Two black Labradors were barking at each other from opposite sides of the street while their owners conducted a loud conversation about black Labradors above the noise.
On the way up to the manor house, I disturbed a heron. I'd thought it was one of those plastic ones until it flapped around in a panic and took off. As I walked back down the drive, I heard a rustling noise in the trees above me. I looked up in time to avoid a squirrel as it lost its grip and fell, landing with a surprisingly load slap on the tarmac. It looked at me, startled, and set off across the lawn.
At the lodge, the dog had shat in its food bowl.
A man in a white Transit van with a sheep’s skull fastened to its radiator and a crude depiction of an ejaculating penis in the dirt across its back doors, stopped to ask me for directions to Bradley farm. I told him to turn right just after Redgates, “You can’t miss it," I said, "it’s got massive red gates”.
When I arrived at Redgates, a half hour later, the distinctive gates had gone, replaced by some temporary safety barriers. I asked the owner what had happened. “They’re in the garage”, he said, “It’s been so wet recently, I took them off for re-painting to give the gardeners something to do. Otherwise they’ll sit around drinking fucking tea all day.
On my way home, I called in at the shop. Two young women came in after me, followed by a short man in a shiny old bomber jacket. I took my things to the man at the till—the Asian one with the greying bob and pencil moustache. As he checked out my stuff, the bomber jacket man walked behind me and out of the shop without buying anything. The till man glanced up and watched him out of the door, "There's some odd characters around" he said.
“Did he just walk out without paying?” I asked.
“No,” said the till man “I think he just saw those girls and followed them in for a closer look.”
“No way!” I said, incredulously.
The till man laughed and said, a bit louder than he’d intended, “I know! There’s some fucking sad bastards around here in’t there!” and he slapped his palm across his mouth, looking sideways to check there were no other customers within earshot.
Things people said by way of a greeting today:
A woman in the middle of washing her hair: “Oh dear.”
A man wearing ear defenders and three days of stubble: “Alright?”
A man wearing a football kit to lay a patio: “Hello.”
A thin man with unruly grey hair, an unkempt full beard and very clean new trainers: “Ayups!”
A man in a North Face fleece: “Oh, hiya there!”
A man wearing yellow gloves to push a wheelbarrow: “Morning!”
A slim, grey haired woman restraining a black labrador: “Hellooo! He’s a big softy.”
A man of a similar age to me wearing a hooded top and tartan shorts: “Hi lad.”
A very pale old man in a grey sweatshirt: “I have a lot of things wrong with me, but I’m not deaf.” (After I’d knocked loudly at his door).
A man in a ski jacket and hat said nothing but raised his eyebrows and smiled.
The bald man in the Fair Isle sweater said nothing and made no discernible acknowledgement of my presence, even when I said hello to him and handed him his mail.
In the road outside his house there was a dead sparrow, only about ten yards from where I saw the dead fox in March.