With the snow now melting after what, I hope, was the final winter assault on the Cotswolds, it is time to assess the various possibilities of winter sports available to snowed-in Britain.
The first and most glaring problem, certainly in our household, was the lack of ice skates. Our village has a huge river meadow that flooded and then froze to form the most perfect ice rink. As we were all snowed in, however, if you didn't have any ice skates you couldn't drive somewhere to buy any.
So, most of the village had to hang around the edges watching the one smug family with skates glide about the place as though they owned it. After about an hour of watching my kids bravely holding back tears of jealousy I decided to improvise. Using a training harness, I managed to attach Huxley, our wonderful Labrador, to my daughter's sledge. One fling of a stick and he was off like greased lightning. He and my daughter rocketed across the meadow at Mach 2 and there was a gratifying glance of jealousy from the smug skaters. This only lasted until my daughter had to bale out quite sharpish as Huxley headed straight for the river. Trainee husky or not, my dog loves a swim and he wasn't going to let a bit of ice get in his way.
We abandoned the rink of despair and headed for one of the three tobogganing hills that surround us. As we went through a gate somebody had already posted up a sign informing us that they were not responsible for any injuries caused while sledging or mucking about on the hill.
What kind of country do we live in when somebody feels that this needs to be posted? You go sledging and if you fall off and hurt yourself it's your own bloody fault. Since when did we start to think that it might be otherwise and look around for somebody to blame? Am I going to sue the local landowner after I slammed into a tree that he planted 30 years ago? Actually, he is loaded and he did put that tree in my way, so it's hardly my fault, is it? I'll have a word with my lawyers and see where we stand.
At the top of the hill was every kind of sled on earth. There were the traditional wooden, two-sledge types. They look good but I've never been that convinced by them. Then there were the variations on plastic trays, some with steering wheels or brakes and most worked pretty well. Finally came the home-made things, people on binbags, dustbin lids and plastic bags. All of these worked just as well as the "bought" sleds. Plastic bags, however, don't weigh that much so are easier to carry. I had a go on my son's blue plastic sledge. This was a big mistake as I went over a bump and when I landed the sledge split and a shard of plastic cut through my jeans and pierced one of my buttocks. Trust me, this is not a good look on your village hill. I screamed blue murder and ran around with blood dripping from my buttocks. My son was also screaming and crying, but not because of my injuries. He was livid that his sledge was broken.
We headed home for repairs to both my buttocks and the sled. Once again, the dogs were very helpful. They'd just finished off another huge bag of dog food. This gave Stacey a great idea. She put the broken blue sledge into the huge empty bag of dog food. Hey presto, it was almost as good as new. Back we went to the hill. We clambered up and my son was launched on top of his huge bag of dog food. The sight and smell of this hurtling down a hill attracted every dog in the field and he was immediately pursued by a pack of 10 dogs who must have assumed this was meals on wheels/sleds.
This time it was my poor son who had to abandon ship as the dogs ripped the whole thing apart. We gave up at this stage and headed home for some alcoholic relief. The lesson here is to be prepared. We now have got ice skates and solid sledges on order. The next time winter hits we'll be ready.
Andy's taxi evasion
I'm worried about predictions that Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam this year. This on Twitter tells me he's not fit enough: "Just got in a taxi, guy refused to take us to our apartment as it wasn't far enough, jumped in the cab behind, is that bad business?" No, Andy, it's just lazy.