Surviving winter

Hello and welcome to the latest blog of The Olivia Rose Diaries on February 20th 2022.

It has been five years since we sold our house in Wales, bought our boat and began our nomadic life. Five winters – how quickly time passes. Each of those winters has been very different as we have experimented with how best to spend this time away from Olivia Rose. 

Our first winter in 2017 was spent on board in northern France, with temperatures plummeting to minus ten degrees and the canal freezing solid all around us. During that time we had a new engine fitted, at huge expense, not something we ever expected to have to do so soon after having bought the boat. In the winter of 2018 we returned to the UK, bought a caravan, found a campsite in Shropshire and juggled five different jobs in a bid to top-up our seriously depleted funds. We did the same thing in 2019, but returning this time to our old stomping ground in Wales where we could be among friends.

In Autumn of 2020, we bought Le Shack in order to obtain residency status in France and spent most of that winter and the following spring under lockdown in our cosy cabin. And now the winter of 2021/22 is drawing to a close and we have spent most of it so far house-sitting and travelling around the south-west of France. 

Like many people, I have always found winters to be challenging and never-ending: long, dark nights, unpredictable weather, all the usual culprits. I wish my life away, knowing that I shouldn’t as life is far too precious to do that, but I can’t help it – I long for the spring.

This year has been different. We have stayed in five different locations between October 2021 and February 2022, all of them within a four-hour drive from our home, and it has allowed me to chop winter up into small, manageable bits. Each house-sit had its own character, its own landscape, a fascinating and rewarding array of animals, and also gave us the opportunity to meet new people, both the home-owners and their neighbours. This was an experiment, but it has worked very well for us and we shall definitely repeat it in the years to come.

Now we are back in Le Shack for six whole weeks before we head back to the boat, which feels like a long time, so I have resorted to the usual defence mechanisms against the grey skies. Fill my plant tubs with colourful plants, enjoy the daffodils which we planted last autumn, read uplifting and interesting books and watch films that make me smile. 

I attach pictures of the flowers and also a couple of suggestions that you might like to share on the books and films front.

Narcissus – small is beautiful.
Spring is on the way… Beautiful polyanthus.

Book 1 – The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

Lawrence Anthony accepts a herd of rogue elephants on to his South African game reserve. He was their last chance of survival and this book tells the true story of the bond that he created with the herd and how he fought to provide a safe home for them. 

This is escapism in the true sense of the world, an amazing adventure, and a heartwarming insight into one of the world’s most incredible animals. 

Book 2 – Windswept; why women walk by Annabel Abbs

Part memoir, part travelogue this book tells the story of six extraordinary women and their journeys. 

When I can’t get out and explore or walk as much as I would like to, what better antidote than to read about other people’s adventures? Annabel Abbs writes so beautifully and yet so easily, drawing you in straight away. Armchair travelling that gets the brain working as well.

Film – Mortal Engines – on Netflix

A rip-roaring adventure in a post-apocalyptic world which reminded me of Mad Max in some ways and yet managed to bring a fresh approach to the usual ‘someone-has-to-save-the-world’ scenario. I loved it, despite the uninspiring title – an easy watch and perfect for a winter’s evening. 

So that’s it for this week. Hope those of you who have been battered by storms have come through without any problems.

See you soon.


8 thoughts on “Surviving winter

  1. Like you, I find winter challenging, but this winter hasn’t been quite so bad as the previous one, perhaps because it hasn’t been so wet. It’s a shame when one wishes that time will pass more quickly so that the spring arrives, but we all do it! Thank you for the book and film recommendations.


  2. Lovely to catch up on your house-sitting, but OMG that hawk was beautiful and those Cats, wow, stunning!!! I think we all feel the same as the winter passes into spring. It has been such a wet winter this year as well as extremely stormy. We travelled up to York last week in our motorhome to actually visit a Company selling electric tricycles, (having in the past both fallen from our two-wheel electric bikes – since sold on). Anyway, the flooding we saw was absolutely horrendous, poor families with water through their homes. You really feel for them and we thank our lucky stars we live 700 feet up!!! Look forward to seeing more photos of your colourful flowers. Roll on the spring…… xx


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