Sanctuary is a lighted shed

The day starts with a power-cut interfering with my plans to organise my new workshop space in the barn, and also with my guests cleaning the bunkhouse. I don’t understand this – no gales last night to bring down lines, but the power company confirm 200 homes offline. I am helpless to work, cook, make coffee, start the digger to feed the animals, maintain water supply. I will be culling hinds over the next few days, so I take the rifles out to the target on the Apron where I am set up for a 100 metre shot- not really long enough – 150 is more suited to the terrain on Catlodge estate where I carry out my stalking. The .270 is spot on: my usual scruffy 21/2″ grouping on all sides of the bull: the .243 is high but good for 200m (so long as I remember).
By the time I retreat to the house, the power is back and it has started to snow big wet flakes. I work in the shed with the lights shining on the snow falling past the open door. The chooks gather at the end of the day, confused by the rearrangement of their universe, my stacked boards making it hard for them to fly and scrabble to roost in the rafters. Some hens have given up and are content to join cocky in the house to be locked in- good for his self-esteem at least.
The chooks gather disconsolately – bedraggled in uncertainty, but they will make their choices when I leave. As I prepare in the quiet before the loss of light, a small bird flashes in the open door startling the dozy chooks into flapping and cackles. The streamlined missile of the pursuing sparrowhawk, morphs into alternative action,opens its wings braking and turning in an instant as it takes in the alien world of the lit interior, inhabited and cluttered. I see the bars on its underside clearly defined as it veers and collects and retreats to the birches across the yard. It doesn’t wait, the opportunity has gone, it flits silently across the road to lose itself in the sloping wood.
A dunnock, brown-flecked long tailed, that partnered me in my work earlier, is sitting on the radial saw table, unmoving, slumped, panting life.
I kill the lights and leave before I can disturb it.


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