Friday, 24 April 2015

I am a human being.

Warning for: very sweary swearing.


This morning, a letter arrived in the post. It was from the Electoral Registration Officer. It said: ‘Your application as an elector cannot be progressed as we were unable to verify your identity against government databases.’

I felt a galvanic rage seize me in its crocodile jaws and throw me about the room.

It was not just because of the ugly use of progressed in that sentence.

I am a bit of an old lefty. More accurately, I should say I am a pragmatic centrist small L liberal with whiggish tendencies. My leftness comes most strongly in my belief in government. When my right of centre friends and relations are hymning the free market and wanting to drown the state in a bathtub, I stick up for government. I believe in it for all its faults because I believe in the social contract. I am grateful every day that I live in a liberal democracy where there are no religious police knocking down the door. When people groan and say that politicians are all the same, I state the unfashionable view that most of them are decent men and women who do a difficult job to the best of their ability. I wish they would answer the question on the Today programme and I fall into despair when they ruthlessly stay on message and mouth pablum and jargon, but, mostly, I believe in them.

My government, which I defend every single damn week, to which I dutifully pay my taxes, whose laws I obey, whose history I have studied, now tells me I do not exist.

How fucking DARE it?

I’m so angry I’m tempted not to send in my driving licence and, when the electoral cops come to arrest me, I’ll tell them they can’t, because, according to them, I AM NOT A PERSON. The fuckers will rue the day.

Through my red mist, I wonder why this makes me quite so angry. My heart is hammering in my chest and I want to throw things. A vague snatch of talk from the old days in Hampstead, when I used to sit with my sage and funny Jungian-Adlerian and draw comfort and wisdom from his words, comes back to me. He was talking about children and the fragile sense of self. He said something about how when children are ignored, not listened to, not counted, it is a little like dying, because the sense of existing in the world is so important to them. They need to be seen; they need to be heard. It can feel like a matter of life and death.

I am a woman steaming into middle age. The conventional wisdom is that women grow invisible after the age of forty. I’ve never found this to be true. I think you can be as visible as you believe yourself to me. When I went to Aintree, a cameraman from Betfred picked me out of a crowd of seventy thousand. He was asking people about AP McCoy, the incomparable champion who has bestrode the sport of National Hunt racing like a colossus for twenty years. I was enchanted to be asked and poured out a stream of words. He looked at me and smiled. ‘Was that scripted?’ he asked, in astonishment, as if I had been secretly writing my paean of praise for this very moment. I laughed. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I think about him a lot, that’s all.’

I am not invisible, but I do not conform to society’s rules. I confuse and baffle because I don’t want to get married and have children and I don’t do a regular job with an office and a National Insurance Number and a pension and nine-to-five hours. I have odd enthusiasms. I am a geek. This can make one sometimes feel a little like a non-person. If you don’t conform, you can get written out of the script. You don’t see very many other people just like you, or if you do, they are held up as the freak girls, the cautionary tales, the exceptions that prove the rule. My dear old dad did not even know there were any rules and he bequeathed that to me. Most of the time I don’t notice it so very much, as I merrily trundle on my own way, but sometimes I smash up against the blank walls of incomprehension.

Perhaps that chafes me more than I know. Perhaps it’s just that I work hard to live a decent life and be a decent person, even if I sometimes get grumpy and unreasonable and have the odd bitch and can never tackle that damn cupboard of doom, and now someone has come along and told me that was all for nothing. I try not to need external validation, although it’s a bit of a losing battle, but perhaps everyone needs their passport stamped from time to time.

I want to shout, like John Hurt in The Elephant Man: I am a human being.

But sod it, I’m really just a number, and a number that does not appear on the government database. My red duchess will raise an aristocratic eyebrow when she hears that.


