A Winter;s Morning.

A Winter;s Morning.

A Chapter by Peter Maughan
"

Winter breaking in an English, West Country vally.

"

A Moon on Its

Back

Peter Maughan

 

 

A Winter’s Morning


All night the vixen screamed down the burning fields of frost, under a sky chiming with January stars, running under a moon and the wild white hair of trees. The barking of a dog fox led on and on across the valley in search of her, until their clamour died in the hot-throated distance and the pulse of the morning star dimmed like a weakening signal over the land.

The moon was full and sitting above the tall pines now, above the road which plunged into the valley, its ringing light striking the blue frost-bright slate of the village, echoing down the headlong High Street, fading away into silences where the shadows had drifted, piled like soot.

The village lay in the palm of two borders, high on the valley side, arranged as if by a child’s hand around shop and post office, church, and pub, the telephone box outside the shop a solitary light on the lampless High Street, burning with a busy toy redness in the shuttered dark.

From clear across the valley, a farm dog barked steadily on at nothing in the no-man’s-land between night and morning, and a tawny owl glided across the village, its flight as silent and as remote as a dream. Fluttering for a hold on top of a telegraph pole, it folded its wings, its blunt head moving in sweeps as it searched for small scurries of movement from shadow to shadow below, and finding none sang out, the long-drawn, quavering notes sounding under the moon like a ghost story told to a child.

From one of the terrace of farm cottages in the High Street, a baby howled damply at the world, and a light came on in the bedroom as the owl beat its way down through the village, its swift, sharp call in flight a fingernail drawn across the frosted glass of dawn.

Other lights shone in the village now. In the post office and the shop where newspapers, hot from the London train, were sorted for the bin outside. In the kitchen of George Perry, coal merchant, waiting for the weather forecast and hoping for the worst. In the bedroom of Miss Holsworth, village spinster, dressing to the frivolous notes of a horn concerto on Radio 3. And in the farmhouse at the top of the High Street, where breakfast steamed the windows and the lights went on in the milking shed. Udders swinging, the hunched shadows of the cattle were herded from the stalls, the cobbles of the yard brittle with silver under the moon, the dung-heavy smell almost as warm as breath.

Bales of last season’s hay in the Dutch barn were tossed down onto a trailer for the stock out on the fields, sweetening the air briefly with the scent of an impossible remote summer. The tractor headlights swept across the yards, petrifying a returning barn-hunting cat, and turning into the High Street, rode off the hill into the quenching dark of the valley.

Battered and cooling, the moon settled above the Norman tower of the church, the black and gold clock fingered with elegant shadows, a smell like damp burnt paper on the raw air as the first fires of the morning drifted over the village. And from the other side of the valley a cockcrow flared petulantly, as if in protest at the cold and grudging dawn, as the light spread slowly in the east like a stain.  

Rooks in the grounds of what was once the squire's house, preened and bickered in the tops of the horse chestnuts, and dug in across the farmlands, the creatures of the day felt the tug of light but still did not stir. While in the wood below the village pheasants, scratching at the iron earth, squawked as if in protest at it, and woodpigeons broke from the tops of the trees with a clatter of wings, and turned blindly towards the fields.

Like the slow unclenching of a fist, the dawn gave up more light. A hard, clay-heavy light worked into the sky as if with a palette knife, and birds sang, stray thin winter notes as the light above the hills of the valley gathered into a new day.

Peter Maughan. www.batchmagna.com

 



© 2013 Peter Maughan


Author's Note

Peter Maughan
Glad of any comments.

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Added on February 1, 2013
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Tags: village, countryside, valley, farmland, West Country


Author

Peter Maughan
Peter Maughan

Shrewsbury, The Welsh Marches, United Kingdom



About
I'm an ex-actor, fringe theatre director and script writer, married and living in the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales, and the backdrop to a series of books I'm writing, the Ba.. more..

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