Friday, January 1, 2010
Careful What You Wish For
Having just penned several hundred words on the joys of a snowy winter, as if to show I had no idea what I was talking about, yesterday evening the icybars cascaded on Northumberland with two feet of powdery stuff: the farm looks as though a giant bailer of icing sugar has been emptied all over it. The cars are completely covered - you can't even make out the roof racks. We've been stranded in this white paradise since New Year’s Eve – I’ve photographs of our garden that would grace the lid of any biscuit tin. The whole valley is silent and the cattle in the neighbouring fields are shell-shocked. The bull is particularly grumpy and stands apart from his cows, who are huddled together round the empty feeding trough up to their rumps and sirloins in what looks like a sea of horseradish. Or maybe that’s my fantasy: our freezer packed full of sheep, the prescient gift of a local farmer. We’ll be baa-ing at each other in a few days if we can’t get out to the shops. I could murder a nice rib eye.
The dogs absolutely love it: they bounce through the powder, picking up giant snowballs of ice on their ears and legs. After a couple of hours' sledging down the big field, with dogs weaving giant spidery trails through the snow, we've spent the afternoon picking iceballs out of Truffle and Mabel's ears and trying a general dogmelt beside the Aga. Now it's time for Dorothy's Christmas Cake, iced by the children, and mulled wine with the neighbours. This must be how they celebrated Christmas in Victorian times, before global warming and Doctor Who. With the uninspiring Christmas television schedule rejected by the whole family, for the first Christmas holiday I can recall we’ve begun to open the board games we’ve given each other. Our most bizarre one is called The Clinic: it analyses whether you’re mad or not. I most certainly am, apparently. I don’t recommend it.
I’ve been trying to remember the last time we had a winter like this in the northeast. I can clearly recall my sense of wonderment at seeing the concrete emerge in the playground at Cullercoats Infants School after weeks of icy entombment. That must have been in 1957. It’s funny how snow brings back childhood memories.
It's quite nice being marooned, although Mum is due back from the South tomorrow, and Mother-In-Law flies in from L.A., so somehow I'm going to have to get out of here or they'll be staying in the Premier Inn. Bizarrely, Mum decided to book herself on the bus, rather than take the train or plane. She's travelling with her best friend Biddy. Should be a long trip - not least for the other passengers. The Volvo is daring me to take it down the lane, despite my nearly wrecking it on the ice last year. I wonder if Morpeth has a snowplough taxi service? Quite how we get out of here to pick any of them up from airports and stations is a mystery.
Best open another bottle of wine, throw a log on the fire, and let tomorrow fend for itself.
Speaking of log fires: I’m rather relieved the snow forced us to miss our friends’ New Year's Eve party. Apparently it was quite a momentous evening.
Just as Jools Holland was hooting his nanny, they suddenly heard what sounded like an earthquake inside their chimneybreast. A chimney fire is an alarming and potentially disastrous event at any time, but it’s particularly scary at 11 o’clock on New Year’s Eve. Especially when the fire engine rings to say it can’t get through the snow. Everyone rushed through the house with jugs of water to douse the flames (at one point they even tried Perrier). A solitary fireman managed to trudge through the drifts and arrived just after midnight. First footers are supposed to arrive with a piece of coal, which was the last thing they needed, but this one didn’t even have a hose. Luckily house and family survived.
I guess it made the party go with a bit of a swing, and it's certainly a talking point for the village. Make note to find a local chimney sweep. Or small boy with plenty of hair. Isn't that what they used in Victorian times?