When I sent a picture of the snow covered track to my home to my brother in Canada he said: “Oh that’s nothing, we see that every winter.” We’re not used to deep snow here.
Ten inches fell on the night of December 1, last year. It was very pretty. Snow froze to the hazel twigs and capped the old yew tree in the garden. We could not get out to the shops for 12 days, but there was plenty to see around the house and out into the forest.
Walking about and sawing logs and sweeping snow from the paths kept me warm, but my wife needed rugs and blankets wrapped around her in the evening as we have no central heating here any more. She looked like an Eskimo in an igloo.
Blankets on the bed became too heavy. The yellow-necked mice ran around the rafters and kept us awake anyway.
Sometimes I went out into the starlight to remember those wonderful nights in the mountains of Afghanistan when the sky was hung with chandeliers and the wolves howled across the glaciers and then there was silence like the end of the world. There had been snow leopards around me in those high mountains and in the morning their tracks could be seen in the snow.
And so here too in Sussex were the tracks of other animals that had wandered around between the coppice bushes and out on to the fields as they searched for something to eat. I was glad to see the occasional tracks of a hare which had galloped across the level white glistening sheets of snow.
Rabbits had come out of the wood into the sweetcorn and stood up to reach the cobs of corn. Fallow deer had slipped through the fence, leaving their cloven hoof prints and mice had galloped about in fright, barely marking the frozen crust of snow. They had burrowed deep into the drifts and found hazel nuts and beech mast.
By day the bird table was a seething mass of feathers and claws with robins and great tits fighting nuthatches and blackbirds. A jay and a magpie had dared to appear and then a kestrel had swooped on a bank vole in broad daylight, snatching the hungry rodent as it swallowed crumbs and corn. Wrens roosted in the gable, long-tailed tits bathed in my pan of warmed water at midday.
In the suburbs of Toronto my brother had foxes and blue jays, American robins and chikadees, while the white tailed deer reached up for twigs on the willows where the beavers had made dams in the fall.
Hearing of Gatwick shut and cars abandoned on motorways, he said: “Come over here to live in comfort. Our roads don’t close and we know how to clear the runways. As for central heating breaking down – unheard of. Moose and black bears and wolves to see in the forests.”
Well I suppose the UK is midway between the splendour of Afghanistan and the comfort of Canada, which seems a reasonable compromise.