10th Jan, 2010. Some days there is little to say. The sky is overcast, a dozen shades of grey. And not as cold; in fact, it seems the snow has thawed in places. There is surely less of it about. Perhaps it has just bedded in, snuggled down more closely to the earth, contracted a little under the weight of its own emptiness. I take route three, but anti-clockwise, and head up towards the village of Histon. The white fields are emptied of birds. The snow is studded with the prints of various creatures, mostly rabbits I guess, but they have blurred back into the snow and are indecipherable. Back on the road I pass a man carrying skis and poles, with a dog on a leash. Surely not? I am doubtful… there is barely enough snow, there is not a slope sufficient within several miles, and the dog does not look up to it. I would like to see how they get on, but it is too cold to tarry.
I take a slightly different route, and run through the old part of the village, up towards the squat church tower, with a bell on top. A gaggle of hard-core cyclists, heads down, all yellow and black, helmeted and lycra-legged, whirr past like a tight flock of birds on a mission. I walk through the snowy graveyard and the sound of an organ, then singing, drifts out of the church. It is Sunday after all. Choir practice. I nudge open the porch door, just an inch, to get a better listen, and release a wedge of sound into the freezing air.
I turn off the village street onto the old track, Gun’s Lane, heading for Ely to the north. A couple of grey squirrels, fluffed up in their winter furs, looking chic, bounce along the top of a wooden fence. The going is good to begin with, but the track soon breaks up into a jagged, rutted, volcanic mess of frozen mud churned up by tractors and horses, and I have to walk.
A horse, two fields away, sees me and whinnies in greeting as if I was a long-lost pal. I wave back. Apart from some small unidentifiable birds, little more than blurs at the edge of vision, flicking and flittering along the hedge, the land is empty – no congregations of rooks or seagulls or pigeons today, no animals, no people. I find this strange. It is relatively mild compared to the last few days, it is dry, only the lightest of breezes is blowing out of the east, and it is Sunday. White flags are fluttering in a large beet field… some kind of truce perhaps, a short-term ceasefire? Or a cunning ploy to fool the pigeons? I reach the B-road and it is so smooth and easy and snow-free to run on I positively bound back through the hamlet of Westwick, thinking of breakfast.