New Year’s Day, 2010. It’s cold but brilliant. I head east up Water Lane. It’s already 8.30 but no-one is about to greet me, except the rooks below the vicarage that call down their rough and crusty craa-craas. South now, along the guided-busway again, towards Histon. The snowmelt pools and puddles from recent rains are frozen over, opaque round the edges like trachoma eyes, and the sod is frozen hard and jagged, difficult to run on, dangerous to fall on. The sun is straight ahead now, almost south I’d say at this season, and low on the horizon, even at this time of day, a little above eye-height and sending my enormous shadow back to where I’ve come from, exposing strange long regular swales and rises across the parkland opposite, the fossilized remains of a medieval open field, no? Some way off in the middle of a winter-wheat field, just showing through, sits a flock of seagulls, huddled and motionless, taking in the first warmth.
I reach the crossing, turning east again, with the lightest flecks of snow, diamond dust, floating past horizontally, more like pollen, and then north up the bridle-way and farm-track into the face of a freezing wind blowing steadily down from the North Sea. It’s cold, very cold, and I am forced to keep running just to stay warm. On one side of the track is a line of squat but mature horse-chestnuts, pink-flowered in the summer, half an avenue leading nowhere, but now every third tree dead with disease and one indeed now crashed to the ground, split straight through the bole. I race for shelter where the track runs beside a hedge as a huge flock of wood-pigeons, perhaps 500 strong, rise up over the horizon, surprisingly lithe and fast in high flight.
Back through the park of Westwick House, ignored by the sheep, grubby in their winter coats, plastic tags hanging from both ears like embarrassed revelers the morning after, except for one that eyes me suspiciously all the way. Then onto the road back home, passed by a single iced-up car, and a plucky girl delivering newspapers on a bike. I am, not surprisingly, knackered. Happy New Year.