The Sticks

"The fog's cleared. We wouldn't have had this sunshine if we'd come out at our usual time."

"Tell that to the dogs. They've been waiting so long they'd almost given up," moaned the Webmaster.

"You asked me to look at the photo display code your dad sent."

"Yeah, well, I'm sure he'll like what you've done."

"It doesn't seem as foggy as earlier in the week, and it isn't cold."

"So I don't need a sweatshirt and a fleece?"

"Haha, you have to decide. I'm not falling for that one, so you can blame me is you are too hot or too cold," replies the Webmaster, helpfully.

"I'll take my gloves just in case."

It is mid morning. We set off down the lane. The winter sun is shining weakly through the mist.

"I said we'd meet them about 11:30 so we'll need to set off about 10," says the Webmaster. He is referring to a trip he has planned to meet his dad the following day.

"It's not so cold today. It looks quite warm and sunny after the cold week."

"If we're quick we can get in a short walk, we don't have much time and after the snow most places will be muddy."

"We could do the Tongue Lane and route and come back up through the fields to church & back over Marshes Hill. It's only about 5km and most of it will be on the road."

We set off down the lane. The air is still cool but it feels warmer in the sun.

"So she's got her bag back at last."

"Why are we doing this?"

"I need the exercise and you won't go for a run. Come on, hurry up, I haven't got a lot of time. "

We set off without the dogs and head down the lane. It is early afternoon, just before 2 o'clock. A late lunch break from work. The weather is dull, misty with a slight drizzle possibly low cloud. We walk quickly, the clock ticking before I need to be back at my desk.

"This is nice," said the Webmaster, "a benefit of working at home."

"Even in this weather? Does it make up for all the cups of tea you feel obliged to keep making for me?"

"Come on, if we don't go now we'll never go."

"I'm still tired."

"The fresh air will wake you up. I know you, you'll be grouchy if you don't get some exercise and it'll be my fault."

"Yeah yeah, I know, I'm coming. Where shall we go?"

"Just something short," suggested the Webmaster. "If we stay on the roads we can avoid the mud. I don't want the dogs getting wet and dirty."

"It's a nice day, but the wind is cold," says the Webmaster, fastening his coat. "But not that cold."

The Student is wrapped up in many layers again as we set off for a short morning walk. She seems determined to notice the cold and contrast it with the mild winter climate of California.

There is still ice on the road but it is thawing quickly where it is in the direct sunlight. 

"Walk on this side, it isn't so icy," advises the Webmaster.

 It is a cold, grey day with fine drizzle. We set of down the lane with the dogs.

"My hands are numb already," complains the Webmaster after less than 200 metres.

"I've pulled my sleeves down over mine. I should have brought gloves but it didn't feel this cold when I went for a run this morning and I didn't think I'd need them."

"The wind is cold, you might have been more sheltered down there."

It's a lot warmer than yesterday, I don't need my gloves, but I'll take them just in case."

The Webmaster, the Student and I set off with the two dogs for our last walk of 2016. Mid morning on New Year's Eve, warm but not sunny, damp but not raining.

At the bottom of the lane we turn right into the farm yard to take the path through the woods.

"It's likely to be muddy. Any frost will have gone," predicts the Webmaster.

"Most of the frost has gone. It looks quite nice out but I think I'll take my gloves."

"Don't open the door until the dog is on his lead."

It is mid morning. The sun is bright and the sky blue. A lovely winter's day. There are still patches of ice on the lane where the direct sunlight has not yet reached."

"Walk on the right, it's not as icey."

"We need to go now otherwise it will be dark before we get back. I didn't expect it would take so long to sort out the Gopro."

"Will I need my wellies?

"We'll have time to go round the lake, so yes."

The dogs have settled down. They gave up pestering for a walk at about lunch time. Now they sense that we are getting ready they follow us around, getting in the way.

"We're going for a walk. Are you coming?" the Webmaster asks the Student.

"Yes. I'll be ready in five minutes. Where are we going?"

"Just round the Marshes Hill road loop, we don't have much time."

Five minutes later the Student appears dressed for the Arctic. We calm the dogs, attach their leads and set off. The Student takes charge of the Young Dog while the Webmaster locks the door.

"I'm tired," said the Student, "on my time it's 3am."

"A nice, brisk, Winter walk will wake you up. Let's have some breakfast and then we'll go. The Webmaster will make us some porridge."

"Oatmeal. The Americans call it oatmeal."

"Well these are rolled oats. We used to get oatmeal but its quicker to make with the rolled oats and easier to get them gluten free."

"No, they call the porridge oatmeal."

"Which way?"

"Tongue Lane and up to the church? We can go along the Rocks and then back up from the village. Or do you want to go round the lake? We didn't go for a run today."

"No, let's stick to the lanes. It might be muddy and I don't want the dog to get dirty. She hasn't been very well this week."

"Is it cold? Do I need a hat and gloves?"


"So not 'terribly mild' then like in the week?"

"Come on, hurry up."

"Are you sure I need to go too. I"m not doing the race."

"Yes, you need to come. Get changed."

The Webmaster pretends to be reluctant and makes a lot of whining and whinging noises as he changes into his running kit.

"I haven't got any decent running shoes, only these," he says holding up a pair of dirty, worn out shoes he used for walking during the Summer and before he bought his boots.

"It's going to be dark soon," warned the Webmaster. It is mid afternoon and the dogs have settled down. They have given up on the idea of a walk to day.

"I'm  coming now. That was my Dad phoning back about their website. He says their webmaster will call you later to find out what we did, and he asked if we wanted the £300. I told him 'no', we'd do it this once for free."

"Will we be OK with out the torches?"

"Should be if we just do the short route."

"Come on, let's go before I change my mind."

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"You entered me in the race so you can help me train. I haven't done any running for over three months."

"My knee will hurt."

"It's all in your mind. No it won't. Take it steady instead of rushing off like an idiot."

"Have you got the app for identifying the stars?"

"It's cloudy, I'm the only star you'll see tonight."

"Haha. I think my torch needs new batteries, it keeps flashing at me. I'll take the Student's torch as well as mine."

"It's cold. I'm putting a coat over my fleece."

"The sky looks interesting. A few very pale pink streaks of cloud, wispy and quite high."

It is dusk as we walk down the lane.

"Yeah, and cold. It's been getting colder all day."

"I'm OK with this thick fleece now but I might get too hot when we've been walking for a while even in this cold."

"Come on, if we don't go soon it will be dark before we get back," the Webmaster urges. It is early afternoon and usually by this time on a Sunday we are returning from our walk not just setting off.

Outside it is warmer than yesterday, but not so bright. It appears to be going dark but it is still only 14:30 so the overcast sky is more likely to be the cause of the gloom.

"I think we need to keep it short otherwise it will be dark before we get back and I haven't brought a torch," I say when we are half way down the lane, "we can go on the Tongue Lane and St. Anne's route. We should have time to go all the way down to the feeder."

"Hang on. The dog won't move." The Webmaster calls for me to wait as I reach the gate and turn down the lane. I look back. The Young Dog is standing transfixed. Staring across the garden. "There's a cat up there somewhere and he won't move if he can see a cat."

"You need to get that dog under control. You haven't trained it properly. It can do anything it likes and it has no idea you are annoyed with it. At least make it know it is misbehaving."

I shout the dog's name and distract it for long enough for the Webmaster to get it moving.

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