Dr Biswell has returned to the Deep North. We tried to persuade the Rough Cats to make a banner saying ‘WELCOME HOME TO THE YOUNG MASTER’ and hang it over the drive but we got a lot of lip about ‘Wot’s in it for us, then?’ Cottagers these days… However, one other person, apart from us, was truly pleased to see him: hardly had Dr B lit his first fag of the summer when the Apparitional Gamekeeper apparated. He has been slightly at a loose end since leaving school, and it turned out that his little head was full of schemes he had, up to that point, been keeping to himself. Such are his powers of persuasion that last Saturday, Dr Biswell bought his very own airgun. Since then, the pair of them have been devoting a fair amount of time to shooting pigeons, rabbits and crows, to the satisfaction of all parties (or at least, those who are not pigeons, rabbits, or crows). The surviving corvids are continuing to hammer on the upstairs windows at unfeasible hours of the morning, so as far as I am concerned, the more of them the boys managed to shoot, the better. The presence of a couple of labradors on the general staff might be considered relevant in this context; but in fact, though I gather that Best Friend is reasonably good, Miss Dog raises her eyebrows and says ‘Oooo, fetch it yourself’. Her principal contribution to the Field Sports enterprise is, I regret to say, to dig well ripened rabbit guts & so forth out of the compost heap and eat them, with the result that in the course of the night, she is horribly sick on the rug in the hall. We are getting a little tired of this, and the compost heap has been put off limits to Man the Hunter –– they will just have to dispose of their disjecta membra at a sensible distance from the house. I have spoken. There is a limit to what one rug will take. However, if we had imagined that my gamekeeper’s plans for civilising the Professorial household ended there, we were wrong. In the course of the last two days, he has been unfolding his plans for the Swamp with the gentle persistence of a dripping tap. Surely, what we needed all along, if we had only thought of it, was a trout pond. But of course. Actually, his plan is perfectly sensible; it involves creating one deep area by the dam, and a series of shallows, and careful landscaping to concentrate and speed up the flow of water. He’s drawn it out, and the important thing is that it will answer other desiderata by looking very nice, sounding lovely, with water running chuckling over large stones, like the Spey, and not being a breeding ground for midges. I will be allowed one waterlily, provided I can keep it under control; and I can put iris and things on the bank if I want. The boy also, incidentally, calculated the amount of water coming in, and what it would do at various speeds & so forth, and he’s also costing the various operations, and working out how much of various raw materials, JCB drivers’s time at a given rate, and so on, that we will need –– he being someone the local academy wrote off as ineducable. One wonders how hard they tried. I have not the slightest objection to having a trout pond. We have sort of resigned ourselves to being talked into this, so long as at least one ship comes in over the summer, but on one issue, I stand firm. Brown trout, not rainbows. However, quite how much of the trout we will actually see again is an open question. The burn supports at least one otter, and there is a family of ospreys which fishes the commercial pond a couple of miles from us. I haven’t said this to the Apparitional, but to me, seeing an osprey take a trout from the pond would be infinitely more satisfying than catching it myself. At least I wouldn’t have to cook the bloody thing. Nor do I have any objection to subsidising an otter –– I would be enchanted to see one moseying about in the reeds, or even just to know it was there. I’m sure this is a most improper attitude, which is why I do not propose to share it with the Apparitional One.