An oil-painted day came after weeks of watercolour. A wet and greasy sun fingered into the western sky in a broadside of light. Mildness bowled about. Insects appeared. The hedges steamed, and the dung heap at the field edge next to the fen smoked thickly and, doing so, seemed old, an inexplicable and happy survival from some ancient world. I walked home through the fields like a bird scarer, flushing woodpigeons and pushing them ahead of me, out from the field I was in and on to the next. Pale fire was coming into the willows along the fly-tipping lane. A roebuck sprang up in front of me with new velveted antlers like gloved hands. I passed an old orchard, and I stopped because I had seen that there were fresh leaves like mouse-ears on the apple trees. And then, news out of Africa: a wheatear leapt up from the sheep’s grass at the dyke’s end, its white rump an invitation card, bouncing away like nothing that had lived in the fields or on the fen through the winter.
from Four Fields by Tim Dee, published next month by Jonathan Cape.
Tim will be reading from Four Fields on the Caught by the River / Faber Social Estuary stage at Festival No 6 on Saturday 14 September.