It was a sure sign that summer had been and gone when we woke up to a frost on Monday morning.

The grass was white and crispy, the windscreens of the cars were frozen over... at least that's what my husband told me which only made me shuffle further under the duvet and whine for a second cup of tea and could he please turn the heat pump up?

And while he was out feeding the pigs could he please feed my chooks and horses and goats and ponies? While I stayed in bed?

He did - because from years of experience he knows that the first frost of the winter makes me roll up like a hedgehog, only even more prickly.


I don't like the cold.

I waited until the bathroom heater had turned the room into a sauna before I ventured out from under the duvet. As I stood under a blasting-hot shower I heard hubby yell out he was off to work.

I flung a generous portion of conditioner on my hair and that's when the water went all funny.

It spluttered, it turned scalding, stopped, started, scalded me once more and then dwindled to a trickle.

Hubby must be using the hose to defrost his windscreen, I thought.

Our rural water pressure doesn't cope with hose-plus-shower. Or anything-plus-shower really.

When the usual windscreen-defrosting time had elapsed and the water was still just trickling I thought maybe he'd decided to fill the ponies' trough and gone off and left the hose running.

How inconsiderate of him!


Now what?

No chance of rinsing my hair with the tiny trickle of scalding water. Nobody around to heed any cries for help and turn off the offending hose.

Nothing for it but to dash out and turn the flaming thing off myself.

Not ideal but the hose tap is only about 4m from the back door and I'd have a toasty shower to rush back to.

I wrapped myself in a towel, took a deep breath and raced down the passage, out the back door, across the frosty deck and to the outside tap.

The tap wasn't on. It was off.

The hose was not going. When I turned the outside tap on just to check, it let out a husky sigh and puffed out some rusty air.

There was no water.

The frost - which, might I add, I was standing in - had broken the water.

It could be the pipes, it could be the pump. Either way, there I stood barefoot and dripping wet, dressed in a towel, my hair drenched with conditioner and no shower to return to - hot or otherwise.

Only one thing for it.

Having been at the mercy of rural bore water and an ancient Anderson water pump for the last 30 years, I know the drill.

Looking up to make sure there was no one watching me I clutched my towel, sprinted for the shed and started rummaging amongst the horses' feed buckets for a relatively clean and chaff-free one. One with no spiders or slaters and definitely no mice.

I grabbed a bucket that ticked most of the boxes and peered out again to wait for a gap in the traffic going past - there are definite disadvantages to living on a main road.

As soon as there were no witnesses I hitched up my towel, sprinted to the horse trough, cracked through the layer of ice on top and scooped up a full bucket of (relatively) clean but really, really cold water.

I checked the bucket of water in case I'd scooped up our one remaining goldfish. I picked out a drowned bee and some twigs.

Then, just as I turned to stagger back to the house, hampered by frost-numbed feet, a 10-litre bucket of water and the need to use one hand to keep my towel from falling off, a tractor chugged round the corner.

Followed by a line of slowly-crawling tractor-entrapped cars.

Sorry I didn't wave back to the kind people who tooted - I didn't have a spare hand.

Besides which, I was in a hurry.

One 10-litre bucket of cold water, plus two jugs of boiling water and a plastic jug for pouring equals one adult-sized shower. Remember that recipe just in case you are ever besieged by a temperamental elderly Anderson water pump.

Also for future reference - the time it takes for a jug to boil twice is just a moment shorter than it takes for a frostbitten adult dressed in just a towel to get hypothermia.

Lucky, that.

One bucket-shower later I was vaguely warmish, clean, and had blow-dried the chaff and a couple of dead slaters from my hair.

The first frost has been and gone. Only a whole winter's worth of frosts to get through now.

Perhaps I shall buy myself a nice, new 10-litre bucket and keep it in the bathroom. Full.