Country Life: Weather watching

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The Independent Online

Jane and I have moved. Not to a different house, but to a different bedroom.

Jane and I have moved. Not to a different house, but to a different bedroom. Our former bedroom was west-facing, and a room that faces west in these parts also faces the onslaught of winter. Sometimes, we would stand at our bedroom window actually watching bad weather making its way menacingly towards us from across the Welsh border. Maybe that accounts for the anti-Welsh feelings you occasionally get round here, especially within the farming community.

I don't even begin to subscribe to the idea that nothing good ever comes out of Wales; I'll admit to some ambivalence about Catherine Zeta Jones, but any country that gave the world Dame Shirley Bassey, Rob Brydon and former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall, gets a big tick from me.

However, I know a couple of Herefordshire farmers who are adamant that nothing good comes out of the principality, and I guess they might start by citing crappy weather.

I have become something of an expert - or bore, if you prefer - on the subject of the approaching weather. On Christmas morning I told Jane that there were snow clouds over the Brecon Beacons that would be with us before noon. She has faith in my forecasting skills, but sensibly suggested that I should not come over all Michael Fish with the children, for fear of disappointing them. Yet I was right. It started snowing heavily at about 11am, giving us a white Christmas just like the ones I never used to know.

In all my 43 years, I think this was my first white Christmas. And at the very moment we sat down for lunch, the sun came out to make the treetops glisten. I half-expected Bing Crosby to saunter into the room, gently take the knife from me and start carving the goose, crooning all the while.

But since the turn of the new year, the weather from the west has been apocalyptic. At least, it has sounded apocalyptic from our bedroom. A breeze outside sounds like a gale. A gale sounds like a thousand banshees.

From inside a warm bedroom it can be strangely comforting, listening to the howling wind. But ours is not a warm bedroom. It has three outside walls and windows that far from being double-glazed, seem scarcely single-glazed. Even at full-tilt, the two radiators fail to make much of an impact.

There are numerous positives about living in a big old house in the country but during the winter the negatives tend to multiply. During a recent power-cut - frequent power-cuts being another of those seasonal negatives - we took two candles to bed and the prevailing wind, swirling round the chest-of-drawers, actually extinguished both of them before we had even got under the multiple duvets.

When there's a wind-chill factor inside your bedroom, something has to be done. So we moved into the spare bedroom. It's not exactly warm, but it faces south, so it's a sight warmer. Whether we'll move back once spring arrives, I don't know. The problem with our bedroom in the spring is that the sheep in the neighbouring field have a huge baa-ing competition starting at 11pm and continuing until 5am, when that night's winner is announced. But I'd hate anyone to think I am complaining. There's hardly anything worse than townies who move to the sticks and then moan about country weather and country sounds.

* It is getting on for three years since I first became acquainted with the Worcester Shrub Hill to London Paddington rail service. I use it at least once a week and for all its vagaries, have become rather fond of it, rather in the manner that one might be fond of an eccentric relative who hardly ever turns up when she says she is going to, but occasionally disarms you by arriving bang on time.

My affection also has something to do with the curious staffing policy operated by First Great Western Link, which seems to involve the recruitment of disproportionate numbers of Spaniards. Over the last few months I have had my tickets inspected by a Luis, a Felipe and a Juan Carlos, and have had my tea poured, or at least hot water added to my teabag, by an Ines, another Luis, and an Antonio.

My hope is that this is the first salvo in a First Great Western Link initiative to hispanify, if that is the word, its entire catering operation. After all, if we have to be stuck for 20 minutes outside Charlbury because the train ahead has a paranoid locomotive, or whatever the latest excuse is, some little dishes of chorizo and grilled peppers would certainly ease the frustration.

But it is not just the Spanish name badges on these trains that have caught my eye. There is another ticket inspector, a ringer for Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, whose name is Simon de Montfort. In the hours of idle reflection time that a journey from Shrub Hill to Paddington affords, I have wondered whether this can really be his name, or whether perhaps it is part of another First Great Western initiative, to name its on-board staff after powerful English nobles from the history books, perhaps for the delectation of the many Americans who use the service from London as far as the Cotswolds.

If I run into John of Gaunt operating the trolley service then I'll let you know.

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