang this private bird,
not knowing I had overheard.
I, embarrassed to do such thing
silently left him to his practising.
‘Oh. Hello. I didn’t see you there. The rest of them? Oh, they’re off over that way somewhere. Sometimes you just need a hole in the hedge and a little me time, don’t you? A bit of peace and quiet. A chance to think, without some over-helpful soul offering you a penny for your thoughts.
‘You know – you need to weigh things up. I mean, if you’re a heavy thinker, you can end up with a lot on your mind – the cares of the world on your shoulders. I suppose you’d have to try to arrange to have the biggest and flattest thoughts at the bottom of the pile. You wouldn’t want the whole heap to topple over. How many thoughts do you reckon you get in a pound? Would a pound of weighty thoughts be worth a pound? Is a frivolous day dream fairly cheap? That would be a popular line – you could get a good price, I’d have thought.
‘Well, it makes you think, doesn’t it, what could you think about that would only be worth a penny? I mean, in for a penny, in for a pound and all. If you are going to spend your day thinking penny thoughts, you may as well not think at all.
‘Come to think of it, that may explain a lot.’
The weather has turned atrocious these last few days. We had overcast, rain and very strong winds for a while, then two beautifully calm, and comparatively warm, sunny days. Last night the cold, violent winds were back – and this morning, just to avoid boring repetition, we woke to a couple of inches (and counting) of snow. And at this time? We have a lovely warm-ish sunny day and the snow is busy turning into slush as we speak.
You know, it would be easy to think that, as the schools were closed because of the bad weather, the guy in charge in the weather room, had had to bring his children in to work with him – just to keep them out of mischief. I think he’s been called away to attend a meeting. Probably, because of the erratic nature of the current programme, there are serious issues arising from the need to keep the stock levels in the weather stores within the safe band.
You see, the computer goes loopy when the levels fall below a certain value, and it spits out continuous printouts that spill all over the floor and make such a mess – to say nothing of the nuisance of having to keep refilling the paper tray, to stop the beeping noise the printer makes when it’s empty.
Anyway, as I was going to say up at the top there – we’ve had some snow, and I took a picture of some snowdrops. It just seemed to be the thing to do.
We’ve been reading one of those terrible books. Instead of allowing us to gradually become more and more decrepit as the years pass, lazily, by – apparently we have to eat sensibly, drink less, and horror of horrors – exercise!
It wouldn’t have been too bad if I had been able to keep it to myself. Disturbing tales of this sort do affect me deeply – but luckily, I’m resilient, and within a few days, a week or so at the most, I can recover my equilibrium, and return to normal. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of sharing the book with Jackie.
Now, on reaching the T junction – where previously, we would pause for a moment before retracing our steps – Jackie has decreed that we must extend our journey, briskly, down to the railway embankment and through the tunnel.
When you turn and look back, from the other side of the tunnel, the great mass of the embankment seems to block out the sky. Then, you notice that the road disappears into the tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel is a small, bright spot of daylight. Taking your courage in both hands, you plunge into the gloom, while the weight of the whole earth presses down above you. (At this point, it’s often good to go “Hoo-oo-oo!” and wake the echoes.) As you progress through the Stygian darkness, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter – as does the vista that opens up.
There is an inspirational message here, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.
Well! What excitement. We woke up one day this week to find that our electricity had packed its bags and tippy-toed away during the night. I hope it wasn’t something we said.
Finding ourselves in a cold house, with no means of even making a comforting cup of tea, was an unpleasant awakening. Luckily we have lovely neighbours (who, irritatingly, still had the power on) so the cup that cheers was soon forthcoming.
We’ve had a ferocious wind blowing in, straight off the Atlantic – via the width of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Irish Sea – for several days now and this was our prime suspect, so I set about the process of restoration.
First – out into the weather to check the fuse box. No luck there.
Next, a phone call to the people who look after the wires – “Oh no. You’re underground wires, it can’t be our fault!” Undeterred we phoned the people who use those wires to deliver the electricity direct to our door 24/7/365. A short while later I had a call back from the man – he was half a county away, it would be a couple of hours . . .
He came. He looked. He shook his head. “Not us – it’s definitely them.” He phoned the wires people and explained on my behalf. “Oh!” they said “Ah. Yes!” they said. “We’re actually on our way to fix that one right now!”
We decided to retire to the local supermarket to stay out from under their feet – and sit in the warm cafe with a cup of coffee. A couple of hours later I received a call to say it was all up and working.
We were lucky. A great many people have had a far worse power cut for far longer than we had.
So, to all those who were dragged out into the rotten weather on our behalf, and who thought they were just doing their job. By us at least, that day, you were truly appreciated. Thank you, each and every one.