Every year I think how nice it would be to have a white Christmas. The thought of opening my eyes on Christmas day to heaps of crisp, fresh white snow has always seemed so romantic. Snow piled up outside the front door.
Of course, when having these dreamy, diamond glinted snow fantasies, boats and planes and trains and of course shovels, (to dig the car out, not for killing my husband) don’t quite enter into them. Come to that neither did City Link and my longed for parcel. I also never envisioned paying a cab driver £25 for the luxury of taking me to work because I was too afraid to attempt driving my car up the steep hill that gets me out of the village. But, at last here it is, my wonderful romantic white Christmas. So, how romantic has it been so far?
Saturday afternoon as the beautiful white stuff fell I looked longingly out of the window. Tomorrow, I will go for a walk and take photos. Speaking my thoughts aloud I turned with a glow on my face to see my husband dressed in his flying suit.
‘Good lord, you can’t fly in this.’ I said stupidly.
Immediately the romance of my lovely white Christmas was wiped out in a second by his next words.
‘I am taking my car down the hill today while it is not too cold. I should be able to get to work on Monday if I take it down there now.”
Work, hill, oh no. My stomach churned and the snow no longer seemed so pretty.
I watched him leave as though watching him for the last time as he heads off into the Antarctic.
‘Be careful and text me.’
I get the look. You know the type of look that says, ‘I am only going to the next village for goodness sake.’
I begin to think about work and then tell myself to enjoy the weekend. After all it will be gone by Monday. Yes, well as we can all see it has far from disappeared and any white Christmas I had hoped for now looks like a reality. What also looks like a reality is that I may not get to my in-laws for this wonderful white Christmas.
So, just what is the reality of a white Christmas with snow around the door and a nice roaring fire inside the house? The following are some of those wonderful things you can look forward to.
1) You cannot get a flight to anywhere as they cancel most flights and you spend the best part of Christmas in Heathrow’s departure lounge, just hoping to depart.
2) You cannot get a train for hours as they have cancelled most of them and you queue for almost eight hours in the vain hope of catching one to get you home.
3) If you live in a tiny village you cannot catch a bus because they have cancelled those too.
4) The roads are not gritted so you cannot get to work, or the Christmas party or even get your present in the secret Santa.
5) You may spend hours on the motorway getting to your loved one for Christmas.
6) You get trampled or beaten up in Sainsbury because everyone seems to think it is the start of a food shortage. Although I have to admit our house is starting to face such a very shortage.
7) If you are like me and have ordered your presents online and late at that, then you are unlikely to get them in time.
8) Your house is bare of Christmas cards because the post cannot be delivered.
9) You lose your cat in the snow, well ok, I have. All hopes on him coming back though. Periods of the day are spent calling him.
10) You cannot even get a taxi to work, well; ok I can’t, as nobody will attempt to drive up the hill into the village.
11) Worse of all, and seriously this is important stuff, my diet food is not being delivered. A white Christmas could result in me getting fat.
So, will I be wishing for a white Christmas next year? I think not. Lovely as it looks it is freezing. I have frozen bread and frozen cooking oil. I now found myself longingly remembering the one Christmas I spent in Sydney and how I complained of the heat when cooking a Christmas dinner.
So, here I am, with two extra heaters on and wearing enough layers that I resemble a Michelin tyre and treating the kitchen like a room possessed by a poltergeist. I fly in there, grab what I need and fly out. Icicles hang down above the kitchen window and back door like Christmas decorations and drip monotonously onto my head as I call the cat. I try to think of past summers but they seem like a distant dream. I imagine, one day, this will too. In the meantime, off to call the cat and make another hot cup of tea.
I woke up this morning with great plans. I was going to blog and then forgot what it was I was going to blog about. The post lady came and plonked a load of stuff outside. I shuffled out into the cold to collect them and discovered to my horror that I had a tax rebate. I had to check the name twice. I wandered in feeling a bit happier and then I saw the contract for my new job and realised I would be taking a bit of a drop in salary. I started to work out what I could stop spending money on and the outcome was books. I must have well over 300 here and the majority of them have not been read. The problem is I am addicted to Amazon. I just love ordering a new book and then opening the packet when it arrives and removing a nice new shiny book. I will stare at it on and off for a few days and finally find a good place for it on the bookshelf where it slowly gathers dust. I know, shameful. So, the library will be seeing more of me. Then it started to snow and I thought about hibernating and then the fishmonger came. You must be thinking what an exciting life I lead and I cannot disagree. By the time I had bought my fish and frozen it, the sun was shining. My cottage however is like one big freezer that even the bread is frozen. I turned on extra heating and was about to light some candles when a horrific memory returned. So here is the blog. I began thinking how cold we all are at the moment and memories of how it has become just a bit overheated here returned to me. When we first moved here I thought nothing of all the stories of fires that had happened in the cottage or were connected to it. I do not believe in ghosts but a friend has said she senses something here. The beginnings of our freaky fires started when we first looked at the cottage with a view to buying.
