Thursday, January 29, 2015

Snow... or not

Last week it snowed here in the village. Not a lot of snow, mind you. Living as we do on the coast, we rarely get more than a generous dusting. People are still talking about the winter of 2010-2011, before we moved here, when it snowed an entire FOUR INCHES. Roads were closed, and food had to be shipped into the village by sea from Whitehaven. I kid you not.

As a former New Englander, I scoff a bit at this, I admit. When we lived in Connecticut we had several major snowstorms each winter, and by major I mean anywhere from 18 inches to 2 and a half feet of snow. But New England is prepared for that kind of snow. Within hours of the snow stopping, the ploughs are out and the streets are mainly clear.

My husband and I were reminiscing about the snowstorms in New England. There is something very serene and beautiful about a world blanketed in snow. I think the thing I miss most of all is the sense of peaceful silence. Everything is muted by snow; no one is out. The world is covered in softness. Of course, in a few days or weeks, that softness is grimy, grey, and making life generally difficult with puddles of icy slush--when we lived in New York City, there were absolutely treacherous puddles on the curbs of certain intersections, and the worst part was, they didn't look that deep. So you'd step into one only to find yourself sinking into icy, dirty water halfway up to your knee. Yuck.

So I don't miss that.

But snow can be magical, and when it snowed here last week (maybe a quarter of an inch, gone within an hour) my six-year-old daughter was absolutely entranced. She doesn't remember the snows in New York, and she gazed around in rapture at the snow still coming down and said, 'This is the best day EVER. There is so much to SEE!'

I'd like a little of her youthful wonder and exuberance, myself.

It was supposed to snow last night but there is nary a flake on the ground this morning. However, the distant fells look like this:

So really, I can't complain.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fire at the Vicarage

Please forgive my absence from this blog; Christmas and all its attending brouhaha (a word I love to use) overwhelmed me. And then of course there was the fire.

On December 27th my husband put on a fire in the guest room to air the room out in preparation for our au pair coming back. Unfortunately, while he was out of the room, a spark leapt out (we think) and possibly lit the kindling stacked near the fireplace, or some other highly flammable substance, because a few minutes later the smoke alarm (thankfully!) went off and when he went upstairs the whole room was ablaze.

I am very grateful for my husband's clear, cool thinking, because I have to admit I am a panicker. Worse, I am a wring-my-hands-and-do-nothing kind of panicker. I've managed to improve slightly since having children--when my son, who was two at the time, choked on a plum pit, I possessed enough sangfroid to first give him the Heimlich and then when that didn't work, to fish the pit out with my finger while he sank his teeth deep into my knuckle. But back to the fire.

My husband told our two oldest daughters, who were oblivious to the fire in the room adjacent to them, to go downstairs and he put the contents of not one but two fire extinguishers on the blaze while we waited outside, shivering. At that point I thought maybe the mat in front of the fireplace would be a bit damaged, the room a bit smoky.


The fire reignited and my husband called the fire brigade--all volunteers, who were superb. They put out the fire and pried up the floorboards, using cameras to make sure there was no fire underneath. They also threw all the smoke and fire damaged furniture out the window.

So the room was a little more damaged than I thought. In fact, it was a burned out shell, and my daughter's room next door was covered in soot and grime.

But the good news is we have insurance. And the reason this relates to my village life? Within five minutes of the whole thing happening, people were calling, leaving messages on Facebook, offering to have us sleep at their house or borrow anything we needed. We hadn't even told anyone, but people could see the fire brigade (not to mention the smoke) at our house and so they called. They came to help fill a skip (or Dumpster, in American) with all the rubbish (trash). They offered to help clean and paint, and the girls slept in the living room for a week on a pile of a friend's duvets. I know things like this would happen even if I didn't live in a village. Friends would call round, offering help once they'd heard. I suppose the difference is how quickly the help came. How many people reached out, because they could actually *see* the smoke billowing up in the middle of the village! And despite the fire's damage, I'm grateful for how it made me count my blessings. The children had been bickering all week but the fire sobered them up a bit, drew us all together. Made us see how many friends we had, people who were willing and eager to help us. And of course we are very thankful that it wasn't any worse--if the smoke alarm hadn't gone off, if the fire had moved into the hallway and blocked the stairs... the whole house could have burned down. Children could have been hurt or worse. So yes, I am thankful.