The car is stuck and I am not going anywhere – figuratively and literally.
We don’t have 4WD vehicles, despite living in the back of beyond, down a muddy track (now covered in snow). Poor budgeting; poor planning; probably a touch of hubris there too.
Trapped alone at home I can’t shake the feeling that this is a failing project. Can’t summon up the adventurous spirt which has kept me going in past winters. We should be better prepared – but the woodshed is empty, there is a hole in the barn roof with snow and wet leaking through. I can’t get the car out and there’s no shopping in.
We are not going starve or freeze to death, not really. We are playing at self-sufficiency. The kids ask: “Are we poor?” as I tuck them into bed with two duvets and hot water bottles because we can’t heat the upstairs. “Not at all,” I assure them. “We choose to live like this.”
But today I am fed up with the game. I don’t want to play anymore.
The first fall of snow and even the school bus didn’t run. Perhaps because we have been stuck more times than is fun and perhaps also because the boys no longer need me to pull sledges up the slope and distribute warm cuddles at the bottom, I’ve lost the love for days off spent playing in the snow. They got on with it themselves in the morning and I made them spend the rest of the day tidying their bedroom.
The following morning, with minor roads passable we walk up the track and the school bus turns up. Hubby also gets to work, leaving me grumpily snowed in alone. Our woodshed is half empty, not half full. We are currently buying in wood and supplementary coal, which I consider a failure. Hubby says “There are bills to pay in every house”. I think “We could live in another house, pay the bills and have hot showers whenever we choose.” Feeling weighted down with worries, heavy legs dragging through deep snow and the dog refusing to heel properly, I am not in the best of moods.
Crossing the river, I walk up to what once would have been our neighbours, but is now a derelict farm, windows smashed and boarded up, out buildings with roofs caving in. The traditional limestone farm cottage of is a two up two down with barn attached, just like ours. Such abandoned relics litter the countryside round here. People are moving out not in.
The farmer who kept his stock on this land and whose family once lived in the house, died last year, at the age of 92. Farming to the very end of his life, he was my friend and I miss him terribly both for his company and his generous help and advice to a “comer-in” like myself. It is also 13 years to the day my mum was killed, an awful car crash, news of which plays out like a scene from a film as I walk now and remember the awful events unfolding. My son was just six months old, Mum an excited grandma on the eve of her retirement. I trudge home through the bleak, smudged out snowscape with only the dead for company.
When my youngest comes home he is desperate to get to footie practise. I don’t think I can get the car up the track. I’m just glad I got it down with a boot loaded with red diesel for the generator before the snow fell. He insists I try, which against my better judgement I do. The wheels skid horribly on the ‘second bad bend’ as we call it. The car slips inexorably back down the slope and wedges sideways, where it remains.
That evening my husband calls from the top of the track where he has abandoned his car to walk down – its a good mile – laden with heavy shopping bags, supplies to get us through the next few days. Reluctant to leave the cosy fire at home, I force myself to pull on wellingtons, coat and head torch to go to help. Its been a long day for both of us. The clink when, in from the freezing cold and biting wind, we set the bags down tells me he hasn’t been too frugal with the supplies and when the kids are finally in bed we crack open the bottle – a nice single malt and play cards. In from the cold, the house has a cosy log-cabin feel. It’s good to have company and a shoulder to cry on. Its good to be warm, the whiskey warms me deeper and ghosts are banished. We share our day as he beats me at cards and I don’t mind.