‘Of course these old cottages have a history,’ said the estate agent.
I did not listen too much and wandered around in my little dream world of life in the country. Later Andrew told me that the whole of the extension had almost been burnt down when the previous owner had left something on the cooker. I think I barely responded. We bought the cottage and then found there was a problem with the deeds. It seems they had got burnt in a fire at the solicitors. I still did not consider this too much of a coincidence. After all these things happen don’t they? I never for one minute considered my life was in danger by some unknown arsonist who cannot be seen. I hear you laugh. You will take it back. Finally with the deeds issue sorted, we moved in. Many of the neighbours popped in to say hello. One day Mr Bush came to welcome us. Being one of the oldest members of the village he was somewhat viewed in awe by the locals. I have never been sure why. He admired our interior decorations and had a cup of tea. Just before leaving he dropped his bombshell.
‘Of course you know Miss Marshall haunts the cottage?’ he said lightly.
Andrew hid a smile. My eyes widened.
‘Miss Marshall?’ I queried.
‘I was nine,’ he said his eyes looking into space and it seemed like he was travelling back in time.
‘I remember seeing smoke billowing out from the bedroom window, your bedroom window. I got my dad and we rushed back and broke the door down and as we did so her charred body fell through the ceiling and landed here.’ He pointed to the middle of my living room and I shuddered.
‘I would be careful with those candles,’ he warned. ‘It was them that got her you see.’
‘Candles,’ I echoed.
Andrew seemed disinterested.
‘Yes, they thought a candle she had by the bed must have caught her nightdress and up in smoke she went.’
After he had left I suggested to Andrew that maybe we should not use candles. After all, that was three fires we had heard of now, all connected to the cottage. He laughed and told me not to be fanciful, after all Miss Marshall had probably died in the year 1920 or even earlier. It was not like there had been hundreds of fires since. I reminded him of the two fires Molly had and the solicitors fire,
‘The cottage is still standing and Molly and Clifford were here for over 30 years,’ he assured me.
I decided to put the entire business out of my mind. A year later it all came flooding back. Andrew was upstairs working. I had just showered and quickly grabbed my flowery flowing skirt that tied at the waist and put it on. It was a bit chilly so I decided to light some candles to warm the place up. I only meant to warm the place up you understand but someone else obviously had other intentions of warming me up. I had already lit those on the fireplace and was lighting the few I had put on the coffee table when I had a strange hot sensation in my leg. I ignored it, as you do. I then went to rub it only to find my skirt was on fire. Of course I can write calmly about this now. I frantically tried to untie the knot of the tie-up that held my skirt while repeatedly calling Andrew. God help me the damn thing was knotted. I began to frantically tug at it to get it over my hips, while the flames were licking further and further up my skirt.
‘Andrew,’ I screamed hysterically. No response. ‘Andrew, help me, please.’
No response. Oh my god I was going to burn alive like Miss Marshall. I ran dramatically towards the wall almost knocking myself out. Smoke was everywhere along with floating pieces of my skirt as Andrew opened the door at the bottom of the stairs. He did not rush down it seems because he thought I had seen a spider or a dead mouse. I ask you! Trust me, I do not scream hysterically when I see a mouse or even a spider. When I am burning to death I may have a tendency to scream hysterically, justified I think.
I swore never to have candles in the house again. But of course I lapsed. A few years went by and they were no more fire incidents so I put it down to bad luck. Then only a few weeks ago when Andrew was in Taiwan, Bendy and I were sitting cosily on the couch when there was a strange bang from upstairs. Bendy jumped onto the coffee table almost knocking over a vase of flowers. I jumped up to catch them throwing the cushion I was using to lean my net book upon, straight onto the candles on the table.
Gently stroking Bendy I realised there was a burning smell. I looked behind me to see the cushion on fire. I quickly doused it with water and sighed when I saw the large hole. Was this Miss Marshall striking again? We never did find out what the bang was. But we are brave here and do not give in to ghosts and still light candles