Friday, 19 December 2014

Not my finest hour.

Well, it’s official. My head has now exploded into a festival of snot. It’s not my most glamorous hour.

I forget about colds, and how odd they are. One moment, you have a clear head and an easy chest, and the next every airway is blocked with catarrh and you’re hacking a cough to do a sixty Capstan a day woman proud. Where does it come from? Some odd snot factory inside the body gets to work and produces gunk where there was nothing. I find it peculiarly mysterious.

I’ve been reading this week’s Horse and Hound about astonishing people doing astonishing things with their horses. They’ve come back from brain injury, horrific falls, cancer, broken backs, and there they are, with their beloved equines, kicking on. A tiny cold should not stop me in the face of all this. I am a pitiful excuse of a girl.

Despite my belief in stoicism and buggering on, I totter about, barely functioning. I manage to make soup, write two thank you letters, and watch the 1.55 at Ascot. I stumble down to give the red mare her tea (she is flinty, and has absolutely no sympathy with a poxy cold) and throw a stick for Stanley the Dog, and that is it. I’m done. Finished. I eat the chicken soup and take the vitamin C and do not understand how such an absurd virus can conquer the human body so comprehensively. I just about do my HorseBack work, although I have no idea whether my swimmy sentences make any sense. I do not feel Christmassy in the least although I did manage to arrange my traditional armfuls of eucalyptus and they do look quite pretty.

Ah well, better tomorrow. At least the thank you letters were done. That’s the most important thing. My mother will be pleased.


Just one picture today, of the beat of my heart. I love it, even though the focus is slightly off, because it shows all her sweet peace. I think it is that spreading peacefulness, which streams out of her when all is well in her world, that I love the most:

19th Dec 1

PS. Thank you to those of the Dear Readers who shared my HorseBack album. It really means a lot to me.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A compliment.

I really did want to write a glittering post for you today, but a stinking cold has descended on me from the blue. This is particularly galling since I have a fantasy that I do not get colds. Those idiot germs will rue the day. Swallowing is agony and I am pale as a wraith and my head feels like it is going to explode. I am very grumpy indeed.

But even through the bleurgh, I have reasons to smile. I’m back in full swing at HorseBack, and thinking a lot about the grace and courage I have seen there over the last year. It is, as always, a privilege to try and express some of that, to spread the word, to celebrate the triumphs. And, in much more humble news, I got a mighty compliment this morning.

The tree surgeons were at work, cutting down a tottering old horse chestnut. I took the red mare out to watch. She did not seem to think it at all remarkable that there was a man with a socking great chainsaw thirty yards up in the air. She lifted her head for a moment when he hurled a particularly big branch to the ground, assessed the situation, decided there were no mountain lions, and went back to dozing.

And here came the compliment. My neighbour, who was loading up the branches into his tractor and trailer, so they can be dried for next year’s firewood, looked at the sweet white face and said: ‘She’s just like an old dog, isn’t she?’

Now normally you would think that such a grand duchess should not be referred to as ‘an old dog’. (She has Hyperion three times on her bottom line.) In fact, it was the sweetest sentence I could hear. I grinned like a loon. I wondered if I should let it lie, but I couldn’t, quite. ‘I did school her to be like this,’ I said, utterly unable to keep the pride out of my voice.

The chainsaw started up again, and the tree surgeons adjusted their protective masks. The mare seemed to see nothing remarkable in these oddly-dressed strangers invading her territory. The neighbour looked at me, and looked at her. The mare blinked. I could see that he did not quite believe that I had specifically set out to make a horse which stood about with her head down whilst men with machinery capered about her.

But that is exactly what I did. All that desensitising, all that groundwork, all those slow steps; all the mistakes and the muddles and the moments of hopelessness and the sudden seeing of the light; all of that made the old dog the girl she is. She thinks the world is a pretty good place, and is more prone now to curious approaching rather than instant flight. It’s all in the mind. She’s got confidence in herself now, because she ended up with a human she can rely on. That’s really what all the training is about. It’s not so much teaching her new things, although that is a lovely side-effect, it’s showing her that I am steady and trustworthy and will protect her from those mountain lions. That is my job, and she needs to know I am up to it.

