Sue Woodcock: Dogs blamed until real culprit was found

I HAVE really appreciated the holidays. There seems to have been rather a lot of them. I had stocked up on everything so I didn't need to go to the shops much.

I did go with my friend to the sales, although on the day we had planned the weather was so ghastly I wimped out. My farmyard was like a skating rink, I was slithering on ice hidden by melted snow and there was a thick mist.

As usual I had called the sheep in for their daily food by the barn. My tup, a Jacob called John, was missing. Worried that he was lying dead somewhere, I wrapped up and searched my fields and the mire. No trace.

I armed myself with a bucket of his favourite feed and ventured into my neighbour's huge field. It took me about half an hour to find him. I had been calling and my sheep were bellyaching from behind the wall. John was fine. He gave me a withering look as I offered him the contents of the bucket. The ewe he was particularly enamoured of was obviously much more interesting. I just couldn't catch him. He will return in his own good time.

Next day conditions improved sufficiently for my friend and I to hit the sales in Keighley. In one big store all the bargains that were of interest to me were either size 22 or size eight.

Elsewhere, the bargains were more to my taste. I got some essentials and after calling at the pet food shop and the shoe shop we returned suitably laden. It was a good trip out even if I didn't spend much. Shoes which have been got at by the pup Boo and McWuff were replaced and I picked up a few more toys for the dogs.

Big mistake! They were so delighted the squeaks were incessant all day and most of the night. So I hid the toys which are now only available at play time.

I spent New Year's Eve quietly at home and headed to bed early having switched off my phone. I woke refreshed the next morning and loaded the dogs into the car. We arrived at the car park at Grimwith before anyone was about. There was a bitter wind and drizzle but most of the snow was gone. There were only a few icy patches on the pathways but the reservoir was still covered in ice.

Water running into it had melted small areas and where the ice had fractures it looked like a glacier contorted into dramatic slabs rising from the shore.

I met a couple of women with a black labrador, a small black spaniel and a terrier pup. Boo embarrassed me by taking one look and running to hide behind my legs. The dogs were friendly and soon she had overcome her caution and was playing with them but wanted to go off with them. It took a combined effort to catch her and put her on the lead.

On the way round all the dogs had investigated every mucky, smelly puddle and once home Boo was cold, wet and shivering. I wrapped her in a rug and lit the fire.

My godson and his fiance arrived at lunchtime with their dog Tara. I took them out to lunch and then for a walk before they headed back down South. Tara used to be my dog and was delighted to see me again. She is so happy with them and looks a picture of health. She appropriated one of the squeaky toys and took it away with her.

That evening I was due to turn out as a street angel. But after a couple of patrols we decided our presence in town was superfluous as we probably outnumbered the entire street population. Skipton was like a ghost town. I have never seen it so deserted. We picked up four bottles and alerted the police to an alarm going off in a bank. Back home I had an interesting hour persuading my generator to start.

The next evening was a carol service at Hubberholme. I love this service as much as I love the church. It was a full house and went very well. The choir was a bit depleted but we managed. Some Yorkshire Post readers from Eastby had come and wanted to meet me. They were two delightful women and they had a chat before I left, having sung my heart out.

Some friends came to join the congregation and we called into the pub on the way back to be pressed into joining the quiz which was being run by a regular instead of me. We didn't win but the evening raised a lot of money for charity.

While others have been deputising for me on quiz night the pub has obtained a gold lame jacket for the quizmasters to wear. I took one look at it and firmly declared there was no way I was doing that. Gold lame isn't quite my style!

I've had to make an apology to the dogs. I was sitting in the front room about 9pm when I felt something shake and I immediately accused the dogs of pulling something down in the kitchen.

I went to investigate and discovered nothing had moved, apart from a glass which had fallen from the edge of the table where I had carelessly left it. It had dropped onto a floor cloth and hadn't even cracked.

What did puzzle me was that all the dogs and cats seemed present and correct in the front room at the time that this happened. It was only the next day that I found out there had been a small earthquake whose epicentre was near Ripon. So I gave the dogs a special treat to make it up

to them.

The snow has mostly gone leaving only the remains of the deeper drifts but the ground is as hard as iron and the frost is back.

The sunsets when there is no mist have been strange with that cold feeling and spectacular streaks of yellow and orange set against an azure sky. There seems to be an extra clarity when there is such a bitter frost.

I have been sorting out some of my older clothes. I don't need half the stuff I have and not even a charity shop could use some of my offcasts as rags. The dogs have killed some of my clothes that I have foolishly left out. They have a particular penchant for socks. Most of them were pretty threadbare anyway. I get through socks quite quickly and I must knit some more. With weather this cold I wear at least two pairs when I venture outside.

I have been in touch with many friends from far and near. I was relieved to hear that my niece was safe in Queensland despite the floods.

I have not made any New Year resolutions because I never keep them. All I ask of this year is health and contentment. Anything else is a bonus. I have so much already.

CW 8/1/11