We are living in such a strange and muffled world at the moment that for two days running I have not been awake before eight o'clock in the morning: our little lane is pretty quiet at the best of times, but we do get the occasional car early in the morning, and can sometimes hear the trains in the distance - and birds singing or the wind in the trees, or the distant bark of a fox.
But not only has the snow slowed us all down, but it seems to wrap the sounds of the natural world in a thick white blanket, too.
And so polar is the temperature in the scullery that the dogs are allowed to sleep in the kitchen, and suddenly we are no longer woken by the Black Dog's piercingly insistent bark at some horribly early hour.
Yet it can't be the cold that wakes her because she barks in just the same way in the summer, except an hour earlier. Yes, so clever are Scotties that they take pity on humans after the clocks change in the autumn. Perhaps she just prefers having the run of the house at night.
Much as I have determined that this blog should be a happy place, I do write with a virtual tear in my eye this morning, having sent off the Ploughboy and the Head Chef in the Landy to battle their way out of the arctic wastes of the sunny south-east. The Ploughboy is inordinately keen to find his way back to the halls of academe, in spite of my diagnosis of associated malnutrition, unhealthy hours and alcoholic excess as the cause of his head cold, and he has set off, tractor calendar packed, with the briefest of backward glances at his naughty dog, who is now curled up under my desk, possibly overcome with grief.
And so I walked the hounds alone this morning, wading through the snow at a much slower pace without my not-so-little friend striding out alongside me and keeping me up to the mark, whilst discussing things agricultural.
But we have had a lot of fun together in the holidays: as you will see from the photo we have been exploring the furthest reaches of the orchard in a rather intrepid way. No wonder the dog looks mystified. What matter is a blizzard when you are wearing two pairs of socks and a pair of tights inside your wellies? Not to mention the reject hat knitted at great expenditure of time and effort by a certain person which then became an object of derision amongst potential recipients. I have found it very useful recently and have worn it in a very meaningful way. So vindicated do I now feel, that I think I might knit myself one that actually fits rather than one sized for a large-headed yeti.
It has been quite wonderful to see teenagers retrieving a childhood joie-de-vivre - and getting the chance to play in the snow, which has happened all too rarely in their mild-wintered childhoods.
Well, you might have guessed I was not directly involved in this, being too much of a bag of bones liable to fall apart at the slightest nudge, but the Head Chef has derived much satisfaction from the fact that he bought Princess Bunchy a plastic toboggan for Christmas, which could have been a little disappointing as there seemed little chance of snow so close to southern coastal climes. He, also, is now feeling very vindicated by the fact that these items are apparently changing hands on Ebay for five times the price he paid. (How will the people buying them get them delivered before the snow disappears?)
I, however, have been possessed by a sort of sock mania, probably engendered by the reappearance of my childhood chilblain.
I had to explain to Princess Bunchy what a chilblain is, and in consequence subject her to a disquisition on the miseries of education in the sixties and seventies when schools did not entertain namby-pamby ideas of keeping children warm, happy and comfortable whilst attempting to drill an education into their little skulls, often in an atmosphere of fear and awe.
My chilblain itches frantically at the memory of those concrete and bare wood floors, the credibility gap between the top of your socks and the bottom of your skirt, and the lukewarm radiators which were only capable of faintly warming the hands of the more physically assertive members of the class who would always bag the not-so-hot seats next to them.
So my current penchant for knitting socks probably has its source deep in my damaged psyche. And such is the mania that I have completed two pairs and am on to a third, all since the turn of the year. Although I have to admit that the completed pairs were both knitted in aran-weight wool, which knits up pleasingly quickly, possibly fuelling my mania further. (And I do hope you appreciate the contortions I underwent in order to bring you photos of these socks in situ.)
I also have the most wonderful book, suitable for the sock novice, by Ann Budd called Getting Started Knitting Socks. This has easy-to-follow instructions for simple socks in a range of sizes and yarn weights, as well as some interesting variations for the more advanced knitter. The photographs are hugely informative, and it is made really clear how the patterns are working, so that you can go on to produce socks using any sort of yarn and needle size that you care to choose.
The lilac socks were knitted in Rowan Yarns Classic Cashsoft Aran on 4.5mm needles, in the adult small size pattern for worsted yarn (5sts per in tension) - these are plenty big enough for my size 5 feet (and fat ankles), using two balls of lilac, and a part ball of blue for trim (each ball is 87m/95 yards). I bought three of each colour in a sale, and so will therefore have enough yarn for the opposite colourway.
The grey socks were knitted in Rico Design Creative Poems Aran on 5mm needles, to the same pattern - these used only two 50g/100m balls - I had also bought three balls of this in the sale, so will probably make some handwarmers with the last ball.
And because the Head Chef and Princess Bunchy very kindly gave me one of Hen's beautiful notebooks for Christmas, one of my New Year's resolutions is to keep a knitting record book, so that I can make a note of details such as needle size, stitches cast on, yarn used, etc, when I experiment with my knitting. And then I can share them with you.
The third pair in process is in Colinette Jitterbug on 2.5mm needles, and very many more stitches - so I think these little cosy toes will be a little longer in the making. And they are a bit more squinty to knit in the evenings, but the colour is most vividly wonderful - possibly quite manic.
So if you are feeling chilly, knit yourself a pair of socks to warm the cockles of your heart, and if you want to get really overheated find a hill and toboggan down it. I think I will stick to the socks - and remember, the more pairs you knit, the more pairs you can wear at once.