There was a crisp coating of frost on the orchard and a layer of thick grey ice on the top pond. Hamish, Angus and Elsie were standing on the small bridge throwing pebbles onto the ice and watching them skitter and slide away, bouncing off the frosted tops of the waterlily buds caught by the frost before they could curl down below for the winter. Lily was prancing around the frosty orchard with Lenny, George and Slim, setting all the blackbirds a twitter.
Iona had stayed behind in the warmth of the kitchen to listen in to mum’s conversation with Angus and Elsie’s mum. Mum was holding up some tiny baby clothes she had been knitting for inspection. “I do hope these will fit, it’s always so hard to guess what size you need. Hamish and Iona were both absolutely giant babies. Iona had the hospital record for biggest head ever you know…”
Iona rolled her eyes, this was a well worn story, and reached for a rock bun.
“It’s going to be a girl” said Angus gloomily to Hamish, scuffing the path with his foot, looking for another pebble.
“Well, what’s wrong with that?” Hamish asked “I mean Elsie’s turning out all right, she’s good at climbing trees and stuff and not half as bossy as Iona”
Elsie gave him a warm smile and looked accusingly at her brother.
“Oh – S’not that. I ‘spect I could train up another girl, it’s just the name see – I had one all picked out for a boy and now mum say’s its no good. ” He looked moodily across the field towards the green and yellow tractor that was unloading a new bale of straw for the Ruthven coos. Shuna, Snouty, Wendy and Catriona were madly capering around trying to snatch at loose strands and getting in the tractor’s way.
“Come and help Hamish’s dad chase these beasts away so I can get this bale into the manger” shouted Angus’ dad across the field. Without further ado Elsie streaked across the lawn, her long red hair streaming behind her, and wriggled through the fence, all the while shouting “shoo” and windmilling her arms at the cows. Lily and her friends hared after Elsie and there was soon an excellent game of cow chase in action.
Hamish and Angus looked on admiringly – Elsie had absolutely no fear!
“ Someone” said Shuna Spurtle sternly, looking meaningfully at Elsie, and shaking her horns at Snouty and her little sister Wonky Wendy, who she suspected were rather enjoying the game “should take that little calf in hand. Don’t encourage her girls”
“And so I’ve had a lucky escape” Angus’ mum was explaining to Mum as she stirred a little honey into her tea. “Angus was absolutely determined that any little brother was to be named John Deere after his dad’s tractor”
“Nothing wrong with that” declared Angus’ dad stoutly as he came into the kitchen with Hamish’s dad and gratefully took a hot cup of coffee.
“Well he’s scuppered now” smiled Angus’ mum, we’ll need to think of a nice girl’s name…..
“What about Lavender” suggested Hamish’s dad looking out across the garden, “or Rosemary”.
Everyone rolled their eyes!
The frosty weather lasted all week but at the weekend the sun came out and the air seemed warmer. The ice on the pond started to melt in the middle and a few flowers peeked out along the back track. Hamish and Iona had just come back from a walk with Lily and were in the middle of a long and complicated tale about how Lily had definitely very nearly caught a hare in the stubble field when Mum suddenly looked up from her knitting and announced firmly “It’s going to snow.”
Dad looked out of the window at the bright blue sky above the orchard.
“Not a snow cloud in sight” he declared. “I think the sledge can stay in the garage.”
But in the quiet of the night the snow came. First fine specks that disappeared as soon as they landed, then large frothy flakes that fell steadily, settled and nestled into drifts. In the first pale pink light of the morning everything was white and still the snow kept falling, swirling and dancing in the wind.
Angus and Elsie sat on the living room floor, noses pressed to French windows watching the snow pile up against the trees in the garden.
“Pleeeze can we go and build a snow man mum?”
“Not until after you’ve eaten your breakfast”
The children leaped up and ran towards the kitchen then, cheeks bulging and smeared with jam, they reappeared clutching a tangle of scarves, hats and wellies.
“Now can we go????”
Over at Ruthven, Iona and Hamish were capering in and out, bringing in gusts of chill and flurries of snow as different hat and scarf outfits were tried on the snowman family now inhabiting the rose garden. Lily was beside herself with excitement jumping in the drifts of snow which had built up between the vegetable beds and Dad was rummaging in the back of the garage looking for the sledge. Mum came out of the back door clutching a steaming mug of coffee and came down to chat to the coos.
