Leaving the house and crossing the green sward of the cricket pitch, I am already stripped down to a sun frock and cardi. I leave my raincoat on the bottom gate and push my glasses into my hair. I may be blind, but at least I won’t have a framed tan.
Dave’s dad, Wyk, is sledge-hammering a bib of rubble at the entrance to the field below the cricket, and I wish I could ask if he was putting a gate in. The cricket club have recently sealed up the dog-walkers’ gap (WHY? Why would they do this?), and I’ve been nipping over the stile and reaching the road through Dave’s field.
Wyk though, is the strong, silent type, and you can never quite work out what he’s thinking. He always makes me feel deeply silly and shy, as if he were in upper sixth and I were in lower fourth, and had a bit of a crush.
Wyk’s dog Pippa is Dora’s mother, and Dora is always so touchingly pleased to see her. Pippa usually looks surprised, as if she’d forgotten Dora existed.
As usual, I can’t think of anything witty nor intelligent to say, and Dora and I jog off, still burbling, as if in a great hurry. I don’t see Wyk shake his head, but I can imagine it.
I can’t seem to slow my pace, and whiz down the Banbury Road without even noticing how the trees are coming along. We jump the oozy-mud ditch and duck beneath the still-bare oak into the wheat field, sending a load of sheep catapulting up the hill.
The sun is so warm! There’s no one in sight and I walk with my arms outstretched and my head back. All my deadlines and mummy-stuff and house-stuff and stuff-stuff seem very far away. I walk the entire field like some mad scarecrow woman, breathing deeply and balancing the sky on my head. A plot point that has been driving me crackers suddenly resolves itself, and I scrabble for a pen to write it down.
Reaching Emma’s meadow, we stop so Dora can have a drink and a paddle. I sit on the bridge and stare at some beautiful lime-green and silver lichen. I wonder if perhaps emerging naiads might use it as lace. The thought reminds me of Jessica’s May Queen dress, which I still haven’t sorted out. Guilt drives me to my feet and I resolve to go home immediately and order it from Joules.
I’m marching and trying not to look left or right, but then a butterfly crosses me, a glorious stinging yellow (Cloudless Sulpher?). I whip my phone out to try to photograph it, and then I’m lost again, smiling at clumsily bonking woodpigeons and startling a great, grey heron. It flies off like a prehistoric bag of bones, and I hope it doesn’t go to our house, and pinch our last fish.
Walking through the bottom of the village, I can smell the faint burnt-rubber of dying daffodils. There are grape hyacinths everywhere, school-ink blue.
A sooty-black orange-bottomed bumble bee passes me as I reach Gulliver’s Close, and I see our black van parked on the corner. Stevie is putting a stove in for a lady, and he waves as I walk up.
‘Hello darling,’ he says. ‘Nice walk? Have you rung the Smiths’? Been to the vet? Ordered Jess’ dress?’
Bugger. No. No and no. Doing it now.