I don't think the thermometer ever rose above freezing all day. There was no frost on the grass and I was surprised when I went armed with a can of water to refill the hens' galvanised drinker to find that the top was iced on and I needed to go back and get another jug of hot water before I could get the lid off. I was even more surprised when I set off at ten to meet my friends and saw that the car thermometer was still registering minus two.
The first of them to arrive greeted me in the car park, and said that she had been thinking of walking until she walked as far as her dustbin and changed her mind, and it was very odd, there had been no ice on her windscreen but the dashboard display said it was minus two. The next friend to arrive said that her car only thought it was minus one. It was cold, anyway. We forgot to ask for a vote from the fourth to turn up, and the fifth never made it, leaving us with an empty chair and me with a vague feeling of anxiety on her behalf and the wistful thought that if I'd known she wasn't coming I needn't have pinched the extra chair and arranged myself with my knees wrapped round a table leg.
When I got home there was an apologetic message on the answerphone from the missing fifth friend, saying that she had forgotten to write our coffee on the calendar and so had forgotten to come. And that her husband had died on Saturday, but she would have come anyway. This is the friend whose husband was in a nursing home with Altzheimers so bad he didn't recognise her, the one who started signing her Christmas cards just from her and not from them both two years ago, so that I wondered if he had died and had to make discreet enquiries to discover that he had not and it must have been that he was no longer with her in any meaningful sense. And now he really has died. Life is sometimes very cruel.
It was so cold that I put the greenhouse and conservatory heaters back on even though it was the middle of the day, and then I spent the afternoon doing my tax return. One way and another today did not pan out to be a barrel of laughs.