Sunshine on a cloudy day

I woke in the small hours, shivering, cold from nose to toes. It was the last night of August 2012, and I was sleeping on the sofa in the long room, while my guests were snuggled up under the duvet in the only bedroom yet completed. As it was still August, and the day had been delightfully warm, I had gone to my sofa with a sheet and a light rug – more than enough for the balmy summer nights. Wrong. As I dragged on a T-shirt and my dressing gown, I squinted at the thermometer in the hall. It was more than cold. It was exactly zero degrees centigrade. Freezing. Shivering, I gathered more rugs, layered them on the sofa and wriggled under them – still in my fleecy dressing gown. I got warm and slept; the morning brought sun and swiftly climbing mercury, summer back with us and pretending it had never abandoned us for the night.

September blazed, and six weeks later, on 10th October, I was eating lunch outside in a flimsy sleeveless top, the sun grilling me to a turn. Thirty-six hours later, the temperature dropped 30 degrees to zero, and the first snow fell – about two feet of it overnight. Early the next morning I was out in it, snow up to my knees as I tried to shake branches free of their white burden, using a long hayfork to reach the higher boughs. But it wasn’t just snow – it was ice encasing leaves and twigs and it wouldn’t fall. Despite my efforts, two of my vișini trees split apart the next night, each losing a main branch, bending and splintering rather than snapping off, causing massive open wounds and leaving the trees unbalanced, vulnerable to strong winds. I felt furious to be so feeble, failing to help the trees, and sure that they would die of disease or be blown down in the winter winds…