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Monthly Archives: February 2013

With Jay away for a couple of days I could have had a lie-in, but that is never the way of things. When he isn’t there I wake too briskly and there is no point in lingering unless there is a good book to keep me in place. This morning there was a good book, but I had been reading it into the small hours last night and felt that I should be out making the most of lack of rain.

Snow clouds gathering

Blousey clouds billow softly on the horizon

Sunlight streamed across the valley, lighting the hazy, purple clouds that blew softly towards us, picking out the snowdrops in sparkling white. There wasn’t a sharp line to be seen anywhere as low light sparkled the wetness that lingered on the fields, shimmering off a million droplets of water that clung to the winter wheat. As we reached the top of the hills the wind buffetted against us, tugging at Hoover’s ears, making me glad that I had covered mine.

The bare winter landscape can be breathtakingly beautiful, black branches stark against a chill sky, sun glinting off the sharp edges of flints in the fields, Hoover frisked along the headland, checking out the hedgerows, always finding plenty to investigate as I shoved my hands deeper into my pockets, intent on finding warmth.

The edge of the blanket is flashed with blue

The edge of the blanket is flashed with blue

The blanket of cloud that was rolling towards us from the west had yet to hit the sun which struggled to conjure up any warmth as the wind shook my confidence.
“Maybe it won’t be that long a walk,” I suggested to Hoover. She ran ahead to see what lay around the corner, checking over her shoulder that I was make adequate progress as expected. Finding me further behind her than she liked, she bounded back for a biscuit and reassurance; hers or mine I am never sure.

As we turned down the path to the next valley the light faded as the clouds swept over the sun, dousing its brilliance and dispelling any thought of a spring morning.

A brave sun

A swallowed sun glows mutely in the chill morning

I turned up my collar, pulling the zip higher to keep out the wind that fought to find its way into every little crevice. Hoover checked out the hedges. Have deer passed this way? Was that a fox travelling through? I spot a nifty rabbit dive for cover while Hoover looked the other way.
“You missed that one,” I laughed. Hoover danced around me in celebration of cheerfulness.

A misleading break in the clouds

A misleading break in the clouds

Brisk walking kept me warm, but my heart was chilled by the plick of rain hitting my jacket. Hoover scuttled back to my side. Cold she can cope with when her woolly coat is thick; wind is no hardship, playing with her ears as it wafts in with promises of far distant delights to be found. But rain she doesn’t like, and she rattles her ears to shake off the droplets.
“We’ll turn right at the top,” I decided, “and keep it short.” But by the time we got there the rain had gone. The sun had won its battle. A shaft of light gilded the trees as we arrived and Hover looked suggestively at the other tracks that headed further afield.

Persuasive sunshine

A blast of sun brings rash decisions

“I guess we’ve weathered the worst,” I told Hoover. “We’ll carry on” Hoover expressed her delight by skipping under the barrier and launching upwards. I ducked under it and follow her lead. The walking had made me warm and although the breeze ruffled my hair I was as keen as Hoover to make the most of our hills. She paused to let me catch up.

What lies ahead?

Hoover checks the on-coming weather

Three minutes

Three minutes since sunshine

Settling snow

A couple of minutes later the snow was settling

Three minutes later I felt the first zing of snow thrust its needle sharp spikes at my cheeks. Out of nowhere I blizzard was upon us and the hills disappeared in whiteness, Within minutes Hoover and I were battling our way, shoulder hunched, heads down. Hoover tucked her head close to my thigh as I held my hands up to shelter my face from the icy blast. The snow fell so fast that even shaking her head only made for momentary freedom from the crusting of Hoover’s eyebrows.

Snow Hoover

Snow Hoover

Two valleys from home we turned east out of the wind at last. Now that it was finally at our backs the lull of warmth was more than welcome. My shouldes relaxed, my hands dropped to my sides and I lifted my eye to the hills again. There, under the dark clouds, beyond the scudding snow, was a shaft of blue that promised sunshine to come. As we dropped into the next valley the snow stopped and by the time we rose to the top of the final hill and looked down into the village all trace of snow was gone again. Hoover paused to check who had passed by a clump of grass and I saw the hills beyond her bathed in sunlight again.

Spring returns

Spring returns

And as we headed back down the path towards the church the fields sparkled in sunshine again and the sheep emerged from the sheltering lea of the hedges. The dark clouds were lifting as blue sky pushed them out of the way. Breakfast was going to be a celebratory feast.

Dark clouds lifting

Dark clouds lifting

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Just at the moment Hoover and I seem to race from place to place. At the start of the week we leap onto the train and head off to Manchester.

Atta on The stairs

Atta checks that Hoover is in her place

Here life is different to home. Cats glare at her from elevated points. Otto quickly realised that Hoover was no threat to life as he plays it. If she has gone to sleep he stalks her tail and at the first hint of movement pounces on it and is amazed that Hoover objects. Seconds later he has forgotten and is on the prowl again. Atta is a different kettle of fish. It has taken him ages to emerge from under the bed and now he checks out each room before he struts past, tail held high in disdain of the woolly monster who has been permitted to breath in his house. Mostly he just peers at her through the banisters and shoots black looks at her. Hoover remains blissfully unaware.

Hoover sleeps soundly

Sharing a bed is not a concept that Hoover has really taken to heart

Part of Hoover’s general state of bliss in Manchester is that she and I share a room at night. We started with Hoover having a cushion on which she could sleep, but I woke in the morning to find that she had crept onto my bed during the night. Now there is no pretence. She lurks as I prepare for bed and bounds onto the duvet as soon as I pull it over me. There is then a period of negotiation.
“You go over there,” I say firmly. She settles down on a corner that gives me plenty of space to stretch out. Then she extends out a leg. And then another. And just rests her head gently on my thigh…

At some stage of the night I usually wake to find that she has spread herself magnificently across the centre of the bed and I am clinging to the edge. After a period of shoving and shunting, Hoover is removed to ‘her corner’ and I am reinstated centre stage. By full light I find myself once again on the precipice with Hoover neatly curled into the crook of my legs, the duvet pinned firmly between us and little remaining to protect a chilly shoulder. How I long for Jay’s calm and stable presence. I am wondering what will happen next time Jay comes with us. A cushion will have to be found and insisted upon. I will report later…

Hoover and the beagle

Hoover finds new friends with whom to play

Walks in Manchester are different, too. Pavements are filled with exotic smells that have to be investigated. Bits of food linger enticingly where they have been dropped by passing strangers who clearly have a mind to leave them for curious dogs. Hoover now knows the way to the park, turning left smartly on leaving the front door and heading off at a brisk pace past the shops. Once there she bounces through the gate, checking out which of her friends is waiting for her already – Josie the Cairn terrier who will not come back to her owner; the frenetic beagle puppy who runs and runs and runs, until even Hoover falls behind exhausted; the hairy cross something whose human has a better throwing ability than I. And all those abandoned and lost balls that Hoover discovers afresh each day. Heaven!

Sunrise at home

Sunrise at home

But no matter how much Hoover loves her grey walks, I still long for the green walks of home and on Thursday mornings we head back into the hills. The rising sun breaks through the low cloud, promising a fine day as the wind tugs at our ears and hair. Who needs a ball to throw when there is a scent of deer on the wind?

Hoover checks the breeze

Ready for anything