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Autumn has arrived here on the highveld, presaging a bitter winter: temperatures overnight are sharply down, and the days are noticeably shorter. In this big, draughty house, it is 14 degrees indoors, and I am wearing a fleece over my jersey, to keep warm.

After two days at home in my office reading policy documents, trying to shape an analysis, I have a touch of cabin fever. I need to get out. I need to go to a movie with Rob; we need to cook a meal together, and drink some good wine. I find myself dreaming, of that ‘human touch.’ It is time I made some photographs – I have some images I want to print, some ideas Rob and I have been talking about. I need to get my novel back on track: problems of ‘voice’ have held me up, but today, working early at my desk before the working day began, I think I struck a true note.

Meanwhile, from the old, wizened tree that stands pushing its green leaves out despite everything into the tiny patch of garden that lies between the kitchen and the back cottage, I have a crop of lemons.