Sue Woodcock: Christmas wishes from high in the deep-frozen Dales

When I thought the weather was getting better and once again I could get water up from the well I managed to do some much-needed washing up and even washed some clothes. I prepared buckets full of coal and secured everything in the barn and put fresh straw down.

We had been warned the snow was coming back and so it did. Not enough to be desperate, but enough to make things difficult. Even though my gate was clear there was sufficient to make it tricky even just walking, as underneath was a sheet of ice. I am getting quite good at this falling over. As a kid I did some judo so learned to fall correctly but then I was supple. Now I am getting stiffer and older.

I have spent quite a bit of time helping my friend's family clear out her flat. I was able to assist in in storing some things in my barn and they generously gave me some useful bits and pieces that they would otherwise have had to dispose of. All her friends were happy to help and assisted with some things for her interment. Very generously the family dropped off a bottle of brandy to thank me for my trouble. There was no need but it was kind of them. People are often very considerate at times of grief I have discovered.

On Thursday evening I went up with my friends to our final rehearsal for the Buckden Singers. One of the numbers the quartet sang was about snow falling. I did warn them that it wasn't a good omen and I was right. Last year it was about winter wind. As if on cue, snow started to come down as we left to drive home. The temperature plummeted. We decided not to do our stall at the last Dickensian Saturday. Most of the group are not young and cannot stand a day in the cold.

I did pop out on the Friday to pick up some animal food and then returned home for a while before getting kitted up for the concert. Suddenly there was a knock on the door, a friend had turned up to wish me Season's Greetings and with her was a Canadian gentleman who had just landed and we had a lovely chat over a brew and he

did admit that it was colder here than he had expected. When they left I went down the road to my friend, had a shower there and off we went to Kettlewell for the first concert.

It went rather well and afterwards we all got home safely. By this time the snow was getting serious

I stayed stalwartly at home on the Saturday and it was only when a friend rang I learned that they had cancelled the Dickensian event. I am not surprised. Our local wonderful farmer who has a contract for clearing and gritting the roads from the council had rung to see if he should go out and grit and salt. The council told him not to bother. The result was that the village was almost impassable to anything except four wheel drives. I had to go out for the final concert in the evening. With great care I drove down the hill, picked up my passengers and headed up to Buckden. I am fortunate to have been well-trained in driving in harsh conditions but still take every precaution. I am so glad I did make it because it was such an enjoyable concert. Afterwards we had a party and just after 11, with a car full of people, we crawled back on snow and ice-covered roads. As I got into Grassington I passed a police patrol car and was able to tell the lovely policeman who had dealt with my friend's sudden death when the funeral was. I dropped my passengers off and made it to my gate. As I was locking the car the policeman arrived just to check I had made it alright. Bless him! We do have a wonderful police service here. I got in and made up the fires, got warm and to bed. It was minus 12 at least.

Little Brillo loves her coat and won't let me take it off. The dogs and cats appreciate the warmth inside and snuggle up together. The weather may be harsh but it has its glories too. The snow on the Christmas trees, especially those with lights on, adds a certain magic. On one sunny afternoon I was out in the fields with the dogs. The air was clear, if a little bracing, and the views were why I live here. I could see with great clarity Pendle Hill with its white mantle and the skies at sunset were a dusky orange. Driving may be tricky but with any vibration the snow on the trees moves and tiny particles of snow or ice descend in a shower like fairy dust. In the sun the ice particles glint all over the fields and sparkle like little fireworks. At night, the moonlight makes the scenery seem almost iridescent and eerie. I have not needed a torch outside at night. I have been to some magnificent parts of the world but none as beautiful as here at such times. I am so lucky. I thank my maker every day for such joy.

All the animals want and get extra food to combat the cold and sensibly they all retreat into the barn for warmth at night. The dogs, all five of them, love to romp through the snow and leave a trail of footsteps. Rabbits leave intricate trails and the geese and turkeys can be tracked.

I intend to have a quiet and peaceful Christmas. I wish everyone else a joyous one. Soon we will be starting to get longer days and I can only hope for more amenable weather. The New Year is almost upon us and I have plans for it. Nothing spectacular, but just to be happy and healthy. Is that not what we all need? It is all I desire. Many things would be nice but I am well content with what I have. Peace and goodwill would be great too. Happy Christmas, one and all.

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