The darkness in the mornings takes longer to retreat than the evening gloom. At 6.30 am, it is still night-time when driving across Sedgemoor. The road to Pedwell is bordered by deep ditches on either side, even a drift onto the verge is sufficient to find oneself sliding into the black brackish water that runs deep when there are winter rains. On one recent morning, the driver of a lorry coming toward the village had ventured too far onto the soft margin and found his lorry suddenly at a forty-five degree angle, threatening to slide completely down the steep muddy banks of the ditch. The recovery of the lorry would have not been a simple operation, it would have struggled to have found traction on the damp, peaty soil.
This morning, a mouse scuttled across the road, startled by the headlights; “a wee timorous beastie,” or whatever term it was that Rabbie Burns used to describe a creature most people regarded as a pest.
A real country person would have known what sort of mouse it was. Being more suburban than country, I felt I was doing well to have avoided flattering it beneath the all weather tyres on my car. Watching it safely onto the verge, I wondered what it was doing crossing the road on a January morning: should it not be in hibernation, or do mice not hibernate?
It was odd that the mouse felt the need to be the tarmac at all. Anyone who looks at a map of Sedgemoor will see extensive low lying moorland criss-crossed by countless ditches, rhines and rivers. Roads across Sedgemoor are not plentiful; it is soft and damp and the best efforts at road-building always end up with routes that have a roller-coaster quality. The road from High Ham to Pedwell is so uneven that there are places where speeds of much more than thirty miles per hour invite serious damage to the suspension of a car. When there was so much space where the mouse might have been at a safe distance from any motor vehicle, why did it choose to follow the path of danger and run across the road?
There seemed a foolishness of almost human proportions in the mouse putting itself in unnecessary danger. Perhaps this morning’s dash will have discouraged it from further attempts at crossing roads, perhaps it will have encouraged it to move deeper into the moorland, where hovering birds of prey are a more of a hazard than metal boxes coming towards it at fifty miles per hour. Perhaps the wee mouse is a wiser creature tonight than it was this morning.