When it’s cold outside

As the thermometer falls towards zero and the weathermen – and ladies – have warned that it will feel even colder, it is very tempting to just stay indoors. But circumstances can conspire against the best-laid plans and with a clear blue sky overhead and a good thick scarf on I ventured out yesterday morning to head into town. The walk was bracing in the extreme: head down into the wind I scarcely stopped to exchange a brief greeting with two friends who were fortunate enough to be striding out with the wind at their backs. But there is something about the concentration involved in walking in less-than-ideal weather that heightens the senses. I noticed the particular shade of blue that soared above me – and the teased-out frill of cotton-wool clouds that rested near the horizon. As I neared my destination I heard the honking of geese carried on the wind – only to realise, as the smell of hot tar reached my nostrils, that I had been misled. A road repairman’s wheelbarrow in desperate need of some oil was masquerading as a bird in flight; its job done, it was tossed aboard a lorry and whisked away. Everyone was eager to get out of the biting wind and, with temples aching, legs chilled, watering eyes and running nose I was soon indoors again and thawing out. Those cotton-wool clouds spent the next few hours gathering strength and by mid-afternoon were changing the face of the whole landscape, albeit briefly, in a flurry of sleet that rapidly turned to fluffy snow. Blowing almost horizontal in the still bitter wind it briefly carpeted the fields and hedges before disappearing as if it had never been. Blue sky gone for the day, the thermometer nudged back to three or four degrees but we are not in February yet and it will be cold outside for a good while yet.