There was a slight frost overnight. I wasn't expecting one, and the white sheen on the lawn came as a surprise as I pulled up the bathroom blind. Attempting to refill the chickens' water container before letting them out of their house I found the frost wasn't so slight as all that. The top of the galvanised drinker was frozen to the bottom, and I had to pour warm water over it before I could get the top off. The sun was shining, but as I went to open the greenhouse I could see frost sparkling on top of the pots of bulbs.
That was a nuisance, since I was finally ready to plant the bare root roses. In all other respects the conditions were perfect for handling bare root plants, with nice still air that would not rip the moisture out of the roots the moment I took them out of the bag. A couple of minutes exposure to biting wind is enough to kill roots, or so I've been told either at Writtle or at some community tree planting event. I decided to hold fire on the roses until late morning to give the ground time to defrost properly. Earth is a very good thermal insulator, so if you bury little icy fragments from the top layer of frosted soil in the depths of your planting hole, they will sit there chilling the roots of your new plant for ages.
Instead I set off to see if I could get my ring repaired. It felt so strange not having it there at the base of my fourth finger, after more than three decades of wearing it pretty much continuously. I had never realised what a habit it had become to feel for it across my palm with my left thumb, until it wasn't there any more. I decided to try Marisa Arna first off, in Thorpe le Soken. I didn't even know whether she did repairs, and felt slightly abashed that it was not a very glamorous or creative job, but she is a designer who makes jewellery as well as selling it, and I felt a vaguely reassuring sense of connection that I knew who she was. One of her sons is great friends with the son of one of my friends, which somehow made her seem safer than an unknown jeweller picked at random off the internet. A wedding ring, after all, is a deeply personal item, and the idea of leaving it with somebody you don't know at all is not entirely comfortable.
Marisa Arna was in her shop. She looked at the sad oval and agreed that I had squashed it. Probably lifting something. People did quite often, and she was surprised it hadn't happened before. The ring was fragile because it was quite slim, and eighteen carat rather than nine. She took it into the workshop at the back of her shop, slid it over a metal rod, tapped at it, and moments later gave it back to me, still slightly oval but no longer ludicrously so. That, she explained, was as much as she dared do without heating it, in case it broke. If I wanted it made entirely circular she could do it, but not until after half term, and I would have to leave it with her. After heating it would need polishing. The cost for the full refurbishment would be in the order of thirty pounds, hammering it back into an approximation of a circle was free and gratis.
I was enormously grateful, and we agreed that I would see how I got on with it and bring it back if I didn't settle down with the not-quite-circular version, and that I should probably take it off for gardening. She used to be a potter before she became a jeweller, and told me that she didn't wear hers for years because she took it off while handling clay and by the end of the day her fingers were too swollen to get it back on again. She congratulated me that mine fitted so loosely after more than three decades: I had obviously not put on weight. I haven't, but the easy fit may not last anyway. The joint above the knuckle of the little finger on my right hand has swollen with arthritis in the past couple of years, so perhaps the others will follow. In the meantime I have found a glazed bowl to go on my dressing table, the idea being that while I am in my gardening clothes and filthy glasses the ring lives safely in the dish.
Marisa Arna sells extremely nice jewellery, by the way, with the emphasis on semi-precious materials plus craftsmanship and design, so her prices remain within reach of the real world.