I’m in the Spring Field, and it’s hot. So hot, I can feel the ground baking around my bare legs, see the shimmer in the air as I look downhill.
The earth is faded red-brown, crumbled, strewn with sprayed-off thistles dying an ugly, splayed death. The cries of the sheep in the next field are incessant, much louder than usual. It’s forecast storms soon, but standing here I can’t imagine rain.
I force my feet onwards, squinting despite my sun glasses. Each time one of my black trainers lands, the ground gives off hopeless little puffs of dust. All around are stunted, twisted weeds, clinging stubbornly to life despite repeated doses of Round Up. I can smell meadowsweet, honey-like on the warm wind. I step carefully: I don’t know what’s between the deep, deep cracks.
We reach the stile but I don’t stop. The dogs are subdued, too hot to even run, and they follow me silently.
‘Go in the stream,’ I tell them. ‘Run on.’ But they stay with me, as if I might need them. The bottom stretch of the field is in shade from the alders, and I walk more slowly, listening to the stream. We stop halfway across, and I look back up the field. My sunglasses have tinted the earth red, and for a second it looks as if it’s on fire, like the Warwickshire stubble-fields I used to know. I remember this sort of day from being a teenager, walking dogs when and where I’ve been told I mustn’t.
It’s the sort of heat that knocks days out of time, that creates mirages. The wind is the sort to provoke restless feet, to tease and push a person to brilliance or madness. Or to passion; the dangerous kind, that gets you in trouble.
We start to slog back up hill, and I notice that beneath the weeds are yellow and black banded caterpillars, lots of them, like an infestation.
I think they’re Cinnabar Moths, but I suddenly don’t want to hang around. I imagine them crawling across my toes, up my ankle, and I’m gone. Freaked out. By-passed brilliance or passion, and gone straight to madness.