The fog had cleared, so we went out into the garden to clear leaves and tidy up a bit. Our neighbour commented there were no berries on the rowan trees this year. The rowan berry is valuable bird food because it sweetens at below freezing temperatures, providing food when it is most needed. She always puts out food for the birds, so she notices these things.

‘It means there’ll be lots of snow this winter’, she said, about the lack of berries. People say that the rowan can’t carry the weight of the berries and the snow, so if there’s going to be lots of snow it doesn’t produce berries. I thought I’d read that rowan trees this far north are a different kind of tree that save energy by only producing berries every two years, so I tended more to that as the explanation, but in a way I guess that both may be true.

Yesterday we came home and our neighbour told us she’d watched a tractor with a working digger drive down into our back garden, over what we laughingly call ‘the lawn’. She couldn’t see what it was doing (she has a bad leg so can’t rush down to see). It was working over our fence in another neighbour’s garden she said, and then it drove away. We went to look at the broad track in the mud left by the mysterious digger. Workmen had been here when we were out, for a reason we didn’t know and without us even calling for them.

Yet persuading people to do building, electrics or plumbing work when you want it done isn’t easy. The skilled people exist here, but they’re all well employed – and paid for – by the mine, and little jobs at a house don’t register for them as real work. People who live here learn to DIY, or know someone who can help them out. We’d already worked out that finding someone to help us would be a lengthy process of befriending someone with a builder in the family, establishing trust, and over a period of years earning sufficient respect to be allowed to employ them.

But some things can’t wait. The radiator in our kitchen wasn’t working, and the connections to the light outside the front door had failed. A contact someone had given us for electric work never answered their phone. Eventually one of the companies answered. Yes he could do it – he’d come sometime next week. He wouldn’t give a time, or a day even – he’d ring sometime and let us know.

Then this morning two vans turned up at the same time, both with the magic word ‘electric’ on the side. One parked in our neighbour’s drive and one in ours. It was the man come to fix the radiator (who hadn’t run to let us know), and by a coincidence our neighbour’s electric supply line was being fixed by another company at the same time. Suddenly our world was bursting with electricians – what happiness. We know, though, that, like the rowan tree, this will be followed by two years of no electricians at all.