So, even though I feel like absolute buggery bollocks, just the thought of someone calling my beautiful girl an old dog can make me smile. Some days, it really is the little thing that makes the heart sing.


Too blah for pictures. Just this one, from our walk yesterday, where she followed me gently without needing to be guided by the rope. I think the gentleman walking behind us was slightly surprised.

It’s not the most flattering picture of her, and her dear face is rather out of focus, but you can see the old doggishness shining out of the frame like starlight:

17 Dec 1

PS. If any of the Dear Readers felt like it, I’d love it if you would perhaps share this HorseBack post. Only if the spirit moves you. It’s one I was quite pleased with and it means a lot to me and I wrote it from the heart.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Brevity and beauty.

Ravishing, glittering day. Freezing cold: three degrees with savage wind-chill. Took the red mare for a walk. She has slight mud fever and is a little sore, so we are on remedial walking to get the circulation going in her sadly puffy fetlocks. A lady stopped, looked out of her car window, and shouted: ‘Oh, but she’s so beautiful.’ So that made my day. Did a madly knotty piece of work which almost had my brain falling out of my ears, so there is no functioning cerebral cortex left for the blog. It’s shameful I know, but I must heed my limitations. Once the brain goes out the ear, there is no remedy, except sitting very, very still in a darkened room. I may, if I am exceptionally brave, read a book.

I hope to be functioning more efficiently tomorrow. In the meantime, here is some visual beauty for you, on which to rest your tired eyes. This was Scotland in the late morning, looking south and west over the Dee valley, as I went up and did my HorseBack UK work:

16 Dec 1

16 Dec 2

16 Dec 3

16 Dec 5

16 Dec 8

16 Dec 9

16 Dec 12

16 Dec 14

16 Dec 18

And, at home, the Best Beloveds:

16 Dec 20

16 Dec 21

16 Dec 23

Monday, 15 December 2014


One of the things that people assume one lacks, if one should take the peculiar decision not to marry and have children, is love. There has been a lot about loneliness lately on the wireless. I heard at least three programmes speak of it, as I drove the five hundred miles to London, and the five hundred miles back to the north. (I think there must have been some terrifying survey, revealing the secret lives of lonely Britons.) I was talking about it to one of the best beloveds, when I arrived to stay for my first night in the south. Without thinking, I blurted out: ‘the only time I’ve ever been lonely was when I was in a relationship.’ He looked mildly surprised. He is a family man to his fingertips, proud and adoring of his four funny, bright children, affectionate with them, like a bear with his cubs.

It is true, though. It takes a top skill set to live with someone and love them well, every day, and I don’t have that set. I always chose absolutely hopeless fellows – charming, even glamorous, but unreliable and often quite fucked up. I instantly committed the grave sin which makes all the poor old shrinks in Hampstead shake their heads and suck their teeth: I gave all my power away. I fell into crazy, hopeless, unrealistic love, and wondered why I always felt so uncertain. Then I gave way to noisy despair as the whole thing fell apart with a rocking clang of inevitability.

But I have the love of thirty years. Those were the ones I saw this trip, the ones I have loved since I was eighteen years old. We have so much history together. We have, as Nanci Griffith sang, seen each other straight and seen each other curly. We’ve been young and hopeful together, wild and immortal. We’ve stayed up all night and driven through Italy and danced and drank and laughed. We’ve seen each other through heartbreak and desolation, through failure and triumph. We know each other so well and love each other so well that we start talking the moment we see each other, after gaps of many months, as if it’s only been five minutes. We smile goofy smiles of fondness and understanding at each other. We exult in each other’s successes and happinesses, wanting them as much as we want our own. We ruefully admit that we are chipped around the edges, a little battered and bruised, but still in there, pitching. We admire each other’s strengths, and do not judge each other’s weaknesses.

They are magnificent, these friends.

