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Hilary Ends

Went to Cheltenham this weekend to visit a friend after he finished his prelims. We met A at the bus-stop, red carnation still in his breast pocket for the coach to Gloucestershire. After a night well-spent with the best Shiraz I've ever had, admiring the almighty Aga in A's kitchen, we put on wellies, plaid scarves and November colours, grabbed the dog and headed off for a ramble in the Cotswolds. If it sounds idyllic, it's because it was - the only thing disturbing the picture was my dripping nose. A showed us where he used to live: a stone house undefended by border or fence from the woods, exposed to the late winter hills. We walked through the hawthorns and brambles to an abandoned farm where there was no sign of the promised owl, only scattered bones. A showed us his childhood swing, a leathery strap overgrown with moss, and the pheasant keep. The woods were entirely still, broken only now and then by a screaming kestrel or a startled pheasant. We walked in silence and did not grow uncomfortable.

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