Dora and I meet up with the Curdie-Wurdie, one of my favourite people, but rubbish at nature-spotting with, unless it’s birds.
Curdie likes birds, and volunteers for the RSPB Garden Watch every year. ‘Have you seen the swallows, yet?’ she asks. ‘And the swifts?’
I tell her I knew they were here, but I hadn’t really noticed. I don’t say that I’m unsure of exactly what a swift looks like. A smaller, faster swallow?
We tramp up to the Old Allotments, and I tell Curdie all about my dreams of a communal orchards, and some allotments, and fencing for fat village ponies.
‘Why do you want an orchard?’ asks Curdie.
‘To collect fruit,’ I say.
We march about the field, pacing imaginary borders and assessing angles of incline. Emma’s pigs are in the field below, and they watch us from beneath their ears. Dora tears around, driven mad by the scent of fox.
It’s a glorious day, and the sun makes last year’s grass a brushed metallic khaki. If you bend over and look closely, you can just see the acid green of this year’s growth beginning to come through.
Curdie and I walk up the old bridle path – useless as such as it’s bombed with huge badger and fox holes. Someone’s evidently been down there, tidying up. The ash trees that fell over winter have been sawn up and moved, and the path is littered with broken twigs. There are clumps of bluebells everywhere (no spears yet), but no wild garlic. WHY? Has it never grown round Horley? Did local farmers take exception to it? Or have I lost my sense of smell to the point I can’t find it? Like my non-flowering aubretia, I’m beginning to become obsessed.
We walk down the Hornton Road towards Horley, and bump into E with lovely Jumble, Dora’s brother. The dogs instantly wind themselves into a lead tangle, and E and I awkwardly unthread them. Jumble briskly humps Dora’s head. Dora rolls her eyes.
‘Wrong end,’ says E.
We all agree the weather is beautiful, and how much cheerier life is with the sun. Then we all agree how fast our children are growing up, and how old we feel.
Eventually, Curdie and I wander on. I try to be discreet as I peer into a skip outside a cottage.
We see some lung-wort, purply-blue, still flowering its speckled socks off. Walking past Bramshill Manor, Curdie spots the fruit trees on their lawn.
‘An orchard!’ she says. ‘See?’
‘So?’ I say, gazing through the iron fence. ‘We can’t get to them.’
Curdie’s eyes gleam, she savours the word as she says it: ‘Scrumping.’
We laugh at the thought, and Curdie points out a tree. ‘Look,’ she says. ‘Look!’
Thinking she’s spotted a particularly lovely bird, I say ‘Where, where?’
‘There!’ She’s triumphant. ‘A mulberry tree.’
‘Oh?’ I say, peering at it. It’s not very tall and has gnarled bark that makes me think of walnut shells.
She nods sagely as we walk on down the hill. ‘Mulberry. Yup. Good for going round.’