Well, it’s all happening here. Our coldest ever weather is proving to be quite a handful. Our thermomenter showed  its lowest ever reading of minus 12.7 degrees C yesterday morning, and there were a good few more degrees of wind chill out there.

We anticipated at least some pipes freezing up, and that’s what has happened upstairs. Our old farm cottage faces optimistically south with the back wall taking the full brunt of the wickedly cold north winds that make Creuse winters so memorable. Despite thick layers of insulation on the inside, and the layer of enduit (plaster) on the outside that Chris applied during the summer, and not forgetting the two foot of stone and mud in-between, the cold gets through.

I had a nice hot bath on Thursday night, and the water is still sitting there on Saturday morning. It won’t drain away. Chris has drilled, poked, prodded as far as he can up the offending pipes but there seems to be a lump of ice just beyond his reach. The kitchen wastewater pipes have frozen too with some washing-up water joining my lurking bathwater before we realised what was going on. And I can’t use the washing machine for similar reasons so I’ll have to wash through the kids’ clothes for school next week the old-fashioned way this weekend. Rors gets through so many socks!

And last night, for fun, the electrics in the kitchen decided to stop working for reasons we can only imagine are connected with the extreme cold. Luckily, the kitchen is currently colder than my fridge at about six degrees (that French window facing north is the main culprit), so at least food won’t be going off! The main worry is that someone will trip over or strangle themselves in all the wiring and extensions Chris has strung up around the place to bring some power there.

I cancelled my trip with Caiti to Grenoble for the journée portes ouvertes at the University there because of the adverse weather. It was disappointing for us both, but sensible. Last night I took Rors into Boussac to see Le Chatpotté (Puss in Boots) at the cinema. I was well out of my comfort zone driving in, as the D2 had sheets of black ice over it in places. Specifically in places where certain farmers have taken down the trees and ripped up the roadside hedges. Why can’t the leave them alone? I didn’t go over 50km till we got to the main Boussac road, which is one that’s maintained by the Département, as opposed to the commune, and was blissfully clear and salted. The minor roads are dealt with by the communes and so subject to widely varying standards of treatment. It doesn’t look like Bussière does anything. Their stretch of the  D2 was worse even than our tiny little road which the maintenance guy at Nouzerines had bulldozed with his multi-purpose tractor/digger/hedge-distructivator.

Anyway, the film was fun and Rors got his long-promised treat, and a second one one when he saw a huge rat scuttling along the pavement! The things we do for our kids. (OK, my gesture doesn’t quite match Sarko’s action in flying his tummy-bug struck son home from Turkey in a private jet at a cost of €35,000 to the taxpayer, and a huge carbon footprint, but hey.) I survived the stress of the drive. But I don’t think I would have driving 500 km to the Alps in ever dropping temperatures. So hopefully we’ll be able to get Caiti up to Paris next week to visit the two universities there that she’s interested in. I hope so but the extreme cold is continuing for the next ten days with more snow on the way. So we’ll see.

All three lakes are well and truly frozen now. At least that will keep the cormorants off them. We went down to inspect the big lake and found hundreds of little roach wiggling around in the mud just below the ice. We’ve never seen this before in the yearly lake freezes. The fish seem to be displaying spawning behaviour by shoaling together in the shallows. We’d noticed some going on a week or so ago, when it was still unseasonably mild. But why they should be doing it in such cold, I’m not sure. They don’t seem to be stuck there, although the cold is making some of them dopey. Most of them wriggle away after a while. It’s quite a mystery.


Nessie wasn’t bothered by that, and was happy to sit on the ice and watch the world go by, with a couple of metres of very cold water underneath her!