Sheba’s ears are floppy and triangular, and when she faces into the wind the airflow lifts them up and they stick out like little wings. That always makes me smile, and when we’re out in the wind I always try to get her to face the right way to make it happen. After a while she’ll give me a look- if she could talk she’d just say “Silly person, stop it.”- and go back to sniffing the snow banks.
In Summer, Sheba bounces around and lives up to the Springer part of her breed name. In winter, with freshly fallen snow halfway up her legs, she doesn’t jump so much. But she will still do funny things like sticking almost her whole head into a bank of crispy, fluffy snow just to get a better sniff of what’s underneath. When she pulls out she has a white beard and eyebrows- another thing that makes me laugh- then she huffs and shakes it off.
Maybe Sheba’s doing little doggy laughs when she looks at me. I couldn’t blame her. My boots are furry and warm, with a cage thing on the bottom with criss-crossing coils of wire to improve the grip. They’re deliberately too big, so’s I can wear big woolly socks that come up to my knees. I’m wearing Nana’s old winter coat, that I’m not big enough to fit yet, with fleeces and thermals underneath. My hat has a bobble on the top and cheek muffs that fold down and should tie under my chin, though I’m just holding them in place with my scarf. My gloves give me cartoon hands which can’t hold anything properly and I’m tugging the clear circular “flying saucer” sledge that Daddy made from a sheet of spare perspex. Even with the snow I think it took me longer to get ready than it will to walk up the hill.
Mrs. Aiden is old. She’s always been old, as long as I’ve known her. She has grey hair and grey skin brightened by spidery red veins on her cheeks and is quite skinny, though you can’t tell that with her winter layers on. The walls of her cottage are very thick, with lots of insulation, so she can afford to keep it hot inside. Once I’m through the three doors into the kitchen I stand on the welcome mat as the snow melts and runs off me and I begin to sweat. I hold out the boxes I pulled up the hill on the sledge.
“Two dozen eggs Mia?” Mrs. Aiden looks surprised, “Are you sure you can spare them?”
“Daddy says the poo powered heating is keeping the chucks happy and they’re really laying. He also said that one of your cakes is worth at least two dozen eggs.”
“Did he now? Well he’s in luck, because I have one of my cakes just for you.” she bustles over to the far worktop and brings me back a plastic box with a firmly sealed lid. It’s heavy for its size, Mrs. Aiden’s cakes are dense, moist and very tasty. “Would you like some tea love? The kettle’s about to boil.”
I’m about to boil too, and getting out of these clothes will be too much work if I’m just going to get back into them. “No thanks Mrs. Aiden. Grandda was just starting to make lunch when I set off. It should be ready by the time I get back.”
Sheba is curled up outside the outer door. Through the double glazing I can see her tail start to wag as I open the middle door, but she doesn’t jump up until I’m outside again. I’d propped the flying saucer against the wall. I lay it in the middle of the road just where it flattens out at the top of the hill and carefully place the cake tin on it. I clamber on so the box is safely between my legs then I take the rope and twist it around both gloved hands.
From this angle it looks like the windmill on top of the fell is actually sticking out of the chimney of Mrs. Aiden’s cottage. I should tell Grandda that, he could photograph it. I lean back and then jerk my body forward. The sledge moves a little way and sinks slightly into the snow. I repeat the movement and I’m closer to the tipping point. Sheba is giving me a puzzled look. Once more and I’m moving down the hill. I lean back and pull on the rope to lift the front so I don’t shovel up snow. Sheba runs after me. Now she bounces.
The round sledge is very hard to control. It spins all th