Walking in the evening throng back towards Waterloo, I stopped to listen to a robin singing next to a street lamp. Nobody else seemed to notice.

The little male bird was in determined mood, and I heard to the first glimmer of spring with a countryman’s fascination. I could have stayed longer, but, as Surtees once said, trains and fox-hunting are the only two things guaranteed to make a man punctual, and I had a date with South West Trains. At this time of the year,

I don’t often get to see the countryside in daylight, but, at the weekend, I went in search of other signs of the changing seasons. Daffodils and tulips were starting to poke their greasy, green heads through the orchard grass, the fruit trees were budding up and, best of all, the first few snowdrops were bravely nodding their ermine heads. Other birds were clearing their throats after a long silence.

The countryside was making its first stuttering steps towards spring. The pleasure I get from the change in season increases with age. It is a wonder to me that so many people seem to miss out on it altogether.