I stopped writing these articles because I suspected that nobody was reading them, but I was told today at the market that I have in fact a reader. So I have settled down with my wife’s laptop in front of the fire on this chilly night, to the accompaniment of Shaun Rafferty on the radio and a bottle of “Alfred’s Stout,” courtesy of Pete- The- Beer, whose brews make splendid Christmas presents *  and who can be found lurking slightly to the east of Kim- The- Herbs’ stall, where all the handmade Holly Wreaths are.

Anyway, what I wanted to tell you about is the miraculous nature of water. I was told today on the market by one of my customers, who is a meteorologist, that we are in for a spell of exceptionally rough weather, with rain, sleet, snow, frost and terrible ,terrible wind storms. Brilliant! I love snow, frost and sleet, they cover up the mud. Not so sure about the rain and wind but by the grace of God my cows and I shall survive it as we always have til now.

Ice, now, is a real miracle. Every substance on earth comes in three  ” Phases,” (Solid, Liquid and Gas, in descending order of density.)  (There is a fourth phase, Plasma, but this is not often manifest at Taunton Farmers’ Market, so for the sake of my current discussion I shall ignore it.)

Take, say, a rock. A solid rock. Go up to an erupting volcano and throw your rock into the up-welling molten magma. (Well done, you are braver than I am!)

Of course, your rock sinks to the bottom and the magma rises above it, spitting and spluttering.

If you take pieces of scrap iron and melt them in a crucible, they stay at the bottom while the liquid melted metal arises from them and submerges them. The solid always sinks beneath the liquid.

Except for Water. The three phases of water are Ice, Water and Steam, and Water has the amazing property that it is slightly denser than its solid phase, Ice. This is crucially important for life on Earth. If you read Genesis, you will know that life began in the sea. But if ice sank in water, the oceans would have filled with icebergs from the bottom up and never have thawed out, and  life on earth could never have begun.
The life that may have begun in Darwin’s “warm little pond” could only have been created in a universe in which ice floats upon water. Now that is properly a miracle!

Merry Christmas and God bless your work. *Alfred is not necessarily stout, and I am aware that I may have misplaced an apostrophe, but after a bottle of Pete’s beer it is easier to add a long footnote than to schcroll back up and, hic, reasplace the mist resplistrofy.

See you next Thursday if I don.t get breathalyzed first!

Editor’s note: You should take more water with it, Toby!

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