We have been fooled before, but last Monday really was some thing, in these eastern parts, anyway. Across the river, the cattle had just been let out of the sheds. They were visibly unstiffening, slightly dazed in the sunshine, maybe. Moving slowly. The human beings were saying, not for the first time. "Is it really here at last?" The river was low and clear. A kingfisher flashed by - then another.

The signs of winter were still around, of course; half haystacks of dead reeds and twigs and grass hung from the alders, now nearly ten feet above the present level of the water. Twenty yards into the trees, similar debris lay around like seaweed on a shore. But the buds were moving. The dog wood in the drive, brilliant yellow and red stems, were showing leaf. Now to be cut back at once by about four feet. And still they will come on again. For autumn they are unbeatable in the colour competition. Scarlet oaks and even liquid amber have nothing on these large leaves with their shades of yellow into apricot into blazing red and then down to purple and a dusky death.

Everywhere under the trees, the oaks especially, you now notice a deep, damp carpet of the leaves. Sweep it up? No. And grass is bleached in lumps and flat stretches. Nearly white. And the reeds, the phragmites. You'd like to see them grow more and more. As they used to do before the river was drained. And birds have never attacked the nuts and grains in the feeders more eagerly. Building up their strength for mating and laying and the parental drudge of having to work from morning to night to feed young squalling hungry mouths.

As far as the rabbits are concerned, we are not clear of the winter yet, for they keep on digging holes in among the ash and even on the lawn, to get at soft roots. Isn't it enough for them to have half consumed a clump of new broom within days of its planting. Moral: take nothing for granted.

But the warmth and the sun! Get the last of the tree pruning done. And felling. Better to plant too many and then take out some than plant too few and then have to supplement with undersized specimens.

In spite of all this, in spite of the warm glow, you order more central heating oil. And a cheerful call from Geneva, that night, announced four inches of snow on the ground and still coming down.