For weeks the weather has been playing an alternating game: a day of calm, blue sky, still trees and winter sunshine, followed by a day of wild wind and rain, making the yew tree stream and lash its branches while the kitchen window streams water.
Weather makes a difference up here. Filling the bird feeders, going for logs, shutting up the chickens: there is no escape from wind and rain when the storms come. When it is still and sunny you stand and look at the view, notice the birds whipping in and out of the hedges, watch the buzzards soaring or stalking. But I am shut in a bubble of grey, wrapped in slightly grubby cotton wool. I can see the blue stillness or the driving rain but somehow I can't tell the difference. I take my camera out on a perfect day, hoping that the effort of making myself see will help me break out of my cocoon but I can't be bothered to look at the pictures when I come back inside.
I need to look after the living, I can see that, so Ian and I drive backwards and forwards to Devon to see my father. When I am with him I feel like myself again, making a difference, lightening his own heavy load. When I am home the grey wool closes in again.
I decide that I must engage with Christmas. We have my children coming to stay, younger son and daughter in law with their eight week old baby are staying here with us and my elder daughter and her family will stay with the younger daughter, only twenty five minutes away. Three days' worth of buying presents and planning food make it the shortest time I have ever given to getting ready for Christmas. It makes me feel better to be doing something and to know that a Christmas with our four year old grandson, new baby granddaughter, two dogs and our children and their partners will be ok. Older grandson who won't be with us on Christmas Day comes to stay the weekend before Christmas and we make paper chains and mince pies. He is delighted to meet his new baby cousin. It is important to get this right. My mother was good at occasions, as she was good at the every day. She would not want us to have a sad, empty Christmas.
And Christmas Day itself is fine, no, better than fine. The two girls cook up a storm. There is a free range turkey raised by some friends and a huge dish of roast potatoes. There is bread sauce and two sorts of stuffing and pigs in blankets, red cabbage, buttery carrots and sprouts and totally delicious gravy. It is good to look round the table and see everyone. My presents seem to have something of a theme of comfort: scarves, warm socks, slippers.
Sometimes in bed at night the loss of my mother comes breaking through like a spring tide, making me sob and shake. I think I want to take it out and look at it, to be somewhere by myself, away from everyone, away from home, to sit quietly in a silent place and think about her and say goodbye but it can't be done. The flooding anxiety about my father will need to drop a little first I think.
So there is nothing to be done other than to take the huge comfort offered by my family, to eat and to drink and to play with the children, to sit on the sofa and to hold Ian's hand. To everything there is a season and while I do not want the season of grey, shrouding cotton wool, it does not matter what I want. Children and babies and grandchildren and dogs have broken through now and then and I have smiled and laughed with them and for that I know I am lucky.
"How am I doing you ask, Mum?" "I am doing ok. I am doing as well as I can."
There is a season for everything and one day the wind will come and the grey cloud will be torn to tatters and maybe I will be able to see right across the valley and up to the ridge. In the meantime, put another log on the fire.