Neither Ellie nor I had left the house all day, and by four o’clock we fizzed with irritable energy, like wasps in coke cans.
We collected Dora and set out for Archie’s Covert, walking down the Banbury Road with its too-fast cars.
Ellie swung her dog coat by the arms and I snapped to stop it, or I’ll kill her.
‘I’d rather you didn’t,’ Ellie replied, continuing to swing.
‘Why!’ I shout. ‘Why are you still doing it?’
‘It’s boring. It’s a boring coat. I’m making it interesting.’
I laughed, leaving my bad temper on the cricket gate, next to a clump of brand-new daffs.
When we reached Jamie’s Mum’s Stables, we climbed the Hamers’ double gates to drop into their wheat field. The earth between the gates has turned to bright orange silt that sticks to our wellies.
‘What colour is the wheat?’ I said.
‘Yes, but what sort of green?’
‘Green, green. With blue and shrivelly yellow bits.’
We inspected the wheat, the blades three inches long, if that. Usually by now (April), they’d be clumpy tussocky things, not sad and splayed like this in the sodden ground.
Ellie finds some cloven hoof tracks, and thinks they’re baby deer. I suspect muntjac. When we reach Archie’s covert, Dora vanishes down to the stream. I turn to look at our house across the valley, glinting with its new windows. Last summer’s mares’ tail lies in skeletal abandon around our feet. There are half-nibbled cones everywhere, snacked on by deer.
Ellie finds a giant poo, and we speculate that its from a monster stag. A massive red kite breaks free above our heads, and I’m frightened for a moment, imagining it might swoop down and carry off Dora.
‘Get a grip,’ said Ellie. ‘There’s millions of lambs over there. Wouldn’t you eat one of those before a stringy dog with claws?’
I looked at my daughter in surprise, and she burst out laughing.
‘Mummy,’ she says, as we turn for home. ‘Just look at your flowers. I’ll worry about everything else.’