Astonishingly January has gone. I have always tried to hold onto the idea of February as the very beginning of spring, partly because I begin to long for warmer weather, for bulbs and lambs and catkins on the trees. However both Karen and Weaver tell me that Candlemas, which was yesterday, 2nd February, is the halfway point between the winter and the spring solstice and so, in truth, the dead of winter.
That is certainly how it feels today. The snow was deep enough to make getting up our track look an impossibility this morning even for the 4x4. We did manage to get in last night, leaving our other car in the village and making our way home through dark and driving snow, tentatively nudging up our icy hill in the Suburu. The house was cold but sprang to life with a fire in the stove, the oven on, the old oil boiler noisily churning out heat. Arriving home in the dark it was impossible to tell anything other than that the hill and the hedges, just seen in the headlamps, were heavy with snow. We woke this morning to a white world, beautiful, cruelly cold in the wind, immaculate.
Ian saw to the stunned and umimpressed chickens whose water was frozen solid. They were not interested in being out in this white world and hurried back into the house to squabble on the perch. I filled the birdfeeders in the little quince tree. My footsteps were hard and clear an hour or two ago but the wind is whirling and eddying the fallen snow, softening the outline like meringue which is not yet ready to hold its shape. Perhaps by tomorrow the footprints will have gone.
Last week I had been inspecting the snowdrops down by the bottom of the wall, growing in clumps of glaucous green leaves amongst tiny primroses. Today most have disappeared under the snow. The primroses are completely hidden but here and there one or two snowdrops droop, no longer the whitest thing in the garden.
The hedges in the cottage garden have hats of snow. I know you are supposed to knock snow off trees and shrubs and hedges so that the weight doesn't cause branches to bow and break but I don't think this is enough to give these hedges a problem.
So today feels like a strange stolen day. I have not gone to London, Ian has not been able to go to work. Cities and roads seem like another world, everything shrunk down not even to the valley but to this old house, tucked under the hill, doing its age old job of providing shelter against the worst of the weather. It is strange to think that this has been happening here for four hundred years. I wonder if it will stand for another four hundred.