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8th February

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We are still in the throes of the big freeze. The first few days were hard, it scarcely stopped snowing and it felt very limiting being confined to the barn. There is always the internet, the news, favourite blogs, the odd sudoku and of course unlimited books to read on my kindle, but I do need to spend at least part of the day outside. So when it stopped snowing and the roads sufficiently clear to drive north where the skies were clear we put on our boots and had a three hour walk along snow covered paths with endless views of the pristine white countryside, beautiful. Our walk took us through a hill top village in Haute Garonne where we stopped to help someone push their car away from the kerb, off the hard packed snow and onto a bit of exposed tarmac. The steep lanes out of the village had been taken over by small children and sledges, hurtling down at breakneck speeds. The children must have had the day off school. I have seen only one snow plough, clearing the main road to Toulouse. Many of the small country lanes are still impassable.

The post woman took four days off, and then had four times as many stops when she was allowed back on the road. I met her yesterday when I walked over to see our neighour, Fatima who lives alone. One of Fatima’s chickens has a clutch of five baby chicks, she has moved them into her bedroom for warmth. Amazingly her cats haven’t tried to eat them.The post woman gave me a pile of letters and 2 parcels so she didn’t have to stop again at our house. The bin men haven’t ventured out, there are piles of black bags surrounding all the communal bins on rural lanes. I drove into town with mine, those are still being emptied.

Last night the temperature dropped to minus 12. We have to break the ice on the pond every morning for the fish and the cats still prefer pond water to that from the taps. They live permanently in the barn now, I’ve grown accustomed to having cats jumping on and off the bed through the night, the regular click of the cat flap and the odd scuffle . Last night one of them brought in a bird, it looked as though a pillow had burst this morning, feathers everywhere. Heating up the barn has become more of a challenge. From a starting temperature of eight or nine degrees in the morning, it takes it a couple of hours to get to fifteen degrees, which feels warm enough to get showered and dressed. The forecast is for a high of minus 5 degrees today, but with sunshine. I would love to take a photo of the house in the snow, but the conservatory man has left his huge battered van here, parked in front of the house for safe keeping, I think it contains all his cutting equipment. They won’t return until it warms up.

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