On Dog Walking, Friday 28th September

I’m walking over Bramshill, and it’s so hot, I’ve stripped  off down to my scruffy white vest. I perch on the top stile at the corner of Horley, looking down at the thick girdle of beeches, tight around the bellies of the carp ponds. I can hear the ducks: rack-rack-rack. It’s one of those magical, gilded September afternoons, and I’m stealing it – I should be typing and telephoning and talking stoves to people who are thinking of winter, and being cold.

I bask for a moment in the sun, stretching my arms out wide, feeling the soft air against my skin. Eventually, greed drives me on; I’m walking this way for a reason. Blackberries. In secret, glorious abundance, off the path, where I’m not allowed. I prick my fingers and scratch my arms, but it’s hard to care, squashing sun-sweet, rain-fat blackberries into my mouth.

The dogs circle me, bemused. Pants especially, as it’s his first Autumn. He watches my hand to mouth with his silly speckly-chocolate head to one side.  ‘You eat acorns,’ I tell him. ‘So you can be quiet.’

I wriggle up through the spinney, taking care to avoid the dying nettles. They’re a light, acid green now, some with yellow lacing, but they’re just as vicious as they’ve always been. I accidentally walk into a giant, sticky spider’s web, and shoot out up the path cringing and shuddering, brushing at my hair and being stinger-stung for my silliness.

The corn field beyond is now stubble, and the dogs and I slog up the hill, quickly, in case Roger’s about. Roger is convinced Arfa-Pants is after his young pheasants, and it feels disloyal to tell Roger Pants far too gormless to notice a pheasant.

Once safely in the high hedges of Clump Lane, we slow again, and I can feel sweat sticking my vest to my back. There’re more blackberries, and elderberries too, hanging above my head in darkly purple clusters. My finger nails are stained black with juice, and for the hundredth time, I wish I had a bag or a basket. Rose hips swing amongst the elderberries, and I admire their tender pinkness – not yet the glossy varnish-red they’ll be after the frosts.

We pass an ivy, loud with feasting wasps, and some faded campions bent on their last hurrah. They nod their papery petals alongside the drying pepper-pots of their sisters’ seedheads.

At the last bend of Clump, we bump into two lovely friends, Liquorish and McNellie, back from a shopping jaunt for winter boots.

‘Hello!’ I cry, ‘Isn’t it a beautiful? Isn’t it tremendous?’

McNellie leans towards me, frowning slightly. ‘What’s happened to your face Carles,’ she asks. ‘There, by your ear?’

I reach up a hand, and they both see the stains and start to laugh.

‘Blackberries.’

They help me scrape away the evidence of my clandestine feast, teasing me for bunking off work to gorge in the sunshine.

NB: Thank you for the tweets and the emails and the facebook messages, telling me to just get on and write. I never actually stopped, but I stopped publishing my posts, thinking they must be so terribly boring and never having time to write about anything exciting. Mostly because I don’t really do much that’s exciting. Apparently though, I’m wrong, and you do all love reading about dog walks and village bops, so I’ll man up a little, and start publishing again.

And special thanks to Mr. Paul Rodgers.