January 9th, 2010


In my garden this morning (before breakfast)

We are well placed for wildlife here, as those of you who've visited know -- nature reserve behind us and the wide space of the Cambridge airfield as a next-door neighbour. But the hunt for food in the snow is causing our local wildlife to range further and later. This morning, while washing-up, the garden was visited not simply by many of our usual birds -- pigeons, collared doves, blackbirds and the robin (who has taken up near-residence in our big St John's Wort bush) -- but by the cock pheasant, which fascinated Mooncat, a timid little muntjac deer, and, most surprisingly, the local vixen. She rarely comes this far: I mostly see her at the other end of the nature reserve, and from her behaviour she was interested in that pheasant. She's a lovely thing: rich red fur and a splendid brush. (Our foxes are proper healthy rural foxes, thankfully, and there is so much food for them most of the time what with the rabbits and so on that they rarely bother trying dustbins.) I didn't have a chance at a photograph, sadly, but it was fascinating to watch her trot about, nose following the pheasant trail.
Foxes are part of the rhythm of this road. My former neighbour V used to feed them at the other end of the reserve. We all tell each other when we see one of them -- almost always the vixen. The dog fox, who is huge, does not bother with our gardens, but, as the end house, I very occasionally see him on the airfield at dusk. I do wonder, though, if any of the local foxes are the adult version (or the child) of the very young cub whose mother left him in our garden to play one morning many years ago. He or she was a ball of red fluff with huge ears and paws, who spent a happy half hour killing dead leaves and pouncing on imaginary rabbits until his mother came to collect him. Caspian watched in fascination from the window, occasionally observing to me that he could deal with this intruder (we denied this: Sir was a small cat and vixens do not appreciate interference with their cubs). If we've ever cub-sat again, I haven't known about it, but that cub is one of my best memories of this house, and one of the reasons I don't want ever to have to leave it.


The Grass King's Concubine is finally done. Every last line revised and reviewed, format sorted, pages numbered and headed and so forth. It runs just over 147,000 words, which seems odd to me, as I kept thinking, while writing it, that it was too short in the middle. That's a bit longer than Living With Ghosts, but at present that seems to be the length it wants to be -- I cut quite a lot as I went along anyway.
It's okay, I think, after all (although I still have my doubts about chapter 21. Not to be trusted, that one.) Now it goes out into the world (or to the Appropriate Authorities, at least). I hope they like it. Ferret women aren't to everyone's taste (though I like them).

And even better, weather permitting, I should get the marquis back later today.
Now all I need to do is have lunch and clean the kitchen.