Yesterday Lyra and I visit old haunts as it will likely be our last quiet morning walk together, just us two. We are so used to our companionable solitude that the flash of pink signalling another walker in the distance, as we turn off the road, startles Lyra and leaves me quite aggrieved. We dawdle towards the drainage ditch, letting them pass out of view. As Lyra splashes amongst the water mint I prowl along the field margin inspecting the burrow. Yes, there are faint traces of paw prints, just a little smaller than the palm of a small hand with long curved claws. Definitely badgers.
We take the road into the deer wood and amble along enjoying the relief of the dappled shade. Turning back, as I cannot face a third gallop over the camel leap, I feel a niggling irritation about just retracing our steps. On a whim we veer off down a path into the pine wood area, where the timber thinner has been recently. The air is hot and resiny and in a Proustian moment I am back in France, reliving a montage of moments from summer holidays with the children.
As we walk on, I see that the pine trees form a belt around a clearing thinly dotted with birches. We veer off the path to explore and pushing through the long grass are startled to find a large pond, thickly topped with weed with an island of rushes in the middle like a green hedgehog. At our rupture into this idyll a grey heron takes flight, folding and unfolding itself in disapproval – a spinster’s umbrella. Lyra erupts, nearly dragging me into the pond weed and a very irritated duck, emerges from the rushes and bustles off, chivvying the ducklings along while giving us the benefit of a long tirade of quacks. I am abashed and resolve not to come back with Lyra, I shall leave the birds and the deer to the peace of their little oasis for the summer.
Turning for home, I am almost shocked to see the water avens, so recently emerged, have gone to seed. The nodding heads have been replaced with tiny tangled hairballs. It has been such a short, dry season. The oilseed rape is fast losing its petals as the pale green seedpods form and the wheat is now almost knee high, thick and dark green, rippling like a muscled pelt in the breeze.
Once home, Lyra snoozes away the heat of the day, creeping off to the washhouse where the windows are small and deepset and the floor is cool stone. I am on housework detail and get hot and bothered. By three, the hoover has been abandoned. Lyra and I are in the shade on the patio where I am attempting to find a few pairs from a giant heap of Lachlan’s socks. There is a whistle, the slam of the back door and in a frenzy of fluff Lyra ecstatically welcomes her boy home. Later she proudly shows Lachlan her cows.
I declare that I shall have a long lie, but in the morning the sun wakes me at 4am. I persevere, waking on and off with increasingly bizarre dreams until eventually I think it must surely be about 9am. It is just after 7am. I wander down to find Lachlan and Lyra in the garden. We idle over coffee then all three go off to feed the cows, the field our little oasis of harmony before the day intrudes.