Sandy, Bedfordshire: A false dawn had begun at dusk the day before, with the bright beams from an industrial estate.

A good hour before sunrise, two-song thrushes were in full voice in a small copse by the railway line. A little burst of this, a little snatch of that. What stirred them into pouring out attention-seeking nocturnes now? This was a time when tawny owl talons might be reaching for their last supper of the night.

Out to the west, false dawn had begun at dusk the day before. The town’s street lamps, the glow-worms of winter, had fired the sky with a luminosity like dying embers. A far greater stimulus came from four blazing moons at the birds’ backs. A bank of security beams from the yard of an industrial estate whitened the trees, seeped into the hedgerow and lit the pale grass of the neighbouring field.

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