We are not alone

We have had two days now of hard frost, following the weekend’s snow. Keith is trudging stoically up and down with barrows of logs, manning the fires and the cats are, as ever, keeping the bed warm. With Lachlan in Edinburgh, filling in time til his exam by acting as our remote shopper (today I did a FaceTime tour of John Lewis comparing certain items much to the amusement of the sales ladies), Mum and I are on dogwalk detail. There has been no wind, thankfully and each day has seen a charmed window between 11 and 2, with clear skies and the low slanting sun on our backs. We have tramped and slithered the lanes each resplendent in three pairs of socks, myriad jumpers, hats and gloves and, in mum’s case, deadly cool shades (the paparazzi can be such a problem…).

In all the less trodden ways there are a plethora of frozen footprints, the long toes of pheasants criss crossing with flurries of rabbit and hare and everywhere, the prints just a little bit more recent, the careful single file tread of the fox following on. We are not alone, but the creatures of the woods are remaining well hidden. Snowfall may be silent, but frost is deafening. Where cars have passed, shards of ice like broken window glass have been hurled into the verges and and slush has reformed into a strange, coral like substance. The sharp splintering crunch as we pass sends flights of fieldfare swirling into the air – no stealthy sneaking up on deer for us today!

We are in a scene of gentle colour washes. The snow was not so very deep, and the growing wheat spears and rape plants are just peeping through, giving the fields a cast of palest green at a distance. Sun through the poplars glows green gold and the oaks stand in pools of paper thin, crystal edged copper leaves. Yesterday game corridors of tall canary grass, which seemed bone white against the autumn leaves, glowed in the afternoon sun like a golden pelt. Today each spear was rimed with frost, still warm, but in the paler blonde of Lyra’s fur.

The ponds glower under thick crusts of ice, the stepping stones now utterly treacherous. Eyelash long rimes of ice have grown on bare branches and seed heads. All the stalks and twigs I have failed to clear away from the borders now look like positively inspired design choices. Heads of giant allium wear frosted caps, weaving in the bottom border like Christmas puddings on stilts. Undeterred, hellebores and rhododendrons are budding and bulb spikes peering through the snow filled caps on pots and tubs. An orange chrysanthemum refuses to submit and glows below a sheen of frost.

Fat robins have laid claim to all the feeders. “Mine, Mine” they preen and flap, chasing off the dunnocks. The even fatter blackbirds stolidly ignore them and, ninja like, the blue tits dart in and out stealing the seed from under their very beaks. As the sun goes down behind the trees the view from the Library window is so beautiful I can’t bear to draw the curtains and put on the lights, so I am sitting here half frozen in the murk.

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