A couple of days ago Antoine the physio came for supper. Whenever I see him he always asks me if I've been running. I think he is keen to find out what went wrong with my foot and to see if it is better. The fact is, I've been playing tennis a fair bit and until I've played in the final on Thursday I don't really want to risk hurting my foot again. All the same, this morning it was just beautiful - the sun was up, not a cloud in the sky, not a breathe of wind and about 10 degrees. I had no excuse. As soon as I pressed the button on my running watch the dogs knew where I was off to and came out with me.
I chose to run down to the river. It's not far (3.5kms round trip) and it's lovely down there. The dragon flies aren't out yet but the morning bird song greets me and the cuckoos mock me. I don't blame them - I'm 5 kilos over weight and puffing every step of the way!
Living in an old house (14th century) with a moat we have our fair share of wild life around us. We do our best to encourage more but are amply served by birds and animals that have lived here for much longer than we have. We have several families of moorhens who nest in the banks and each year we are greeted with the sight of Mrs Moorhen swimming along with her chicks behind her. This year two pairs of Mallard duck have come back so often that we are hopeful they will set up home again. They get quite noisy in the mating season but we are used to it and it's only our visitors who are disturbed at 5am! Very occasionally we will be rewarded with a flash of brilliant blue zipping across the water and we'll know that the kingfisher, that most beautiful and elusive of birds, is back.
Herons are abundant and of course they come at any time of day for a quick snack. Three years ago this area suffered from drought and after a number of dry years the moat all but dried up. When there was just a large puddle left we removed as many fish as possible and put them in a nearby reservoir. All the same, just a few days later the remaining large fish were floating, dead, on the surface and soon after the medium sized fish also succumbed. We did all we could to save the remaining fish. Desperate to provide them with oxygen, we even put the end of the air compressor in the water. It sounds desperate but what else could we do? Anyway, the smallest fish did survive and eventually we had some rain and the moat began to fill up again. After last year's unbelievably wet summer and autumn we are back to normal levels. The "small" fish have grown and the fish community is thriving - and the herons are back!
We also have frogs. A whole generation of children are growing up without the benefit of Jeremy Fisher and his friends, but if any of them come here they soon find out about frogs! We have all his brothers, sisters, friends and relations. Thousands of them! As we walk around the moat you can here the plop, plop, plop as they leap off the bank and into the water. And the noise...oh boy have they started in earnest again! You can be sitting outside enjoying the silence of nature - birdsong, woodpeckers, bees - and suddenly the frogs decide they want a part of the action. The volume of their song depends largely on how lovely Mademoiselle Grenouille is looking that day. If Mademoiselle has bought along all her girlfriends and is looking for a good time then it can go on for hours and like all teenagers they hold no respect for the time of day - or night.
The French eat frogs of course. I've eaten them in friends' houses and actually like the taste but I've never thought to eat ours. I wouldn't be able to catch them for one thing and I really don't think I would like to have to "deal" with them. Hypocrite or what?
And now the telegraph pole is just a few metres away. I always walk the last 300 metres to the house and this telegraph pole is my marker. I no longer have to think about nature in order to keep my mind off my stiff legs and my tired lungs. I can walk again and cool down. Thank you for staying with me and all being well I'll be out running again on Monday - although they do say it's going to rain on Monday...