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"It's cold. I'm cold."

"You'll warm up when we get going. And when it's more sheltered. It's that North East wind the weather forecast mentioned."

"Brrr. Should've brought gloves."

We head down the lane. Weak sunshine and patches of blue sky make it looker warmer than it feels, but in the distance the sky is darker. We wonder whether it will rain.

At the bottom of the lane the dogs turn, confidently, onto the path through the farmyard.

 

"They know," commented the Webmaster. "In the week they make no attempt to come this way. It's only when you are with them."

The leaves on the path down through the wood are begining to turn to mulch and the stones in the path are once again visible. Not many leaves have fallen since last week.

"Look at that,"  said the Webmaster pointing to a short stump of partially decayed branch out of which short white fingers were growing, "must be some sort of fungus."

"Hold the dog. I'll try to get a photo."

I takes a while to sort out the camera. It had been left on a sports setting from last week and neither of us has reading glasses, so reading the dials and the menus is tricky. The Webmaster takes the camera and does that thing with his arms outstretched to maximum extent, his head tilted back and his eyes squinting. There is not much light.

"I hope it comes out OK after all that. My hands are cold again," complains the Webmaster.

The Old Dog plods along slowly, nose to the ground almost oblivious of anything around. The Young Dog bounds along leaping and stopping, looking for squirrels and birds. We make slow progress and the Webmaster continues to complain about his cold hands.

The boggy patch of the field down to the lake has extended further down this week. The Webmaster's feet must have got wet, but he says nothing.

"Sheep herd together when they are scared," explains the Webmaster with some authority as though he knows what he is talking about. The sheep are standing watching us, or maybe they are monitoring the dogs, but this week the dogs make little sign that they are interested in the sheep. They were there last week. 

"I wonder what's wrong with Dad's tablet, it sounds as though something has gone wrong with the display. If it's a hardware fault we are unlikely to be able to fix it."

"It probably isn't. What was he doing when it went wrong?"

"I don't know? Nothing apparently. He was just using it and then all the colours went, he said it looked like his photos were negatives. Then he mentioned the news. Said he's seen something about one of the judges in the article 50 court case being gay and wondered why it was relevant. I agreed with him  that it wasn't and he must have seen reports about the appalling story on the front page of yesterday's Daily Mail."

"They shouldn't be allowed to get away with that type of reporting."

"That sort of thing annoys him more than anything. He's always been for equality and human rights. It reminded him of his distant cousin from the US who said he was voting for George W Bush simply because he was anti gay rights. Wars were ragging in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror had been declared, but all that mattered when he cast his vote was that his candidate wouldn't support gay marriage. I don't think my Dad will ever forget that."

"Do you think Trump will win?"

"I hope not. After the Brexit vote I thought things couldn't get much worse but this week proved me wrong and if he wins next week, it will begin a whole new chapter of disaster."

"Fun times for the Student. She'd better watch out. A foreigner in their country."

"Yeah well. I feel like a foreigner in my own country. It was bad enough anticipating the loss of EU citizenship, but this week's attack on our constitution, apparently supported by some government ministers, is taking my country away from me. What state are we in if people won't accept court decisions and people who should know better make serious suggestions about removing the sovereignty of parliament and overturning the rule of law? We won't be back in the 1970s or even the 1950s. We'll be back in the 16th century."

"Brexit eh? Voted to take back control. Let's get our country back."

"Some of the people who voted leave are furious. The ones who knew what they were talking about and how things actually worked. In fact it's worse for them. They must feel a bit betrayed. What happened is exactly the opposite of what they wanted. Like that MP who resigned."

"Well it's the ones who don't know and don't care."

"Tragic really. They voted for something they didn't even understand and if they didn't understand the consitution of their own country or how democracy works, was there any chance they knew how the EU worked?"

"They don't need to. They just read the Daily Mail and the Sun."

"If Muslims had published that sort of incitement I'm sure they would have been arrested on terrorist charges. I read somewhere that what the Mail did falls under the definition of extremism. And did you see that item on the Leave EU website, er Operation Beacon? It sounded as though they were planning to start a rebellion - on the streets. Roundheads and Cavaliers all over again. Don't they know that about one in ten people were killed in a civil war fighting for parliamentary democracy?"

We climb the stile at the bottom of the path. The Old Dog has become adept at wriggling under but she stops to investigate what must be an interesting smell.

It is more sheltered here, but still cold. In the distance the sky looks dark and threatening, but there are still patches of blue and the trees are lit by the weak sunlight. We make slow progress. The Old Dog is stopping to sniff at every tree and clump of grass. The Young Dog is darting from side to side in search of squirrels. 

"So what sort of tree is that?"

"Beech?"

"You don't sound sure. I thought you could identify oak and beech trees."

