It’s raining, and I’m walking over Dave’s bottom fields, peering out from under my cap. I’m already hoarse from shouting; there’s cow muck flung all over the stubble and Pants feels he must roll in it. I do not share this feeling. I chase him as if in a dream – my legs are moving, but he out-paces me so easily, I may as well not bother.
I’m distracted from my impotency by a new foot bridge. It’s three planks wide and has a handrail, so no more falling off into the sinister swathes of Bella Donna. Apparently, the council arranged for it to go in, which lifts my mood slightly. I’d far rather pay for footbridges than pointless mowing.
We reach Emma’s Bottom Meadow, and I turn left, heading away from the village. Dora disappears into the stream and Arfa Pants follows with a great splash, thank goodness. I encourage him back in to get rid of eau d’cow.
As I walk on, I spot some pinkish-purple clover, which my nature books insists is red. It also informs me that red clover is useful for menopause. That word annoys me. I’ve recently learnt it’s French, from Greek, and I can’t help wondering what we called it before. Having said that, perhaps we never lived long enough to find out.
I keep going, thinking of things ending, of beards starting. Might I grow a beard? I imagine myself as an old lady, menopause a distant point behind, still stumping round the meadows of Horley. I think I’ll be one of those tough, stringy old birds with compost making dark crescents in my fingernails, and dog hairs all up my sensible navy trews. I don’t suppose I’ll care much on the beard front, although I shall care muchly if I lose my reading glasses or if I can’t hear the news on my radio.
My thoughts start to turn a bit dark, and I’m distracted by the leaves of the willow around my feet. They’re beautiful; some a pale lemon, others a rich yellow splashed with brown, like an over-ripe banana. Looking up at the willow branches, some as bare as wands, I see next year’s buds are already nubbed into the stems.
Such preparation for rebirth and Spring cheers me, and I pull down my cap against the rain, whistle my dogs.