"Change your shoes, we can go in five minutes" says the Webmaster as the Worker comes in through the door.
"I"m very tired."
"We don't have to go for a walk if you don't want to" offers the Webmaster, sounding slightly disappointed.
"Let's go. It might make me feel better."
The Webmaster looks for the torches. We had forgotten them last night, but fortunately we had set out early and had managed an extended evening walk while it was still light enough to be safe on the lane without them.
The Old Dog barks as we walk down the drive way without her. As we approach the gate the Webmaster says: "And the Webmaster says ..". He has taken to saying this each night as we begin our walk. He thinks it is amusing.
We turn right into the lane and as we pass our farmyard entrance we see our friends emerging from the stable block where they keep their horse. "Hello" shouts the Webmaster. We stop to chat. There is a shiny almost new car parked in the yard.
"It's not ours. Ours is in the garage. We've borrowed that one" explained the Grandmaster.
I am dangling my head torch from my fingers, swinging it from side to side. "Oh, it's a light. It looked like a catapult," said the Rider, "you'll need it soon. When the sun goes it gets dark very quickly." She pauses. "Have you had your hair cut?" she asks the Webmaster.
The Webmaster is not sure what to say, so I fill the gap for him: "No he's just going..." and in hushed voice "bald." She laughs. The Webmaster pretends he hasn't heard.
"Last night a runner was going down from the top near the pub and he was wearing black. We didn't see him until the last minute. He had such a small light, it looked barely more than a cigarette. His batteries must have been running low." The apparent near miss had clearly unsettled them.
"We've got two lights, a red one for behind and a white for the front" said the Webmaster.
"If I go running in the dark I use both."
"Don't forget my band's playing on 29th" the Grandmaster reminded us. "Magnificent drummer and first rate bass."
"And an interesting sax player" interrupted the Webmaster.
"No, he's an excellent sax player," corrected the Grandmaster.
"The pub's closed for rennovations. Will it be open on time?"
"Yes, first band on after it reopens earlier in the week."
"We'll be there" I say, "but we'd better go or it will be dark before we've started."
We set off down the lane. The Webmaster explains his comment about the sax player and the dilema he causes for the rest of the band.
"This way." I point to the stile and the path up the steep end of the hill. The ground is still very soft but the Webmaster makes it across the mud onto the firmer ground without complaining about holes in his shoes or wet feet.
"Haaaph, this drains my legs, going up here, ahhph" groaned the Webmaster.
"Just put in a bit more effort and 'feel for the rhythm, lad'" I reply, quoting the founder member of our running club. "It works. You should do the Summer Series."
"I do. Every race."
"No, not organising. Running. You know, round the courses."
The Webmaster continues to puff and pant his way up the hill. "I'm getting warm" he says. But a few minutes later he is walking at a brisk pace, showing no signs of tiredness.
"Have we heard from the Student recently?"
"Not since last night."
"Yeah, what was that about? Ninety something."
"Mid-term test results. She seems to have got very high marks. I wonder what the pass mark is."
We are walking along the sandy path, still gently rising , towards the top of the hill. The sun has now gone down and off to our right the lower layers of cloud are streaked pink and orange. One or two blackbirds are still circling above. Suddenly they swoop down and land in the field on our left.
"We only see blackbirds at this time" observed the Webmaster.
"I haven't seen the linnets here for a while, and we didn't see those black and white birds again tonight. The ones we saw in the lane below the gate last night."
"Is that what they are?"
"I don't know but they look a bit like them."
We walk through the car park. There are no cars, but as we walk towards the entrance, a black car turns in.
"That's the man with the key" said the Webmaster.
As we reach the road we turn on our torches.
"I've put mine on a low beam. I can still see well enough. It's just to make us visible to any traffic." The Webmaster sets his light to red and pulls the elasticated strap onto his head.
The road slopes steeply down to join the lane which skirts the hill and continues into the village. We turn towards the village. In the gloom we see someone walking towards us, at the height of his knees is an array of six amber eyes glinting as the light from our torches picks them out. Three dogs out for their early evening walk. We pass them and turn left into Chapel Lane.
"There is supposed to be a good view of the vale from the other side" said the Webmaster, "and an old house called Bleak House."
"What, like Charles Dickens?"
We reach the stone climb up to the stile and clamber over into the field. We need the lights now, both pointing ahead, to see the way. The Webmaster is leading the way as we climb the second stile into the horses' field. The horses are off in the distance, grazing. On Sunday when we came this way with the dogs they were obstructing the third stile and we had to persuade them to move before the dogs could pass. The Young Dog had seemed wary of them and we had speculated on whether he had been kicked while a pup. The ground underfoot has been cut up by the horses' hooves. There is almost no grass. This is where they gather when expecting their owner to arrive with her bucket of carrots.
"Have you seen the campaign to stop buying the Sun newspaper."
"Yes, what is that all about? Something to do with Gary Lineker?"
"Only seen comments on Twitter, but he stood up for refugees and apparently two MPs called on the BBC to sack him, and the Sun has been stirring it too. There have been a lot of horrible comments about him on social media."
"What's the world coming to when people can be treated so badly just for showing a bit of humanity. And a national newpaper stirring it up too."
"Well you saw Question Time last night. The Polish woman explaining how after 23 years she felt unwelcome and the school teacher explaining that the kids have interpreted the current situation as a licence to say nasty things to or about foreigners. If that is what Harlepool is like I think I'll stay away."
"But they don't have an argument. It's all just shouting down. Trying to have a debate is like plaiting fog."
"They were fairly quiet when Ken Clarke explained how parliamentary democracy worked, but then some thought it was an excuse to ignore 'the people'. And they heckled at Angela Rayner when she said that Brexit needed thinking about because she was sure they hadn't voted to lose their jobs."
"It didn't seem like a typical Question Time audience."
"It just seemed different. No real debate from the audience, less listening and more heckling."
"I don't like the expression 'the people'. I'm not one of those people and neither are 48% of those who voted. Like Clarke said, MPs have to consider all their constituents, not just thoes who voted for them. I don't even think everyone who voted Leave will identify with the group implied by 'the people' because it is used to shut down any debate. I'm sure most do want a sensible debate about the plans."
We are walking past the pub. It is still quiet, probably a little early yet for a Friday night out. We cross the road and head to towards the car park entrance. It is dark, well past dusk but the barrier is not locked. We walk on, along the drive, through the car park and up the steps, formed in the hill side with wooden sleepers.
"Did you see the comments about Carney made by Gove? There was a good tweet: someone asked if Gove had lost all sense of irony and self awareness when he criticised Carney for not accepting criticism. I think they are starting to suggest he is responsible for all the ecomonic ills about to hit the country. When everyone gets poorer and lots of people lose their jobs it will be his fault not the Brexiteers."
"Hello! Hello." A voice calls over to us. We stop to see who is calling. The man with the key is coming out of his house alongside the hill. He shouts again "Have you got a car in the car park?"
"No, thank you."
"OK, thank you."
"I'm getting warm" complained the Webmaster.
"But at least your feet are still dry, unlike last night."
We reach the track and turn down towards the lane. We readjust our lights, the Webmaster once again fixing the red light to the back of his head. We make our way down, parallel to the path on the hill through the cow field, round the right angle bend at the bottom and up again towards our house.
"Come on, come on" the Webmaster mutters as though urging himself to keep going.
There is one light on in the neighbours house but the dog is nowhere to be seen. We turn in through our gate.
"No cats," the Webmaster said with an air of disappointment, "they must already be inside."