Well, winter's finally decided to remind us that it's actually here. I sit in bed at around midday typing this on Saturday January 7th. We've just had breakfast. It started raining yesterday lunchtime and hasn't stopped for more than a few moments ever since.
The rain's been seriously heavy sometimes, and by that I mean Greek-heavy, as in, "Now where were the plans I drew up for that ark?" heavy. The rain we don't mind. After all, we don't get more than thirty or forty days in the year when it actually falls. The wind, on the other hand, we don't appreciate. There were moments during the night when I fully expected to find the entire roof (which is all curvy terracotta tiles) about half a mile away in an olive grove or something. But, this morning when we finally opened the blinds at 10.30am or so, it was still on, as a quick trip out to the wood-store for the necessary supplies of logs quickly established. Fortunately the garden's survived so far fairly intact, with one exception.
We have a cactus in our cactus bed (yea, I know, like: where else would it be?) which I think may be one of those you find in Arizona. I don't really know mind you, it's just that it looks like one of those you see in the Peanuts cartoons where Snoopy's brother Spike is shown reclining against one of these spikey wonders ruminating on the deep things of life. It was given to us a couple of years ago when it was only about eighteen inches high and I had to buy a packet of breakfast cereal just to get an appropriate cardboard box with which to manhandle it as I planted it, the spikes are that lethal. After emptying out the inner packet of rice crispies or whatever, I knocked the bottom of the box through, flexed it to make it into a kind of tube shape and slid it over the plant in question. There was no other way to get it from its pot into the ground without sustaining serious injury. Anyway, this cactus settled in happily and began to grow. Having started out with just two of those arms which kind of grow out a little, before bending upwards and ascending vertically, parallel with the main stem, it now sports about five or six and its height and girth have doubled. Looking out of the French windows this morning and anxiously scanning for casualties of the night's storm, we saw nothing untoward except for the aforementioned cactus, which is now leaning at an angle of maybe 40º from the vertical.
The problem is, the forecast indicates that this weather is set to continue for at least another eighteen hours or so. So there's nothing we can do until tomorrow and then there remains the problem of working out how to set it back at 90º to the ground without ending up in hospital. Still, I suppose there are people with worse problems than a leaning cactus.
This cactus is a feature and no mistake. We do love it - except for one thing. It's the place to which those vicious, leaf-eating locusts do tend to retreat when we attempt to slay them, and I have to admit that we do do that. Sometimes in high summer we notice plate-sized holes appearing in the leaves of the fig tree which we'd planted a few years ago and usually there will be this locust, quietly lurking on a branch hoping not to be spotted. If we do spot it we'll attempt to smash it with a trowel or something, whilst trying to spare the fig tree any injury, not always with enough success, granted. The locust, ever ready to take to flight on being attacked, will frequently flee to the nearby cactus and settle on the main central "trunk", in among the spikes, which project further out from the plant than the locust's body. Aaaargh! It makes me mad! I mean, how does it even find enough space to get in there without spearing itself? After all, it's bigger than my thumb, the swine. I'd swear I hear it laughing as I walk away dejected. What's more irritating is the fact that, a couple of hours later we can go out to inspect and find that the enemy is back among the fig leaves.
It's still raining out. The track from our house down to the main road will now be seriously slippery, even flooded in places and on days like this we just give up on the idea of even trying to take the car out. We were up drinking tea at 2 o'clock this morning, plus the regulation couple of digestive biscuits of course. It's not that we worry overmuch about what's going on out there. Well, truth be told, the missus gets anxious when the thunder crashes overhead. It's simply that the sound of the wind and the rumbles of thunder keep one awake. Even with the iPod on at a higher volume than usual, and Yvonne-Maria having stuffed lumps of cotton wool into her ears, it gets through.
So, just to make you readers in the UK feel better, we're staying in bed all day today. Well, we'll probably rise this evening and light the fire as, if the forecast is to be believed, it'll still be raining. Watched the BBC news on the internet over breakfast (with the MacBook in bed with us) and saw that at least in Wales you're having a nice bright day today.