Unremittingly — can you smell that mintyness that rises from the damp litter of fallen leaves?
We’ve enjoyed a long and beautiful Autumn. The beech woods have been aflame and the more sober oaks have held on to their russet leaves until just a few days ago.
But now suddenly, in one night, everything is changed!
The sky has cleared and the temperature has plummeted. At night the stars in our black night are stunning and the all-day frost in the hill’s shade makes the morning seem moonlit. You can see the cold and smell the cleanness of the air (and stub your toe on a frozen mole hill).
As the low winter sun peeps over the hill and stretches over the ground, where it touches it brings back life and colour.
I feel another half-baked theory coming on — pet owners live longer than other people, probably just because they are more active (getting up in the night to open doors, clearing up messes, taking long walks, searching for missing balls, disposing of bodies, washing duvets etc.). This fits in with the bowls and ballroom dancing phenomenon — any doctor will tell you that their oldest and healthiest patients are those who still engage in these strange physical practices. The key, it seems, is activity — any activity.
Happiness is also supposed to be good for you and is definitely infectious — perhaps it is a zoonosis (something you catch from animals).
All of this crossed my mind this week-end while on a camping holiday on the Gower peninsula in South Wales — we only went for a couple of days because it’s November and the weather forecast was appalling. The timing was not negotiable as Alan had been invited on a brewery sponsored trip to see the Scarlets play rugby against Glasgow at Llanelli and Llanelli is just a knock-on from the Gower — I was to pick him up after the match.
He found me in the camper van, parked in Morrison’s car park outside the stadium — I didn’t recognise him, not because of the strangeness and unsteadiness of his gait but for some reason he had donned a flat cap and a muffler — a throw-back to his childhood, perhaps. The rain was driving and the wind howled around the van which became super-cooled.
I had booked into the camp-site earlier but it was already dark and stormy. That was when I made the acquaintance of the owner of the adjacent livery stable — an animated man with a coat over his head who danced around the camper van in the heavy rain and the glow of my brake lights as I exercised a 17-point turn in his cluttered yard.
As I drove Alan back to the Gower he was relatively oblivious to the idiosyncrasies of my driving style and we found the pitch again with ease, it was the only one with a crooked number which I had adjusted earlier with the near-side bumper.
Next morning I awoke under the pile of duvets and the survival blanket, I was warm– Alan was alive, despite the hot water bottle having fallen out of the end of our bed and into the dogs basket during the night. The sun was shining through the cracks in the window insulation. There is something rather wonderful about the quality of the light on the Gower.
If you like wide open beaches, the Gower is for you.
The sunshine bought out the crowds — we must have seen eight people in the course of the day, most disguised as seals and frolicking in the surf —
I think wet suits are quite sinister and expected our dog Pedro to pick up 0n this but it seems that they smell rubbery, like ball which is even better than stick and, it turns out, surfers are exactly his type of person.
A dog day that starts with a hot-water bottle is going to turn out well.
The Gower is his sort of place and I am left musing how strange it is that spending a day throwing balls for a wet dog can make a human feel so happy.