I know exactly where I went wrong.
It was in declaring, three days before Christmas, that we had started to ‘wind down’. Those amongst you who have learnt the lessons of life rather more effectively than moi might have considered that foolhardy in the extreme. You’d be right.
The very next day we woke to the sound of wind howling down the valley and looked out on a storm ravaged scene.
I had washing to do and mince pies to make. But the lights were flickering now. My chances of being left with a tub full of soggy smalls and a heap of half cooked pies were really rather high.
By lunchtime time was running out and I decided to take the risk.
It didn’t get me very far.
Not through loss of power. No, something had gone awry with stock control. We’d run out of flour. The only thing for it was to sweet-talk Mike into braving the elements and go out for more.
Except, as I discovered almost as soon as he’d left, it wasn’t just the flour.
You know how it is. You can plan for something, even buy all the things you think you’ll need. And then there’s always something else more important to do and the mince pies can wait. So we’d eaten the eggs for lunch one day. And the butter I thought I had in the fridge had gone instead into the making of bread.
I try to phone Mike. No answer.
Mike has a new phone. It was supposed to be his Christmas present but as it covered his birthday present too he’d decided to commission it early. The trouble is, we’re still running in. He’s spent hours downloading apps, synchronising files and in all other ways setting it up. But he hadn’t quite got to the bit about using it as a phone..
All I can do is leave a list of the required ingredients in a message and hope he can pick it up.
It’s then that I spot the woodpecker.
Remember the Twirl-a-Squirrel? The battery operated unit that responds to anything heavy alighting upon the bird feeder and spins until the squirrel falls off? What I had forgotten, until this moment, is that the weight calibration can be knocked out by a high wind.
The woodpecker is clinging on to the nut holder for dear life as it spins around at an ever increasing rate. He manages to leap off and retreats to the safety of the bird table where he can glare at the offending feeder from the far side of the pole.
Woodrow and bird table pole, on a less tempestuous day
The twirler stops spinning and Woodrow returns, only to be flung off again.
But can I find the ‘off’ button in the torrential rain? Each time I bend down to get a better look there’s another dollop of dirty water in my eye, the last time coinciding with a particularly strong gust of wind.
What follows is a thundering, monumental ‘CRACK’..
I don’t see the tree fall, but certainly feel it. Somewhere down by the river, but still only a matter of feet from where I am standing. Enough to make me flatten myself up against the house wall.
Inside, the phone has started to ring.
I get to it just before the answer phone cuts in. Rainwater drips on to the floor.
There is soft peeping from a supermarket scanning till, and then Mike’s voice. Standing in an aisle at Tesco he has mastered the art of outbound calls. Picking up messages remains a mystery still.
No tree debris blocked the river, thankfully, but there’s a lot of water in it now..
..compared to its previous high point, two months ago.
Luckily for us, we escaped Monday’s storm relatively unscathed and I feel for those flooded or without power over Christmas. I just hope tomorrow doesn’t bring anyone in the UK more of the same.
There is one last sting in this festive tale.
On Christmas Eve Mike turned on the kitchen TV. A blizzard crossed the screen. But it wasn’t a weather report. The sound was breaking up too. A TV at the other end of the house works fine, so if not the aerial what could the problem be?
The cable to the aerial splitter runs through the roofspace above my desk. I can still hear them as I write, scratching around. Scratching and nibbling. Those wretched, wretched mice.
A relaxing scene from Christmas Day.
More winding down in the days to come perhaps.
It’s a loosely formed plan you understand.
Taking nothing as read.
That would be foolhardy indeed.