I look at the clock. It's 5:50 a.m. Beyond the windows it's still night and yet I'm wide awake, with a sense of renewed hope and purpose. Then I remember: the clocks have gone back an hour. It's the start of that special day that comes bearing a gift not even Father Christmas can bring – the precious grace of an extra hour.
I'm always excited on this day. It gives you another chance to make a clean start, the possibility to put into practice new ideas that are better than the ones you've just swept out of your life along with cobwebs, possessions you'd been hoarding just in case, and people whose friendship had wilted beyond any nurturing. A whole extra hour to do something you didn't have the time to do yesterday, perhaps, or something you've longed to do for ages, or else something spontaneous and unexpected. A potentially magical sixty minutes pregnant with all sorts of wonderful opportunities and possibilities. So I'd better get out of bed now and not waste this charmed hour.
I sip a cup of warm water, then treat myself to half an hour of gentle yet invigorating Qi Gong practice.
The night sky is growing pale when H. and I go out for a walk. A cushion of fog softens the contours of the River Wensum, the trees and the buildings, and throws a dream-like veil over the fiery autumn red, ocher and gold. There are very few people about and those we encounter smile and say good morning in subdued voices, as though we humans are all aware of being out-of-hours trespassers in what is left of a night that belongs to hooting owls, amber-eyed foxes, and witches making last-minute preparations for Hallowe'en tomorrow.
A seagull calls out uncharacteristically shyly above our heads as it swoops slowly across the milky sky. Somewhere deep in the thick, yellowing mane of a weeping willow, there's the rattle of a magpie. A squirrel runs across the path and scurries up a horse chestnut tree, then pauses to observe us from the top.
"Look!" H. says and points at a bush on the riverbank.
We approach slowly. A cormorant is sitting heavily on a slim branch, causing it to sway, as though trying to hide from the solitary, ethereal swan that's gliding on the far side of the water.
By the flint building of Pulls Ferry, a red-breasted robin is hopping on the wooden gate post, eyeing us with curiosity.
He's not the only one. I can feel hundreds of eyes watching us benevolently as we walk, while golden leaves drop down from the trees and float towards us in swing-like motion.
As we reach the Close, the fog starts to dissipate, slowly unveiling the Cathedral spire that now looks like an Impressionist painting. The sound of the bell drifts through the air, announcing Morning Prayer and the start of this human day which, today, carries the magic of more time.