"It's a bit grim out there this morning" said the Webmaster as he brought me my first cup of tea of the day. He shivered and climbed back into the bed.
Outside it is grey and overcast. "Are you suggesting we don't have a long walk?"
"No, but it's trying to drizzle."
We are in no hurry. We lounge around reading on-line newspapers. The Webmaster checks his facebook feed. He shows me a short video of a dog and bird chasing each other around a rock but I've seen it before. Times passes. Eventually we tire of reading articles about Brexit, marmite, Article 50 and the link between the prime minister opening her mouth and the pound sliding on the foreign exchange.
"I'll go to the shop first. I'll be too late when we get back and the newsagent will be out of papers."
When the Webmaster returns from the village we set off. It isn't raining and although it is still grey overhead there are signs of the sun beginning to push through; enough to give colour the the autumnal leaves in the hedgerows.
"Hold the dog, I want to take a picture." The Webmaster takes the Old Dog's lead and continues on down the lane. I abandon the picture and follow but leave him holding the dog.
"Oh I see. Changed the rules. We haven't gone fifty metres and you are leaving me with both dogs."
"I can't hold the dog and use the camera." I take the Old Dog back.
We turn right into the old farmyard, make our way over the stiles, along the side of the brick barn and emerge into the field which leads down to the woods. The Young Dog is in an excitable state. There was no cat this week but he must have glimpsed a squirrel. He is leaping and lurching on his lead, yanking the Webmaster's shoulders, in an apparent effort to encourage him to give chase.
The path through the woods, down to the small wooden bridge and up the far side is still relatively dry and the Webmaster has no cause to complain about wet feet.
"I don't think that holly tree was leaning across the path last week. I can't remember needing to stoop under it."
"Can't remember. Don't think so."
The Young Dog charges under a barbed wire line strung across in place of the bottom bar of a gate. His lead catches. The Webmaster swears, untangles that dog and manoevers over the stile, precariously close to losing his balance as the Young Dog continues to pull.
The Old Dog sedately crawls under the wire, stands and stretches herself on the other side. The Webmaster takes her lead and points, "There's a good photo opportunity: a bracket fungus on that tree."
I take a few pictures from different angles.
"From above would be good" shouts the Webmaster " .. ha ha short arse."
We follow our usual route.
"A puff ball for your fungus collection."
"It isn't as spectacular as those we saw a few weeks ago. There were a lot then and some of them were quite big. That one's pretty small."
We make slow progress up the path. The Old Dog is stopping to sniff at every tree. I attempt to snap a picture of the Young Dog kicking soil and leaves behind him but am thwarted at every attempt: the Webmaster steps in the way, the Young Dog turns round and kicks away from me; the Old Dog pulls on its lead and jogs the camera; the camera is too slow.
"Does it have a video setting? Try that."
"Yes, but I don't know how it works and I can't see with these glasses."
"Phone the Student, she'll know." I wonder if this is a dig about the time I phoned to ask how to work the microwave oven.
"She'll still be in bed, it's only four in the morning. Let's go up this way." We turn off the path and climb a steep slope, it is covered with crisp, dry, amber, gold and brown leaves, we pass a rock outcrop and rejoin our usual route having cut off a corner.
We turn down towards the lake, across the farmland. The top of the field is still boggy but we pick our way through. The Webmaster is still not complaining about wet feet. On our walk last night he had stopped to remove a small stone from his shoe and in the process demonstrated the scale of the problem. "Look," he had said, waggling the end of his finger as it protruded through the sole of his boot."
The sun has broken through and it is getting warm, but in the distance it is still grey and murky.
"It looks as though it's raining over there." Darker shafts of grey are visible against the general grey backdrop blotting out what would have been the distant view.
Saturday lunch time and there are not many people about when we reach the lake. The tree with the fallen branch is still taped off.
"Do you think they are just going to leave it like that?"
"Looks like it, but it is probably not something two wardens with a chainsaw can manage."
There are fisherman down by the lake, sitting under their little tents.
"Did you see that news item about the anglers applying to be an Olympic sport? The reporter didn't think they would be accepted."
"It isn't very exciting for the spectators, and surely it there is too much chance. I don't think it should be in the Olympics."
"Must be skill in it, but doesn't it take a long time for someone to establish themselves as a champion angler? Maybe there are one off championships but if someone always or nearly always does well, that must overcome the chance element: large sample size. If it was only luck, the winners would be random."
"The Student is in a race today. Santa Clara. She said it is cross country but she thinks it will be on park land, and its flat. It sounded as though they would be running on a lawn. It's not real cross country without mud!"
"Did she buy the shoes?" We had been out walking up though the cow field onto the hill on Thursday evening when she had messaged us to say she had taken the wrong running shoes with her. That they didn't allow spikes in most of the races and she needed to buy flats and also, she could rent the club vest for $20 but she was going to buy it for $40 as a souvenir. The Webmaster had complained about the messaging app bonging at him while he was trying to enjoy his walk. We had been an hour earlier than usual and he knew this was prime time for the Student to come on line.
We reached the visitors centre. "Shall we have a cup of tea?"
