'A tiny, stick-like figure of a man had appeared, and with him a creature one would presume to be his dog, but which looked more like a leopard'

We came home from holiday to an autumn such as we may never see again. Not only had the grass reverted to green from the sickly dun colour which the summer heat had baked it, but we found the sheep standing chest- deep in luxuriant verdure, rather than on a brown billiard table. Downpours of rain seemed to have arrested the premature decline of the trees, and everywhere the fruits of the season were ripening in astonishing profusion.

Apples? We cannot give them away. Never in living memory have our trees been so loaded. As the sun blazed down in June, July and August, I feared that the fruit would never attain any size - yet somehow the roots managed to find enough moisture, and our Bramley cookers are colossal. The first single apple weighing more than 1lb was a cause for excitement - but when I had picked 50 that size off one tree, such monsters became commonplace.

Pears, also, have been the best ever. During the drought I took the trouble, every other day, to carry buckets of water from a cattle trough and empty them round the base of one young tree. The result has been fruit of a good size and an indescribable sweetness.

Wild production has been even more spectacular. Acorns and beechmast are cascading down like hailstones, and fungi have gone berserk.

To return home and find all these riches round about was like having a second holiday. Yet the best surprise lay indoors. In our absence the house and animals had been looked after by Len, a retired farmer, and his wife Joyce. As he arrived and looked round, Len had mentioned that he liked tinkering with old clocks, so I incited him to have a go at our 19th-century grandfather, which had been keeping time all right, but, whose small central display recording the state of the moon had been stationary for 50 years at least.

Safely back, we found the place in impeccable order, and after a quick hand-over Len departed for home in New Zealand. He was too modest to mention that he had done anything to the clock. But then, on our second morning, I looked at its face and noticed something odd.

Surely the little picture in the middle was not as I remembered it? At the bottom a tiny, stick-like figure of a man had appeared, and with him a creature which one would presume to be his dog, except that in its length and slimness it is reminiscent of a leopard. Both stand on the shore of a shimmering blue lake, on which a flat-bottomed boat like a punt is poised. In the background rises a house of faintly Mediterranean appearance, with shallow pink roofs. A tree in the foreground is neither a willow nor a palm. Altogether the picture seems to hover mysteriously between different parts of the world.

And it is moving! Millimetre by millimetre it is turning. After several days of infinitesimal disappearance, the house has now vanished up to the left, behind the curly clouds represented by the frame. Down from the right has come the cherubic countenance of the moon, its visible crescent growing with astronomically realistic tardiness, until, by the beginning of this week, it was full.

Now I rush down every morning to see how it is doing. There is something magical about the fact that a mechanism dead for half a century has come alive again. I feel like the man in Schubert's song "Das Bild", who stares gloomily at a likeness of his former lover, and in a hair-raising line sees the beloved countenance come stealthily to life.The face that fascinates me is only that of the moon - and, to be honest, the old fellow is rather more rubicund and dimpled than I care for. Yet I find it riveting to gaze at something with which I have lived since I was a child, but which, until now, I have never seen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk