Miss Dog suddenly hurtled down the stairs barking joyfully; a signal, generally, either that the Apparitional Gamekeeper has apparated or that there is a man in a white van. The Apparitional One is presumably at his place of detention since they don’t break up till this evening, so it seemed safe to deduce a van. Miss Dog loves all men in white vans without exception – she has seen a great many of them in her short life since we buy our clothes, books, paint, plants, computers, wine etc. by phone or over the internet, and publishers send us boxes of books – all the above tend to come by courier rather than post these days. For some reason North-Eastern van drivers are all terribly nice to dogs; they say kindly, ‘I see you’, and ‘What’re you saying?’ and sometimes there’s even a biscuit or a bit of old sandwich to be had. This particular van driver said ‘I see you’ in the approved style; and I waited to see what was coming – since nobody had ordered anything that I knew of, I assumed that it would be a box of the Northern Professor’s recent opus on Northness, they having promised to send some more once it reprinted. I was therefore disconcerted to receive two white polystyrene coffins labelled Loch Fyne. ‘Are you sure they’re for us?’ I asked, but there was the Prof’s name on the label all right – no information, however, about the sender. Subsequent investigation revealed a box of oysters and a salmon the size of a young whale, and, eventually, an indication of the sender – who had as it happened written this morning, clearly under the impression (with characteristic modesty), that a recent upturn in his fortunes was due to the NP doing him a good turn rather than to his own considerable gifts & qualifications. So, as it seemed, he had elected to Say It With Fish. It is a gift which resembles the donor in being on one level, absolutely conventional, but also unexpected and magnificent. We are now trying to decide what we all do next. Oysters can be opened with a chisel, and do not require processing, but a 20-lb salmon is no joke. We can hardly wait for the Apparitional to be released from his place of detention – at some point in the next six hours or so we are may find ourselves building a smoke house and stocking it with oak chips. The red-hot horseshoe which is the traditional apparatus for generating the actual smoke is no problem – it can be donated by my friend Gremlin or one of his mates, but we need to get the Apparitional onto oak-chip manufacture and the construction of a suitable smokehouse. Life in the country is not always as dull as all that.