I don’t just feel the love when I see them, and then settle down. The love hums in me for the whole time we are together, beaming steadily from my expanding heart. It stays, strong and true, in my chest, on the drive home, as I think of them all, and how lucky I am to have them. It is profound, enduring, tested love.

And then, as I motor through the Lake District, where the snowy hills are so white at first I mistake them for clouds, I get the love of natural beauty. I look at the sheep on the fells, and the old stone walls, and the green, green grass, and I feel that love.

When I pass into Scotland, I cry actual tears of love, because this is my place and I chose it and it took me in, folding its blue mountains and its glacial valleys around me. Sometimes I whoop when I pass the Welcome to Scotland sign. Sometimes I get goosebumps. Sometimes I sing. This time, I had a little weep, because love can sometimes make you cry with joy.

And, of course, at the very end, there was the canine love, as Stanley the Dog capered and leapt about me, in a frenzy of delighted disbelief. You came home, he said, with his dancing eyes. There was my sweet little house love, with the books and the pictures and all the colours. There was the paddock love, as I arrived in sudden sunshine, and found the red mare, sweet and docile and furry, slowly eating her hay under her favourite tree. There was family love, as I saw the Mother and Stepfather and Brother-in-law and Younger Niece.

It really is an awful lot of love, for one person.

I am bloody lucky, and I don’t take it for granted, not for one moment.


Today’s pictures:

15 Nov 1

15 Nov 3

15 Nov 4

15 Nov 5

15 Nov 7

15 Nov 9

15 Nov 9-001

15 Nov 10

15 Nov 12

15 Nov 12-001

I took my first ever selfie (terrible word; someone should think of a better one) this trip, just to show that occasionally I can brush up and go out without being covered in mud. Although there was a tremendous moment when I parked in Dean Street, and a little bit of Scottish hay fell out into London’s glittering West End:

15 Nov 20

PS. Very tired after my lovely but long week, and I know that I’ve buggered up some of the tenses, and there will also be typos, but my eyes are too squinty to proof-read. Forgive me.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Love, the red mare, and the thing.

Author’s note: Because I’m off to the south, I’m allowing myself the unabashed indulgence of a post which is all red mare and nothing but the red mare. When I am yearning for her in the next few days, I can take down this book and slowly read. Although it really is about a horse, I do think there is a human life lesson in there somewhere. It doesn’t sound much, but I suspect it might be quite profound. It is: concentrate on the thing, not the intended result of the thing. It’s not mine, I pinched it. But I love it and I’m going to try and remember it.

Back on the 15th. Kind horse-sitter and dog-sitter in place. Packing done and plans made. I never go away at this time of year, but I’m going to see the oldest and best beloved of the nearest and dearest, and I am incredibly excited.


Here is your farewell post:

Today, I gave myself the great treat of a whole morning with my dear red mare. I stopped worrying about everything – logistics, packing, emailing, book, blog, HorseBack work, tidying the house for the dog-sitter, whether I would have to drive through Glenshee in a blizzard, getting an Irish stew cooked for my mother, and, most of all, I stopped worrying about the thing that I fret about most, day after day, which is time.

I allowed myself to exist purely in the moment, in the frost and the Scottish air and the dazzling sun, with my happy, furry horse.

As the temperature has dropped, she has cleverly fluffed up her sweet coat to trap all the warmth generated by her mighty body. As a result, she is less a thoroughbred aristocrat and more a great big teddy bear. She is in teddy bear mood too, stillness on the monument, peace radiating from her like smoke.

There is an idea in sport psychology, which I have just learnt from the brilliant Australian horseman whose methods I follow. It is: concentrate on the action, not the goal. So, as I understand it, if you are bowling a fast ball, you think about the run and the arm and the position of the fingers, not the fact you are trying to get the batsman out. This suits my current Zennish, concentrate-on-the-moment mood. I’ve applied it for the last two days to the good mare. Instead of thinking I’m teaching her on the ground to disengage or flex laterally because, later on, under saddle, this will give us a set of tools, I just think of the present action, and getting it right. The aim always is lightness and softness. The more you teach them, the more they respond to the slightest cue, and then they are happier, because you don’t have to get after them. I think they grow in confidence, because they have the answers to the slightest question. Oh yes, they say, I know this one.

