Birdsong seemed always more noticeable on a Sunday evening. It was as if the songbirds were celebrating that, while the world returned to its workaday existence, they would wake on Monday and enjoy another day of freedom. The enjoyment of the beauty of the song was intermingled with a mood of gloom at the thought that weekend was over and Friday was a long five days away.
As the light faded they would gather, circling the trees and calling out. Rooks were the noisiest, like excited children anxious to share news of the day. Starlings came in swarms, finding shelter in the farm buildings. On summer evenings, swallows and martins would swoop above the barton, as the insects of the night began to appear. The fall of darkness brought bats from their daytime slumbers.
To the child standing in the yard, nature seemed to be conspiring against him, revelling in its liberty, indifferent to the fact that he had to go to school in the morning.
He mourned the loss of the times before he had started school, the times when whole days could have been spent with his grandfather or his uncle. He had spent whole days with them as they worked in the fields or around the yard. He sat on the flatbed trailer as it was pulled out to the cornfield. No lights, no brakes, no number plate, and a small boy sat in the middle. The boy had become adept at perching on the grey Massey Ferguson tractor, holding on tightly beside whoever was driving.
Time had stopped in those moments, no-one grew older, no-one changed. Perhaps time had no meaning, the only time that mattered was when he woke in the morning and when he went reluctantly to bed in the evening. He would have had no idea of what the date might be. A calendar hung on the wall, recording the activities of the farm, but offering nothing of interest to a boy who could not read its words.
School would teach him the words to read from January to December, but would take away the world where he had no need of the words. It would bring time into his life; time structured in ways more complex than the simple cycle of day and night that had filled his years.
He always envied the birds, especially those whose autumn migration meant a year round summer, those who swooped each evening in the dying light.