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"It's getting cold."

"I've got my woolly gloves. Pity about the holes in the two index fingers. You could have bought me a new pair for my birthday. 99p from the local supermarket."

"Shame about the tree. I did think it was supposed to be like that."

"I've started looking through the old photos for a picture of what it used to be like. Twenty five feet tall tree in the garden and we didn't notice it had died."

 

We set off on our usual evening walk. Our neighbour is trimming another section of his hedges.

"A bit of artificial intelligence in the trimmer would help."

"He doesn't need artificial intelligence. He's got real intelligence in his head. Look how accurate and neat he's doing it."

"But he'd be able to do it quicker, drive his tractor faster without having to concentrate so hard on the trimmer. Move across, I don't want to walk in this cow sh*t."

"You whimp. It's all swept clean. You can see the brush marks." It is clear that the cows have been walking down the road but also that someone has swept up after them to move the mud and muck. There isn't anything to walk in, just stains on the road.

"But I've got holes in my shoes."

At the bottom the the lane the Webmaster makes to continue on the road: "Not so fast, let's go this way," I say pointing up the hill. "You aren't going to distract me again tonight."

We climb the stile. The Webmaster groans and exagurates the state of the ground but even with holes in his shoes his feet can't get wet.

"There was a funny tweet about Boris. Seems he said he'd lie in front of the bulldozers to stop them building the new runway at Heathrow airport and someone said, 'Well, why not? He lied in front of a bus.' Nice use and misuse of English."

"If he lay down in front of a bulldozer I bet there would be a lot of people hoping it would drive over him."

"Not very nice, but yes. There were also jokes about a spike in demand for plant hire in the Heathrow area!"

"Why does London need another runway. Why not somewhere further North?"

"I've got a book somewhere: 'An airport strategy for Britain' from about 1975, when I was at uni. It made me laugh. They were justifying expansion of London airports because it had most passengers and freight. People travelled from all over Britiain to use Heathrow! It never seemed to occur to the people wrinting the report that for many destinations at the time there was little choice. A few years later I had to travel to Heathrow for a flight to Iceland. It took me nearly as long to get to London, heading in the wrong direction, as the flight to Keflavik."

We have reached the top of the hill. A couple with a large, reddish dog are walking through the car park towards us. We pass them at the bottom of the steps. It is still light but dull. As we turn right out of the car park the view in front of us is flat and grey, barely any colour in the sky from the setting sun, no features picked out in the weak evening light.

"I've almost given up reading comments under articles on Brexit, even those I agree with that reinforce my existing prejudices. I'm sick of how quickly they degenerate into little better than slanging matches between the "I love my f**king country" brigade and "You're too thick to know what you've done" responses. Some people give their reasons why they thought voting Leave was a good idea and they are likely to be open to proper debate..."

"I don't see many of them on Facebook, all the Brexiters I see on Facebook are the single minded defenders of patriotism. Never seen one reason why they think Brexit makes it better"

"Well there are some, hopefully the majority, and I don't think shouting them down or suggesting they're all racist idiots helps. It would piss me off and it justifies the accusations of out of touch arrogance and tars us all with the same brush."

"Yeah, I don't always agree with you but I'd never dare call you an idiot, even if you are."

"Mmm. "

"Did you hear a cat?" The Webmaster stops and looks around. Distraction tactics. "Yes, there it is." He points to a large ginger cat sitting on a low wall less than two metres to our right.

"Nice looking cat." 

We are walking quickly and are soon climbing up into the field and past the horses. One, wearing a red blanket, is grazing under a nearby tree.

"We should go straight on. Through the marsh, I'll show you the way. You won't get your feet wet if you follow me."

"Oh, if we must."

"Yep. It's my birthday, so I get to chose the route."

We cross the road and step over the stile into the field. The path through the first couple of fields is dry. It doesn't get wet until about the third field. The Webmaster is walking along in front, his shoes making a distinctive squelch with each step. "Are your feet getting wet?"

"Yes" he growls.

"Oh. Mine aren't. They didn't get wet last night either. You should follow me. I know how to get through without getting wet feet."

"Do you?" he says and steps off the path to avoid a section that looks muddy. "Sh*t, f**k" expletives explode from his mouth as he sinks into the ground and water runs into his shoes.

"Wet feet? I told you to follow me."

"Grrrrr..."

We reach the stile and cross back onto firm ground and then out onto the road. We switch on the head torches and head back to the hill, wet feet forgotton.

"The pub is very quiet."

"Only three cars outside, but it is early. Six thirty and this isn't the sort of place people stop off at on the way home from work."

"I suppose not. We used to come past much later. Maybe it will get busier later."

"The guy in the post office was fairly gloomy about the village. He says trade is down. Not enough to keep the shops and pubs going. It will be a shame if the post office closes."

"Why does he think its happening?"

"Didn't say. May be people shopping on the internet and getting deliveries. Don't know."

The car park gate is still open. We speculate that it is closed at the same time each evening regardless of when dusk actually is. There are no cars on the car park, not many people drive here in the dark.

We make our way back up the steps to the top of the hill. In the distance we see a shadow moving and then two green eyes flash at us. The disembodied eyese of a large, probably black, dog. It is on a parallel path to us heading in the opposite direction. As we pass it turns around and its eyes follow us for a while.

At the post the Webmaster stops for a wee. It is becoming a ritual. Is he marking his territory like a dog? This time I am prepared. Gloves already off. Flash on. Snap. But it isn't a good picture. Just the back of some bloke standing in the dark looking out at nothing.

"It's Parkhall on Saturday" I say referring to the second race in the cross country series. "I hope it won't be cold and it doesn't rain... I think the Student has another race, somewhere near San Fransisco. It won't be cold there."

"A proper race or another where she is pacing at a ridiculously slow pace?" asked the Webmaster referring to the time she volunteered to pace a half marathon only to find the only slot left was for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

"A real race. Like the one she did a couple of weeks ago at Santa Clara. We need to find some new routes we can do in the dark."

"We should go in the day. You can catch up with work later. We can't see much in the dark"

"Yeah. We can do that. But not everyday. It's romantic in the dark."

"Come on. We're nearly back. I might open a little something to celebrate your birthday."