Winter has set in with a vengeance to the Eden Valley this year. It is early February and we are snowed in for the third time since early December. To be fair, we can get out of our own drive as the potholes provide excellent grip, but only as far as the main road which is closed by snow drifts. Having failed to salvage anything from the disaster that was summer we console ourselves with the thought that we are at least having a proper winter.
Having spent some forty minutes pushing guests' cars up the drive (it's a close call as to which is the more preferable between having guests snowed in or snowed out but in this case, money has already been exchanged so I'm determined to see them on to the road), I can reflect on the vagaries of Cumbrian weather.
But not before I have a rant about the fact that overnight somebody has stolen a wheelbarrow from the top of the drive. It was full of rock salt (we've still got plenty) and this leads me to suspect that some enterprising individual has seen an opportunity to flog it to the local authority to bolster their dwindling supplies. Our friends from Gloucestershire are surely out of the frame since they can't get out of their own drive until the council comes along with the salt shaker and sprinkles the road with Maldon table salt (we've got plenty of that too).
But I digress. We've had some pretty odd weather during the ten years we’ve been here but none more so than the day we woke to find everything coated in glistening, clear and treacherous ice. Unlike frost, this was sheet ice on every surface and even stepping outside the door was to take your life in your hands.
I tried to dress the drive with rock salt but failed as every time I reached out with shovel in hand I crashed to the ground. So I resorted to trudging to the top of the drive across fields to put up a notice warning incoming vehicles not to proceed further. It was the one and only time that I have conceded defeat to the weather.
Our friends from the south would not be surprised by this or any of my other cataclysmic weather stories (usually involving floods, excessive wind or something cold), or the fact that we are currently snowed in, believing as they do that whatever is happening in winter down there must be at least doubly as bad up here (although it is satisfying to hear that, as well as the sorry tale of our Gloucestershire friends, having experienced significantly less snow than us, London has come to a complete standstill this week). And if we protest at the gross inaccuracy of these assumptions they further assume that we are vainly trying to make light of the grim conditions of our self imposed exile from the civilities of the South and that things must be even worse than they had feared. Our children's headmaster is from Melbourne and he's managed to stick it out for twenty years so it can't be that bad, can it?
Well, OK maybe it can. So, if our friends are right and it’s truly that ghastly and we’re really stranded in the middle of a frozen cultureless wasteland, nothing but a scarred and disfigured hinterland of an abandoned industrial landscape, surely they owe it to us to send some respite in the form of the restorative effects of a Fortnum & Mason’s hamper which we now await with breathless anticipation. But please ensure it includes some Westmorland Sloe or Damson gin, cured Cumberland ham, Cumbrian fell bred organic lamb, handmade Cumberland sausage, Yorkshire Blue & Wensleydale cheeses, organic hand baked bread from the Melmerby bakery near Penrith, Cartmel sticky toffee pudding and not forgetting Prince Charles’s own favourite – Penrith toffee. I believe all these things are available at Fortnum’s and other leading grocers. Oh - as well as just down the road from here as it happens– if we can get out that is.