"We should be OK through the woods and round the lake."
"The field may be boggy. We haven't been all the way down through the woods past the rock for ages. We could go that way. It's a bit shorter too and we are later than usual."
We set off down the lane. The Old Dog stops and wees right in the gateway of the neighbour's dog. Right in front of the dog herself.
"Well that's a bit gratuitous. Weeing on someone else's patch while she's watching." But the Old Dog walks on without looking back.
The path down through the wood is muddy and slippery. We have to take care. Down in the gorge the river is in full flood. During the summer the undergrowth, the trees in full leaf and the other vegetation hide the severity of the drop down to the river. As we approach the narrow plank bridge the Old Dog is pulling to the right. She is following her nose and seems not to be paying attention to where she is walking. For a moment I think she is about to step off the edge, miss the plank and fall into the river but at the last minute she lifts her head and steps to the left.
"Where was that log with the sprouting fungi?" ask the Webmaster.
"Just there", I reply, recalling the problems I had with the camera when trying to take the picture "but it is half buried in fallen leaves and I can't see any fungi now."
We continue up. "This bit is always steeper than it looks and it's the first uphill section. I always makes me feel knackered but by the time we get to the top I've warmed up and I'm fine. It used to be the same when I came running this way."
The Young Dog leaps the stile in one bound taking the Webmaster by surprise. The Old Dog crawls under the wire-patched gate. Both dogs pull to the right to follow our customary path but we call them back and head down, taking the shortest route through the woods to the lake.
"I got some information on the pension options. If I want to begin taking it before I get to sixty five I'll have to opt for it when I leave otherwise there is a penalty in addition to the lower payments. If I retire from service it would just be the lower payments due to taking payment early."
"You need to get advice."
"Yeah, I know but it depends when I will have to make the choice and how much reduction there will be in the annual amount. And I don't know if you can take the package and retire at the same time. It may be one or the other. There's no point taking advice until I know what position I'm in."
"You may not need to."
"True, but who knows? And I always wanted to retire early if I could afford it. Maybe I will anyway and you can go to work instead."
"I'm looking into the race registration and timing."
"Maybe you'd make more money giving lifestyle classes. You could teach men how to become stay at home hobbyists while their partners go to work to earn the money. I'm not sure whether the guys at work think I'm nuts for putting up with it or whether they are jealous of you."
"Mmmmh. If only they knew."
"Nothing. We need to decide what we are going to do about the trees around the arena."
"We need to take down any that might fall but it seems a pity to cut down perfectly good trees. Even if they are only leylandii, they just have a bad name from suburbia because they are too big."
There are quite a lot of people walking round the lake. The weather is better than forecast, at least it is not raining.
"You could start writing articles based on your experience with IT suppliers. Post them on LinkedIn, start getting some publicity so you can do part time consultancy."
"Could do, but I'd need to be careful about confidentiality."
"Don't mention any names."
"Well that wouldn't work if i published on LinkedIn. Everyone would know where I work and hundreds of people know me and they'd easily know where the examples come from."
"The dog is tangled. You need to sort out the lead. Get her to stop first."
The Old Dog stops, she has stepped over the lead and it is pulling between her legs. I bend to lift her hind leg and untangle the lead. She is covered in mud which wipes off on my hands.
A couple with two large dogs is approaching. We move to one side of the path and pull the dogs onto short leads. The Old Dog suddenly takes an interest in one of the approaching dogs and attempts to spring towards it, tail wagging, barking with excitement.
We stop for a minute or two to let the dogs sniff and acquint themsleves in the way that dogs do while we exchange small talk with the couple before pulling the dogs away and moving on.
"I see that consultancy admitted that they hadn't prepared that report on the state of Brexit for the government," commented the Webmaster.
"No, but I bet they have a lot of consultants working closely in all the departments, or near enough, so it is likely to be based on their analysis of what they have seen."
"Probably. They could have just made it up, but I suppose it is unlikely."
"If it was internal and leaked, they may have done it for their own planning. If we go for a hard Brexit then there will almost certainly be a lot of new "bureaucrat" jobs like they say. We share services with all the other countries now and afterwards we'd have to take them on in the UK, and doing it for one country will be a lot less efficient than sharing a centralised pool of experts."
"If we need to carry on with those things."
"Yeah, well trade negotiators for a start."
"And a lot more customs and export controls, apparently."
"More jobs will be a good thing, but someone will have to pay. I still don't see how we will save any money, even if we don't have to repatriate all the services we currently share."
"But at least we will be in control of losing our own money, and that's the main thing."
"Ha ha! I don't think anyone is still expecting the £350 million a week for the NHS. Did I hear that the funding is going to be less than we were led to believe?"
"Stop the dog going in the ditch. We'll never get it clean," the Webmaster is paranoid about the dogs getting muddy.
"Whoops. Too late but she only went in up to her knees."
"She'll have to go in the feeder when we get there, to wash it off."
"Look at that tree. It's still got green leaves. It looks like beech. All the others are either brown or leafless now." Some of the trees are now almost completely without leaves while others of the same type still have patches of faded green, almost translucent leaves and yet others cling to their dry, orange brown leaves.
We make our way around the lake. Our progress is slow. It is busy and many dogs, large and small, approach and are greeted by the Young Dog. Each time they perform the same dancing and sniffing ritual. Occassionally the Old Dog also takes an interest but generally she ignores the other dogs.
At the car park the Webmaster deposits his little plastic bags into the specially provided bin. This is the worst thing about walking dogs and sometimes I think the plastic bags are more harmful than the natural waste produced by the dogs, but here there are a lot of dogs all using the same path, so some cleaning up is needed. In other places there are almost no dogs and a plastic bag is surely worse than a discrete deposit in an off the path ditch. But the Webmaster is dilligent and by-laws are by-laws!
We walk along the road over the dam and turn right, down the steps to the feeder. The Young Dog bounds down the steps too quickly for the Webmaster and he comes to a sudden stop as his lead reaches its maximum extent. The Webmaster was prepared but is, nevertheless, pulled forward by the force and jumps down a couple of the steps to regain his balance. He shouts at the dog, making it sit and wait.
The overflow from the Mill Pond into the river is in full flow and the first part of the path is boggy. We sink into the mud and the last patches of white fur on the dogs' legs turn brown. The Webmaster tuts but says nothing.
"That's where the path from the top comes out. See that stile. We always cut of the corner and come out at the gate farther along, but we should come to there."
"Well where does the path come from?"
"Over that hill there. It must turn to the left where we go straight on round the tree by the boggy bit, and then down into that gully, up over that hill and down again to the stile."
Where the path turns up to the village and crosses the feeder for the last time we try to persuade the dogs to take a paddle. The Young Dog jumps in and splashes around, but the Old Dog refuses. She walks to the edge, takes a look and then walks away. She does it two or three times.
"Well, I've never seen that before. First time ever she has not jumped into the water. We usually have to stop her."
"Another sign of her age?" I ask.
At the top of the track we turn towards the village and take the road back up to the car park.
As we cross the car park a dog runs towards us and the Old Dog pulls forward to meet it. Someone from a parked car calls the other dog back. It stops but I allow the Old Dog to make its greeting.
"Oh hello." I look up. A second person, with another dog, has stepped out from behind the car. It is my niece. She walks her dogs on a Sunday morning and our paths sometimes cross. She and her companion have just finished their walk. She asks us about alternative routes and specific paths she has seen turn off her usual route but never taken. I offer to send her a link to the tracks we have recorded while walking.
We head over the hill. It looks as though it may rain again. At the track we turn down onto the lane and trudge the final killometre home.