Karate. Kata. Movement and easing the body’s joints into this January day. A young blue tit watched unafraid as he did Godan then Sochin. Like an expert rock climber it hopped along, gripping the sheer face of the fence as a friend watched from the small silver birch beyond the fence. It was only four metres from him.

He is out on the grass near the road at the back of the flats. The frost has been severe and the sharp January sun is welcome. For the first time since he moved to these new flats the gritter has come into the estate. In their low lying area which is marshy and where years ago deep mines bore into the Scottish mantle they get all the rain, fog and frost.

Entranced by the small bird’s fearlessness he lightens the kata movement. The road beyond is light with the Sunday traffic. On the other side of the road is the path that leads alongside the road.

Beyond the fence where the bird is a bay shaped patch of earth which is planted with small shrubs. It is next to the pavement that loops round the corner of the estate with the road. At the end of this patch of earth he sees the small West Highland terrier with its owner. He is a tall man. It’s been years since he spoke to him.  He thinks it was maybe five or more years ago. He had come to the door with a leaflet about his daughter’s birthday. She would be twenty-three. It would also be her last. She had cystic fibrosis. The leaflet was to say she didn’t have long and we could donate to a charity. No asking for pity and the picture of his daughter was of a girl as happy, open and alive as a father could hope for. A businessman it was taking all his control to be light and business like.

Everyone knew each other by sight, by the car huddled in its familiar parking space or the pet they had to exercise. But everyone is the walking wounded somehow he thought miming his friend’s occasional mantra.

Just before the tree line began they stopped. It was only about another eight metres away from where he was practising. He had leant down to the dog and spoke.

‘It’s been six years and a day now, Fergus,’ he said.

They soon moved away. And by now the bird and its kid brother had left and the birch was without its winter tourists. He finished and picked up the makiwara and washing basket and headed round to the front.

He wondered when he could say hello to them both as they walked out of the estate.

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