Both dogs are dashing about in an excited state. They know we will be setting out on our Sunday morning walk soon. They missed their long walk yesterday and only got to dash round their usual weekday route because we were going out for the day. Now they are circling the furniture and following us up and down stairs as though to prevent us leaving without them. They do this every weekend. They must know when it is the weekend.
"Sit. SIT!" the Webmaster is trying to calm the Young Dog. "Are you ready?"
"Putting my boots on and then I'll be ready."
"Boots? Does that mean you're intending to go through the mud? My boots have got holes in them."
"I know! Have you got the camera?"
We set off. The dogs pull impatiently on their leads while the Webmaster locks the door. The air is still cool but in the direct sunlight it is warm. Blue sky and few clouds. A nice day for a walk.
"Why does the Student want her own printer?"
"I don't know, she didn't say except she and her flat mate are considering 'a cheap printer'."
"She might be able to get one fairly cheaply, but the running costs are likely to be high. Does she know how much the ink will cost?"
"Depends what she wants to print. It may be cheaper paying per copy to use the university printing services. I'll tell her to find out, especially as they only need it for nine months and they won't be able to bring it back with them."
We turn onto the footpath to the woods which passes through an old farmyard. It is no longer a working farm and there are no animals. We negotiate the two stiles and the nettle hazzard of a narrow path to emerge into a small sunlit field just above the trees. The Old Dog stops and sniffs and makes slow progress but the Young Dog bounds forwards and pulls the Webmaster towards the woods.
The Webmaster disappears into the gloom under the trees. The path into the woods is overgrown and we are forced to walk on what appears to be the remains of a wall for the first two or three metres before we reach the mud of the path.
"Argh. My feet are soaked already" he complains loudly.
"Well, it can't get any worse then."
"But I can moan about it for longer."
"You'll get used to it. Your socks will act like a wet suit and soon your feet will be warm."
A squirel runs across the path in front of us and down into the gorge on our left through which a small river contributing to the head of the Trent flows. The Young Dog attempts to give chase but is held back by the Webmaster. He consoles himself by standing stock still and tracking the squirel until it disappears into undergrowth.
We cross the wooden bridge over the narrow river and begin our climb up on the other side of the valley. The original path has become an almost permanent mire of mud, presumably caused by almost constant drainage from the fields above. The dogs know the route around the mud and quickly pick their way through. A hiker is walking down towards us. He remarks on the boggy condition of the path.
Once we emerge from the climb up out of the head of Trent valley the paths become sandy and dry, strewn with fallen leaves. The Young Dog scratches and kicks sending showers of sandy soil and dead leave flying out behind him. Fortunately no one is hit.
"Two girls were disqualified yesterday for not wearing club vests."
"Yeah. Their parents complained."
"I suppose it is in the rules. Fairly prominent rule; and it is a club league competition."
"They may have been new and their coach or manager was away. I don't really know. I just heard they had complained."
"The team sheets should be pre-filled so the person collecting the tokens doesn't have ask names and ages. It's embarrassing if they don't know the name of someone running for the club."
"Doesn't happen very often. And you can't. The names have to be in finishing order. At least the first four, or six for men, have to be in the top section because that is the team score. You can't always predict the finishing order of the runners."
"Well it did yesterday."
"She hasn't collected the tokens before. No one minded."
We had stopped, waiting for the dogs to sniff and to look back at the view.
"You can only see our greenhouse roof from here. The house is behind the trees round the riding arena."
"I think this is the path that goes up past the rock outcrop and comes out by the pool. The one we saw that bloke and his dog head down last time. Do you want to give it a try of shall we go all the way round."
"All the way round. No point taking short cuts when we have plenty of time."
"Thought it might be useful to know all the routes in case we are chased by a bear."
"I'll risk it. I don't think there have been any recent sightings of bears around here."
We continue, up to the junction with the track, turn left, and follow it along past the pool and the rock outcrop, then right, through a small gate and onto the footpath down through farm land to the lake. If it weren't for the colour of the leaves and the sun, slightly lower in the sky, it could almost be summer.
We reach the lake. There are a lot of families out walking today, much busier than the last few times we came this way. The sun is glinting across the lake, the view framed by branches. I reach for the camera.
"I'll take a picture."
"You are looking straight into the sun."
"I'll give it a try. See how it comes out."
The camera shows the light balance, the focus, the shutter speed and aperture it recommends. It also says 'No Memory Card'.
"I thought you sorted out the camera. It's no use without a memory card. You charged the battery and didn't check the memory card."
"So now it's my fault is it? It's all my fault! There is a spare one in the case. Oh you didn't bring the case."
"You knew that."
"Next you'll be saying Brexit is all my fault."
"Unlikely. How can it be your fault?"
"Maybe I didn't try hard enough to persuade R and A to change their minds."
"They would never have changed their minds. They wanted to turn the clock back. Full employment like in the 1950s! Except it wasn't, what about the women? Empire and fighting wars. That's all they talked about, the make Britain great again followers. Don't forget 'we didn't fight two world wars so that Germany could rule us now'."
"Yeah. It was a daft question to ask."
