As we leave home by the garden gate, not a breath of air brushes my skin, not a leaf stirs. An upturned bowl of heat sits low on the valley, making every step I take an effort.
Swallows and martins whip overhead, pheasants screech in the nearby fields. The river runs sluggish and even the ducks prefer to stick their heads under a wing, squatting on their haunches on the pebble bank in the middle of the depleted stream.
Perhaps going for our usual afternoon walk was not a good idea.
As we reach the path which will lead us uphill into the pine forest straddling the cone-shaped hill with its iron age fort on the top, the sun beats down on us, pricking my skin and hurting my eyes. I keep my eyes lowered, away from the piercing rays of the sun.
Halfway up through a cutting in the plantation I see distant summer lightning tear the sky momentarily in two. Dark clouds gather in the West.
Benno is panting, the heat is getting to him too; his thick black coat is a most inappropriate garment on a day like today.
It is too late to turn back and go home, we might as well press on. Benno stays close, he has given up running ahead or exploring the undergrowth on both sides of the path. Very soon I know why: I can hear the distant rumble of thunder and more streaks of gold flash across the sky.
Benno is afraid of thunderstorms.
As he is afraid, I had better be brave. I talk to him quietly as we struggle uphill. We are trying to walk faster, but I am soon out of breath.
A small wind comes up, creating little eddies of dust on the path; the bracken sways and there’s an ominous creaking in the tops of the pines. The light above is dimmed, mountains of black thundercloud arrive out of nowhere. Benno almost trips me up in his eagerness to get closer.
We walk right into a swarm of midges and flies, disturbed into boldness by the approaching storm. I flap and beat my arms about in vain, the furious swarm stays with us until we reach the copse, the last bit of the climb, before we get out into the open fields, along a hedge and through a sunken lane which will eventually take us back into the village.
The storm reaches us at the same time as we step from the path through the copse into the open fields. The mountainous clouds open, the rain comes down in a sheet of blinding fury; instantly we are drenched. There is no shelter.
The wind pushes me downhill with an iron fist in my back, suddenly I am running, stumbling; blindly I crash into any obstacle on the way, Benno streaking ahead, terrified, himself now a flash of lightning, albeit black.
The storm stops as abruptly as it started. We come to a halt, me bent double, both of us panting, clothes and coat sticking to us, water running off in rivulets. The sunken lane has turned into a shallow but fast flowing stream. No matter, it is the only way forward; at any rate, we could hardly get any wetter.
By the time we reach the metalled lane into the village the sun is out again. The sky has turned a brilliant blue, the odd rumble of thunder and feeble flash of lightning gently disappearing over the hills.
The road is steaming, there is a wonderful smell of freshly washed meadow in the air and as we draw level with the first houses we hear the happy gurgle of water running off roofs into water butts.
All is well.