And because I was just thinking of the thing, not the end, all was harmony and communion and joy. Everything was ease. For two hours, I came as near to crossing the species barrier as one flaky human can.

Later, after riding, I stood the mare for her photographic session. (Obviously, I need many photographs that I may gaze on when I am away, and missing her.) She stood, quietly dozing, not moving a foot. Then I untacked her and took off her halter and slightly hoped she would mosey off into the set-aside, so I could get some nice pictures of her grazing in the sun. But no, she wanted to stay. She rested with me, from her own choice, occasionally lifting her head to watch with interest as I pootled about in the shed.

I love that horse, you all know that by now. I love her with a great, singing, bursting love, a love that sometimes overwhelms me. She, much more flinty and practical and unsentimental than I, does not do love in the same way. I don’t think she even feels love. She is a horse, after all. She is a flight animal, and her ancestral voices tell her that her driving imperative is to keep safe from predators. That quest for safety is how her species survived and flourished. When a big horse leaps away from a tiny leaf, it is not being silly or naughty, but merely obeying its biological imperative. No point waiting around to see if that flash of movement is a mountain lion or not. Run first, think later.

If I stay steady and patient and rigorous and reliable, I can get the red mare to feel safe, and that feeling of security is as close as she comes to love. When she chooses, of her own volition, to stay by my side, she is telling me that I am her good place, and that is the highest compliment she can pay. That is her version of love.

That is good enough for me.


Today’s pictures:

Posing for her close-up:

5 Dec 1

But really much easier to have a little doze:

5 Dec 2

Me: ‘You can go, you know.’

Her: ‘I like it here. I think I’ll just stay and have another little kip.’

5 Dec 8

Me: ‘You could prick your ears and put on your duchess face for the camera.’

Her: ‘I could. Nah, can’t be fagged.’

5 Dec 10

Can’t ever quite believe the colour she goes when the winter sun shines on her:

5 Dec 3

(Also can’t quite believe that she manages to eat and doze at the same time.)

And this is why she is called The Red Mare:

5 Dec 5

Stan the Man, here with his sternest face on, is beside himself. My lovely old black girls used to fall into a pit of melancholy when they saw the suitcases. Not Mr Stanley. He adores the dog-sitter, and looks forward to her visits. She is much more fun than I, because she does not sit all day at a stupid desk writing boring books. She thrills him to the depths of his lurcher soul:

5 Dec 11

Thank you, lovely Dear Readers, for all your kindness and patience with my absurd ramblings. Back soon.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The inner bitch comes out to play.

I tend to show the nicer side of myself on this blog. I have a rule about being very, very nice on the internet generally, as I have a theory that you get back what you put in. The wilder shores of the web can be very scary indeed, especially for women. One minute you are suggesting that it would be charming if Jane Austen were on a banknote, the next you are being told by complete strangers that you are an evil cunt who must die. I try to avoid ad hominem generally, as it’s cheap, but I especially avoid it on the internet. I don’t want to get forest fires burning. Besides, I really do sometimes cry actual tears when people are mean to me online, so it is only right that I do not indulge in meanness myself.

Instead, you get my better angels, my best self. Look, here I am being sweet with my beloved mare, and cooking my old mum her breakfast, and loving the nieces.

However, this blog does strive for authenticity, and I have to admit that I do have an inner bitch. I try and keep her on a tight leash, but sometimes she comes out and does the fandango.

I’m trying to make plans for a short trip south and some of them are proving complex. I have had to be butch and say no to a couple of suggestions. One of them was to go to a restaurant in west London which is fashionable and adored by the people who go there. I hate it. In the old days, I would have gritted my teeth and gone, but I only go to London once every eighteen months, and then for two or three days, and my life is whistling past my ears. I don’t want to go to some awful trendy place where everyone knows what this season’s ‘must-have’ is, as I pick out the hay from my hair; I don’t want to sit in a room with people who think that a shoe which is not a Louboutin is a sad excuse for footwear.

