Greetings all. 
    A bit chilly around these parts, and rather muffled on account of the snow. Activities are somewhat restricted when it is actually snowing, as it is now, although there’s plenty of opportunity for snow shovelling and scraping. I must have cleared the drive 5 times at least, and the mounds to the sides are growing each time. Not much melting in between showers because of a fairly consistent -1 or -2˚ centigrade. We have been getting all kinds of snow, big flakes through to ‘gritty’ powdery stuff, and there must be ten different layers. Apparently that’s the best formula for avalanches, unlikely here except for roof slides so I’m not expecting any of those alpine types who go around triggering them with explosives.

    I did get out to clear the solar panels yesterday, I’ll need to make another long pole device to make it all slide off, but the main baulk is the roof downslope, the snow on that stops the rest from sliding off. I really should have insisted the panels were fitted higher up, which would have cleared the snow and gathered the sunlight better. Still, you live and learn, and they are easier to get at. 

    There must have been a slight thaw, as the porch roof cleared itself, although that might have just been the greenhouse effect. The piece of wood above the gutter is for leaning the ladder on, that way the gutter doesn’t get the full weight when I clear the panels. I don’t know how much the snow weighs, so I clear it just in case. The actual solar gathering at this time of year probably amounts to 1 or 2 kilowatt hours per day when it is sunny and near enough nothing when it’s cloudy. So the financial side is not very relevant.

    The large amount of snow cleared from the panels was put to good use by constructing some snow wellies. The stuff against the wall is from the drive, and not clean enough for high art. I thought if there was enough I could do the rest of the legs and torso sitting on the horse-box, but perhaps that’s being a bit too ambitious. It would be 21 feet tall, and probably a bit heavy for the horse-box.

    Given the local supply of deep, crisp and whatever, we have managed a few walks up the Bing and around the smaller bing on slippery days. Obviously the bings are there all year round, but the change in light and general appearance makes it more attractive, if it’s not too cold. Curiously it is sometimes cooler at the bottom, but that is usually when there’s a fog blocking the sunlight. Noticeable on descent when my beard frosts over, perhaps because I’m breathing a bit harder. 

    The ‘big’ bing has a very useful ramp, created from the way the shale waste was pulled to the far end (by cable I think) and maintained by the vehicles extracting material for road building. It makes a very effective ski slope. Unfortunately there’s a gate half way up, usually closed, and the sides are rather steep in the event of mis-steering. 
Other activities, I’ve rebuilt the wee loo with a macerator. The old pipework was from an earlier incarnation of the house and was showing signs of blocking up. This by-passes the old pipes and although it cannot be used in a powercut, now rare I’m pleased to say, it is operating near silently. The porcelain and carpet were replaced at the same time, and since I had the interior varnish can open I finally got around to varnishing the rest of the house doors that we had stripped sometime around the mid1990s. I’d be a bit more precise but I never was very fixed in time and didn’t have a digital camera until about ’98 and started newsletters in 1999. Dates can be a bit vague. I did find recently that I got the land registry documentation for the Old Manse in 1995, though I may have bought it as early as 1993. Sometime I really must work out my time line, though it’ll be of little interest for anybody else. 

    This line of thought was triggered because I’m trying to research Scotty Turnbull’s history as Mum would like to exhibit his paintings. I have three of them, but as yet have absolutely no information other than he was probably Scottish, married to Dorothy, was in the RFC, and survived the first world war to have a son, Ian (or Iain).

    The matter is not helped by my own poor memory… perhaps I had better expand that a bit.

     In 1967, apparently, I slipped, probably while running, on the side of the boarding school swimming pool, hit my head and sank. Nothing particularly memorable there... 

     Not having any memory of the incident sort of goes with the territory, and I think the school kept quiet about it in the hope that it would all blow over. If there was a supervisor I imagine he would want to minimise it, and if there wasn’t one then the school certainly would. It nearly worked but my mother happened to ring in about name tags, and was surprised to be informed that I was ‘awake and talking to the nurses’. 

    From what I can tell I required resuscitation, but that’s about it. I suppose I could go back to Brighton and look into the records but I imagine they’d have deleted the episode from the archive, if indeed anything was ever written down in the first place.

    The past, as they say, is a different country where they do things differently.

    It is a bit strange though, realisation crept up on me so slowly that there were huge gaps, to such an extent that I think my previous remembered history ‘1952 to 1967’ is almost entirely gone. Certainly most people I know remember more of their past than I do mine.
    Great stuff for conspiracy theories, although I'd hold it being an hypothesis at best. Trying to work out what I should be able to remember is rather like looking for a black cat in a coal cellar - when it isn't actually there. And trying to remember when I lost it... well you can see the difficulty there.
    So I could be a changeling, but it's actually most likely to be simple forgetfulness, the more obvious mundane explanations are usually the answer, even if they aren’t as interesting.

