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Courthill, Buittle – 11/5/20

Frost and a bitter north wind. It takes me twenty minutes to cycle out and check the cows at sunrise, and that journey pulls me down the glen through oystercatcher territories and beneath the whirl of curlews. It’s fine to be out at first light, but the breeze sought to saw me in half this morning as I pedalled and caught the reeky blast of bluebells and whinn and rising bracken. Shelducks gabbled over the knowes, and light marked the hills where a flag of snow remains in the high corrie of Corserine. I can’t remember snow ever having lain so long there, but without rain to wash it away, perhaps it’s no surprise.

Young rabbits thumped their tubs in the verges, and I weaved past the kirk and the hedgefoots where hares lounge and lap their breasts like cats. In the deeper shade of a birchwood, ice lay across the road and rapped my bare knuckles with a rip of cold. A roebuck was caught late in the rushes, and he turned to watch me by with his new antlers amber and unrubbed.

Then over the brow to the beasts where they stand or lie in a loose gathering above the bay. Another morning without progress, and again I am tormented by the delay. The bull went to them on the fifth of August, so nine months later and I’m wracked with impatience again. Some seem imminent, but they have seemed imminent now for a week or more. I start to lose faith at another wasted trip, but there’s light on Caigton and Barchain where a single thorn tree has stood for the entirety of my life and broken the bare horizon towards Kelton. As a child, I used to pretend it was an acacia tree and hoped to find blesbok flicking their tails in the shade of it. Now it is a cool and familiar landmark on a well-trodden knuckle of hill. Rich whinn flowers rise around it, and a yellowhammer sings as I head home for breakfast.

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