I had to write an apologetic email, to a very old friend. The truth is, I wrote, that I loathe the place. It’s those beady women, I wrote, who haven’t touched a carb since 1997 and who stare at me as I eat the bread.

As the regular readers know, I do strive to avoid labels, reductive thinking, and tribalism. I am a feminist, and I believe in the sisterhood, and that men and women should be treated equally and not viewed as objects. I try to avoid assumptions.

And there I am, bitching up a group of women of whom I know nothing, in a most reductive and unsisterly manner.

The inner bitch is laughing her head off. Serves them right, she says, waving her Sobranie in the air and ordering a martini with three olives, with their fad diets and their invented food allergies and their insane obsession with being thin. When they lie on their deathbeds, cackles the inner bitch, will they say: ‘Thank God I never touched gluten.’ NO THEY WILL NOT.

My nice, sensible self is horrified. What did these women ever do to me? If you cut them, will they not bleed? They have hopes and dreams, night demons and moments of glad grace. They have had broken hearts and dashed ambitions and attacks of fear and angst. So what if they don’t want to eat carbohydrates? They are not polluting the groundwater or fixing the LIBOR rate or robbing old ladies of their pensions. They just want to be a size eight. Is that so wicked?

Not what Mrs Pankhurst fought for, mutters the inner bitch, who, in an entirely contradictory manner, does not let her admiration for the suffragettes stop her judging other females for not living up to her rigid standards.

But you believe in each to each, says the nice, sensible self. As long as a person does no harm, surely they must choose their own path in life? The nice self is a true liberal and does not want to corral people into boxes and only give them conditional approval if they select the right box.

Jung talked a lot about the light and the shadow. He believed that only by exploring and embracing one’s shadow side can one find the gold within. Easy for him to say. I suppose I have to look the inner bitch in the eye and get her measure, but I am quite shocked by her sometimes, on account of the fact that she does not give a bugger about all the things I think I hold dear.

Maybe I should let her out to play, every so often, in a safe space. Maybe I should stop trying to be so damn nice all the damn time, and give vent to the irrational, mean, contradictory thoughts, so that they are out in the world and lose their power.

Should I admit?

Should I tell you that I want to punch people on the nose when they use the Redundant So or the Universal We? Should I confess that the three words which make me want to throw heavy objects through windows are: ‘Welcome to Midweek.’? Should I say out loud that my inner bitch does judge people who write breaks when they mean brakes or there when they mean their or it’s when they mean its?

Probably not. You may judge me in your turn and you would have every right.

The nasty part of me is amazingly critical and judgemental. It cannot understand why so many politicians will not answer the question, or why management types speak in empty jargon, or why holy men insist that they love all of God’s creatures but cannot stomach the idea of a man marrying a man. It thinks that tottery high heels are stupid and video games are the work of the devil and reality television is asinine. For no decent reason, it gets really irritated when people say veg instead of vegetables, dangle modifiers, or refer to horses as neddies. It goes batshit insane when the default pronoun is he. (I admit, the nasty part may have a point with that one. I know that people who refer to the entire human race as ‘he’ are not bad people who adore the patriarchy and think that women should stay barefoot and pregnant, but I do think that they might consider before they ignore 50% of the world population.)

Ah, there it is. I’ve let her out. She’s tired now and she’s had one too many martinis and she’s going for a little lie-down.

I quite often say that every day can’t be Doris Day, and I pretend that I mean it. Intellectually, I understand what Jung was on about, and that the light cannot exist without the dark. I know there are good days and bad days, and that humans have good sides and bad sides. The crazy part of me does secretly wish I could be Doris Day, every day. I’d like to be kind and forgiving and not judge people in mean ways and not get irrational irritations which have no basis in fact. But it turns out that is not possible.

Bugger. The inner bitch has woken up again. She’d like to remind me that she thinks the new actor playing Tom in The Archers is really, really wooden.

