This morning started with proper blow-you-away weather; gales whistling around rooftops and ripping twigs from trees, leaving a trail like little broken fingers scattered across the road. On the A1, cars bob like corks in a river, drivers' knuckles clenched on the wheel against swift side-swipes that send you off course, while dead leaves scooped up by gusts from I know not where are hurled maliciously at the windscreen. Wizard of Oz weather.
Nor am I a fan of the cold. I currently have three quilts on my bed - a goose down one, a summer weight duvet and a long lusted after patchwork quilt delivered by Santa Claus. However, I recently discovered that trying to brave bed at this time of year without a hot water bottle is a false economy: 10 minutes after huddling down, I am invariably forced out to find one.
As a born and bred Northerner, people from elsewhere seem to find it odd that I don't tolerate the freezing temperatures terribly well. "But you're out feeding horses in all weathers," they say. Yes, but I'm usually wrapped up in sufficient layers to cope with Siberia. They also consider it curious that I am too mean to switch on the central heating. Instead, I tend to use a halogen heater in the room I am in. Currently, there is no heating on in the house and I am wearing a padded coat as I type.
Cold though our winters are, I don't think the mercury falls as low as it did when I was a child. I no longer awake during the night with cramp in my legs or unable to feel my fingers and toes. But I miss the frosted feathers on the inside of winter morning windows and the weeks when flooded fields froze solid enough to skate.