Well it’s been getting warmer for the last 24 hours so I’m looking forward to spring. Various small plants, I think snowdrops have been included, are reportedly sprouting and the bulk of the snow has melted. That doesn’t mean it has all gone though, the road to Edinburgh (A70) locally called the ‘Lang Whang’ is blocked with drifting snow and the hills will be white for a while yet. Our (nearly) daily walk up the bing is mostly wind-scoured clean and not as wet as usual during the melt, but where the drifts are it can still be a foot deep. Just a tad deeper than my walking boots.
We’ve been lucky with the snow, almost all of it powder-snow which barring the odd drift, is great for kids and sledges, although not so good for snow-balls. When the wind picks it up it looks like the arctic, but without the polar-bears, and the sculpted shapes which change every day, are weird, ephemeral and - under a blue sky - evocative of something sparkly. I’d be quite entranced if I could persuade it not to blow across my nostrils.
Sadly I do have to report a slight murder, or murrrder, in the manner of Taggart, a fictional TV detective from Glasgow. The victim was only a few days old and quite healthy when we left him on the bing. Still I suppose it was quick and saved him that slow, lingering dissolution common to most snowmen. The depth of snow has been recorded on our garden table, and as deep as we’ve had it but in a series of falls and melts so it has usually gone between times. I’d say about 15 inches in 3 or 4 goes. The winters here generally build up the layers, so we can provide avalanches with the best of them, often able to bury small cars, but this time it was quite gentle, and no doubt will amuse our Canadian Italian and American readers. There, of course, they are used to it, and further north those around Aviemore will be in deeper drifts, although presumably unable to actually ski because of covid19. Rather sad when hundreds would love to be out in what looks like excellent conditions and have the time. I hear some were ignoring the rules, so the snow gates had to be closed. I made a point of extending our weekly shopping run (well it’s actually Fiona usually) to the HiQ tyre centre on our way and getting a couple of socially distanced all season tyres onto the front of the Nissan. The high efficiency EV tyres had been slipping rather alarmingly, so they’ve been parked for the duration. Getting the food bank stock back to Woolfords was a little hairy and I’m glad to say the new ‘Cross Climate’ Michelins have a much better grip. I’d get a set of real winter tyres but that is impractical until I’ve found another set of steel wheels to put them on. Of course that was ideal for 48 hours and then it started melting, but that’s life and they should be better at dealing with the flooding that usually follows. We were lucky in that while the weather can be difficult at times around here, we, or rather the house, don’t get flooded, snowed in, storm damaged or over-heated very often. By way of a diversion though the central heating (Ground Source) decided to take a holiday yesterday morning. The wood fire and the immersion heater have meant little impact on us, but I’ll be glad to see the engineer who should be here in the next hour or so. The cats definitely like the all day fire though. Which reminds me I should get the chimney swept soon. It doesn’t seem to soot up as much as it might but there’s no point in pushing our luck. One of our neighbours had a chimney fire a few days back and we returned from our walk to see a fireman on his roof, looking like Father Christmas doing a ‘returns’ visit. Fiona had been digging into one of my heaps (I call it ad-hoc horizontal filing) and found a photo of my Triton from 1980 that I thought lost and several others which I’d have had difficulty finding in a hurry. Thanks to Susan who photographed them at the same time I think, I rarely remembered to capture such images before the digital era, so I am usually dependent on the generosity of others. I seem to be taller than I remember, or maybe it’s one of those optical things. My ability to store such large amounts of machinery was down to Elizabeth, who owned the farm, and who started my ‘fixing things’ career by providing garage, tools and a work-bench. I just hope I didn’t keep her awake with my ‘adjustments’ late at night because she lived in the ‘big house’ on the farm seen in the background. It wasn’t until hindsight was applied that I realised just how much Elizabeth influenced my life for the better, and still does. I’d still be working and in a smaller house for a start. I think I was born behind one of the windows seen, but, being very young at the time, I’m