The new clean living programme got off to a slow start today. I had one of those nights when you just don’t sleep but instead of getting up just keep rolling over to negligible effect. The net result was that we had a frosty walk round the garden whilst Keith was in the gym, a late breakfast and Lyra and I finally hit the trail for a walk in the early afternoon.
It was a gloriously fine day, hardly a cloud, a gentle breeze and just a sprinkling of frost. Progress was, however, on the slow side. (Judging by the sprinkling of pheasant belly feathers all over the road, the back lane is now a crime scene and Inspector Lyra was therefore duty bound to conduct a thorough search of every tuft of grass in the verge and, judging by her ecstatic rolling in a particularly manky patch of grass, Mr Tod the Fox is “a person of interest”. ) We turned off the road at the corner and headed up to the Deer’s wood at the top of the hill. The hill below has been sown to wheat this year and with the low sun catching and reflecting off every blade, shivering in the breeze, there was a curious glimmer seeming to rise from the ground, almost like a heat haze.
Lyra, having shown distinct signs of being a good dog and coming back when called recently (well definitely once) was allowed off the lead as soon as we got off the road. The good dog impersonation lasted as far as the rabbit warren. This is a tangle of roots and uprooted trees between two barbed wire fences, separated from the walking path by a very deep and steep sided drainage ditch. I wasn’t overly concerned; usually Lyra just rootles along, poking in holes and keeping one eye on me to check I don’t sneak off until she gets to the second corner then jumps over the ditch at a less steep section where the barbed wire ends. However, today, as I turned the first corner, where she had run on ahead, I spotted a deer leaping over the ditch and through the scrub, before heading up towards the field. It seemed curiously relaxed. Peering through the thicket I could see the deer strolling towards two others and there was nothing in their demeanour to suggest the usual pursuing blonde fluff ball. There was now no sign of Lyra and I picked up the speed, marching along beside the ditch bellowing and hoping she hadn’t got herself stuck in a tangle of wire trying to chase the deer or hared off after another one to goodness knows where. As usual, I was at the “about to panic ” stage when I spotted her little face peering out curiously from a thicket of branches. It became clear that she had forgotten the way out. There followed an undignified period of pointing and waving, whistling and brandishing tripe sticks. A man in green overalls with two sensible looking dogs approached, looked horrified and quickly turned away in a different direction (lest abject canine stupidity prove catching). Eventually, I slid down into the ditch and pointed to the way out. With a sceptical look Lyra sidled over and then took the gap at a leap which would have quite safely got her out at any point along the way. To add insult to injury she then jumped the fence into another thicket and exited by paddling for 100 yards along the ditch bottom in icy murk.
By the time we wended our way home it was after three, the light was fading and so were my aspirations of getting anything useful done in the afternoon. Lyra is now spark out on the Library floor and I am powering through the last of the liquorish toffees, having lunched on New Year Cake and pork pie. The clean living programme has a lot to answer for.