It’s getting just a touch cooler. On Monday I lit the log burner in the evening for the first time in ages and today the chimney sweep is coming so we can finally get the living room fire going. Of logs, post Storm Arwen, there is a superabundance but I do rather miss the Financial Times bought for the commute to the office. It was unparalleled as a fire starter. Now I am a full time dilettante it seems slightly absurd to buy the FT just for fire lighting. Perhaps I will need to start dabbling in the markets to justify it……..After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Yesterday Lyra and I took to the fields with a bright blue sky high above and a blustery easterly to keep us cool. Ideal walking weather and in stark contrast to the pervious day, where a lowering grey sky hovered almost in touching distance and the rain flickered on and off the whole way. Lyra had to be half coaxed, half dragged up the hill, at one point slipping her lead and trotting back to the garden gate looking pointedly back to the house whilst I determinedly strode on, ostentatiously mushroom spotting, until she gave up and resigned herself to exercise. As ever, the sight of a hare perked her up no end and we were friends again by the time we met Anne at the corner of the road, dripping and tousled, on the way back. Anyway, yesterday was a joy from the outset so cajoling was not required. We strode forth enthusiastically into the wind and were rewarded almost immediately with three young red deer on the path by the little wood, only a bus run away (being the distance I would risk running for a bus, confident of getting to the door without the humiliation of having to stop half way and wheeze under the scornful eye of the incumbent passengers). Lyra has learned to stop and watch quietly now, and so we did. The three demoiselles nervously eyed us for a while, all legs and knees, before finally tripping back into the wood and vanishing utterly.

The fields have a light flush of green now. In the the few remaining stubble fields there are a haphazard patches in different shades from the “volunteers”, the sprouting seeds from the crops of previous years, with the blue green of oilseed rape appearing on the flanks and bright green wheat from two years before reappearing in the remembrance of tractor tracks. Where the cultivators have been order has been restored, with the volunteers replaced by this year’s chosen conscripts. There, from a distance, there seems to be a pale green translucent sheet hovering tentatively above the dark tilled field but as you get closer the fine sowing lines appear stretching onward, hugging tightly the curve of the land. In the fields at the foot of the hill, this order is subverted by fractal mole hills, mouldy warp still seeking his lady love, and dainty prints from hare, deer and the inexorable fox.

Lyra cheerfully chases a hare up and down the field whilst I inspect the patches of woodland shelter and hedgerows. There are glowing embers of reship, still plump and heavy clusters of haws, cooling now to a slumberous wine. In the recent rain the trees have rather perked up, regreening, but it is very much a last stand. Here and there plumes of flame are beginning to light up the woods in yellow and scarlet and the hawthorn is crisping and fizzling into shades of orange. I spot red berries on what I thought was an alder and unable to wait till we get back immediately consult my old friend George Oogle. It transpires we have two types of alder in the thicket, common alder (glutinosa) with vibrant green and burgundy catkins and tiny cones and Alder Buckthorn with red berries, which apparently darken to a burgundy black. I will have to go back to check for spines to see if these are the purging variety (thornless) or not. Every day is a learning day!

On the way back to the road we pass a scrog apple tree festooned with tiny fruit in a bright pale green with just the slightest blush of pink. Really, the birds have no need of the fatballs they just extorted from me by looking forlornly at the empty feeder. I feel briefly like Norman Tebbit, but manage, thankfully, to shake off his ungenerous shade by the time I hit what is clearly the chatting corner of the road. This time Tractor Tom is passing, still sporting the moustache I see…. We clog the road in time honoured fashion to discuss Ukraine, the Cuban Missile Crisis and, a problem of greater intractability, my mother’s kitchen. Having abandoned the last issue as possibly insoluble in this lifetime, though feeling more hopeful about Ukraine, we press on for the last stretch. Lyra picks up pace, thinking doubtless of the warm spot under the kitchen table and the possibilities of sneaking round the back stairs later to eat the cats’ food (the calories for which do not count – not least because she usually throws it up later on the stair carpet). She is therefore mildly irritated when I dive into the hedgerow to capture the dark green gold of the meadowsweet seedbeds and a conflagration of fireweed. Later she marks her protest in half digested cat food in an inaccessible spot under the table.

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