Company, 1952

Leaving our hearth at midnight for his own up the steep winding brae, our neighbour paused beyond the gate to weight the chance of rain;
An old man this, our neighbour, when we come, with trees between us and noisy stream, who lives alone, and follows his slow craft of joinery, at clock case, chair or churn;
His front door shut; his workshop open wide to wandering dog or sunshine from the south or the farm children from across the hill.
Beneath the high bright stars the old man paused to name tomorrow’s weather, and we heard, out of the empty darkness of the earth, a corncrake calling loudly, if ear judged right, in the low meadow now the grass is deep.
‘The first I’ve heard the year,’ the old man said.
‘They’re getting scarcer now than times ago.
I always like to hear him, for his cry is right good company.’ And then ‘Good night’.
He turned and plodded up the winding lane to his dark house behind the fuschia hedge, and left me, thinking, under the far stars, how one could measure another’s loneliness.