The Webmaster is not keen. He doesn't like spending his money. He looks at both dogs. "It will be a bit awkward managing them, and I'd rather get on with it."
So that was that. No tea. "We should come another time without the dogs."
We cross the road and begin to cajole the Young Dog to go through the stile. He messes about, attempts to squeeze through gaps obviously too small for him. He ignores prompts to climb over it. "Let the Old Dog go first, maybe he will follow her."
The Old Dog finds a way through and the Young Dog follows. She may be slowing down and sometimes she seems to be deaf or even absent minded, but she still has more sense than the Young Dog.
This week we know the way along the path. We follow it along, walking on the fallen chestnuts, just below the crest of the ridge and down to the feeder.
"I think we've made the right decision about Christmas. It will be better to go on holiday when the weather is better. It might be cheaper too. I'll be more prepared to wing it and find cheap motels each day, because we will be outside most of the time, but I don't want to be in miserable accommodation if it is cold and damp. Especially over Christmas. I'd want something comfortable. And it is more expensive now anyway. Even without the disasterous exchange rate."
"Is it still going down?"
"It's closed for the weeked. Was $1.21 last night."
"Maybe it will go up before the summer, if Trump gets elected and crashes the US econnomy like Mrs May and her cronies are crashing ours?"
"Yeah, they complain about 'remoaners' talking the economy down, but they seem to be doing a good job of that themselves. It's frightening that people responsible for policy are making statements that are so obviously wrong. Don't they find out how these things work before they make their daft statements? Business people must think, 'what a bunch of incompetents', it will undermine any remaining confidence."
"I saw something about a court case."
"The one challenging the government's right to trigger article 50 without consent of parliament? Apparently the government is distinguishing between triggering article 50, which is giving notice of the decision, and the decision itself. And they say they are giving notice. Interesting."
"Well who has made the decision to leave?"
"Presumbly that's the point. Was it the referendum? Can they claim it did? MPs agreed to a none binding referendum. I suppose they can argue that if it had been intended to be binding they would have scrutinised the question and the mechanism more. They may not have agreed to a simple majority and might have insisted on more clarity about what "leaving" meant - or at least a mechanism for approving or rejecting any eventual plans. Consitutional changes in many other countries needs a two thirds majority and above a stated threshold turn out to ensure that it really is the will of a clear majority of the electorate."
"You mean more than 37%?"
"Yep. Does the government have a legal basis for claiming the decision to leave has been made? Does the referendum give them a legal base or is it just political? And can they infer from the referendum what 'Brexit' means? They seem hell bent on forcing it through in the most extreme way even where it doesn't seem to make sense. I can't help getting the impression that May has tightened her lips and thinks - 'well you voted for it, now have it, consequences and all'."
"I'm sure she doesn't think that, but goodness knows what she is thinking. The Brexiteers seem willing enough to tell everyone the ecomony will suffer and they seem proud to be causing it."
We reach another stile and the Young Dog makes several unsuccessful attempts to push or crawl through small gaps before suddenly leaping over and taking the Webmaster by surprise.
"I think there are several arguments in the case. One is that only parliament can take away rights that parliament granted, so minister can't use royal perogative because we'll be losing EU citizenship rights. That p's me off. I already feel cut off from my colleagues. Like they are all still in a club, a common community and I'm on the edge soon to be outside."
"Surely they can't compensate all the international companies who may lose if UK drops out of the single market. How much will it cost and how long will it go on for? If we didn't leave we wouldn't have to pay that. No chance of the £350 million now. Although in my view never was."
"I never thought leaving would save money anyway. Loss of ecomony of scale."
We are now picking our way across a marshy piece of ground as the path down joins the path along the feeder. The dogs have been walking through cowpats and mud and the Webmaster wants them to paddle in the river to clean their legs but the river is brown and murky.
"It isn't flowing. Strange. I haven't seen that before." We walk further along and can soon hear the sound of flowing water. "It looks OK here. Must be a branch or something causing a blockage."
"If we go the other way, they can paddle by the waterfall."
"Oh, I was going to go this way like last week." So we do. We pass through several fields, steering the dogs over or under the stiles and away from cows standing on the path. As we walk up the path towards the church the sun has broken through completely and it is warm, sunny and bright.
"We chose a good time. It wouldn't have been like this if we had come out earlier."
At the top of the path the Old Dog walks straight across the cattle grid, carefully putting her feet between the bars. Fortunately it has been filled in to within a couple of inches of the top. We turn left, down to the riding school and then up the steps and onto the path back past the alottments to the lane.
"It looks as though a car went off the edge there. See the scrape marks." The Webmaster points to a deep, sharp edged gully at the edge of the road. There are whitish grey scuff marks extending for about two to three metres. "That will have damaged the underside of someone's car."
At the top of the lane we go straight across, past the footpath sign and up one of the overgrown paths onto the hill. The Old Dog almost disappears into the scrub and bushes overgrowing the path. A kestrel is circling overhead. Every now and then it stops and hovers. I'm not quick enough to take any photos.
We walk down towards the cow field and back to the lane home.
"I wonder how much further the pound will have gone down while we were out."
"The markets are closed, like I said."
"Phew. At least we get a couple of days without losing more money."