I think it started snowing here on December 17th. So we've had snow for 22 days. I've never known anything like it. Even when I was a child we didn't have snow for this long, although we certainly had more of it. I can remember going for walks round Dean as a child (my grandparents' village) and falling off the verge into the ditch, and the snow being up over my head. And for some reason Raine and I have never understood, my mother never bought us wellies. What other more essential item of country attire is there? So my poor grandmother would put plastic bags over our shoes, and strap them up our legs, as we begged her to let us out to play. She must have been torn between the desire for five minutes peace, and the risk of us coming in with frostbite, and she certainly wouldn't want to face the wrath of my mother, the very one who hadn't provided suitable footwear in the first place, but who would not place the blame at her own front door. Imagine if the holidays were over and we'd been too ill to go back to school!
Talking of which, school has been closed all week. The boys are having an extended Christmas holiday, but were in fact looking forward to meeting up with all their friends, even if play was interrupted by bouts of spellings and learning times tables. They are bored rigid. What are you supposed to do if you're a working mum? Not everyone has parents who can stay off work at the drop of a hat, have they? Or grannies readily available to step into the breach.
And today, I've been weighed down with worry about the elderly, as I am wearing a hat indoors to keep warm, and I am forty-two. How do you cope if you are eighty, and your meals on wheels can't get through? And what on earth happens to the homeless? There aren't enough shelters, are there? In Scotland it's been -18 at night. That's the same temperature as in Moscow. How is anyone supposed to sleep rough in that?
Apparently people are panic buying, things like bread and milk. And farmers are throwing milk away because the milk lorries can't get through the snow to come and collect it. The postman hasn't been here all week. I am annoyed because my parcel from Raine hasn't arrived, and neither has my next DVD from Tesco. It's a shambles, isn't it? A friend of mine, who used to live in Norway, says this is bikini weather to them. How do they cope? What do they wear?
Not that I'm cold, of course, because I'm ill, and only have to muck out for five minutes and I'm sweating like someone with malaria. For some reason I am actually colder indoors than I am outside.
I turned the horses out this morning. They are quite happy with their routine of being turned out from eight til twelve, with hay in the field, then back in at lunch time for a good gossip round a haynet. I can't leave them out longer as there's nothing for them to drink. If I put water in the trough it freezes within half an hour. I have noticed them tasting and licking the snow, though. To them it must be like discovering the most enormous slush puppie in the world.
Max stayed with me at the gate, staring at my pocket, which means, "You've got mints in there, mum, how's about dishing a few out?" I never have mints on me. I am notorious for being mean with mints. I groped in my pocket and found... a penknife. Max leant forward and nearly swallowed it in his haste. In the nick of time he realised he has plenty of iron in his diet and doesn't require any more. He shuffled off, baffled, 'I could have sworn...'
When I got in, I turned my pockets out: penknife, phone, keys, hoofpick, oh, and a packet of Extra Strong Mints, well, who'd have thought it?
So at lunch time, I sidled up to him, and whispered, "You know the mints? Turns out you were right," and surreptitiously slipped him the goods. His day improved considerably after that, 'Told you I was right!'
I have been busy in the afternoons. Yesterday I managed to bake cakes without sneezing all over them. We are going to need cakes and biscuits to see us through, I think. But today I didn't have the energy to do anything, so I got a sleeping bag out, put the fire on and lay in front of the television, as I decided today was as good a day as any to watch The Duchess. Tigger came and curled up next to me. He does love me, but I can't help feeling the warmth of the hot water bottle was more of an attraction than the warmth of my personality.
I have been meaning to watch The Duchess for ages, but needed Mr O to be out of the way, as I didn't think it would be his sort of film, and I needed to concentrate. I wanted to see it, as Georgiana is an ancestor of the Duchess of Devonshire and Princess Diana, and of course Kiera Knightley stars in it. It turned out to be a beautiful and extraordinary film. Georgiana marries William, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who then has an affair with her best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, and moves her in as his mistress, but won't let Georgiana go. I am amazed on two counts: 1: that it was even allowed to happen, it must have been considered outrageous, in those days and 2: that the current Devonshires were happy for the film to be made. I don't know if I'd like my historical linen to be 'aired in public' in quite such a way! The sets and costumes are breathtaking, Keira Knightley is extremely good in it, as is Ralph Fiennes as the Duke, and yes, I do see the similarities between Georgiana and Princess Diana, obviously. I might suggest Mr O watches it after all.