Today’s pictures:

The blinky duchess and the manly Stanley:

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Stan the Man and the red mare then had a lovely race up the set-aside to the top gate. She was running because the Paint filly had gone ahead without a permission slip and the duchess was clearly afraid she would eat all the breakfast, and Stanley was running to inspect the tunnel he has dug under the feed shed in his constant quest for rats:

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HorseBack UK, where I did not work this morning because I do not exist:

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Well, that’s better. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Obviously you won’t be reading this because I cannot have written it, but in the parallel universe where someone who looks remarkably like me is typing at seventy words a minute, I wish you a very happy weekend.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The more you give, the more you get.

Everyone says, looking at the sky, British stoicism in their voices: ‘The snow is coming.’ It’s hard to believe as I stand in the warm field with my dozy mare. The sun on her back has sent her into a dream of pleasure and everything about her is soft and relaxed. All is good in her world.

I run up to HorseBack to do my work there. One of the lovely things it has taught me is not to be afraid of people with damaged bodies. I used to have an embarrassed terror of what I once called disability. I didn’t know where to look or how to act. I tried so hard to be normal that I fell into a high-voiced phoniness, overcompensating to beat the band. Now I’m so used to it that I genuinely don’t notice it. The prosthetic is registered, and after that I just see the person. There is no voice in my head shouting, at crazed Basil Fawlty pitch: ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE, DON’T MENTION THE LEG.’

Volunteering for a charity can sound terribly pious and po-faced. Oh, oh, look at me, doing good. In fact, I think it’s one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done. I do get the gift of feeling I’m putting some tiny thing into the world, but the gift is much, much more than that. My mind, which I had not even realised was closed, has been cranked wide open. I have listened to stories and heard perspectives and seen attitudes which I would never have known otherwise. I may now converse with any human missing any part of the anatomy without falling into a sinkhole of terror that I shall say the wrong thing. These people turned me authentic where I was once artificial. That is one of the greatest presents you can give to a human being.

I think a lot about language. Language is one of my great loves, my enduring delights. I never lose my awe and wonder at what words can do. They are worm-holers, time-travellers, scene-setters. Tiny black scratches on a page can take you to 19th century Russia or 25th century Mars. They may transport the reader into other minds and other worlds. Those scratches may cause water to come out of human eyes, or provoke laughter to make the stomach ache. They can enlighten, soothe, galvanise, reassure. The act of writing itself can release anger, cure angst, calm a harried mind. Write it down, write it down, sing my better angels. These little words I play with every day make a record of my love for my dear red mare, so that when she is only a memory I shall still have her with me. She will always exist, in the language of Shakespeare and Milton.

Because of going to HorseBack every week, I don’t use the word disability. It’s not out of some mealy-mouthed political correctness. It’s because I have come to realise that it is not the right word. Language matters. These men and women are the least disabled people I have ever met. They might have been blown to smithereens by roadside bombs, but they can still climb Ben Nevis in the rain and the murk. They work with horses and make unrepeatable jokes and carry themselves with no trace of self-pity. They do bear scars in their bodies and in their minds which mean that they may struggle with things which other people might take for granted. Just because I do not focus on their wounds does not mean that I do not appreciate the challenges they face. But disability is not the word. I prefer to describe the thing as it is. There is a limb missing; the fingers are gone; the Post-Traumatic Stress includes hyper-vigilance and agoraphobia. I don’t think that one word, that single label, is insulting or demeaning or belittling; it just doesn’t tell the thing like it is. The choice is my own, and it means something to me. It’s a decision, not a judgement.

Oddly enough, as I was writing this the telephone rang. It was a nice man called Pete from Action Aid. Apparently I have been supporting Action Aid for twenty-two years. Pete, who sounded as if he was not born when I set up my first direct debit, had amazement in his voice. (I had a rueful moment of thinking the astonishment was that anyone could be that old.)

I remember the impulse as if it were yesterday. All my life, I have carried the hum of First World guilt in my ears. I shall never quite understand why I had the luck to be born in a liberal democracy with running water and a temperate climate and a roof over my head. In a shameless manner, I thought that if I whacked some money each month to a good cause then I might ease that guilt. It was not the most salutary reason in the world, but, anyway, Pete seemed pleased.

