Last week, we went on holiday for a few days to Norfolk, and stayed in the same cottage that we rented last summer. Our departure was delayed by a day because of the snow, but we made it there eventually. On one evening, we had a wonderful walk to one of the local pubs. One of the things we miss living in our current location is a nice1 local pub that we can walk to. Our nearest nice pub is nearly an 8 mile round-trip, and while we do walk there occasionally, it’s not something we do often. Having a nice local pub is not just about the alcohol (honestly!): it’s lovely to have a pleasant, convivial place in which to spend some time, where you can chat to other people if you like, or just sit quietly gazing at a cosy open fire.
There’s a lovely pub just across the village green from the cottage we stayed in, and we went in there a few times for drinks and food, but on this occasion, we fancied a bit of a walk and a change of scenery. We were also giddy with the knowledge that there were two great pubs within walking distance, and it seemed rude not to go to both. The other pub was about 2 miles away, which seemed the perfect distance for a pre- and post-prandial stroll. We had booked ourselves in for an early meal, so we set off just as dusk was falling. We were deep in the countryside, and it was an easy walk along very quiet country roads. This part of North Norfolk is actually quite undulating (for Norfolk), so the road wound in a pleasing way through dips and hollows, and through patches of woodland. As we passed, wood pigeons clattered noisily from the tree tops, disturbed by our arrival. Once they had left, it was so quiet that we could hear the wind gently ruffling the crowns of the trees. It was as cold as it has been everywhere this ‘spring’, but the sun had been shining throughout the day, and we were warmed by the exercise. The ploughed fields curved softly away from us like plump duvets. The light was that lovely indeterminate dusky violet, blueing the shadows. Everything seemed soft and gentle and calm.
In an open field, we caught sight of two hares, standing watchful on the bare soil. I don’t know why, but hares always seem much more special than rabbits, somehow. They are rarer, certainly, and perhaps the weight of folklore surrounding hares makes them seem vaguely unsettling, even to people who think of themselves as rational scientists. Certainly, there is something otherworldly about the way that they manage to appear and disappear in such open landscapes, as if they slip into another dimension when you are not watching them. What I’m trying to say is that seeing a hare always feels special, a privilege.
When we left the pub later, warm and full of beer (him), cider (me) and Sticky Toffee Apocalypse0, it was fully dark. Except that we noticed — to our delight — that there was a full moon and a splendidly starry sky. We had a torch with us for the walk back, but we preferred to use the moonlight instead. Our two moonshadows preceded us down the road, leading the way. We kept stopping and turning to look at the moon at our backs, marvelling about how bright its light was. That’s another thing we miss, living in the city: proper darkness. One of the views we had of the moon behind us was through the still-bare branches of a huge and ancient oak. It looked so magical that I tried to take a photo with the only camera I had on me at the time (my iPhone). As you can see above, it’s possibly the worst photo I’ve ever taken2, but I love it because it just about captures how magical that evening was.
I’ve been ill with ‘flu for the past week, but writing about that evening has helped to lift my mood a bit as I sit here surrounded by crumpled tissues, traffic noise and greying slush outside.