He climbs out of the warm bed, switches on the coffee maker and looks through the curtains; it’s dark outside but he can hear rain falling on the tin roof of the shed below. Sipping his first delicious brew of the day, he dresses in his wet weather gear.
Easing open the bedroom door he makes his way downstairs, careful not to wake the others. He steps out into the little cul de sac, stretches and breathes deeply of the cold, March air. Above is only darkness and the softly falling rain. He sets off at a brisk pace. He used to be a runner but his many years as an athlete have taken their toll on his body and he now restricts himself to walking. The streets are deserted, but as he passes by, signs of life are occurring; he can see a woman in her dressing gown filling a kettle in one house; a man emerges from another to collect the newspaper left on his door step. Neither glances in his direction.
The street lights cast pools of multi-coloured reflections in the puddles. He loves the early mornings. He enjoys the simple pleasure of being alive and about before the world gets busy and makes its daily demands of him. There had been a time when he would spend these precious early morning hours teasing and worrying the problems lying ahead of him. Today, it is the simple fact of the cold, early morning tranquillity he can indulge himself in. He presses on, through the village, uphill towards the empty countryside.
He’s breathing deeply now as the road steepens, his breath making clouds in the colder air of the hillside. He has left the little village behind and he pushes on uphill at a faster pace. Around him, he can hear cows and sheep stirring. He switches on his head-torch and, when he looks across the dark fields, he catches their eyes reflected in the beam. The rain stops and for the final half-mile, he lifts his pace again, his breathing hard but regular. The final few hundred yards are steep and when he stops on the level ground of the hilltop, his chest heaving, he takes great gulps of the cold, refreshing air.
As his breathing returns to normal, he can feel warmth on his cheek. Looking round he sees, through a break in the clouds, the first rays of the sun are reaching across the valley to where he stands. The elemental pleasure of this simple moment almost overcomes him. Looking down on the village he has grown to know and love so well, he thinks of its residents. What might their day hold for them? Routines, frustrations, challenges, satisfactions, happiness, sadness and, perhaps for the lucky few, even successes?
Far below where it is still quite dark, he can see the traffic building on the bypass, speeding now towards the city. Brilliant headlights on the wet, curving road join the cars into one giant, patterned, writhing snake.