He was ringing to tell me about disaster prevention and told me of a family in Vietman who had spent three days on the roof of their house as the flood waters rose. Could I spare another two pounds a month so that they could have an early warning system? Yes, I could. How can I say no to two pounds when I am about to shell out fifty times that for some hay for my horse?

HorseBack, however, has nothing to do with assuaging guilt. There is no consciousness of others not having the fortune I have. It’s part of my life. It’s hard work. Far from feeling saintly, I sometimes get scratchy and manic and even grumpy about the demands on my time, even though it’s entirely my own choice to do it. It’s an eye-opener, a mind-expander, a weekly perspective police. I don’t feel like a good person when I am there; I am far too busy being interested and laughing my head off and listening to things I should never hear anywhere else. I canter about and make bad jokes (‘Are we playing innuendo bingo?’ I hollered, at one point this morning) and frown as I try to get a good angle with the camera and give my favourite horses a good scratch and catch up with the returning veterans.

I suppose I sometimes feel useful, part of something bigger than my own small self, but mostly I feel galvanised. There is a reason that people say there is a paradox in volunteering. The paradox is this: the more you give, the more you get. It’s that damn simple. And I love it.


Today’s pictures:

HorseBack UK course, this morning. All these veterans have gone through life-changing injury, physical and mental. They have seen things no human eye should see. Until they came here, most of them had never even met a horse. And here they are:

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At one point, I started faffing around with angles, trying to get arty. These pictures are not technical successes, because the focus is all wrong, but I rather love them anyway:

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Back in her quiet, sunny field, the duchess is enjoying her Thunderbrook’s. This is a top-quality feed which I have shipped in at vast expense, by couriers who believe I live in the Highlands, however often I tell them I don’t, so that they can charge me an extra premium. I don’t care. Only the best is good enough for the red mare:

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The peace is coming off her in waves. She is my own little Zen mistress and she was at her most Zennish today:

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Meanwhile, Stan the Man is HUNTING. Again, not the best picture I ever took but I like it because you can see the determination. He is a very busy dog. Some days, he can’t even stop to say hello because he has jobs to finish:

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Ground Elder.

In a book whose name I cannot recall, Miss Marple puts her wise old head on one side and says: ‘When you get ground elder really badly in a border, there is nothing to do but dig the whole thing up and start again.’

She was using ground elder as a metaphor for some kind of fiendish crime of course, but I have always worried about literal ground elder. My dear little garden is plagued by it, and I am too much of an old hippy to allow it to be sprayed. I once had to stop a tall gentleman with a fanatical gleam in his eye from dousing it with Agent Orange. (I didn’t even know that was legal.) He had the hazmat suit on and everything. ‘No, no,’ I cried, hanging on his arm like a 19th century damsel. I practically added: ‘Pray, sir, do not,’ in swooning accents.

So, every year, I pull out the mean little elders with my bare hands. I never win the battle, but my battalions keep marching on.

This morning, I saw to my horror that the things had gone crazy. Spring-time ground elders every damn where. I fell to my knees and started digging them up with my fingers. Stanley the Dog thought it a very poor sort of a game.

I uncovered some enchanting little vincas and some tiny box plants and rescued a lovely peony from despair. I am not digging up my bed and starting again. I’m going to go on battling.

I thought, as I crouched low with determination, my hands in the good Scottish earth, that I have ground elder of the mind. I don’t think I can ever dig up that mental bed up and start again. I think I have to keep pulling the stuff up by the roots, every day.

I think it is a lot to do with people leaving. My dad left, when I was seven, and I think that is one of the defining features of my life. I adored my father, and I missed him. He came to see us and I went to stay with him, but it was not the same. I missed him then and I miss him still.