“I expect you think they are all daft” she said, scratching Catriona on the itchy spot behind her horns. Catriona rolled her eyes, tossed some snow off her ginger fringe and tilted her head for another scratch. Pingu, who had tested, and emphatically did not like, the snow stalked past mum heading back to the house.
It was a glorious morning but by lunchtime everyone was soaked and frozen.
Angus and Elsie were nestled into a fluffy blanket on the sofa with mugs of hot chocolate after lunch, telling their dad all about the day’s excitements and their plan to build an igloo the next day, when there was a yelp from the kitchen.
“Oh dear, I think it’s time to go to hospital….” Shouted Angus’ mum through the door. “My bag’s in the hall.”
“Call Mrs Pringle next door she’ll come over and mind Angus and Elsie”
Angus and Elsie were positively hopping up and down with with excitement when Mrs Pringle bustled in.
“Would you like Mr Wobbly Mum?” asked Angus holding up a tatty toy rabbit as his mum and dad made for the door.
“I think you should keep him safe here till your mum gets get back”Mrs Pringle suggested “it’s a bit cold out for young rabbits”.
“I think we’d better take the landrover with all this snow” declared Angus’ dad tossing the hospital bag in the back. With a helpful push from Mrs Pringle Angus’ mum heaved up into the passenger seat and they clattered off down the snowy lane.
At Ruthven the family were now clustered round a scrabble board in front of the Library fire. It was Mum’s turn. She looked intently at her pieces for a moment and wrinkled her nose. Clip clip clip went the tiles as she added A C T O R to the T at the end of CAT.
“It’s a double word score so that’s fourteen” she announced as she abruptly stood up, picked up the phone and ran out of the room. Snuffy, who had been lounging along the back of Mum’s chair stalked out after her with an air of importance.
Iona peered nosily round the door and caught the end of a very curious conversation.
“Yes, the end of the lane on the left just after the Bluebell Inn. Tell him to take a chainsaw…..”
The old landrover crept slowly down the snowy lane towards the main road. All along the sides of the lane the trees were bent over, laden with snow. It looked like a picture in a fairy tale book.
With an earsplitting sound a huge branch suddenly split from the trunk of an old ash tree and fell right across the road in front of the landrover.
“There’s no getting round it”. Angus’ dad was scratching his head. “The drifts are too deep at the side of the road. It’ll be OK though, remember, I delivered the lambs this spring…….”
Angus’ mum inhaled sharply, but before she could speak a loud chuggetty chug broke the silence of the snowy road. Tractor Tom appeared on the other side of the fallen log in the Red Devil.
“Well soon have you on the road again”
He jumped down and pulled a chainsaw from the back and in no time at all the branch was sliced into chunks which Tom stacked at the side of the road.
“Off you trot” he declared, patting the back of the landrover like the rump of a lazy horse “and I’ll just spin by the cottage and drop off these buns Sweet Sue’s made for Angus and Elsie.”
Sue’s cakes were a great hit, and Mrs Pringle made another round of hot chocolate to wash them down. Best of all though, Tractor Tom gave the children a quick spin round the yard in the Red Devil , explaining all its finer points.
“You can’t beat a Massey Fergusson young Angus” he explained. “A John Deere is all very well and good, but it’s not as nimble you see. For a tight spot you can’t beat a Massey Fergusson”
Early next morning the telephones all around were alive with news.
“A lovely girl, eight pounds, no name yet”
Angus and Elsie made a celebratory snow baby and Hamish and Iona made colourful New Baby cards.
The snow had melted away and there were yellow aconites and snowdrops in the churchyard for the new baby’s christening. Angus and Elsie sat proudly in the front pew, peering around at all the gathered friends and relatives. Tractor Tom and Sweet Sue were sitting in the middle, next to Mum, Dad and Hamish and Iona. Angus gave them a cheery wave.
“Did Angus just wink at you Tom?” asked Sue
Before Tom could reply the vicar started to speak and everyone settled down. He seemed to go on for a very long time before getting to the important bit. Hamish was gazing at the colourful windows, trying to make out the writing underneath the pictures when Iona dug him sharply in the ribs with her elbow.
“And so let us now welcome little Maisey Fergusson Rawlings to our community by singing the first hymn……”
As the congregation shuffled to its feet Tractor Tom gave Angus the thumbs up sign
Sweet Sue sighed…