Denise: Phone call, yesterday afternoon, from our guests just arrived at Askernish: No hot water. As in no water coming out of the hot taps. Oh dear: that means only one thing – frozen feed to or supply from the hot water cylinder, up in the roof. J puts on boiler suit, collects equipment from the store in Eriskay and then drives to Askernish. Sets up two 500W halogen lights in the loft, directed at the two pipes and leaves them there – will check again in the morning. Guests seem happy that at least something’s being done. This morning they phoned to say the water was running again, so J went round to clear away the lights and ladders. Another job for next year: improve insulation around and over the water tanks (but eliminating any insulation underneath). This wouldn’t have happened at all had the house been in use throughout this cold spell, due to the warmth leaking from the hot water cylinder. Best way to look after any house is to live in it!
Denise: Baked potato for lunch. Snow and iced up outside, so can’t get to pull fresh carrots and other veg. Usually the winters are so mild, here in Uist, we don’t need to lift in autumn and store for the winter – can leave the vegetables in the ground for picking fresh. Thankfully, potatoes are the exception!
Jonathan: During the night a wild north-easterly laid down a carpet of fine powdery snow. Icy cold despite heavy cloud. Roads not salted, so a bit wobbly going to the croft. Loaded up with my bucket of grain and egg collecting bucket, I’m enveloped by a ferocious blizzard, blasting in from The Minch. In seconds I’m lost in a maelstrom of needle-sharp ice and swirling darkness. The geese are calling for me, and I for them, but I can scarcely see my own feet. I abandon the usual feeding point and rush headlong down the hill, for the shelter of the old ruins. Amidst the howling wind and stinging ice I can make out their call, but in the meagre light before dawn I can see nothing. Then, suddenly, the heavy beating of wings and looking up, the air is filled with geese descending around me, their wings outspread, all white feathers and bright orange legs lit up against the black sky by no more than the ethereal light of the snow itself. One of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. A moment I’ll never forget – not least because one goose thumped right into my chest!
Jonathan: This time yesterday morning it was -5 deg C outside; now it is +10 deg and all the ice and snow has gone. Instead everything is sodden and dirty; and the wind has picked up bringing damp air off the sea – which is the coldest feeling of all. Thankfully I’m working inside today!
Jonathan: The max-min thermometer outside recorded -5degC last night (and that in the relative shelter of the woodstore and near the house, so probably a couple of degrees colder). That’s a record low since we moved here eight years ago. Also the cold continuing day-on-day for nearly two weeks now. The night frost sparkles with starlight, and in the morning the cars are covered with the distinctive graffiti of Jack Frost. Now, at mid-morning, the sun shines wanly out of clear pale blue sky, but behind glass it has yet the power to warm and enliven. But in the shadows – and at this time of year and at this latititude the shadows are very long! – the ice lingers on.