For the past couple of hours, since I opened the shutters, the pair of grey squirrels that have made the village green their home have been putting on an acrobatic display. They love early Sunday mornings, when there’s hardly any traffic. After coming out of their dray – quivering leaves and shaking branches are the only sight we catch of them up there at this time of year – they scramble down to ground level, where serious foraging begins.

Of late, there has been an air of frantic busyness about their activities, as they hop and dart in search of nuts for their winter larder. One has an easy-going gait, the other is like an India rubber ball, so full of energy it bounds up and over the grass as if clearing an invisible set of hurdles. When this squirrel first appeared, early in the summer, it was a slight little thing, not long out of the nest. Now, it is stouter and bushy, with a magnificent tail, edged in silver, that would make Cruella de Vil rethink her wardrobe.

I think with a shudder of the tens of thousands of mink that continue to be exterminated in Danish mink farms, where Covid 19 has broken out. The only potentially good part of that story is the hope that fur farmers will soon find raising animals for their pelts is no longer economically viable, and move into another line of work. Meanwhile, I picture our squirrels curling up at night, kept warm by the thought of their growing stash of nuts, and their ready-made stoles.

Compared to this time last year, Hoolet Cottage is incomparably more cosy than when we moved in. I hadn’t realised the impact properly fitted windows could make. Alan recalls an episode of Escape to the Chateau in which Dick Strawbridge advised new chateau owners (I paraphrase) not to consider underfloor heating, or biomass boilers or solar panelling or whatever high-spec thermo technology they were interested in, until they had replaced ill-fitting doors and windows. No matter how swish your heating system, if the warmth is escaping through keyholes and cracks, then you’re in a losing battle, warming the outdoor air rather than your toes.

He was talking our language. Whether you live in a sprawling castle or a matchbox, the principle is the same. Sealing up the exterior is, to stretch a simile, like wrapping the house in a fur coat. After that it’s up to you what you wear underneath. We moved into the cottage during a December frost so thick it was like a coating of snow. Our first highly sophisticated act of insulation was to stuff pillows up the chimneys in the bedroom and spare room. There was an immediate improvement. Just the other week we pulled them out and replaced them with fresh ones. Thus one full cycle of our residence has been completed.

If I’ve learned one thing from this house, it’s that problems come out of nowhere. Until a few months ago whenever it had been raining hard, I’d inspect every room, searching for the inevitable drips or stains. One area in particular was problematic, where the wall had grown mushy with damp, and the plasterwork sagged like uncooked pastry. Eventually, after three visits, the roofer got to the source of the problem. Once he had fixed it, he replaced the old broken tiles. Thereafter, storms held no fears for us. Until, that is, another set of workmen clambered across his handiwork going about their job, and the tiles snapped like Ryvita. “Please don’t let anyone stand up there again,” the roofer said, looking pained after replacing them yet again.

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but there have been moments when we’ve had so much patching up to do, I wondered if the place had come under attack from Oliver Cromwell’s cannons. Now, however, with the exception of minor incursions, to which we are resigned, I am hoping that the last serious breach of the outside walls has finally been plugged.

In the ever-rolling scheme of home repairs on which we embarked when we arrived, one corner remained untouched. The shower room, at the back of the house, was serviceable but unsightly. All the pipework was exposed and a sinister black damp patch, near the shower tray, could not be entirely hidden by a vase. With too much else going on, we put thoughts of what might be happening under the floorboards to the back of our minds. Whenever the door of the living room rattled in the wind, despite every window having been replaced or reglazed, it could be traced to this airy bathroom. Bubble wrap crammed into the worst cavity was all that stood between us and the outside world.

As lockdown began to ease, we headed to the nearest bathroom showroom, determined finally to deal with the problem. Not surprisingly, we learned that a lot of people during the sequestered months had also been planning house improvements. Other than box-sets, how else to pass the time? Folk have spent their evenings doodling ideas for conservatories and patios, extensions and demolition work. These dreams are a bulwark against unsettling times and an uncharted future.

In considerably less than an hour, with the help of a bathroom expert called Gail, we had chosen the components of our new room. Just last week, the old fittings went into the back of a van, and the new units and tiles were installed. Previously the experience of showering compared with the public facilities in a run-down caravan park. It reminded me of a shabby but pleasant Yorkshire hotel we used to visit, which had a swimming pool in the garden, in a dilapidated conservatory. Every year the place got frowsier, until one day I found frogs leaping into the pool with us.

Back in Hoolet, the morning regime feels like being in a bijou hotel. Although the radiator is not yet connected, awaiting decorating, the room is sleek, stylish and – most importantly of all – water stays where it belongs. Nor do you need a hand with the grip of a monkey wrench to turn the shower on and off. Our second act of DIY when we arrived was to massage WD40 into the controls. Since last week, I can shift them with my little finger.