Even though my rational mind knows that all humans are different individuals, with different lives and different thoughts and different loves, I have a magical part of my brain which really does suspect that everyone is just like me. (You can see this as horrid narcissism, or being a hopeful citizen of the world. I can’t decide.) I think that somewhere in the most nutty corridor of my mind I sort of believe that everyone has a red mare and is a politics geek and knows by heart the poems of Yeats. I don’t refine on my father leaving, because that part of me secretly believes that all fathers go. But they really don’t. Lots and lots and lots of fathers stay. Of course, some are dead bores and some are workaholics and some are emotionally absent, but some are not. They are there, at the breakfast table, entwined in their children’s lives. They know the small things, they get the private jokes, they understand the heartaches.

I believe in stoicism, and I’m not going to make a three-act opera of something that happened forty years ago. But it did happen, and I think one must mark it. The ground elder that springs from that leaving has to be pulled up, or it will choke the whole. It’s not a sorrow or a pity, so much, it’s just a thing. It is there. The beloved was beloved, and then he was gone.

That’s my thought for the day. It’s about balance, I think. I think one has to acknowledge the griefs of life, the ones that leave little scars and tics and scratches in the mind. One not need be defined by them, or sunk by them, or unhinged by them, but one must know they are there. And then, you just pull the buggers up, one by one.

Or something like that.


Today’s pictures:

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The little Paint filly and Stanley the Manly this morning. Stan is helpfully eating up all the hoof parings from the farrier’s recent visit. They are like gourmet treats for him:

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The duchess stopped doing her donkey ears for three minutes and put on her show pony face. I’d put my camera onto a new setting by mistake, so she’s come out rather more amber than usual, and I quite like the effect. It’s got an old school feeling to it:

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And the same again here. It’s like we’ve gone back to 1962:

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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A new page.

Even though I indulge myself too often in endless horse stories, I am aware that not all the Dear Readers are quite as entranced by the red mare as I am. (Nobody could be as entranced by the red mare as I am.) So I am starting a small experiment. I’m giving her her very own Facebook page, where I can bang on to my heart’s content, secure in the knowledge that the audience will be kindly self-selecting.

She is so precious to me, and the work she does makes me so proud, and the lessons she teaches me are so profound that I have wanted always to keep a record of her. I am keenly aware that she will not always be with me. I hope to keep her into a delightful old age, but any sudden colic, random field accident or unexpected illness could rip her from me, at any time. Everyone who keeps horses knows that if you have livestock, you will also have deadstock. I try to take a leaf from the equine book, and be flinty and unsentimental about this. Horses deal with life and death much better than do humans. But of course, when she goes, I shall be undone. That is when I shall need to take down this book, and slowly read. I shall want to remember her moments of glad grace.

I start to think that the correct place for this is not here. I cannot banish her from these pages entirely, as she runs through my life and my heart like Brighton through a stick of rock. She is stitched into my very being. She makes me a better human and causes the wings of my better angels to flap. But when I need to elaborate on some training exercise, or wax madly on a moment of love, or gallop off on a tangent about the life lessons my red professor teaches me, I can now put all that into a discrete chapter.

I quite often start experiments like this and do not maintain them. It’s one more thing to do in a busy life, and eventually I decide that there is not enough time and thought and space. It may take. We shall see. But if you want to find her, she is, for the time being, here:


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A glimpse of normality.


I’ve been a bit stuck for the last week and today, as the sun shone and dazzled and danced over this green land, I found myself released.

I like to think I have a faint graps on The Human Condition. I once had an awfully good shrink. I’ve read a bit of Jung and Adler and the very brilliant Dorothy Rowe. I try to practice sense and sanity each day as I would practice arpeggios. I have that red mare, my best professor, who teaches me valuable life lessons every single day.

And yet, there are the elephant traps, and there am I, falling into them.

The stuckness was to do with difficult emotions and a big family change and, humming away in the background, fretfulness over the manuscript which is still with the agent, still awaiting its marks out of ten, still not yet grown-up enough to be sold into the world as a book.

