Out in the clear evening, the owls were hooting and the gloaming was gloaming and the moon was gleaming and the horses were dreaming. A man on the wireless said something about waving to the International Space Station. I fed the horses and watched the dogs having a rumble. Then, up in the limpid indigo sky, there was a great object lit up like a Christmas tree, sailing overhead like a stately galleon.
Could that really be the International Space Station? Can it be over my very field?
I think it might have been a very slow aeroplane, although there was no sound. But, for a magical moment, in my own mazy mind, it really was that great piece of technology from which humans can look down and see the curvature of the earth. I felt very magical, even though the whole thing is to do with science and empiricism.
A lot of work today: book work, HorseBack work, field work. I cleaned the water trough, a perfectly terrifying job, and shifted piles of dung. I am a creature of the earth now; I can hardly remember the days when my clothes and hands and nails were clean. I’m one of the dirty people. Oddly, I’m quite proud of this, although I do sometimes feel a pang when I see women in the chemist who do not have smears of mud all over their trousers and whose hair does not contain small pieces of hay.
A friend sends me a message from the south. Can I come for a party? I don’t know how to reply. I can’t go anywhere, because I’ve got books to write and animals to look after and family obligations and no spare cash for the journey. This sounds so tragic and mimsy that I hardly dare admit it. I’m going to miss all the fiftieth birthdays, which does make me a little melancholy, but I chose a job with an unreliable income stream and that is the price I have to pay.
Actually, it’s not just the vast expense. I find the logistics of leaving home and the long journey and the packing and the planning overwhelming. I lose days beforehand, getting ready, and days afterwards, settling back into my routine. This is a sad reflection of advancing age. I need steadiness and quiet in order to think and write. I need the room of my own.
The incredibly lucky thing is that it is such a nice room. It’s a bit muddly, but it’s got books and pictures and photographs and dogs in it. It has a fine selection of hats. It has a view. Some people never have a nice room in their whole lives. I don’t take that room for granted, not for a single minute.