In our 21st Century lives, it's often not possible to distinguish the cycle of the year in any tangible sense, beyond a vague notion of what is being marketed by retailers. Easter eggs? Must be January 2nd. Santa hats? Probably mid September.
One of the joys (and occasionally that phrase is uttered between gritted teeth in the brunt of some horizontal weather) of living a more elemental Orcadian life is that the cyclical nature of the seasons is much more obvious.
There's the rather prominent effect of the passage of the setting sun back and forth along the western horizon. There's the holiday time-share experience of summer and winter migratory birds: skuas swapping skies with berry-ravenous redwings; and long-in-the-beak oystercatchers giving way to long-tailed ducks.
But this weekend, a more subtle change occurred, close to Tense Towers and close to our hearts. The muddy field entrance, just over the road from our front garden, cattle-poached and unprepossessing, has brought a little piece of Winter to our doorstep. And although these birds are resident in Orkney throughout the year, only during the colder months do Snipe choose to visit our immediate vicinity. They are very welcome.