A Winter’s Tale

The winter weather continues.  I’m trying to take advantage of the icy cold to go out walking as much as I can to re-acclimatise my body from Greece (40oC) to Canada (-40oC). But there are hidden problems.

The snow in South Wales hasn’t been very deep but because it has been continuously cold it had not thawed at all.  I went for a walk on Friday and the snow had just blown around a bit in the wind and drifted. Very pleasant walking.

Powdery snow drifting off the fields through the fences

In the evening it snowed again, about 2 inches this time.  But the temperature rose to just above freezing with the whole of Saturday very grey and drizzly, melting the snow and turning it to slush on roads on pavements.  Then it froze again.  Not a hard frost but enough to turn the slush and melt-water to ice by Sunday morning.

I couldn’t get the car up the drive let alone take the sharp bend uphill onto the crescent, so I had to give chapel a miss and instead took my camera for a walk up Garn Wen, the mountain behind the house.  There was still the remnant of Autumn colour in the oak trees providing a sharp colour contrast in the bright sun.

Snow, sheet ice and remnant of Autumn colour

On top of the mountain much of the snow which had fallen had melted even but it was now freezing hard up there.  The weather was amazing with an almost cloudless blue sky.  Looking south the Bristol Channel was golden but the West Country was lost in grey fog.  Perhaps as well.  I stayed out for about 5 hours altogether. Fabulous!

Looking South towards the Bristol Channel

Closer view shows the sea turned gold.

Looking North from the top of Garn Wen

................. and looking straight up.

When I got up on Monday morning the temperature was -7oC with a thick coating of hoarfrost making a winter wonderland once the early fog lifted.  It remained below freezing all day and by 21.00 when I went out the temperature had dropped to -7oC  again.  And there was a thick freezing fog.

When I got up on Tuesday morning I had a shock when I went to do the second thing of the day, clean my teeth.  The tap in the wash basin had been dripping slightly and the water wasn’t draining away.  This had happened a couple of weekends ago and I had resolved the matter with a bit of wire and the dregs of some sink unblocking liquid which I found in the cupboard.  In case the problem recurred I had invested in a well known brand of drain unblocking gel in an aggressively, macho orange bottle which claims on the label “unblocks drains in 15 minutes”.

So having cleaned my teeth in the bath (not that I put my teeth in the bath, they are still firmly attached in my mouth) I scooped out some of the water from the basin and poured half the contents of the magic liquid into the plug-hole as directed.  I then went downstairs feeling well pleased that I had resolved a problem within 10 minutes of having staggered out of bed.  Opened the blind in the kitchen and it was one of those “Wow!” moments.  Sun just peeping over the ridge on the opposite side of the valley and really thick hoarfrost on the trees.  Even more spectacular than yesterday.  The temperature sensor on the bird table was reading -11.2oC.

I forgot about the blocked drain and went outside with the camera.

Looking South from the balcony

Looking North from the balcony

Birds huddle up against the cold

Spiders stand little chance of catching food

Detail of hoarfrost on beech leaf

But the drain unblocking gel hadn’t worked. Not after an hour.  Nor 3 hours.  Nor 12 hours.  At 20.00 I went out to meet a friend and borrowed a sink plunger from him.  That would do the job.  High pressure ramming of gel down the plug hole would clear the blockage in a jiffy (whatever a ‘jiffy’ is).  It didn’t.  But I did break the plunger.  Enfys was always telling me I’m too heavy handed.  The combination of 15-minute wonder-gel in an orange bottle and Dr Muscle had failed.

I won’t go into details about the process but I went to bed thoroughly perplexed about why it hadn’t worked and troubled as to what I could do given that I’m going away in just a few days.

When my alarm went off at 07.15 on Wednesday morning I woke up with one of those bolt-upright-in-bed moments.  Usually, particularly on these cold, dark mornings my brain is reluctant to do anything but snuggle under the duvet and use the snooze facility on the alarm clock for another 9 minutes (why is it always 9 minutes?), and then another 9.  Not today.  My mind was racing. My subconscious had been beavering away while I slept and had come up with an answer.  The drip of water from the tap had been going out through the U-bend into the long gently sloping pipe on the outside of the house and thence to the vertical downpipe.  But because it was such a slow flow it had frozen in the arctic temperatures and built up a plug of ice to block the pipe outside.  Wonder-gel in the inside would do no good at all.

By 07.30 I had fished the long ladder from down the garden where it was iced-in, climbed up to the offending pipe and could be seen by early-morning dog-walkers along the canal towpath holding a dilapidated fan-heater which I had unearthed in my attic-clearing to the pipe.  It soon began to drip slowly and the trickle increased gradually over a 5 minute period until with a great foaming gush the contents of the sink gurgled out as the ice-plug finally cleared.  It was 24 hours since I first tackled it but it got sorted in the end.  You have no idea how much of a relief it was.

Now all I have to do is to source a new sink plunger to replace the one I broke.

 

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One Response to A Winter’s Tale

  1. Ross says:

    Hi Barry
    We’re hoping to be in Pontypool Mon 13th so we’ll miss you by one day sorry. We were looking forward to another Weatherspoon meet up. We’ll wait in anticipation for your blog from Canada.
    With our love and best wishes to you Tim and Ruth
    Sue and Ross

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