Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Seasonal doldrums

Yesterday: slush and muck. The lanes ran with melt water.

Today? Still some grubby snow up here and a 'pratfall' on the vestiges of ice awaits the unwary. Our landscape is green again. I stood on the field today and looked around - much as I looked out 10 days ago at the snow covered hills. I knew green would be under the white stuff - how come it's such a surprise?

Everywhere looks battered and bruised and a little washed out. It's much the same indoors. The flotsam and jetsam of the holiday season covers every surface; fridge is full of little leftovers on plates, cards sit drunkenly and the mistletoe shrivels. Our guests have gone home.

We loll around indolently, feeling full and bored to tears by holiday television and its wall to wall crap furniture advertising. Maybe we should get out into the great outdoors which surrounds us....but frankly, seasonal inertia has set in; we can't be arsed. The Glam Ass retreats to his shed and I take up knitting. Ah, the joy of socks!

Our Lovely Presents have not yet found their final homes and sit around where they can be admired, stroked and pondered over. Give me a week and the loveliest little doggy doorstop will be stopping the bedroom window from banging. The chocolate panettone will be scoffed and the Yaktrax crampons will be firmly attached to the boots.

What's a girl to do with this though?

Yes, it's a stone axe head. Possibly about 4,000 years old, maybe 5,000. Blimey! I wasn't expecting one of those.

Next stop: New Year. Only 3 action packed days to go before then.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In which I see the moon...

We are living in a magical marshmallow land where the mundane is topped with soft and bouncy snowy cushions. The ordinary becomes extraordinary masked by snow and ice.

I summon up sufficient layers of clothing, grab the camera and go out to greet the great outdoors. I'll regret it if I don't;  I'll look back in July and think 'I can't believe the garden was ever white-over.' Sod's law has it that the camera battery gives out two snaps into my photo shoot. Pah!

I manage at least to photograph the wisteria outside the front door. Water had trickled drip on drip down the plant and made a fantastic cascade which ends on the outside light. Where the water has come from I don't know - the temperature this afternoon soared to a remarkable -3 degrees (not above freezing you note) - so arguably any water should not have been liquid. I know, I know. The photograph does not do it justice.

The effort of putting on all those layers of clothing should not be wasted so after stumping indoors to put the battery on charge I come back out to feed the hens; up on the field to throw corn and replace frozen water and, at the same time, yell obscenities to the small flock of starlings which have discovered easy pickings. Grr! Damn and blast you! Starlings, leave that food alone.

Later, much later, when the fires are lit and the lights on the Christmas tree sparkle I spy, through the glass of the garden room windows, a rosy glow in the east beyond Fir House. It is the rising moon, a huge moon of the rosiest red which soars, even as we watch, above the horizon. I know last night, the night of both solstice and eclipse, was the night to see the moon but tonight it is here for us. It is the fairly insignificant red dot in the picture below.

If it looks pretty special to me and mine, hung about with all our knowledge and technologies how much more so must it have been to our predecessors on this old hill. A thing of magic and mystery. The shivers I feel on my shoulders are sometimes not to do with the cold.

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Sing Choirs of Angels'

We were 'at Home' yesterday - an event which under normal circumstances would have guaranteed a full house. When snow fell truly, madly and deeply on Saturday morning I think we knew our numbers would be depleted. This isn't a hill for the faint hearted. I am learning this.

No worries - in for a penny, in for pound. Wine, beers and juices were chilled in a snow-filled bin outside, meats were roasted, canapés assembled and warm mince pies amassed. Bring it on.

We missed those who could not join us and enjoyed the company of those who did.  A huge thank you to John who scraped our lane clear of snow - making the last ½ mile a safer journey.

Towards the end of the evening just before the last of our guests drifted away the Carol Singers arrived - Chirbury and Marton Young Farmers. We coaxed them indoors ('Forget your boots, it's only a floor') to sing for us. Their young voices: gruff baritones, shy tenors and wispy sopranos - gave generous measure. 3 carols, all old favourites, sounded pretty good to me.