not sure. In terms of fixing things the majority has been indoors for the last few months. I did sell a Midge, using a haulage firm called Shipley who are able to do such moves even in lockdown. The driver of the flat-bed had been driving from job to job for about 10 days, presumably stopping to eat and sleep occasionally, a cheerful chap called Tom from Yorkshire (it’s not mutually exclusive) and I’d recommend the firm, and Tom if I’d picked up his surname, for shifting stuff like furniture and cars. The price is down to a bidding process and I’ve been happy with what I’ve had to pay, especially noting Tom’s workload. I should be due my first Covid inoculation jag soon, (no letter yet), being over 65 and I’m wondering if I’ll be able to tell from that whether I’ve had the virus, or at least already resistant to it. From what I’ve heard people tend to react more to the second than the first. So if the partial immunity from the first jag is the reason for the reaction to the second then presumably the reaction to the first would indicate my body has seen this virus before. I assume that’s why bovine TB reactions are judged by the size of the lump, although that’s a bacterium. About a third of the people who ‘get’ Covid 19 are symptomless, or at least don’t report sick and get tested, but it might just be that they have faster immune systems. Incidentally there is reasonable evidence through peer reviewed double blind trials that Vitamin D will significantly reduce symptoms if or rather when you do catch it, and since it is cheap, available, and has no side effects. It might be worth taking some. Apparently we are in danger of ‘burn-out’ from isolation as it has been going on for so long. I can quite understand that, especially for single parents in small flats, but I look at it as being like having a bomber overhead. Nothing to worry about unless you get hit at which point regret kicks in quite quickly, only it’s not usually the person who leaves the blinds open that gets blown up, it’s their favourite aunt two streets away. Of course most only think of the risk to themselves, and they have the benefit of being unlikely to know the victims, While typing away the heating engineer has arrived and prodded the machine to see why it is off its feet. Something called a soft start which ensures the system doesn’t fire up with a bang. Well it has gone with a whimper. Expensive no doubt, but also made in Italy. Pro-Brexiters will have to forgive my lack of patience with Boris who seems to have had the same effect on the economy as the Napoleonic War, but on a voluntary non-profit basis. If anyone would like to hear my opinion of those that I cautiously refer to as a self serving bunch of perverted, short sighted, greedy, socially inept, ugly, lazy, stupid, Etonians (I’ve been told weasels are quite nice actually and conveniently rarely attend school) then feel free to enquire. I may feel more forgiving when the soft-start devices get through what is, so far, already a month long supply chain blockage. How the businesses that have rotting seafood in lorries all over this ‘sceptered isle’ feel about it, I dread to think. Not helped that the context of the term means England rather than the UK being written around 1592, a hundred years before unification, but I can see how Shakespeare would have had trouble penning ‘the important bit of Britain nearest London.’
Excuse the raised hackles, but some clown has decided to put most of the advertising that You-tube currently offers me into a slime-stream of Nigel Farage clips advising me how to dodge taxes by taking his advice on investment. Since apparently it is unacceptable to crowd fund assassination contracts I shall further investigate ad-blockers.
We had a little extra excitement when I nearly burned the house down. Having recently mocked some unfortunate if careless janitor for putting ashes in a plastic bucket and burning down an hotel and causing the death of two residents, I put some cold ash in a cardboard box. Not so cold it appears, as it burned a patch of carpet under the box. Strangely it had not touched the sides of the box but burned down through 6 inches of earlier stone cold ash. I would have said it was completely impossible, but obviously it wasn't. It is fire proofed now, and fortunately the piece of carpet can be replaced, and is just a scruffy hidden bit that was in the house when we bought it. Since it has been there for 60 years I think it may be time to dispose of it.
Well it is about time for a Zoom meeting with the Scottish Wildlife Trust Lothians Member's Centre, so I'll leave it there and see you all when circumstances permit. Be good and dispose of embers carefully.
Jim and Fiona