It manifested as a series of odd refusals. I would not follow the election campaign, even though I am a politics geek. I would not cook nice food, even though I love cooking and am quite good at it, but existed on ham sandwiches and quite often skipped lunch altogether. I would certainly not tidy the house or keep my office looking professional. I would not reply to that urgent email or this vital telephone message.

I was doing the bare minimum, and I hate doing the minimum.

Then, something shifted, and I was off to the races again. It’s more of a relief than I like to admit. There are still frets and scratches and murmuring worries in my mind, but I glimpse a small patch of normality. Today, I did my HorseBack work and had a long conversation with my friend The Marine. I went back to the other book I am writing, and set out on the sixth draft. Once that is done, I can send that one off too, and see if someone might like to buy it. I edited forty good pages and felt quite pleased. I had a glorious ride and did some useful work on the ground with the red mare and watched her learn something new, and teach me something new, because she teaches me every day. Tonight, I shall cook something proper for my supper. Tidying the office may still have to wait for another day, but now there is movement where there was paralysis and that feels like one great leap forward.


Today’s pictures:

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This was the smiling face that greeted me as I arrived at HorseBack this morning. He is one of our regular veterans, and it’s always lovely to see him back with us, and to watch him reunite with dear Rodney, his old mucker:

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Not my best pictures ever, because I’ve cut off her ears and there is a car tyre in the background. But you can see the dearness and the softness, and that’s all I care about:

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Friday, 17 April 2015

Old friends, red mares, dark woods.

It’s been a long and odd week. I’ve been rather grumpy and scratchy, only finding moments of calm and bliss when I’m with the red mare, who made it her business to be at her most charming and enchanting and antic and interesting and clever on every single sunny morning. I can’t take any emotional nonsense down to her, so the hours I spend with her are like daily meditation.

All the same, I knew something was going on, but I was not sure what. It’s tiredness and anti-climax, I thought, vaguely. I was at full stretch at Aintree last week, physically and emotionally, involved in the HorseBack work which meant so much to us all. I’d been travelling, which always exhausts me. I’ve got a lot of work to do and am still waiting for the agent to get back to me. I need to get this damn book sold. When I found myself weeping at the thought of AP McCoy retiring, because I’m going to miss The Champ so much, I suspected that there was a little glitch in my emotional wiring. But you know, it’s just life, and all its demands.

This morning, an old friend called. She’s one of those ones who has been there for over twenty years. We have so much shared history and old jokes and mutual affection and understanding. We exclaimed and bantered and shouted with laughter.

And then, she told me exactly what it was that was going on. I’d hardly said two sentences when she cut at once to the heart of the matter. ‘Oh,’ I said, amazed, ‘of course that is what it is.’ She then teased me about it for five minutes whilst I actually slapped the walls with hilarity and merriment. And relief, too. At last, I knew, and knowledge is power.

The mare has done glorious things this week. I’ve asked her many more questions than I usually ask, and although she has expressed moments of doubt and astonishment, once she realised that I was serious and steady she gave the good answers. We’ve found the most lovely trot, and she is learning to bend her body and drop her head and go from left to right like a dressage diva. But, oddly enough, the thing of which I am most proud is her newly intrepid spirit.

We start each ride with an offering. I give her the reins and ask where she would like to go. She has the whole set-aside to play in, and generally she describes a known circuit, from the feed shed to the top gate to the bottom gate to the far paddock and back again. About a month ago, she delighted me by striking out to the scary woods, where the treeline starts and shadows and rough ground are found.

Today, she went to the even more scary woods, which run to the south and go up a sharp hill. When she first arrived and I took her there, she wigged out entirely, rearing and reversing downhill like a crazy horse. I didn’t blame her. The trees are thick and the shadows deep and the going treacherous and I won’t walk far into those woods myself, for all my rational cast of mind, because who knows what sprites are hiding in the dark.