I love the idea - and I'm not going to be particularly articulate here - of the Christmas story being schlepped round the neighbourhood: I'm thinking Thomas Hardy and his Wessex tales, of mummers and of traditions which come from before-we-know-when; of reasons lost in the mists of time for going door to door to bring news in the depth of winter. All this out of darkness under twinkling lights and boughs of evergreens - we know not why. I have my mistletoe, that most curious of plants, hung on a beam.

I only really wanted to say - 'Thanks for carolling'. You made my day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Same old. Same old.

I stand up on the field shortly after 8.00am - hen-letting-out-time - and watch as another band of gritty snow bowls in from the north west. It is strangely bleakly beautiful up here at the end of the Long Mountain when the landscape is reduced to a palette of  black and white and grey. The snow has muffled sound as well - there is the merest murmur of a breeze in the conifers of Badnage Wood and the urgent cackles of poultry that is in and wishes (so far) to be out.

I can spare a moment to stand and stare, take a photo or two before stuffing the camera back into a dusty pocket and getting on with the job in hand. I'm wrapped up nice and warm, thank you. Several mis-matched layers and pair of new warm wellies. Gloves, hat, scarf and wes'kit complete the ensemble. Thank goodness the style police can't make it as far as Trelystan.

There is every possibility though that if we make it out of Trelystan today even we won't make it back. A brief trip down to Welshpool in the pick-up is a hairy-scary ride on glassy roads - snow over ice. We are right to be fearful of the dreaded Leighton Bank - the road that gritters forget and where the sun never reaches. The Glam Ass is made of stern stuff and relishes a few slithers. Me? You know I'm an utter wimp and would have turned back long ago. Or is it more to do with men being the risk takers?

We reach Welshpool safely (hurrah!) and get the shopping. Gravity will take us downhill but will we be able to get enough traction to make the uphill journey? We come home via a different route which isn't too bad. Coming down our lane proves hazardous - which is why the afternoon sees Trelystan's gritting team (self and GA) raiding the grit heap and throwing said grit liberally on the sheet ice. Are we now part of the 'Big Society?

 One of a flock of Field Fares looking fairly peeved in the morning's snow storm

The Christmas tree is up and dressed and sparkles in the corner - I'm going to sit in front of the stove, bask in its warmth, and enjoy a few quiet moments looking at the lights and their reflections.

Plenty to do -no time for sitting really. We have a 'bit of a do' on Sunday - will any of our guests be able to get here is the question?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Deer stalking....

Tonight I need to rustle up a reindeer. To be more exact, the silhouette of a reindeer. M, down in the village, feels the need for a reindeer to grace the stage at next Saturday's 'Christmas-light-switch-on' fest.

Me? I feel that cutting out a silhouette is far preferable to making a 3D, life-size papier maché model when the clock is ticking, so have set about an in depth t'interweb search for a reindeer with a perfect profile. In secret though, even this is one reindeer too many at a busy time of year.

Here is my role model:
I came about him by a fairly circuitous route - full marks by the way if you recognise the source of this beastie. (Guilty, guilty, guilty..... but sometimes a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.....) Full marks to me for my devious means of capturing him too. Hey - this is deer stalking! Scaled up, cut out and with the judicious application of an illuminated red nose and we will have Rudolph.

Tomorrow I shall go armed with my drawing, soft leaded pencil and oodles of confidence and draw him up big-size.

Anyone out there any good with a jigsaw?

Friday, December 03, 2010

The trouble with snow

Apologies for this. More white stuff. Seven days into snow-bound and my world has shrunk to 'getting in' and 'getting out'. We are in a little snow-cocoon which has narrow, slidey and dodgy lines to the wider world.
The truck and snow-drifts. Make a good name for a pub perhaps......
....and the lane looking west towards the Stiperstones - Bromlow Callow is the  tiny black 'eyebrow' at the very top left of the picture.

The road is clear (ish) and with a little care it was possible today to go down the hill to Marton and thence to Bishop's Castle.

I quite like our special isolation up here - we did choose to live here so really shouldn't complain - but how ordinary it is down below.

I must remind myself to be very careful of what I wish for.........