My early morning walks continue, and throw up new challenges. As I make my way down the lanes many creatures dash away from me in terror, pigeons clatter out of trees, rabbits burst out of hedgerows, pheasants explode like rockets from the tall maize. It’s all very disconcerting. I feel like some sort of ogre menacing their peaceful existence as I clomp by. But most disconcerting of all is the discovery that there is another human on the lanes, a fellow walker whose route follows mine. I come upon him at the halfway point for me, which is the village, from which he is presumably just setting out. He’s a courteous elderly man with a stick, but not for all that a slow walker. Twice now he’s appeared ahead of me. My own pace, being a little faster, means that I come up behind him like a mugger, and pass him slowly, and then feel his eyes on me for the next half mile. This is of course ridiculous. I should be happy to have company on my road. But I’m not. I feel aggrieved. I feel invaded. I feel the solitude of my early mornings has been compromised. There are cars that pass me, but they don’t count. Cars aren’t people. Another walker, on my route, going in my direction, at almost my pace – that’s crowding me.
Virginia produced the obvious solution: go round the other way. This morning I did this. Setting off just after 6.30 I found that the sun had not yet risen, and I was walking into the sunrise. It was a crisp early morning, the air sharp, my hands chilly, the pre-sunrise sky pale blue, streaked with white cloud. This was a bonus that I had not expected. With each gap in the hedge I got a new glimpse of the brightening sky, until the sun itself appeared. And then so did my fellow walker – but of course, this time he was heading towards me. This was just fine. We passed, greeting each other, and he was gone.
As I looped back down the far side of the circular walk, there he was coming towards me once more. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘take care, you’re going anti-clockwise.’ ‘But I’m walking into the sunrise,’ I said.