"I think a lot people still genuinely believe, or at least hope, that we can 'have our cake and eat it'. Boris has a lot to answer for. He said it again this week. He must have known that there are treaty obligations and international trade laws that will prevent some of the things Leave offered from happening. People make allownances for exaguration and political spin, but it was the scale and nature of the, well, lies I suppose, that was unprecedented. But I think some of the politicians really didn't know what they were talking about. They could have sounded convincing because they believed it, deluded rather than lying, but in their position that's serious negligence. Some still appear to be deluded."
"Who'd have thought we'd ever agree with Anna Soubry? I wonder what they really think in Sunderland."
"The government can't start offering compensation. Where would it stop? It would cost too much. Make EU subscriptions seems trivial by comparison."
"It's heading towards 'hard Brexit'."
"I doubt that is what most serious Brexit people wanted. They wanted the cake and eat it scenario, like they were offered. Who wouldn't? Keep all the benefits without the costs."
"Yes, but it's too messy and difficult to do anything else. Nothing else is possible in the time scale they seem to want to meet."
"Brexit will be a subject of law and philosophy debates for years. Was it really democracy? What is the role of referenda in parliamentary democracies? Legal and moral duties of government and the press. Oh, did you hear John Simpson saying he thought the BBC and other main news channels had failed to properly present the referendum campaign."
"Too late now."
We pulled the dogs to one side of the path to allow a family and its dog to pass in the other direction.
"That fallen tree is in one of the most dangerous positions. How would you start cutting it down or moving it without it collapsing on top of you? Cut out one of the branches proping it up like that and, wham, it falls on you."
"I guess you'd need a hoist and secure the trunk first before cutting those branches off, and then lower it down when the branches are out of the way."
"Are we going along the feeder?"
"I'm hot. You said it was cold. I should have worn my shorts."
"You'll be glad you didn't when we get to the nettles again."
The Webmaster and the Young Dog go first down the steps from the dam to the feeder. The Young Dog doesn't like to be behind anyone. Maybe he thinks they will kick dirt and leaves into his face or maybe he doesn't want to be just one of the pack.
The path along the feeder is muddy. The Webmaster begins to complain again about wet feet. The last stretch of path before the road is narrow, overgrown with nettles and extremely slippery. The Webmaster leads the way, swearing about his feet, the nettles, the mud and the dog which alternately pulls him when he has no grip underfoot or stops suddently to sniff at invisible items of interest.
We cross the road and join the path up to the church. There are four bullocks in the second field, far fewer than last week. We wonder if they have gone off to market. The Young Dog jumps the stile and startles the bullocks. He lunges towards them although, constrained by his lead, doesn't get far. The bullocks give chase as we walk across their field. The Old Dog ignores them. The Young Dog is unsure whether to ignore them or try to send them off, but before he can decide we reach the far stile and he bounds over in one leap.
"That old pizza box is still there" said the Webmaster. It has been trodden into the path for weeks.
"It hasn't decayed much."
"Must be grease and water proof, and the printing on the box."
We cross the cattle grid and emerge onto the lane up into the village and chat a while to a long time acquiantance and fellow former runner. He asks about the Student and her journey to California. The last time we saw him he was watering the hanging baskets outside the pub on the day we had been to the airport.
There are a few people walking through the village. We turn left and past the school up and out of the village. Soon our route meets our week day route and we climb up to the road which bends past the carpark and the pub. There is one car in the car park. At the start of the footpath over the hill from the carpark there is a new sign, warning people that the gate is locked at dusk and telling them all cars should have been removed before then.
"A new sign. Is that because you complained to the council or because you knew the people you complained to?"
"A result. I wouldn't have known where to complain if I hadn't asked T."
"Well a result anyway. I can't remember ever getting a positive response from the council before."
We reach the top of the hill. The view is clear in all directions and the air is warm, we can feel the heat of the sun on our bare arms.
"It looks like a good day for the buzzards and kestrels."
"I thought that, but I can't see any. Only those crows over there. They are very noisey. I wonder why they are making all that noise."
We walk further along the hill and several groups of about five or six small, slim birds are flitting across the path. Their flight rises and falls as they alternately flap and glide in rapid cycles. Small and brown with red chests and flashes of white on their tails; linnets. A sign in the car park describes the flora and fauna of the hill and these little birds take pride of place.
We reach the end of the common and continue straight down towards the cow field. The one horned brown bullock and his three black and white companions were on the far side. They watch us enter the field but do not move.
"Listen", said the Webmaster. "A buzzard."
We could hear it but not yet see it. Two crows fly over and settle on a telegraph pole. We hear the buzzard again.
"I think they live in those trees there" said the Webmaster pointing to the same group of trees he points out every time we see or hear the buzzards.
As he is speaking the buzzard comes into view. It flies low over the trees and then circles directly overhead, still low. It glides, diplaying the underside of its pale brown outstretched wings, with its darker fan like edges and tail.
"We don't usually get to see them in flight so close up. We could have got a good photograph.."
".. if only I hadn't forgotten the memory card. Yeah, but I know how slow you are using it, you wouldn't have got a picture even with the memory card."
The buzzard circled one more time before disapearing over the brow of the hill.
We clambered over the stile and onto the road.
"Look at the dog's feet. She's walked through the cowpats. I'll have to take her back to the stream to get them clean."
But the Old Dog refused to go back through the stile, even when the Webmaster tempted her by offering her a swim, and eventually he gave in and walked her home with dirty feet.