To get to that place where Here Be Dragons, she had to walk all the way around the main paddock railings, along a fairly narrow path, taking two sharp right-hand turns. It’s not an obvious route. And the really funny thing was that I was on the telephone at the time. (Children, do not try this at home. It’s very, very naughty and I should not do it.) Because I was chatting away and had no hand on the rein, I did not really realise where we were until I suddenly looked up and found that we were about to fall off the edge of the world.

As I did so, I heard the sound of rattling hooves. The little Paint filly, obviously believing that we were about to strike off into the unknown and leave her alone, was remembering her barrel racing ancestry and was charging down the field at full gallop.

‘Hold on,’ I said to the person on the telephone, ‘it’s all kicking off here. I had better concentrate.’

It’s spring, and I was out in a strange part of the field, and the red mare’s friend was going loco. That should have been a light the touchpaper and then retire moment. I fully expected the mare to want to gallop too. Instead, she regarded her charge with tolerant eyes, and did not move a muscle. I put my hands on the reins, certain an explosion would come. Nothing happened. The Paint, as if also expecting at least some reaction, and quite miffed that her glorious display produced no more than a sceptical eyebrow, did a perfect sliding stop in front of us and then put on a small rodeo display, as if she were in the Calgary Stampede. She wheeled, did twisting bronco leaps, bucked, snorted, and danced in a circle.

The red mare sighed.

‘Well,’ I said into the telephone. ‘I think we are all right.’

Then I turned the mare’s head towards home and walked back on the buckle.

I write all that because I want to illustrate how far she has come. That moment was far more impressive, in a way, than the delightful bending trot. But all the same, I have had a suspicion for some time that I have not quite got to the bottom of her. I think I’ve excavated about 90% of her, but there is a lurking 10% of old emotion, trapped feelings, subterranean worry, that lies at her core like black old silt. If I can dig that out and bring it into the light, then we shall be all glory.

They say that horses are the mirror of their humans. I think that I too have a layer of silt, difficult or shameful or stupid feelings which I don’t want to look at too closely. That is what has been going on this week. That was what my dazzling friend saw at once. She cast daylight on the mystery, and at once it had no more power to paralyse me.

This particular friend has faced things in the last two or three years which would have sunk a lesser woman. She has stared straight down the gun-barrel, unflinching. There is no frailty or self-pity in her voice. She is exactly the same as she always was: incisive, clever, idiosyncratic, funny, absolutely her own self. As we talk, and she makes me laugh so much that I can hardly breathe, I silently take all my hats off to her. I don’t say that. I wonder if she knows. For all that I pride myself on Saying the Thing, I am still British, and do irony and jokes better than earnest sincerity.

As we finish our conversation, she says, another teasing note in her bright voice, ‘Well, at least you have that horse.’

‘YES!!!!’ I bellow. ‘I have the horse.’

I have the old friends; I have Stan the Man; I have the red mare; I have this place, these hills. I have love and trees. I’ll be all right.


Today’s pictures:

Far too much going on to take out the camera, so these are from the week:

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You can see the start of the scary woods in the background. To the right, out of shot, is the place where they get really dense and alarming. That was where my brave girl went:

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Mr Know It All. Or, the mote in my own eye.

I heard a Know It All on the wireless today. It was not my normal time for listening and I turned on a programme by chance, and there he was, Mr Know It All.

My hands, I must confess, were clenched in fists of rage.

Mr Know It All got more and more knowing. There was a tone in his voice I could not quite identify, so maddening that I wanted to punch someone in the nose. There was an underlying of course to everything he said, and a faint plaintiveness. I could not quite work out what that was about. Was it because nobody could really understand what it was, to know everything? The heavy burden, the heaving brain. There was something else that was driving me nuts. I finally understood was it was.

It was pity.

I loathe pity in all its forms. I find it ersatz and patronising and bogus. Empathy, even sympathy, yes, but pity, no. Pity is a distancing device, and has superiority running beside it like a prancing carriage dog.

