Keeping Warm and Keeping Hens

I WRITE this week s column wearing my thick woollen socks and an extra cardi. It s not that we can t afford to heat the Ely Standard newsroom, I am one of those people who is always cold. I don t respond well to a slight drop in temperature on a warm day

I WRITE this week's column wearing my thick woollen socks and an extra cardi. It's not that we can't afford to heat the Ely Standard newsroom, I am one of those people who is always cold. I don't respond well to a slight drop in temperature on a warm day let alone our current near arctic conditions. I hate air conditioning, but always manage to sit under a vent at meetings and end up shaking with cold. Anyway, I wrapped up warm on Sunday for a walk, but before I left the house, I decided to phone my eldest son Martin who is now in Melbourne. He and his girlfriend Kirsty are travelling and their current home is a tent. He told me it had been very hot in the last few days, and the tent had been unbearably hot, but it had now cooled down to a more comfortable 35 Celsius! He said he and Kirsty had spent a lot of time in the last few days visiting the local supermarkets. I assumed that was to buy cold drinks, but Martin laughed and said 'no, we just go and stand under the air conditioning units'.

So, while I was struggling to cope with the plunging temperature, he was on the other side of the world fighting to stay cool!

When the temperature drops we need to adapt our driving and have now come to expect that all local roads will be gritted. But, this is a mammoth operation as there are, in fact, 2,200 miles of road in Cambridgeshire. The county council has gritting crews who are ready to take to the roads 24 hours a day and the operation is controlled from four divisional offices. If the evening forecast is uncertain, the staff take home portable computers to monitor the weather conditions and will inspect the roads at regular intervals. The county council has a stockpile of 12,000 tonnes of salt and the gritting teams use around 250 tonnes on each run. The teams can be ready within 90 minutes and salting the whole Cambridgeshire network takes three hours to complete. I was impressed with all of this and think the gritting teams deserve a pat on the back.

I am off to the Arkenstall Centre in Haddenham on February 20 to see the film Waterland. The film showing has been organised by Haddenham Galleries and tickets are still available. The film is an adaption of the brilliant book written by Graham Swift, which I read when I moved to Ely as someone told me it would help me to understand the history of the Fens. It is a beautifully written book and encapsulates the isolation and challenges that miles of flat, open landscape must have presented the local people who were struggling to make a living. The more walking I do in the local area, the easier it is to understand that a flat, endless landscape with an enormous blue sky that seems to stretch for miles, although joyful for a walker on a calm Sunday morning, would have been overpowering for those isolated communities who were trying to eek a living from the land.

If you want tickets for the film, the number to ring is: 01353 749188.

I read the other day that if farmers name their cows, the animals will produce more milk. The theory being, that cows, being sensitive creatures, respond to the friendliness of the human being and a happy and more relaxed cow will be a more efficient producer. I always buy free range eggs, but last week, I bought some locally produced free range eggs from a small-holding in Prickwillow. Mrs Mansfield, who sold me the eggs, told me that I should get some nice big yolks, especially from the eggs produced by Tilly.

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They were indeed beautiful eggs with big creamy yolks that took at least six soldiers, which is a bit of a breakfast record for me. So, happy hens = big yolks. Thank you Mrs Mansfield, and, bigger thanks to Tilly who is obviously very happy down in Prickwillow.

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