Today the weather has been astonishingly lovely. Bear in mind that it is nearly the end of October; that we gain an extra hour by the range on Saturday night; that the evenings will come quicker; most of all that the last couple of days have been miserable, with roaring seas, dangerous tides and windy and wet to the bone. But today? Today summer returned, mild as a milkmaid’s cheek against a cow’s flank. The horizon cleared, the islands shone, Andrew’s boat bore keen folk out to gaze on the newborn seals, and even the whelkery revealed its fruits once again. No need for three layers, even before dawn; no need for gloves, even when running into the north-ish wind. Instead the sights and smells both morn and eve sank gently into our souls and the clarity of the air made our coats glisten. As Barnaby looks out from the wonderful ruins of John O’Gaunt’s castle, he is perched near the edge of winter – on to which we have looked down more than once this week – but a million miles from it; protected within its ramparts.
Around the islands lurks a boat which looks as though it means business: before dawn it glows at anchor with golden light and we fancy we can almost smell the egg and bacon of the crew’s breakfast so close to the shore does it sleep. Over the space of a week each Spring and Autumn, I am informed, it cleans the buoys which mark the dangerous seaways. So many wrecks round here. Looking at this millpond you might be forgiven for thinking: what is the point of that? Why worry about Neptune’s whereabouts, or his anger? But just as we fill the coal hod, and stack the logs, and fix the roof and fill the dog food bin with lovely herby meal I can sniff out from my bed – all done so we can face up to November – so we must remember: this is the odd day out. Better build up those castle walls, Barnaby!