The edges of a field in Barton. Drilled dirt, crumbly like stale chocolate bourbons. Close up, oilseed rape seedlings barely broach the surface, green fleck in brown tweed. Don't tread on them. Pluvialis stalks the tractor-stencilled mud with a cigarette and the gos.
Two riders, gentle coconut percussion against the asphalt, helmets banded, wide stripes of safety fluorescent yellow as though they scalped a pair of roadworkers. They pass the break in the hedge, and the closer rider looks. He smiles. He has the same disciplined relaxation in his shoulders that Pluvialis has in hers. Perhaps he is as on edge as she is today, but he is walking a horse four feet from rush-hour articulated traffic, and she has a raptor leashed to her wrist with rabbits grazing quietly in the distance. Silenced eyebrows and slow glances, slow angles, like actors in period dress, hello Mr Darcy, split-seconds still to come.
I sit in the loose knit of grass at the verge. Grasshoppers and dragonflies, chick-scalps yellow and soft and dry like seed-heads, yesterday's tea for tiercels. Dead briony tangles and gossamer flickers peripheral. I wish for a cup of coffee, though I have already battled one down in the car with the hawk on my fist, leaning my shoulder muscles into the curves. Almost-stable footing, tendons grit and glass, doublegrip secret handshake, no sudden moves and we'll all walk out of here alive. The sun on the next rise, Stockholm syndrome.