"They all look like beech trees, well beech like, but they aren't all the same."

"Some are likely to be hornbeam. Those are definitely ash. We need to look them up. I've got a book somewhere, and an app on my phone. Hang on I'll see if I've got a signal here."

We stand staring at the trees, trying to make out which leave are with which tree as the branches criss cross over head.

"Shit, dog. What are you doing?"

The Young Dog has jumped off the path into the shallow water at the edge of the lake in pursuit of a group of ducks and wrenched the Webmaster's shoulder. The sound of the Webmaster's cry startles the dog and it realises it is in the wrong and hastily scrabbles back up the bank.

We walk on, picking up the pace until we come to a spectacular display of fungi. Another photo opportunity. 

"Here, take the dog while I take some photos."

The Webmaster walks on and calls back from some metres along the path asking about another type of tree.

"I'll take photos of the leaves and the bark and then we can try to identify them when we get back."

"Well hurry up. My hands are freezing."

"Shall we go back the waterfall way?"

"Yeah, I'm cold. It's a bit quicker that way."

We follow the path along the edge of the lake. A couple of women walk towards us and one pauses briefly to talk to the Old Dog. 

"Bonfire night tonight. There could be quite a lot of fireworks with it actually being November 5th on a Saturday, although I've heard them going off all week. I thought they were from Halloween at first but they didn't stop. Apparently a lot of dogs have been going missing and people on the dog websites are blaming it on the fireworks."

"Well the Young Dog doesn't seem to notice and the Old Dog is probably too deaf now. She used to be scared of the firework noises."

"She isn't that deaf."

"Celebrating that King and his Lords in parliament were saved and remembering the fate of traitors, good week for the current news!"

"What is that tree, with the big leaves? It looks like the one I cut the branch off last week. The one that had grown out into the pine tree."

"I think the one you cut down was hornbeam. We planted them to make a hedge, but that one looks like hazel. There are hazel in the garden too."

We reach the car park. It is busy, people finishing their morning walk and heading home for lunch, others arriving. We turn out onto the road and head over the dam, the lake to our left and the drop to the feeder on our right. The Old Dog pulls to the right and attempts to go down the steps to the feeder.

"Not that way today." I pull her back and shorten her lead as a car approaches from behind.

We turn in through the gate onto the lake side path. The cold air is more noticable. A fisherman is standing by his rod, swinging his arms and trying to keep warm.

"It's cold today."

"Yeah. I've been here since 5:30. I can't feel anything now."

We walk faster now. It looks like it might rain. We take the path past the waterfall but do not stop.

"Don't let the dogs in, it's too cold for them to stay outside and they won't dry," instructed the Webmaster.

The steps up from the waterfall get steeper every time we come this way. 

"Must be getting old. A few years ago I could run up here." 

The Webmaster pauses to straighten his back "I'm getting stiff muscles in this cold," he complains.

"That's a chestnut tree," I say, pointing to a large tree with twisted bark.

We reach a juntion in the path.

"Shall we take the shortcut?" asks the Webmaster.

"No. Let's go down past the rock. We haven't been that way for ages."

"Just because you're tracking the route," accuses the Webmaster.

We pass the rock and turn right to climb a steep section of the path. The Young Dog stops, his ears pricked. He pulls, his eyes are hunting, this way, then that.

"He's seen something. What is is dog?" The Webmaster looks around. The dog tries to take us back down the path. "There," exclaimed the Webmaster, "a white fluffy cat." He starts following the dog back down the hill.

"This is going to screw up my tracking."

"It went that way, up into those trees. Where is it dog?"

The dog has his eyes fixed in one direction. We follow his gaze and see a small, long-haired white cat with ginger tail and ears scramlbing up the wooded hillside.

"He thinks it's Ruby."

"It looks like Ruby. They must be related. Could be one of those other two, the kittens we saw."

"But if they lived this close why did she have her kittens in the hedgerow and then move in with us."

"Maybe it is her. She might come this far."

The cat has disappeared but the dog has not lost interest. As we turn and head back up the hill it keeps stopping to look behind.

We negotiate the stile and head down to the river. The path underfoot is rough and slippery. The Old Dog starts to pull hard for no apparent reason and I almost fall. I have visions of sliding into the river and losing the camera but manage to regain my balance.

"It's a steeper climb up here than you think," puffed the Webmaster as we emerged from the woods and back into the field and the farmyard.

"Do these old guys really have no mains water?"

"So it's rumoured. Look there are hose pipes along the edge of the river and a tank down there. Maybe they pump it up, but I wouldn't like to drink that water."

"Could be for irrigation. They might have a well and a filtering system."

We walk the final stretch up the lane.

Once in the house we find Ruby is sitting in the kitchen, warm and comfortable.