Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Tuesday, December 31

I’m pleased we decorated the church yesterday and delivered food to the pub, as the weather is not so good again today. I have begun to worry how we shall get the church tomorrow if it is very wet. Anna had wanted to arrive on horseback, but that won’t be practical if it is raining. Martin is meant to be giving her away, in the absence of her own father, but he may have to drive us all there as well.

I still have not seen what the girls have been sewing in secret, but I have my own fashion and beauty problems to worry me. In these powerless days, warmth and comfort have been the greatest priority rather than style, but I feel I must make an effort to look presentable. So I after breakfast I boiled as much water as I could for hair washing and a strip wash, so I would have a clean canvas as it were to work on. Then I used some of my dwindling stock of moisturiser and body lotion to improve the condition of my red nose and cracked hands.

But I cannot endure even a wedding if I am cold, so I have decided to wear leggings under a long velvet skirt, which will hide my new boots and knee length socks. With this, I will wear the cashmere and mink cardigan Martin and Jane brought back for me from a vintage dress shop in San Francisco several years ago. It is so warm it can only be used in very cold weather, and over this I’m wearing a long black velvet coat with a big fur collar. I know black is not usually considered appropriate for a wedding, but I shall brighten it all up with raspberry gloves and a matching velvet hat, which I shan’t take off, even in the pub, as my hair is so grey now.

I felt much happier once I was clean and had sorted my wardrobe. I hope Anna and Jane are making themselves feel attractive too. It doesn’t matter for the men and Martin has grumbled about having to wear his suit and smart coat tomorrow, but I’ve insisted.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day, the start of a new year, the start of their married life.

Kittens of Chaos

Vicecream Van at Nelly'sChapter Five

“Are we all ready?”

“…Not got my shoes!   Where’s my red shoes?”

“Can’t get any more stuff on top the van!”

“You’s wearing them!   Gimme my red shoes!   …And that’s my hat!”

“Get in!”

“Everyone get in!”

“Where’s my…   You sitting on it!”

“Don’t shove!”

“…Don’t you shove then!”

“We’rewe’re drivingdriving!” (The twins)

“First stop Nellie’s for lunch!”

“Not gorrany money!”

“…I got tuppence!”

“We can sell some of the Vicecream!”

“You are not taking ice-cream into the frozen wastes?” (Aunty Stella, exasperated)

“It’s VICEcream… with catnip!”

“Start up then!”

“Which way?”

“…Not that way!”

“Put the jingle music on!”

“What tune?”

“The Valkyrie song!”

“We want the Valkyrie song!” (All)

“…Loud!”

“Go faster!”

“Are we there yet?”

“Are we there yet?”

“Are we there YET?”

“Hello, is that Ginsbergbear?   It’s Aunty Stella here with a progress report… well a lack of progress report really.

“We are parked outside a pub… more of a house that sells beer actually… with a big white horse over the door.   Two of the kittens are selling catnip ice cream to pay for our lunch – to incredibly unsavoury looking customers.

“Inside it’s all cramped rooms and corridors and it’s run by four little old ladies… three feet tall, hunchbacked and, as best I can tell, all called Nellie.

“The rest of the kittens have stripped to their telnyashkas and are doing a disturbingly wiggly dance on the tables!”

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Monday, December 30

Such a change in the weather today. When my alarm went off at seven it was very dark, but it was still dark at 8 o’clock because of the heavy rain. I went outside to feed the hens after breakfast and they were reluctant to come out of their house, so I expect tomorrow there will be fewer eggs.

It rained all morning and we started watching the fields with some anxiety hoping it will not flood again and make the road impassable this week. Then I decided I should take the greenery to the church and the food to the pub today, just in case we have trouble getting through to the village if there is much more rain. He agreed to me using the car and its precious petrol, just so long as I went straight there and back.

Jane and Stephen came with me and we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours in the church arranging our Scots pine fronds, cones, holly and ivy strands around the church pews and windowsills. Stephen even managed to tie a bunch of foliage with red berries to the porch as well, so it looks very welcoming.

Then we went to the pub and dropped off pheasants and ducks. We shall make a kind of flatbread to serve with the meat and bring that with us on the day.

Once home, it was straight to work with Linda who had made a start on  the black pudding mix. And now we have a good supply of sausage again to serve with our own eggs. There were four today, two blue and two brown.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

The story so far….Sandra and her family are determined to survive the power cut which began in early October, leaving the whole of the UK powerless. After a simple but enjoyable Christmas they are now looking forward to a New Year wedding….

Sunday, December 29

We woke to such a frost today. Our cars were so white they looked as if there had been snow. Martin went outside to turn the engines over and said it was minus one degree Centigrade at 9.30 this morning.

So we walked briskly to church with collars up and scarves over our noses in the frosty sunshine. Every pew had lighted candles, which had been used for the Christmas day service we had not been able to attend because of the flooding. Rev.James says they will be lit for the wedding on Wednesday as well, so the church will look very beautiful. We sang O Little Town of Bethlehem to start and ended with God Rest Ye Gentlemen which everyone sang with gusto. Then Martin and I left Stephen and Anna to discuss their hymns for the wedding with David the organist, who plays the piano now there is no power.