Stop now. That’s quite enough of that.


No time for pictures today. Just this face, clearly saying – you think what???

4 Dec 1

She was a dream this morning, as soft and sweet and responsive and light as I’ve ever known her. No inner bitch for her, just an inner dream, and an outer one too. She adores the cold, crisp weather and she is all furry and happy and, for whatever reason, the high thoroughbred spirit which has animated her for the last week has gone, and been replaced by a deep, spreading peace. I can feel it coming up out of her body. When she is like this, I only have to think right and she moves right. I quietly say walk and she walks. I sit deep in the saddle and she stops. I squeeze the reins lightly and she backs. When she is like this, she feels like a miracle horse, and all between us is light and harmony, and I want to sing. Maybe she was trying to prove a point. You may have gone all bitch-tastic, she was almost certainly saying, but let me show you how a real lady behaves. Once a duchess, always a duchess, I suppose. I love her so.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Horse and book. And life lessons.

Author’s note: really don’t know what I’m writing about at the moment, so the poor Dear Readers need to put their Forgiving Hats on. Or, at least, it might help.


That sound you hear is the sound of hollow laughter. When I said yesterday that I was starting to feel faintly organised, the hubris angels flapped their wings and fell on the floor laughing. Today, I have piles of washing all over the floor, mud everywhere because there is obviously no time to brush it up, a car that needs an oil change (the light flashes plaintively at me, as if knowing that it will get no joy), forty-seven emails to write, a calendar which has question marks all over it as the dates I am trying to confirm prove as labyrinthine as backstage manoeuvring at a G8 summit, and a TO DO list which is longer than the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Also my shoulder hurts and I’ve only managed to edit ten pages of book and am reduced to sending pathetic pleas to the agent to push the deadline. (Who thought it would be a good idea to write two books at once?)

On the other hand, the frost is glittering in the blinding sun, and the Younger Niece came out with me this morning and did some more filming as I rode the red mare. The duchess started off as relaxed as an old cow pony, but then felt the cold snap and the open grass under her twinkly toes and the antic world around her and threw down a couple of challenges. I could feel the power building in her mighty body and thought: well, this could all go pear-shaped. But it didn’t. I concentrated and kept calm and tried to remember all the new things I have learnt and she came back to me. The adrenaline fell, and I had my sweet girl again, and we ended on the loveliest of good notes.

I had, of course, despite my daily fight against perfectionism, decided to produce a perfect ride, for the Younger Niece to record. Then I could put it on the internet and be covered in glory and everyone would be impressed and tell me what a brilliant horse I had.

The mare said: perfect, schmerfect.

She was enchanting on the ground, as if lulling me into a false sense of security, and then wilful under the saddle. I wanted to go one way, she wanted to go another. I had to use my intelligence and persuade her, going back to a most basic exercise. ‘I have to do this,’ I said, slightly breathless, to the Younger Niece, as we turned in tight circles, ‘otherwise the whole ride will be a disaster.’ So, I fixed the wanting to go home issue, and everything went calm and docile and easy, and then the little Paint started yelling and people were doing strange things in the woods, so the mare decided she was worried about that. ‘I’m changing the subject,’ I panted at the Younger Niece, as we did serpentines and worked the special left-right exercise and made figures of eight round young trees. ‘If I can get her focus back to me and control her feet, we’ll be fine.’

We were fine. But it was not perfect, it was messy. The Niece, who is amazingly wise, looked up at me, as the mare, quiet again, stood silhouetted against the dancing sun, her head low, her neck stretched out. ‘I’m glad it wasn’t perfect,’ she said. ‘It’s good to see what happens when it goes a bit wrong, and then to watch how it comes right. I’m glad she wanted to go the wrong way.’

I sat very still, rather astonished. There was brilliance in her simplicity. She was not judging: she saw the triumph and she saw the disaster, and she treated those imposters just the same. If there was no going wrong, there would be no coming right.

It is my own idiot brain I need to fix, not my horse. I keep wanting to gallop ahead and say: look, look, there, I have it all sorted, I made a Perfection-Horse. Tell me I’m clever; give me a gold star.