    Anyway, enough of the fanciful, back to the present. 

    A short while before the snow, around the 23rd of December, Fiona returned from the garden to tell me there was a large tractor on our back lane. Not having expected one I went and had a look, and found my neighbour, a farmer, cutting big bits off the trees between our properties. It transpired that he didn’t actually know who owned the back lane or the trees, and wanted to repair the fence, or completely rebuild really, as what was standing, for want of a better word, was falling down. It seemed a reasonable plan, especially as I didn’t really want sheep (yows) wandering into the garden. 
    Between us we decided it must be a march fence, i.e. one belonging to both of us, so I gave a hand and paid for some of the materials. While the old fence was down it seemed to be the ideal opportunity to re-dig the ditch on his land, with a tractor on mine thereby improving the drainage of the field and the track. Fiona and I had trenched it out manually before, so having a large tractor with a back-hoe quickened the process considerably. After that I took out a couple of garden shadowing conifers and turned them into firewood. 

    There are another four or so to be converted in that manner including the nearest one in the picture, but I’ll wait until the snow has melted. 

    Fiona had just taken delivery of some hedging trees to replace the ones we planned to cut, so we were quite surprised when another large box arrived a few days later. The suppliers of ‘hedge trees’ had accidentally sent us another 250 trees at about a pound apiece. I think they must make a reasonable profit on them as they decided to gift them to us rather than going through the hassle of redirecting them to somewhere in England. We will be able to pass the bulk of them on to others in the area as well as planting our own hedges a little more densely. Having developed a nice new fence, free trees and not having to dig out the ditch, I’m thinking of renaming the back track ‘Serendipity Avenue’. Better than the local options of ‘the bumpy way’ or Midgie Road.

    The first batch of trees that Fiona had bought were in part to replace the conifers that were producing too much shade, something we had been intending to improve for a year or so. The new fence is to our south east and the trees shade the garden from dawn to mid-day. Some of them are Sitka Spruce anyway and apart from being non-native, they are reaching the size where they could blow over. Once the snow melts it’ll be time to have them out, ideally without bringing any power lines down, then I can get the new trees in.

    There is one lighting pole in the way. It has a nice new LED lamp, which sadly hasn’t worked since it was replaced in July. How the engineers fitted it with the pole leaning like that I have no idea. Possibly a cherry-picker, although it is quite boggy there. Preferring dark skies I hope to get the lighting department to take the pole out entirely, although it would be useful for the dog walkers. Whether it would make the less careful walker more likely to clear up after their dog remains to be seen, but it might make it easier for everyone else to avoid stepping in it.

    There are several large conifers in the middle of the garden which sooner or later will have to be replaced with native deciduous, unfortunately there are some wood-sheds and lumber stores close to the likely path of their decent, so I may have to get them felled by an expert. That in turn means spending money, which I’d rather not, and I’ll have to find somewhere to store the resulting firewood. Still, once I have the unwanted trees down I can build a proper barn to put the wood in and remove the rather tatty woodsheds currently drying the stock felled in 2016. Unfortunately the current sheds are rather in the way of the trees to be felled, and so would the new shed be, if built. Some logistics may be needed.

    Having improved the back fence I remembered the front one. It hasn’t been revamped in almost as long, certainly quite a lot longer than we’ve been here, though I have done a few running repairs. I picked up a few planks and rails a while ago and started improving the fencing around the front gate, quite a few are unused as yet, so here’s a start on the next bit. I don’t think I’ll be finished soon though, the garden - for want of a better word - ends about where the green lamp post stands. Fortunately the ground is about right for post driving, I’m putting 5’6” posts about 2’ into the ground with a ‘mell’ which is a sort of flat faced sledge hammer. The ground is reasonably well drained and doesn’t have a lot of rocks in it so far. My only worry is that it’ll take me so long to finish that I’ll have to start again at this end.
    Since writing the first part the ‘cooncil’ has been around in the form of a man in a van with a cherry picker (so that he can reach the top of lamp posts) and has fixed the lights at the back. They now come on at night, but the tilted one still tilts, so I guess they’ll be back, hopefully before the larger of the coniferous trees in the garden need to come down. I can never remember what defines a pine from a fir. Easy enough to google the things, but I always forget shortly after. 
    Well that’s about it for the moment, I notice it has started snowing again (31/01/2018) so the next bit of fencing could prove a bit tricky.
stay warm