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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The big chill

Granny has just seen that snow is forecast in London today. Meaning that she has no right to complain really. The temperature in Granny's courtyard is currently around 12-13C by day and warmer outside in the periodic bouts of sun: mild enough weather, it would seem in London even forgetting the considerable wind chill factor (the wind has mostly been blowing from the north or north-east lately and feels like it comes from the arctic; most likely it has. The normally stalwart locals have been wearing fleeces and woolly hats to work in their gardens and complaining bitterly - this year they didn't have a summer, they say and the normally halcyon early autumn wasn't: now look at it. Beloved himself, a man who does not normally feel the cold, has been seen huddled up in the red fleece Granny bought him once, to his mild scorn at the time.)

Even so, out of the wind especially, these temperatures would not be too unpleasant for walking, gardening, going to the races, watching birds or football, playing golf, whatever outdoor activity people fancy. What is not so good is having similar temperatures inside the house. In Granny's office, one of the coldest rooms. the thermometer has barely reached 12C. She's wearing her sheepskin slippers and warmest sweater, is swathed too in the wonderful woolly shawl given her by Texan visitors three winters ago who were not too impressed by the year-round summer the island is supposed to enjoy. She doesn't possess either a woolly hat or mittens - but if she did she would be wearing them. (Is Father Christmas listening to this? If not, he should be.) Temperatures fine for working or taking exercise outside are not so good if you are sitting at your desk. Believe her. Even down in the much warmer south of the island it's cold, relatively. An expat Granny sat next to at a charity dinner last weekend complained the thermometer dropped to to 14C overnight. She didn't have the heart to tell him it's lower than that in her kitchen all day long. Back in London she tries to remember the environment - and her fuel bills - and keep the thermostat at 18C: a temperature that never feels warm enough to her there would feel tropical if the temperature reached that round her Canarian chopping boards.

The upside is the evenings when the wood stove is lit in the sitting-room. Oh the heaven of that blazing wood, those flames - even more heavenly than the sun outside when it shines and you're out of the wind. In front of the fire there's not so much as a draught disturbing the delicious warmth; such warmth Granny even removes her sweaters in due course and shifts her chair back a bit. Feeling too hot - what LUXURY - is better MUCH- than the 18C in her London flat .....where, watching telly in the evenings, she has been known to advance the thermostat to a naughty 20C - or even, let's whisper it, 21C. It's amazing how relative all these things are.

Still, it's rained a lot too. Good. All the plants are growing; even better.

No such luck with the incubator, the chicks. What chicks? The eggs turned out to be infertile, as suspected. The past-it cockerel, Damian Daphne, with his fat, waggling, epicene backside has been removed from the scene. Granny would happily have kept him as a pet, but the brutal farmer, ie Beloved, wasn't having any such sentimentality - 'we can't afford to feed non-productive animals' (how about the Tiresome Terrier then, Beloved?) So that was that. A new red cockerel with a dramatic white tail has been acquired for 6 euros, and six month old chicks- 4 euros each -bought from the local, disgusting, chicken farm. Attempts to get ones young enough not to have had their beaks clipped, were, alas, in vain. Beloved didn't want to get chicks from the farm for that reason, but Granny thinks that even with clipped beaks this lot will have a much much better life on their land, and that rescuing them from egg serfdom in the poultry version of a particularly nasty sweatshop is a kindness equal to acquiring your dogs and cats from pet rescue. They'll be good layers too, if they're anything like the last hens from that source. Good.

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