Country cowboys wrestle with winter.

We're cowboys at country living, totally incompetent. There are wet logs drying in the oven. There must be some word that describes the uselessness of using energy to produce energy. I don't think I can bring myself to calculate the heating hours either way.

We've been living in Wales for 7 years now,  you'd think we'd have cracked the country code - preparing for winter. Neighbours across the road have a beautiful stack of perfectly seasoned wood, some 8 feet high and dry, effortlessly gathered by strolling mere yards from the back door. Their chimney puffs out fragant woodsmoke. They also actually like, own a wood.

The coal truck regularly rumbles down our lane to deposit orders to other neighbours who look to the future. We have not got an ounce of beaver in us. When the winter comes we pop out and buy a bag of logs which is invariable wet, from the local garage at inflated prices. We drive around for miles checking out the price of coal, forget the petrol prices. Our garden, which we incompetently manage, does provide the odd twig which is stored outside the door in all weathers and brought in the day it's needed.  Country cowboys do not possess anything remotely like a chainsaw; in fact the word 'chainsaw' often escapes me, substituted by 'zut-zut'. Although one of us has the obligatory woodman tartan shirt (new one this year, blue this time), we are not grown up enough to have a zut-zut. Instead Mr Cowboy hand-saws. yes, hand saws. There is nothing remotely attractive about this. In fact this morning's activities were truly worth a picture, except I wasn't allowed to take anything which might end up on Facebook. I was on the phone to my sister, and looking out the window. There he was, dressed in the new shirt, attempting to split a log with a broken spade which had no handle. It was a sight to be seen, he stood on either side of the log, new boot on each foot firmly keeping it on the ground, whilst he attempted to wrestle the spade out of the log by an odd rocking movement. Earlier he had been pretending to be a stag using some antlered wood as a headress.

We sometimes pillage the beach for driftwood; I have no idea if this is legal. Becoming a pillaging peasant is a far cry from growing up in the Caribbean when keeping warm was the last thing on your mind! On the last visit we went prepared, took a bag in which we placed various bits of drift including a piece that looked as though it had sailed all the way from Sumatra.  (It might even be from Guyana, possibly part of my front porch as the house is no longer there.)There was so much lying around we thought we'd empty the bag in the van and fill it up again, but CC returned minus bag, sniffing the air and bearing binoculars. Ever tried carrying driftwood underarm at the same time as trying to contain a juvenile springer spaniel?

Part of our incompetence is due to finances, or lack of them. With the oil for the central heating about to run out, and no money to order a delivery, we've been going through this winter on a wing and a prayer. Cold days and nights, and single bar electric fires wasn't part of the country cottage dream. It's also fuelled by the fact that we never thought we'd stay here this long, and everything that could go wrong went wrong.

All around us preparedness and a sense of getting on with things abound. At the top of the lane a recently renovated bungalow boasts manicured lawns. The heron had stayed that side of the river for a while until he altered his flight plan. The other day a cycling dude whizzed passed us down the hill wearing all the cycling trendy stuff. Later we passed him washing his bike wheels on clean concrete with a hose that worked. Crikey.

At least we have a sense of humour, the deer impression proves it. And we weren't cowboys yesterday when we went walking in the snow, braving snowdrifts, mud, and terrifying hilltop paths. We were mountain goats, man.