I do like when the clocks go back these days. Not for the extra hour in bed, but for the extra hour gained when the body clock gets you up at the usual time in “real money”. Just such a morning today, so Lyra and I are up and out with the larks (or rather the blackbirds and dunnocks) on the sunniest of autumn mornings. There is a slight crispness to the air but I am toasty in the prototype curtain wear waistcoat I made for Keith from the back bedroom curtains last year. He has rejected it on the grounds his little arms can’t reach the side pockets. It fits Lachlan and I fine, but the short armed one has declared this is because of the “orangutang strain” on my side of the family. Hmm, there is a reason his scouting friends call him “de PORG” (for the uninitiated, Person Of Restricted Growth)….
We pole along the lane briskly and I resolve that we will rerun, but in reverse order, the new walk round the fields by Simprim we tackled in the rain yesterday afternoon. The beech trees are glowing warmly in the wood and there are some pleasingly crisp piles of leaves to kick through. Horse chestnut definitely provides the crunchiest leaves, with the beech leaves giving more of a first crumpling of new tissue paper tone. As we pass the turn off for Kersfield, we see two tractors engaged in hedge trimming. A lot of the haws on the outside twigs have been sheered off but there are still a good few clusters in the middle so the birds won’t go hungry. We make a quick diversion at Butterlaw to say hello to spotty sheep, who is lurking near the fence. She comes over for a chat with Lyra and I get to give her woolly head a rub and scratch her ears. Rubbing a sheep’s head is a lovely thing. It feels like thick, slightly rough and toasty warm velvet. The sensation suddenly jolts me back to some children’s books I dearly loved – the Velveteen Rabbit, Jim the Goat and Princess Rosebud. These were old linen covered hardbacks, mostly text with line drawing illustrations, with a bit of a 1920’s art nouveau look about them. I think they must have come in a mixed box from the Toc H book sale. (Mum, Dad and I were all avid readers so Mum would just come home with a job lot and we would wale through. I read some bizarrely assorted books – I think the only one I ever rejected unseen was a tome on magnetism and electricity). Anyway, I wept buckets over the Velveteen Rabbit, burned with indignation over the travails of Jim the Goat and felt I should have been an excellent Princess Rosebud (I recall not too much about the latter save for the lovely illustrations, but I think she had a fair amount of get up and go. I was never one for simpering heroines). But I digress (as ever).
So on to the fields by Simprim. Here I am struck by indecision. Usually Lyra gets off the lead for a run but yesterday we encountered a great many rabbits and the road is not so very far away….I decide that discretion is the better part of valour and resolve to keep the lead on until we are further from the road and “peak rabbit” has passed. This proves to be the best of decisions. Half way along the field margin a doe steps through the hedge. Lyra is all for a chase but I hang on tightly, sit her down and appease her with cheddar chunks. Luckily, she is not a barking breed, so we sit and watch in silence as the doe turns and goes back through the hedge. We are near a gateway so I lean over to see if I can see her on the other side but, oddly, there is nothing there. I pull back and lo and behold one doe has become three. We all stand looking at on another for several seconds and then, in fits and starts, stopping every now and then to look back, the does float up the hill in a series of impeccable jetées and are gone. Lyra is rewarded for her forbearance with copious additional cheese chunks and we march on, wrapped in the luck of the moment.
We are marching more slowly now, as the second best wellies have a hard bit at the ankle which seems to aggravate my dodgy tendons, but this just gives me time to admire the hedgerow. By the twittering in the hedge I can tell that its recent buzz cut has not put the birds off one bit. I identify the primary tweeters as dunnocks. The are flying to and fro from one hedge to the other across the lane as we pass in a curious swooping motion, like little shuttles weaving a scalloped edge. These are interspersed with blackbirds which have more of a chuckling tone and a hippety hop action. By the Kersfield turn off we see the real victim of the hedge trimming. Not a bird but a cyclist in fluorescent green disconsolately wheeling a panier laden bike up the hill. The thorny twigs shed by the hedge trimmers play havoc with tyres! On the home straight a flight of rooks crosses overhead, heading out of the little wood by Keith and Sarah’s and on, I expect, to the wood behind our garden (they leave interesting little pellets of half digested mouse on the gin terrace…). These are making an art, arr noise of such a West Country tone it is crying out for the addition of an occasional ‘Jim Lad”. I think to myself that I am happy living in this slow lane and so glad that I decided to take this exit before I was too creaky for such excursions.
And then home. Passing my new luxury compost bins I think that, yet again, the indoor jobs are probably going to be postponed………….