2011 may have been an exceptionally dry year, but its final twenty-four hours did their best to put things right. The morning of the last day of the year found gushing rivers where tracks were supposed to be, and ponds where fields were supposed to be. And it found Simon, out dull and early with a very big stick, poking blindly at the blocked mouths of land-drain pipes, invisible beneath swirling pools of deluge.
The absence of significant flow during autumn has left the ditches hereabouts choked with the leaf-and-twig-(and indeed branch)-fall from the unusually windy days, and the pipes that Simon buried to take water beneath tracks and home-made mud bridges became quickly clogged with the suddenly mobile accumulation of water-borne detritus. And as the run-off from tout-le-monde-et-son-oncle’s fields rushed inexorably towards the Aumance, via the many streams that conspire to occupy the valley that so prettily dissects our land, the discarded clothes of all those naked winter trees created exceedingly effective dams left, right and centre.
To lesser mortals, the prospect of spending New Year’s Eve crouched soggily in the pouring rain, up to the ankles in mud, struggling to locate and unplug obscure orifices submerged beneath worryingly-foamy pools of cloudy cold water might seem somewhat unappealing. But to anyone who has experienced the sheer joy of the satisfying gurgle of an unblocked blockage, or been mesmerized by the complex movement of Stuff That Flows, the opportunity for a bit of water play was like the promise of a fun-filled day at the beach to an eager child.
For Stubbs, the most water-loving of our trusty hounds, the day was utter heaven. When he wasn’t ‘helping’ Simon pull obstructive sticks from bunged-up channels, or frolicking (less helpfully) in the foamy floods, he found time to work on the development of his shaky concept of tunnels (although his continual surprise that the ball he dropped into the mouth of a pipe on one side of the track would magically appear in the hands of the person busy clearing the dam at the bubbling outflow on the other side, would suggest that further study is needed). Even Rufus, who is generally not a big fan of being wet (except in temperament) got into the flow, spending many a puzzled minute transfixed by the hypnotic spiralling of a vortex (Is it a Thing? Is it alive? Can I eat it?) before attempting to catch it between his gaping jaws.
By the end of the day at the end of the year, all the pipes had been thoroughly unclogged, and the Winter Flow had been restored to smooth and efficient operation. The Famous Four returned home tired but happy, content in the knowledge that All Was Well in the wet world of Blanchetière.