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Not about the weather

Perhaps I have commented enough in this blog, no, more than enough, about the weather in Britain. Now each time I am tempted to write more I exercise all the restraint I can muster, forcing the text down other avenues. So despite the exceptionally low temperatures we have all endured here, cold so intense that the lying snow (it fell from the sky more than two weeks ago) only slowly evaporated into the dry atmosphere, transitioning from a white solid to an invisible vapour without actually melting, despite the snow which covered pavements and roads being compressed to ice, changing from white to translucent, frozen water, despite our friends Kyle and Maryanne who are over-wintering on their boat in Preston cleaning their hull by walking around on the frozen surface of the water in which it sits, I shall not mention the weather subject again. (No, I don’t believe this either!)

Anyway, all good things must come to an end and finally when we poked our heads outside just before retiring to bed one night we stood for a while, listened and heard a sound we had not heard for many days, the sound of water dripping. The change had crept up on us silently, stealthily, with no warning, warm air from the Atlantic finally sweeping in towards the British Isles, the South West being the first area to feel the benefit but soon to affect the whole country. By the following morning we were in a changed world, one no longer totally dominated by the colour white. By afternoon only the most persistent lumps of ice remained and the ground was covered with a layer of grit, dust and leaves, natural fallout which had been held above the ground, suspended in the snow for so long. Warm air coming into contact with a still frozen lake caused moisture to condense out and an unnatural mist floated just above it but apart from such isolated blocks of cold, the grip of frost has now left the land.

Mal with pandoro

In fond memory of last winter we prepare the Christmas pandoro that we found in our local Lidl supermarket. For the uninitiated this is a type of sweet yeast bread, traditionally eaten at Christmas time in Italy and is served with a dusting of icing sugar so that it resembles the snow-covered peaks that make up the winter backdrop there. The Lidl version is packaged with a large plastic bag so that the sugar-dusting process can be carried out just before serving (see the picture) and the colour within the bread is just as the name suggests, golden. The taste is exotic, light but very rich.

So this just about sums up the full extent of our Christmas festivising for 2010; our main pleasure has been just enjoying having a smart new kitchen as a present from Santa. The house refurbishment tasks have continued, but at a more leisurely pace, as we both feel that we would not want to be thought of as house improvement fanatics. We now have new wooden floor boards covering the hall Hall floorwhich nicely insulate our feet from the cold beneath but these did not go down without the assistance of a few blasphemies. There is a foam underlay with one sticky side covered in a plastic film which is designed to be peeled from beneath the boards as they are held in position with both hands. (Read this again and you’ll get the picture.) Just how this process is achieved by an ordinary human being only blessed with two hands is best left to the imagination but as the film slides away the glue makes contact with the underside of the boards and sticks hard, instantly, leaving no margin for error or later adjustment. There are some choice words that I am now able to recommend for use when the plastic film breaks off unexpectedly or when the hands slip so that the boards are stuck in the wrong position, words you will not find on the fitting instructions.

Despite these problems we are pleased with the final results – the real wood adds a touch of class to the place. But not all wood is welcome in our house. No sooner was this job done then I found myself up a ladder in the bathroom tearing down the varnished pine cladding which was nailed to the ceiling there, a job I have been looking forward to for some time. When we first started our project we had to make ourselves promise that we would tackle each area of the house separately, completing one area before moving on. One consequence of this was that every time we lay steaming away in the comfort of our bath we had to gaze up at the hateful sight of those pine boards. We could only rip them all down when we had finished the previous jobs, the kitchen and the hall but when the time finally arrived the experience was all the more pleasurable and satisfying for all the waiting. The generations of spiders who had made their home in the small space above the cladding were sucked up in a vortex of vacuum cleaning and whisked away to a better place. Or so I like to think.

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