Having brought the little apple tree grown from seed from the last apples harvested from my grandmother's garden after her death almost 25 years ago with me when I moved house recently, I've been keeping a close eye on it in its new location to maximise its chance of survival.
In this respect, the very mild weather we've been having this winter has been helpful. However, on New Year's Eve, my friends turned up to help me celebrate and reported that it was forecast to get very cold out, and a frost was already forming. I immediately shuffled down the garden path to put a nice thick mulch of straw, bought for this very purpose, around the roots of my precious tree, but no sooner had I put one foot on the grass than I slipped and fell flat on my back.
Sitting on the sodden lawn with wet mud seeping through my clothes, I decided I might as well spread the straw anyway before struggling to my feet and lumbering back into the house like the creature from the black lagoon. It was hardly a propitious start to my celebrations or a good omen with regard to the tree's survival, and I hadn't drunk a drop at that point. Plus, it didn't get any colder and there was no frost. Gah.
Today I glanced out of my bedroom window and caught a flash of buff, white and blue in garden. Horace's 'chattering jay, ill omen'd', one on the grass, one perched on my tree. Except I'm taking this wonderful visitation as the best of signs.