I got into the car at 11.52. Behind me Maureen was switching off the lights and turning the key in the lock. 11.52pm for heaven's sake. 11.52.
The last hour had been spent sitting in the only drafty corner of our new Village Hall going over the script; making last minute refinements and lists. So many lists; lists and more lists of things to do and things to be remembered. The huge main hall was silent at last; the Young Farmers had drifted home a bit earlier - their commitment to the drama competition only stretching as far as their individual involvement. The broad view of the production as a whole seems to have fallen heavily on the shoulders of Maureen, who once again, is The Producer. (Heather and I are her loyal supporters.) This production needs organisation to run like clockwork as well as energy and enthusiasm. The YFs have plenty of the latter but do veer towards the chaotic. I guess it's part of the learning curve...
Thus it was that at an hour when the good folk of Marton were turning in for the night we, chilled and yawning, made plans which should have been formulated weeks ago, writing everything down - our brains did not feel terribly reliable as the clock climbed towards midnight. So much to do and so little time but at last we are done now and can lock up and leave.
Eurgh. Tired. So, so tired.
Outside the air is crisp and the sky clear - black and pricked with stars. Across the way I can hear Eddie's cattle in the shed, a stumble, a shove and a bump as they lumber in the darkness. Behind me a lone ewe bleats for a lamb she has mislaid. Then silence.
Out of the village I take the narrow lane up Marton Mountain, winding between high banks and hedges, avoiding the muddy ruts and potholes. This lane must always have looked this way - the Ag.Lab trudging home on a winter's eve and the school children skipping to and from the little village school must have seen what I see - or something very similar. I like this sense of continuity, of sharing a common experience - a link with the past - and keep my eyes peeled for the ghosts of those who have previously made shapes in this landscape.
I see nothing and no one of course. I am alone. The barn owl is not in its tree. Lights are off at the Mill. No badger, startled by the car, is scuttling in the headlights' beam. Nothing. De nada, diddly squat. All alone on the top of a low mountain, under the stars.
Home. The prospect of a warm bed is a fine thing. An owl hoots from the beech trees in our dingle below Badnage Wood - I rather hope it will sing-out gently all night so I can listen to its breathy cry as I drift towards sleep.
Rehearsing again tomorrow and the production itself is on Wednesday (that's now today.) There is so much still to do, so much ground still to be covered and (for heaven's sake) lines to be learned. It is the stuff of nightmare.
I sleep, hoping perchance, to dream sweet dreams.