5.30 a.m.: it’s windy and fallen leaves are following me down the street. The man who wears head-to-toe waterproofs whatever the weather is twenty yards in front of me on the other side of the road. He makes to cross over to my side but when he sees me he dithers briefly and turns back. He then runs the hundred yards to the traffic lights at the bottom and turns right into town.
I slip on a patch of rock salt on Victoria Street where Alan Titchmarsh’s noughties decking is slimy and rotten and the woman with the NHS lanyard is smoking on her doorstep.
Margaret is in the ‘Bistro’ with her coat on eating fried eggs, chips, beans, and milky tea.
The woman at the bus stop says that the sport of boxing is ‘a work of art’.
Out in the sticks, it starts to rain heavily and the last of the autumn leaves line the gutters in yellow. At one of the big houses on the ridge, I can see two photographs through the glass front door; an informal group shot of men wearing chinos, and the front end of a 1980s Porsche 924 taken from a low angle.
At the manor house golf club, the food smells like 1970s school dinners and the sign in the car park says Residence Parking [sic]. There’s a dead shrew on the drive under the enormous poplars.
Up in the village, there’s a Jaguar parked on every street corner and the air is fresh apart from the occasional whiff of a wood burning stove.
Beech hedges rustle their parchment leaves in the wind and the starlings are swanee whistling in the tops of the trees. I stop to talk to the man who is building the septic tank. He tells me he used to be a line engineer for the National Grid. I ask him how they get the cables across ravines and valleys and he says they usually use fishing line and a bow and arrow but on one occasion he used a model aeroplane.
Four mud-spattered men with half-a-dozen spaniels pass us, they are followed by a quad bike with three dozen dead pheasants slung over a line across the back.
Back in town, the old man in the beige anorak and matching polyester slacks with frayed hems has taken exception to the music coming from the Skoda Octavia Estate. 'Turn your music down!' he growls aggressively. The Skoda man blows cigarette smoke out of the window and ignores him and the old man skulks away with his heavy bags for life (one from the Co-op and one from Sainsbury’s).