This was another beautiful clear winter’s day when the hard frost did not leave the ground, but continued to sparkle in the sunshine, except for the very open heathland where steam rose offering a misty veil across the backlit landscape. We reprised yesterday’s Ringwood trip, except that I didn’t have my hair cut; I walked further along the Castleman Trailway; and we had our brunches in Bistro Aroma, a much friendlier and more popular cafe, with a greater range of food better cooked. As she drove along the A31 Jackie spotted a hawk atop a fir tree, and likened it to a star on top of a Christmas tree.
It seemed to me that the waters were subsiding a little; just enough for the seagulls to share the fields with crows, and for the ponies to enjoy a little firmer foothold in parts.
As I now knew the way I walked further along the Trailway in the allotted time, managing to reach the edge of Ashley Heath and walk up the hill of pines and heathland by a pukka path provided with a small footbridge that spanned the ditch I had lept yesterday. I was able to look down on the small town before retracing my steps back to the cafe.
Whilst perhaps not quite ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, this was definitely extremity-tingling weather. That phrase, incidentally, having nothing to do with cojones, is not as rude as may be thought. The brass monkey was a container for cannon balls on nineteenth century sailing ships. It was made of brass, which the balls were not. Because the two metals froze at different rates the balls would fall from their perch.
Having been revealed by Donna’s attention yesterday, my ears were certainly tingling. She had actually said, when exposing my lugs, that she hoped this wouldn’t make them too cold. Nevertheless, brisk walking, as usual, warmed me up, just as running had in years gone by. Training runs in a track suit were one thing. Running races in sub-zero temperature, clad only in the briefest of running shorts and vest, usually of some unyielding synthetic material, was quite something else. The combination of stinging cold and the friction engendered by clothing on skin could be quite painful. When awaiting a start in conditions such as today, the experienced person wore a black bin-liner until the last available seconds and discarded it before getting into a stride. This was when ‘jogger’s nipple’ was prone to set in. When, even through a vest, exposed to a cold enough temperature, the nipple would react as may be expected. The friction of regular movement would do the rest, and soreness and sometimes bleeding would result. As a runner you just had to grit your teeth and press on. Rather difficult if your gnashers were chattering with cold as you lined up for the off. Men’s particular appendages would also suffer in withering cold. It was not a good idea to jump into a hot shower before you had thawed out somewhat.
This evening Jackie produced a flavoursome, hot, chilli con carne. She drank Hoegaarden and I had a glass of Le Pont St Jean minervois 2010.
Helen having recommended the village of Bartley’s Christmas lights, we drove out after dinner to see them. Many of the residents of this location have decked out their gardens and houses with an amazing array of colourful electrical and mechanical celebratory illuminations. Deer, for example, glow with light and move up and down as if grazing. Particularly as street lighting is at a minimum, this alternative serves to guide one round the village. One of the literal highlights of Christmas in Morden was the ritual drive down Lower Morden Lane. House after house seemed to vie with its neighbours in producing similar spectacles. As people of the Muslim faith have moved in, so these displays have reduced, but it is still worth the trip. In Bartley we have found a most satisfactory substitute.