I took Scout out at about four, while it was still light, and walked across the frozen fields under a sliver of moon like a fingernail. The soil was so hard it was impossible even to prise a stone up from its surface.
As I turned around to retrace my steps a church bell began tolling, and when I reached the ancient lane that led into the hamlet a second bell joined the first, and then another, their notes ringing out across the fields as they had done for century upon century.
The church's windows flickered with candlelight, and I could see people going in. I wanted to join them, I wanted to come in from the fields, be tolled in, and receive the sacrament: not of Christ, but of the past. The moment felt as holy as anything I have ever experienced.
But I turned away, and led Scout along the darkening lanes, a choir of blackbirds chorusing their alarums from the hedges as the bells slowed to a single, sombre note, and then died to silence. The church door was shut fast behind the last worshipper and the village around it settled slowly into the long winter night.