260 days in the country

There are some things about living in the country in the winter that I now know you really have to live to understand. One is the mud. It’s not so bad when it’s frozen, other than when the children slip over on it, of course (filthy clothes and cuts and scrapes) but in its normal state it’s gone straight into my room 101. Child 2 has lost wellies to it, the dogs, even after much grooming, have acquired interestingly freckled abdomens and I have taken to identifying the cars of other country-dwellers by the levels of dirt on their vehicles. Previously I was slightly thin-lipped about why you wouldn’t take better care of such an expensive item; now, I quite understand the impulse to do no more than wipe clean the number plates and windscreens. Takings at Tesco’s car wash might be down but I am at least four pints up per month at the village pub – or I would be had said pub not just closed.

Inside the house, Child 1 stuffs cotton wool inside his ears each time I remind him please not to run up the stairs in muddy trainers, my kitchen cupboards have tidemarks so impressive I’m considering whether they have any artistic merit and the radiator behind Dog 1’s crate needs the dried dirt chipping off only the day after I spent forty-five minutes engaged on the same task. After considerable experimentation I have discovered that biological washing powder and bleach works best on the (textured cream) stone floor in kitchen and utility room. Sadly, the septic tank doesn’t like either of these much so most of the time it’s bicarbonate of soda, a splash of Zofresh and a scrubbing brush that has a disingenuous habit of slipping sideways out from underneath my hand.

Another thing is the cold. It’s mildly perplexing that a gas bill that disappears monthly or quarterly from a bank account was barely noticed. A tank of LPG in the garden, however, is something to watch and hoard and mutter happy self-congratulatory sounds over when yet another month passes without the dial dipping into the red. Meanwhile, we spend more than we care to count on seasoned logs for the wood burning stove while simultaneously convincing ourselves that the pile of wood pruned from the apple trees should save us, oh, at least the cost of two slankets next winter.