Today I left work while there was still a dribble of sunlight over the landscape, melting into the valleys just as the frost itself started to solidify. Going from a five-minute-late departure on Friday, to one five minutes early on Monday, always emphasizes the changes in daylight particularly strongly at this time of year. The days march inexorably towards their full length, and the nights retreat, cowed, into the hedgerows.
I idled my bicycle along much of the path away from work, passing by the horsey woman with the enormous 4×4 and the horses, and accidentally startling another beast further along. As soon it had taken me in it began to ignored me, its blinkers and long, shaggy canvas coat making it look more like a shirehorse than a family pet. Further down the drive I rested for a couple of minutes opposite Asbestos Barn, and gazed across towards the trees along the train line, at the three wild deer stood between me and the wood. They stared back at me, worried, not comprehending my crazily bright colours, and I eventually left them to their unmolested trotting around.
The mist rising in the wake of the day meant that the light had a peculiarly stormy orange tint, turning sepia as I ploughed over the hill at the back of Finstock. Cold, clear and crisp, the air repainted the Cotswolds a cold-warm chocolate-brown, as though it had been steeped in icy tea. The sky had noticeably darkened by the time I passed Perrotts Hill Farm and over the Witney–Woodstock road, becoming twilight over Cuckoo Lane and into Eynsham.
The magic of the drawn-out, forty-minute-long moment was spoiled somewhat by Eynsham neds: they tried for perhaps the third day running to force me off Spareacre Lane and onto the pavement, and then shouted a lot when I didn’t budge. But anyway, I thought: they hadn’t seen the deer; I’d seen the deer. The notion kept me warm throughout the last half a mile home and into the house, that somewhere out there three pairs of muntjac eyes gazed in awe at the weird lights that pierced the gloom.