It's cold down here – really, really cold. Maybe I'm getting old and starting to discover what old people are on about when they talk about it "getting in my bones".
It's so cold that when I took my dogs for a walk yesterday and they had their usual gallivant in the river Coln, Oscar, my flat-coated retriever, found to his chagrin that all his hair iced up and he sported an extraordinary white beard.
Huxley, the Labrador, however, seems totally unfazed by any temperature and he swam for a good 10 minutes in the river as though he was on his annual holiday in the south of France.
We live in a 15th-century Cotswold house that was not designed for heating. God knows what the medieval inhabitants of this place used to do to stay warm. I suspect that there was probably a fair amount of mutual body-warming going on back in those days.
I feel embarrassed by my children – they are half Canadian but have never really been exposed to the kind of freezer life that Canucks have to put up with. I remember us all getting very excited in Quebec when our bottles of Diet Coke froze in the car. They insisted on showing every passing Canadian, who simply looked at them as though they were aliens. "But of courzzz it freeezzes. Thizzz izzz our life you simpletonzzzz..."
About seven years ago, the big meadow in the village froze over after some floods. Everybody went skating and we got an instant winter scene from Brueghel.
No such luck this year, so we're having to make do with skimming ourselves along the frozen stream at the back of the house. It's half water and half cow poo, but it seems to freeze the same. I'm not sure what the exact freezing point of cow poo is, but I am secretly hoping that the cracking sound it makes whenever I step on it is not the precursor to my taking a bath.
I once tested the ice on our swimming pool, thinking, perhaps, we could turn it into an ice rink, as they do in Canada. This was a big mistake, as I went straight through it and was trapped under the ice for about 15 seconds while my whole life flashed before me. Weirdly, whoever directed this flashback had put in loads of really dull stuff and none of the intermittently exciting bits that I keep in the old memory bank. I might have a director's cut made so it's ready for the next time.
This might be sooner than I think as, to get away from the terrible cold I'm off to... Calgary, where it hit minus 25C last week. I'll be a guest of the Canadian Tourist Board, which has invited me to participate in a kind of Celebrity Winter Olympics in Lake Louise, one of the most beautiful places in Canada. I'm promised a minor Kennedy and a Baldwin brother or two – and it should be fun.
My main reason for going is to stay at the legendary Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. I want to go somewhere where they understand how to deal with the cold – by remaining inside in front of huge roaring fires, wrapped in grizzly bear furs and sipping hot apple cider. This is how I imagined it would be until I got my itinerary – there was a little too much talk of cross-country skiing and ice hockey for my liking.
I'll be all right, though. I once stayed three nights inside the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden. I say "nights" judiciously, as there were only two hours of daylight per day. It was hideously depressing and I have never been happier to step on to a plane bound for home. I have a feeling that lovely Lake Louise is going to be a little less taxing.Reuse content