“How are the vines?” I am asked by people with long faces.  And then “how is your house?”  This last question comes up in all wet weather because part of our house is less than 2 metres from a river and everybody assumes we will be flooded. To both these questions Zam smiles broadly and I try to sound as confident, “everything is fine, we’re on chalk.” As I type there are ominous sounds of branches breaking in the high winds – shallow rooted beech trees – because we’re on chalk. But while the roof may be in peril and the garden is pure moss,  the floor is currently dry.

Zam smiles broadly and I try to sound as confident, “everything is fine, we’re on chalk.”

The vines, I’m told, are a week ahead of where they were this time last year.  And so the inevitable Frost Question has raised its annual head.  Zam plans to get a system that collects the rainwater off the winery roof which will be sprayed onto the vines during frosts which strangely keeps them safe. But not this year. For now it’s all alarm clocks and candles. One of last years Frost Warriors now lives abroad but has let it be known that he will fly back to England if he’s called up because he enjoyed lighting bougies at 3 a.m. so much. I am thinking about this remarkable enthusiasm when there is a knock at the door.

A man from Portsmouth Water is standing in the rain holding a long stick.  He asks where the stop cock is which I happen to know because a different man from Portsmouth Water appeared in the rain at the door last week, holding a similar stick.  This man also lifts the manhole cover and holds the stick to his ear and pulls a face.  His “remote” system has told him that there is a leak somewhere. I suggest the tap that drips in the greenhouse but having seen this he dismisses it. “This sound” he offers me the stick to listen to “would imply a major internal leak.”  His emphasis is a little alarming. And then he goes away because he can’t really tell while the dishwasher and washing machine are on. He will return on his night shift.  I wander back into the house and stare at the floors. We’re on chalk.  I’m sure it will be fine.