Gil, my dog, becomes very excited every time I start putting on my coat and hat. It's annoying when I am just going out to post a letter, or collect the kids from school. But this time he has guessed right - I am preparing to take him for his daily walk.
I grab his lead and we head out together. Crows squawk at each other from the bare treetops. The farmer stops his hedge-trimming as we walk past so we won't be bombarded with hawthorn-shrapnel. I smile and raise my hand to him, sitting in his tractor, in thanks.
The sound of the wind fills my ears and it is hard to hear cars approaching. A few times I mistakenly call Gil to me, thinking I hear a vehicle. Obediently he comes. But his hearing is better than mine and his good sense better than I give him credit for. He trots closer to me long before I hear the cars.
We meander along lanes, paths and tracks. The rain-sodden leaves are more treacherous underfoot even than the mud. It occurs to me that the sensation of mud oozing up between my toes is, at one and the same time, my least-favourite part of the experience and Gil's most-favourite. Eventually the track becomes too muddy for me to pass (though not too muddy for him). And in any case the rain is starting to fall again. So we turn for home.
Back at the house, the milkman has been. There is milk, juice and bread on the doorstep but I ignore it. I know I must be fast to grab the old towel I left by the front door, and rub down the dog before he shakes mud all over the hallway. Too late. Again. After I rub the dog I also have to wipe the walls and the door, the stair-rails and the dresser before I can even start to strip off my own wet muddy trousers and socks.
In warm dry clothes and clean fluffy socks I fill the dog's water bowl and he laps it thirstily while I make myself a hot cup of tea. Then I sit down in an armchair, Gil flopped at my feet, to write this blog post and rest, before resuming the rest of the day's duties.