Three days before new year he woke to an unaccustomed stillness and looked out on a silent world of glistening ice. Freezing rain the previous evening had continued through the night and soon after midnight a wind blew up which beat the tiny drops of cold against the window panes. By morning the north facing windows were opaque with a thick layer of dimpling and from the rear of the house he surveyed a scene of desolation.
He eyed his still-warm bed and wondered if he could allow himself longer there but forced himself to dress, dreading the feel of the cold outside and the arduous effort of thawing taps to fill buckets to replace frozen drinkers. He pulled on extra socks, thick scarf and the woolly hat he kept for bad weather. Not pretty but it prevented a headache from the bitter wind. In a way the black ice was fascinating but he swore when he couldn’t pull back the feed room door bolt without fetching a hammer to shatter the glassy film which had sealed it. As if a mighty hand had been spraying, a lacquer-like coat covered everything, gate posts, barn walls — anything which faced north shone with ice. Every twig on the trees was exquisitely outlined, encased in a transparent shell, tinkling constantly as they shook in the wind. The grey trunk of the ash tree was polished steel, gleaming like a gun barrel.
The cold wasn’t as severe as he expected, the sky was clearing and a pale sun trying to get through. Its delicate rays made everything shine and each stone in the yard wall was highlighted, the natural colours showing through the ice. It wasn’t so bad and be began to feel better when the sheep rushed to the fence, knowing fodder was on its way.
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