Peevish staccato showers had come and gone all morning, but now the sky seemed a little friendlier, so the dogs and I set off with the intention of catching this brief respite and making full use of it.
Past the arable fields, we caught one side of the conservation strip, which among a tangle of grasses in seed was starred with bright flowers: ox-eye daisies, knapweed, feverfew, campion and vetches. Young teasels, fresh green and mauve-tipped, lifted hooked and honeycombed heads from spear-shaped leaves. It was a pleasure to walk beside, even with standing water on the track, puddled ochre with clay, making me watch my step. The dogs were watching for rabbits instead.
A freshening wind made me look up and realise I hadn’t been so canny about the weather after all, for above me ragged black cloud roiled under towering white cumulonimbus which was pushing through the blue. The air changed: a yellowish tint combined with a metallic taste to it forewarning of thunder even before penny-sized drops (I suppose I should say pre-decimal pennies) of rain started to fall. Slowly at first and then gathering, the shower turned into a downpour. I made for the round wood: the dogs were there ahead of me.
The round wood is small but well-furnished with dense deciduous trees, and so provides adequate shelter. We are of course told to keep away from trees in a thunderstorm, and equally told to keep away from plains where we are the highest object. That, if one is out of doors, does not leave many alternatives. I decided to live dangerously and stay in the wood, and the rain hammered down outside it, a sufficiency of drops percolating through the canopy to discourage me from venturing out.
Luckily it was warm, for I had the very old dog with me, and he is fragile these days. While the younger ones pattered back and forth through the undergrowth, and the track spread fingers of wet, the old chap huddled near me. Then the rain progressed to hail, and we were stung hard, even in our risky shelter, while the paths turned white and glassy. Soon the wind would increase, bringing harder precipitation, and then it would slacken off enough for us to go on our way. It was tempting to venture out as soon as the hail went back to rain, but we all know the pattern of storms, and this would have been too soon.
However, this storm had not read the text-books, and heavy rain continued to hammer down from a leaden sky. We watched it for ten minutes or so, and then I managed to convince myself that it was easing, so I went to the edge of the wood, where there is a small gap almost completely overgrown that we enter and exit by. There I stopped, nose to nose with the most perfect wild rose bud, startled out of my weather-bound thoughts by that sudden reckless beauty that you find in the countryside. It didn’t matter that the same rose had raked my cap half off my head with a higher branch: you could forgive almost anything for the glimpse of that wanton, fragile bloom.
I retrieved my cap, squelching it back onto my head, where it was now doing little good, and we all set off along the shorter route home, bodies thoroughly wet but spirits not even dampened, for the dogs had stretched their legs and smelled the scents all around, and as for me - I had seen the rose.