There is a subset of Know It All which does the pity voice like no other. These are the conspiracy theorists, who are the worst snobs in nature. They look down loftily on the rest of us, the drones, the rubes, the sheeple, who believe what the Establishment says, who do not see the hidden hand of the Bilderbergs or the Freemasons or the Black Ops, or whoever it is that week who is running the world. Mr Know It All had a little tinge of conspiracy to go with his facts. But it was percentages and reports and statistics which really set his boat crossing the stormy sea. He reeled them off, giddy with self-importance, until I felt battered into submission.

In the middle of my crossness, I stopped myself. For heaven’s sake, I said. Why should not the poor fellow know things? Knowing things is good. I adore knowing things. When I was young, I gathered facts like amulets, as if they could keep me safe in an unreliable world. I still feel like that.

I did not go to Hampstead for ten years for nothing. I turned at once to the most likely culprit, which was projection. There is a classic psychological device which suggests that the things you criticise most severely in others are in fact the things of which you are guilty. This does not always obtain. I get very cross about bigots, and I do not think I am prone to bigotry. But if the criticism and crossness are disproportionate, then it is often well to look to oneself.

I don’t do the pity voice and I don’t look down on people who did not have the schooling I did, but I am, I am afraid, a tiny bit of a Know It All myself. I was a girly swot, and I had to become the class clown to divert attention from those top marks in tests. I still, at almost fifty, can be tempted to tell people at parties about the Repeal of the Corn Laws. I drop all kinds of classical and historical and literary references into what I write. This is partly because I love references. I find them beautiful and soothing and as familiar as old friends. But it is partly a remnant of that little girl who used to get up and tap dance, saying Look at me, look at me.

I don’t scold myself for this, but I must think it, on a subconscious level, a little bit vulgar. Otherwise I should just have laughed at Mr Know It All, and let him pass on his way. I love people who wear their knowledge lightly, and perhaps that is what I would like to learn to do myself. There do not always have to be proofs, and brags, and prizes.

I think of this all the time with my red mare. I was working her today, hard and well. We upped the ante and had some breakthroughs and even broke out of our customary pootle to some serious schooling. I felt very proud of her, and I learnt a lot. As we rode back to the shed, on the buckle, I immediately started to put it into words. I would write it here or post it on one of the horse forums I love. I had to tell everyone about those serpentines in the lovely dowager duchess trot she has been achieving lately.

Then the Sensible Voice made its pitch. Why not just write it privately, said the Sensible Voice. You don’t always have to boast. You don’t have to prove a point. Write it down for yourself, so you can look back and smile at the progress. Nobody else need know. It is what it is, between you and this strong, ravishing, sentient creature, in your hidden field. It does not have to be on display.

The hubris demons, very flappy and disconcerted, did not like this at all. They wanted everyone to know how high we were flying. They wanted to describe the close glimpse of the sun. Are you mad? they shrieked at the Sensible Voice. Everyone must know; the thing must be marked.

And then I went in and heard Mr Know It All and wanted to punch his silly nose.

All writing has an element of Look at Me in it. All prose is a bit of a tap dance. I suspect that I need that drive to show myself and prove myself and stretch myself, otherwise I would never write a book at all. But perhaps that little moment was sent along to remind me that I don’t need to do the dance all the time. Sometimes, I can just write the thing for my own private record, and not beg the crowd for its approval. I can know something, or a little, or a part, or even nothing at all, and that is quite perfectly fine. I do not need to Know It All, and, most especially, I do not need to attempt to prove this on the wide prairies of the internet. Sometimes, it really can just be me and a sweet horse, in that hidden field. Literally, and figuratively.


Today’s pictures:

The sweetness in the hidden field:

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My two sweethearts, browsing in the set-aside. I love it when they are both grazing together:

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The duchess is at last losing her winter woolliness, so that I can see her again. She’s come through the winds and the weather wonderfully well. I’m very lucky because she is what my old dad would call a good doer. She is always well in herself and eats up like clockwork, and I never take that for granted:

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