My mother said on the phone it was sad that we shut the cat in the kitchen overnight. "Poor little freezing thing, it's not as if there were any voles left."
Good point. I said to Clare: "All the voles have either died off or they're buried under a foot of snow. We haven't seen a vole in weeks. You know the cat hates the snow and only goes out when he must. I reckon it would be OK to let him relax overnight in the comfort of the living room, don't you think?"
Clare would have none of it. "We know he goes out at night, we've seen the paw-prints. So we'd have to leave the kitchen door open and then we'd all be frozen in the morning."
So Shadow was duly exiled to the kitchen last night. Lunchtime I was summoned by a shriek from the cooking zone: the vole was scampering along one wall, behind the computer. It was lively and hard to catch: Clare has put cunning obstacles at skirting board level to prevent little rodents from vanishing behind the sink, freezer, refrigerator, tumble-dryer so we never quite lost sight of the varmint.
Finally it was herded to the French windows and out into the snow. At vole-scale the back garden is like those hilly things skiers bounce over (moguls!) and the poor little mite threw itself over the snow-humps like an infantryman fleeing under fire: it made it to the bushes.
I believe it was -8° last night and it's been below zero all day. At these temperatures the very walls suck heat from your body like the cold of outer space.