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Extract taken from "Paul Heathcote's Rhubarb & Black Pudding"
by Matthew Fort
Published by Fourth Estate Ltd. 1998

Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

The Secretive Hunter
The woods are quiet with sunlight. It filters down through the turning leaves, giving the yellows and ambers and reds and oranges of the beech, oak , larch and ash leaves the brilliance of an illustrated missal.

Where the ground is not disguised by coils of bramble and the dying stalks of nettles and foxgloves, it is covered in leaves, layer upon layer of them, like strata of tortoiseshell. The surface veneer is already beginning to moulder, to take on the deep brown of the leaves' decayed predecessors.

A man with a basket on his arm moves among the trees with slow, easy paces. He is tall, as thin as a pipe cleaner. His face is crab apple russet with wind and sun. His eyes are a very pale, patient blue. Above his mouth droops a Zapata moustache. He walks with long effortless strides.

He wears heavy-duty brown walking boots, black jeans tucked into blue socks, a waterproof vest over a check shirt over a rugby shirt. He is in no hurry. He stops to watch a grey squirrel scuffing among the leaves. It picks up a piece of beech mast, sits examining it for a moment, then skims away in looping bounds with it. The man adjusts the basket on his arm.

He crosses a patch of sunlight, pauses on the reef of shade, bends down and cuts the fat stem of a glistening brown-capped cep and puts it into the basket. He bends again and cuts another and another. The little cluster is gone and he moves on into shadow again...


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