Bitterly cold. Snowed all night. Still snowing now. Must be about a foot and a half deep. Or 45.7 cms in modern lingo. Stepped outside at sparrow's fart ce matin in dressing gown and slippers to let the dogs out for their morning constitutional. Clipped Sprocket onto his apple tree rope while Jock ploughed on somewhere round the back. Couple of minutes later heard a scratch on the door. Let the blighters back in and they headed straight for the kitchen stove. Spotted a couple of their calling cards in the snow. Nipped out with shovel and plastic bag. Hopped back indoors with snowy feet. Made cuppa. Broke up some stale bread and stuck it on the window sill. Birds appeared from nowhere. Robins first, then sparrows and finches. Blackbirds birds hung back in the apple tree, too timid to fly to the window. A few magpies and rooks lined up at the bottom of the garden. Broke up some more bread and slung it outside the front door. Might save a few lives. Dunno how they survive these winters.
Must admit that these chilly winters came as a bit of a shock in my first year here. The only heating was a tiny little fire in the rusty old kitchen oven. Fire compartment was about the size of a very small shoebox. Had to cut up damp logs with a blunt axe. Any heat generated was immediately lost to icy draughts blowing through broken windows and the gap under the front door. Looking back, I'm amazed I didn't pack up and return to Blighty. However, I do remember my determination to escape a country that I'd completely lost respect for played a major part in my decision to fart in the face of adversity, grit teeth and soldier on. I regarded it all as a test of my conviction.
Little did I realise it at the time but so too did most of my neighbours. Being a hardy breed of rednecks, they regard outsiders with suspicion. Especially 'les anglais'. For good reason. Their arrival usually signals an unwelcome rise in property prices so local youngsters can't afford to buy. What's more, most 'anglais' just visit for summer, without getting involved with the local community. Then they bugger off back home in winter. This, of course, can lead to winter ghost towns where shops shut down, sometimes never to open again. The arrival of 'les anglais' can be the beginning of the end. So, little wonder we weren't exactly welcomed with open arms when we first arrived. However, having passed that first winter test of conviction, I've been accepted by the hamlet community as one of their own. And so too, of course, has Georgie. For my/our second winter, local neighbours Christian and Isabelle got us properly prepared by lining us up with a couple of good, second-hand, wood-burning stoves and a plentiful supply of wood. Been fine ever since. Even the local farmer/mayor, who was noticeably chilly when we first arrived, now stops for a handshake and quick chat when we bump into him on dogwalks or shopping trips.
Talking of dogwalks, better give the mutts a run. Trouble is, that snow's even deeper now. Not sure Jock's up to it. Short legs y'know. Still, it has to be done. Then get some more wood in, feed the dogs, stoke up the stoves, watch the footy results (damn, there aren't any - matches snowed off), pour large scotch and prepare a Saturday night spag Bol. And I'd better feed those birds again. Ooh, it's all go.