It's cold outside – minus 8 as I write this, dressed, for the record, in snow boots, four layers of clothing and a knitted hat. (One of those layers is a fake gorilla fur gilet, in which I really do look like I'm closely related to Biff.)
Downstairs, the log fire is roaring and the oil-fired central heating is on (so expensive, that it's like throwing gold bullion out of a windows, but at times like this, it's hard to care). All this and I'm still cold!
Fortunately, I had enough advance warning of this cold snap to organise an oil delivery before the roads iced over and the Arctic conditions swept in. According to a French friend, we are seeing a replay of the legendary winter of 1956, when it was mild and balmy until early February, when the mercury hit minus ten and stayed there for three weeks.
On the bright side, the village really does look stunning when the snow first flutters down, casting everything in pure blue-white light as night falls. The local lake has iced over and looks like a moonstone, while earlier in the week, the baker's wife built a snowman, with a croissant for a smile. They also scattered sugar sprinkles outside their shop when the snow turned to slippery ice.
But I feel for friends who live in cold stone houses or draughty barns, or who rely on just one wood burner to heat their house. Friends in a nearby hamlet report that it hit minus 14 degrees one morning this week, and that their loo has frozen over. Stories of burst water pipes abound.
There is however, one little chap who LOVES the snow, rolling around in it like a black polar bear cub. And when Biff is not bouncing around in white powder he is polishing up his pencils and tidying up his paws, ready for a series of book signings to coincide with the launch of Tout Soul on 7 March.
In addition to the list below – weather and ancient Golf permitting – I've had a number of invitations to sign books in various towns and villages in the region. It really is time for me to get out and explore a bit more of France, so further dates will be added soon.
In the meantime, keep warm everyone and remember, it could be worse: it's minus 36 in the Ukraine!
Sunday 11 March and Sunday 18 March: The Mad Hatter’s Kitchen, Le Breuillac, 79190, Caunay. Tel 05 49 27 67 29. I would like to invite anyone booked in for lunch, to join me for a pre-lunch cocktail and book signing from 12.30 pm onwards.
Monday 12th March, 6.00 pm onwards: book signing at the first ‘Fish and Chip night’ of the year (oh the glamour!) at Bar Les Tilleuls, Champniers, 86400. Tel 05 49 87 08 99; www.champniersbar.com.
Tuesday 13th March: 10.00 am - 1.00 am book signing at La Grande Galerie, 7 Rue de Temple, 86400, Civray. Tel 05 49 87 73 02 www.grandegaleriefrance.com
Thursday 15th March, 8.00pm: I will be giving a reading of Tout Soul and answering questions, about... well, anything really, at the Entente Internationale meeting, Lycée les Terres Rouges, Rue Jean Moulin, Civray. Tel 05 49 87 21 28 for information.