Sue Woodcock: Happy new year from my isolated patch of land

IT has been a memorable week. The day of the winter solstice started with a total eclipse of the moon which was slightly obscured by a thin layer of cloud. I let the dogs out first thing and stood mesmerised as the shadow of the earth passed over the face of the moon. I have seen this before but somehow on the shortest day of the year it was very meaningful.

The winter sun shone and everything seemed still and yet somehow powerful as the whole world seemed to reflect every beam of sunlight. It was also the day we buried my friend at a woodland cemetery. The service was perfect, just as she would have wanted.

It has just been so very cold. I lost my lovely Turkish stag Henry, I think the cold got to him. The sheep gather round the barn in the morning and I feed them after breaking the ice on the water trough. I have finally admitted that I was cold at night and added another duvet to my bed, much to the delight of the dogs who considered this was especially for their comfort.

I was asked to read in the church carol service which took me back to many such services from my childhood that I remember fondly. Now I have little family left, but on Christmas morning I did speak to my brother in New South Wales.

I had made it down to the midnight communion on Christmas Eve. En route, I passed three young visitors walking to the church and gave them a lift. They were up from London to stay with their parents for the week. As we drove into the car park they gasped and said: "Isn't the church beautiful?" They had a point. In the floodlights with a covering of snow it looked almost ethereal. I drove back on icy but tranquil roads to head for bed. One of my neighbours was the server and her car lights illuminated my way down to the house as she passed. There was something rather special about the lights and I looked up at the stars and rejoiced.

There is a special silence to Christmas morning before the farmers get out to tend their stock. I imagined all the children waking in their seasonal excitement and got on with the chores. I looked out at the scenery and walked the dogs. I thanked my maker for another wonderful year.

Then I got dressed, gave the dogs and cats some special treats to occupy them, and armed myself with gifts and headed down to my friends in the village who had kindly invited me for Christmas dinner. What a meal! I disgraced myself by having filled myself with wonderful food promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours. They didn't seem to mind. I had been cursed with a serious bout of sciatica and was hobbling around like a loon but it was a great day.

Next morning there was a heavy mist first thing. The dogs had a great run and then came into the warm and I fed them. I must admit that I missed company but also rejoiced in my solitude. I could have gone out to a party but didn't really want to. It was just so wonderful up here in my high and isolated patch of land. This week I have helped two dogs to be adopted and they are now in happy permanent homes. My dogs were given three balls to play with. The large one soon deflated and they have all given hours of fun and are now scattered over the house. If I sit down to do something it isn't long before one gets flushed lovingly into my lap to be thrown. It makes writing or knitting very difficult.

A fine shower of tiny snow particles covered the ground and then the flakes got bigger and down came the snow in earnest. It was a lot warmer and the bitter wind had gone. I expect it will be back. It is at this time every year that I consider what I shall do in the next year. Both 20 and 11 are lucky numbers for me so it bodes well. Before that I have another carol concert at Hubberholme and another stint on street angels. My diary for 2011 is already pretty full with booked talks and I need to get another book ready for the publishers.

Life up here especially in this weather is quite tiring and I'm not getting any younger. I sleep well most nights because during the day I work hard. Physically at least. I could have done without some silly woman telephoning me at 3.39 am. Both cats are dealing with McWoof's curiosity with great wisdom. He cannot understand why they will not run away from him, and he is most perplexed. There is no way they are going to be terrorised out of the warm kitchen. He rushes up to me for reassurance on such occasions to be told he is a big brave doggy and then goes and stares at them as they sit on their elevated perches and stare back.

Out in the fields the wildlife is trying to survive. Rabbits are having a hard time and they sneak up to the yard and nibble on the hay the sheep have left. Even some of the logs in the log pile are showing signs of being eaten, the bark anyway. If I scatter food and the sheep ignore it, it is all gone by the morning. Roll on the thaw. I have received many cards and greetings from wellwishers. Thank you. They have made my life very colourful and cheerful. I must get down to writing some replies. As my water is frozen at the moment I shall have to delay cleaning. I am not alone. A lot of folk have had frozen pipes and broken down central heating. My advantage is that I expected it and can cope. I have warmth and food. Leading a simple life has its upside. I do wish every reader a Happy New Year. I hope that it will be better than the last.

CW 1/1/11