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In which weather takes on vanity, and weather wins

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Thursday, 14 February 2013
The snow comes barrelling in again, this time, rather oddly, on gales blowing up from the south. There is no warmth in them, whatever their origin, and wind-chill now becomes a subject of intense importance. I try not to moan about the weather, and fail. An amber warning is out for the region, and many conversations now revolve around the correct application of layers. Layering is the only way to keep warm, at this stage, and must be taken very seriously.

Working with horses in these elements means that all vanity is fled. It really is what the business types call a Zero Sum Game. Either I can keep my equines warm and fed and comfortable, or I can look respectable. There is absolutely no way to do both. Clothes, boots and often face are spattered with mud; every woollen article I own has little bits of hay clinging to it. Due to the crucial application of a hat to fend off the blizzards, my hair has become unspeakable.

My current sartorial look, seen when giving the mares their morning haynets. The hat, of which I am rather fond, came from the tremendous N. Armison and Sons of Penrith, established in 1742. I'm not sure the hat was designed for feeding horses in the snow, but it does the job very well.My current sartorial look, seen when giving the mares their morning haynets. The hat, of which I am rather fond, came from the tremendous N. Armison and Sons of Penrith, established in 1742. I'm not sure the hat was designed for feeding horses in the snow, but it does the job very well.

In the equine brochures which now thump through my letter-box, people who have clearly never been through a Scottish winter show off all kind of horse-wear, in varying states of pristine immaculateness. I gaze at them with a hollow laugh. My default mode now involves low-level dirt at all times.

Funnily enough, I think this is rather a good thing. It’s nice to brush up well, every so often; to put on one’s lipstick and get out a velvet coat or a shiny pair of shoes. Occasionally, I do manage to graduate from mildly damp socks. But so much of the media seems devoted to telling women that they should aspire to impossible levels of loveliness. We must be willowy and elegant and perfectly dressed, like this film star, or that model. It’s rather lovely when that simply is not an option. I do not have to feel like a failure in the glamour stakes, because there is no question of even making an entry.

I do dream of spring, when I no longer shall have to tog myself up like the Michelin man. It shall be rather charming to cast off the exclusive scent of wet horse. (Not exactly Chanel No 5.) But in the meantime, I quite like that fact that there is no room for vanity. I am a creature of the earth, just at the moment, stomping through the mud, head bowed against the wind, getting the important things done.

It’s just a little bit of snow

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 23 January 2013
I think this is the first proper big snow we’ve had for two years. It is a foot and a half now, and more gathers in the western sky like a mustering army. The roads that go up into the hills are all closed, and the village is empty and silent. One intrepid gentleman slides by on skies, pulling his small son behind him on a scarlet sled. According to the chemist, the only ones out and about are the old people. ‘Nothing stops them,’ she says, smiling.

Tania Kindersley snow

Those same doughty old people will tell you of the winters of their childhood, when they were snowed under for three months at a time. The Scottish weather has changed dramatically in the last forty years. The ski stations at the Lecht and Glenshee have had to rework their business models, because they can no longer rely on a full season of good powder. So even though we are over five hundred miles north of Hyde Park Corner, we don’t get this kind of severe weather very often any more.

Tania Kindersley snow

After four solid days, it gets a little wearing. I stomp through the drifts to take the horses their hay, and spend inordinate amounts of time dealing with the frozen water trough. The equines, who take the weather on the chin, watch in polite interest as I faff about with water bottles and buckets and urns. The snow means everything takes huge amounts of time. Even going down to the Co-op for bread and cheese is like an Antarctic expedition. This morning, it was so frigid that all the doors on the car were frozen shut, covered in a thick layer of frosted snow. I trudge about in my boots and gloves and hat, mildly grumpy, hoping that the power lines will not go down.

Stanley the Dog, on the other hand, thinks it is the most fun he has had since the old queen died. He romps and leaps and gambols in the white stuff like a puppy. I think I should take a leaf out of his book, and not grouse and grumble simply because the elements are not clement.

Tania Kindersley snow

It does have a powerful beauty. All the trees look like ice sculptures, and the distant wooded hills take on a misty aspect, as if they are something from an old water-colour painting. There is a great stillness about, as if the world has stopped, and the air smells clean and sharp, like metal. At night, when I take the dog out for his last walk, the whiteness means that the landscape is almost as bright as day. The snow clouds gather all the light from the street lamps in the village and spread it over the sky, so there is a diffused effect of low amber. It is very hard to describe, but it makes me catch my breath each time I see it.

Tania Kindersley snow
It is a time when I keenly appreciate the joys of being self-employed. My office is my house, so I do not have to get in the motor with spades and chocolate and prepare to be stuck on some snowy commute. I am all stocked up like a Montana survivalist and have made enough chicken soup to last for three more days. I have logs and candles and extra blankets, in case the electricity goes.

I wonder how the Nordics do it. They still have those old Scottish winters; what is weather shock to us is daily life to them. Come on, come on, I think; if the Scandinavians can do it, so can I. What about the great British virtues of stoicism and phlegm? I must summon up my Churchillian self, and fight them on the beaches. It’s just that occasionally, in my weaker moments, I do dream of sunshine. I can’t remember what warmth feels like or what green fields look like. My feet are permanently slightly damp, and I spend half the day with no feeling in my fingers. (This makes typing difficult.) Still, I must not complain. There is no bore worse than a weather bore. It’s just a little bit of snow. The sun will come again.


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