I turn into the Spinney at the moment a clock announces the time. It must be our local church about a mile away to the south west, although others are audible with the wind in the right direction. Parishes are units of sound as well as government, their borders regulated by the atmosphere. Their character, too, the chimes I have just heard plodding and sombre in tune with the cloud. The lane comes under a number of jurisdictions: sensory as well as procedural, imagined no less than real. I think of labourers in the fields on either side counting down the hours. Wakeful nights made sonorous and companionable. Local conscripts in the trenches dreaming of bells. Whole lives were spent within earshot of their summons, an experience we think of as limiting – although my taste of it this past year has not been so bad. As others have pointed out, there is something to be said for knowing a small world well.
My walk proceeds, one of those days when noticing requires little effort or elaboration. The empty can which landed in the hedge has found its way to the ground, perhaps blown there, although it has not been windy; dislodged by a scavenger; or having its support taken away by the shedding of leaves. The splinter of old road sign, recumbent in the verge, has its concave side facing upwards and is filling with debris from the oak overhead. I notice, however, that nothing is falling from the trees today, a moratorium hard to explain given the descent previously noted in all types of weather. The grass in the Paddy looks very green but the central part of the field is occupied by a floppy-eared plant which covers the earth with the diligence of a crop, not the ragedness of a weed. Birds fidget in front of the white cottage: tree sparrows, blue tits and a couple of chaffinches, dropping to the ground. These observations are loyal to what I intended in the lane, events recorded without regard to their significance. A buzzard crosses in front of me, its wings shrugging to maintain altitude, and I see myself through its eye: upright, earthbound, indigenous.