5. September daybreak


Stripes of moonlight on the wall showed it was still night, but birdsong told me it wouldn’t be for long. I swung out of bed, shuffled over to the skylight and opened the window wide. Cold air fell into the room. September daybreak was about to arrive in the heart of rural Cornwall.

A cold white disc of moon, just past full, was hanging a hand-span above the ragged silhouette of the ridge opposite. A spider web of thin mist draped over the hills and trees, hanging low in glowing layers above the night fields.

Despite it still being dark, the valley was already chiming with dawn birdsong. The day-shift was preparing to take over from the shrieking owl I could hear retreating to the trees along the line of the river. The stillness of the dew-decked morning was sandpapered by the rush of the water four-hundred yards away below me.

A distant car engine drew my attention to the edge of the woods on my right. In the dark it was plunging into the mist. I could see it pushing its cone of headlight along the bowered lanes, down to the bridge and then snaking up the far side until it turned a corner and was lost to sight and sound.

In a short time, the greys of night became slightly brighter and lightly touched with the bronze of early autumn. Daylight was starting to rise in the east behind me.

As morning advanced, colour seeped up from the ground and oozed out of the leaves. Mist, levelled and drawn out, flowed silently and slowly down the valley walls, tendrils seeking the dew point layer, splitting and spreading, milky between invisible rifts in the crystal air. Refracted light from the approaching sun raised a blush of pastel into a sky still buttoned in place by the moon.


The first cow lowing across the valley was answered a mile away by a waking sheep. Frosted birdsong was warmed by the addition of wood pigeon and dove. An unblemished sweep of blue and peach pastel sky was scraped across by a ragged scrat of jackdaws.

The first clear sunlight struck the stubble field across the valley, slanting low tree-shadows across the plough lines. The sky paled, the moon’s rule failed, the sun tipped over the ridge and spilled colour and texture into the river valley.

An early worker coughed his way along the lane below the house, his footsteps crunching the gravel in the road. A far-off tractor turned and spluttered into life with the first rumble of the imminent day’s labours.

Downstairs, I could smell toast and coffee.

The day had started well.