When we got home I stoked the fires, then went out around the grounds collecting fir tree branches brought down by the storms. These will give us a base when we’re decorating the church on Tuesday. And Neil came across and said he had just slaughtered a hogget, that is a lamb born earlier this year, as a wedding present for the happy couple and will take it up to the pub for the barbecue. I thanked him for this on their behalf and then he gave me the kidneys and liver as well, which we’ll have tonight. He has collected the blood again and so Linda will come over tomorrow to make more black pudding. I don’t have many oats left, so we shall have to mix it with some coarse acorn flour and maybe ground chestnuts too.

Although today was very cold it was really quite pleasant in the sun and the hens seemed happy too, with four eggs today.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Saturday, December 28

There was frost this morning, but the day is bright and clear, although there are ominous clouds looming in the south. I hope that doesn’t mean more rain as we are struggling to clear up after the downpours just before Christmas. Martin and Stephen are moving most of the wood to the garage which will stay dry if there is more flooding. Two of the old gun emplacements used as wood sheds were flooded and the neat stacks of logs strewn everywhere.

We walked to the pub this morning and were greeted by the welcome scent of mulled wine. Mick said his supplies of bottled beer are nearly gone and so he is now using his wine cellar. We had brought a barrow load of logs, which though wet will soon dry out and help to keep his fires going. Martin exchanged duck and pheasant for swede, kale and parsnips, so we shall have good meals this week. I modelled my new wellies for Mick and he laughed when Martin said they’d cost him two pheasants.

The girls didn’t come with us as they are frantically sewing and Stephen wanted to finish transferring the logs to their new shelter. Counting today, there are now only four days to the wedding and we have a lot to think about. Mick has said we can have a gathering – we can hardly call it a reception – in the pub, which Anna and Stephen said they would like to do as it would be a social occasion for everyone in the village who knows them. If the day is dry he plans to set up a barbecue so we can cook and we plan to take him our game birds on Tuesday on our way to decorate the church.

Before I fed the hens this afternoon I picked up fallen branches around the formal garden to use as kindling and I noticed the first hellebores emerging. The flowers are white speckled with pink, almost like a birds egg. And then I collected an egg for every hen, a full half dozen.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Friday, December 27

There were high winds and rain again last night, which we all cursed, as we have had enough of floods and fallen trees for now. But this morning, the water level was no worse, in fact it has gone down considerably and we can easily walk into the village again. There is mud and debris on all the roads and the river washed some plastic drums and garden furniture up against the bridge, as well as branches.

There are scores of ducks and Canada geese on the swampy fields, so Martin will go out with his gun again today. Stephen is attempting to cut through the tree blocking the road, with Tony and Robin, but their chainsaws aren’t really up to the job. Robin said he has been telling Surrey Highways for years that the tree was dangerous and they never heeded his warnings.

Anna and Jane are busy with their sewing again. I am happy they are busy and occupied once they have helped to heat water and grind the acorns every day. I have not yet seen what they are making as they have now banned everyone from the sewing room while they assemble Anna’s dress, or whatever outfit it is they have created, for the wedding.

I took a long hard look at myself in the mirror this morning. My face is pale, with dark circles under my eyes. I have run out of my favourite Estee Lauder foundation, and my hair is lank. I would never want to look ‘mother of the bride’ or mother-in-law of the bride, in this case, in peach dress and coat with matching hat, but I do want to look presentable for Stephen and Anna’s special day. I have new wellingtons but nothing else new to wear. But at least there won’t be photographs to record my pitiful appearance. I wore my new boots to feed the hens and collect their eggs. Four again today and the hen which had gone off lay has a better colour again now. She must think spring is on the way.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Thursday, December 26

It is Boxing Day and no one can go to the sales. None of us miss the frenetic pressure to buy, buy, buy. And today is fine and sunny, almost warm in the sunshine.

Yesterday we all agreed was a very special, memorable Christmas Day. There was a lot of laughter during Stephen’s games of ‘What am I Humming?’ and ‘Animal Charades’. There was a lot of appreciative noises when the goose and the pudding were served and there were toasts to absent friends with one of Martin’s precious bottles of Merlot.

There were presents too, despite the fact that none of us had been able to shop online or traipse round crowded stores. I had made lavender bags, which were appreciated more by the girls than the men, I must admit. Anna had done delicate pen and ink drawings of the house and garden, Jane had made fur headbands for us all, even the men, from scraps of fake fur she had found in the attic. Stephen gave us fans of pheasant feathers and goose quills for our hats. But my best present was from Martin. He gave me a new pair of wellington boots. So that is where he had been, just before the storm. He had cycled to the garden centre to see if they still had boots in stock and he was lucky to find the last pair in my size. So now, despite the floods, I shall have dry feet in my own boots. I wore them today, to walk across the mud to feed the hens and collect four eggs.