I was having a walk round just earlier - another pleasant couple of hours spent striding beneath a dusky but clear sky, with the temperature mild and the subtle atmospherics all serving to advertise the fact that we're now well into the swing of Spring.
I'll soon away for a couple of days for a social visit to friends in central Europe. I haven't checked this week but last time I looked at the forecast it was still pretty much freezing over there.
As I was mid-stroll, before, I was casting my mind back to a specific memory from one of numerous holidays spent in Scotland. A bunch of us used to go at the height (or in the depths, if you will) of Winter: a different location each time, but with constants such as the degree of beauty, and remoteness of the surroundings.
The memory in question must have been almost exactly 10 years, 1 month, 6 days and 4 hours (the operative word so far is clearly almost..) ago. I loved being on holiday with this bunch of friends, but would always enjoy a short spell of solitude most evenings: half an hour or so, just to get some air, gather my thoughts and to takein the overwhelming silence that is part and parcel of being in the middle of nowhere.
This particular year it was so snowy that we'd bought a sled: already it was out of use since it wasn't designed for people of our size and weight. It lay in the middle of the grounds outside our cottage looking like a brightly-coloured coracle, half-obscured by another fresh fall of the white stuff. It was late at night - later than usual - when I excused myself, wanting to clear my head of the conversation, the music, the whisky, the smell of woodsmoke. Outside was a clear sky, the temperature plenty degrees below freezing.
I put on several layers beginning with thermals and ending with waterproofs and windproofs and went outside (not before quaffing a warming dose of Royal Lochnagar, bought direct from the local distillery), scooping the snow out of the sled and immediately lying down on it on my back.
The silence was almost shocking, the darkness would have been absolute but for the pinpoints of the stars which seemed to slowly multiply as my eyes adjusted. The deep snow served to dampen further any naturally occurring sounds.
The night sky - me under it, lying down looking up. I recall how my senses, previously dulled (not without good reason), felt very alive in appreciation of the scene. It occurred to me just how potentially hostile this environment could be. Yet here I was - insulated, cocooned, protected.