I’m forty-seven years old and I still want a gold star.

After thirty years away from equines, I’m learning a whole new way of horsing. I’m still a novice at it, and I’m still in the foothills, and I’ll still screw up. But the point is that in ten years I shall still be learning. I’d like to be in the saddle when I am ninety, and I’ll be learning then too. It’s not about having a perfect horse, or getting any gold stars, or being a finished horsewoman, it’s about opening my absurd mind and letting knowledge come into it every single day. It’s about slowness and humility and concentrating on the process. Some days there will be wild, flinging delight, high peaks of achievement; some days there will be a crashing down to muddy earth.

The red mare is no pushover. She may be one of the dearest creatures I have ever met, but she is still a half-ton flight animal, bred purely for speed and strength and stamina. She has not an inch of sentiment in her, and if she feels fretful and flighty she will let me know and it’s up to me to do something about it. Three hundred years of selection went into her powerful thoroughbred body, and when I feel that power rising I remember that I can never get cocky or lazy or take anything for granted. Every day, she teaches me something, if only I will let her.

I find this a good reminder for life in general. The book I am writing came to me in a rush, and the words poured out, and I love it and believe in it. But it does not mean I can be cavalier about it. Just as I have to damn well ride that red mare, so I have to damn well write that book. I have to cut and polish and reshape; I have to think and think and think. I have to tie up loose ends and not just skate over the difficult parts. I have to go back to the beginning, literally and figuratively, and take slow steps until I get the thing right. I have to fight, every day, against self-indulgence. I have to fight, every day, against rushing and cutting corners and showing off. It’s not tap dances and show tunes; it’s steadiness and rigour. Which may not be glamorous, but it’s real and true.


Today’s pictures:

It was a ravishing day today but cold as buggery, and my fingers are still frozen from removing slabs of ice from the water troughs. So I found some summery pictures from the archive to remind me what warmth feels like:

3 Nov 2

3 Nov 4

3 Nov 5

3 Nov 8

3 Dec 1

3 Dec 9

3 Dec 12

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


So sorry there was no blog yesterday. I was struck down with momentary malaise, and collapsed in a heap.

Today, I woke, after hours and hours of sleep, feeling myself again. The sun was shining and I got things done. I went out into the world and ran errands and felt a quiet sense of organisation grow in me. This is very, very rare, since I am usually all over the place, never getting the practical things done which must be done, wishing vainly that I were one of the shiny, organised people. I’ll never quite crack the secret of it, my head is too full of other things, but, for once, I had a glimpse of order.

Galvanised, I wrote 1272 words of book. I’m still supposed to be cutting, but the onion must be peeled in its own way. As I get to the heart of the thing, I can see what needs to go, but I also see what needs to be added. I know one does not necessarily need a theme, but it turns out I do have one. It’s just that it took me 154,000 words to realise what it was. Now I have the theme, it must be amplified a bit. Although of course banging the poor Dear Readers over the head with it is never a good idea. HEY HEY, LOOK, OVER HERE, THERE IS A THEME!!!!! But still, it’s quite nice to give a little intimation, from time to time. And this sometimes requires a new scene or two.

As the sun continues to shine in its dazzling way, the Younger Niece suggests we do some video action. She is a film student, and she wants to practice on me and the red mare. I am having a very bad hair day, but I’m so excited at the thought of the duchess being caught on film for all eternity that I don’t care. She is very furry, and very muddy, and very scruffy, but she goes round as sweetly as a dressage horse as we free-school, and I leap up and down with pride like a six-year-old. I explain to the Younger Niece about herd behaviour and the nature of the flight animal, and she is so enchanting that she expresses interest. It is possibly not the favourite subject of every 21-year-old, but she has an open mind and a heart the size of Pluto. Even if she were bored to sobs, she would still pretend to be interested, for my sake. She is a very, very special human indeed. An hour in her company is the best tonic in the world. She has the gift, quite natural and completely unforced, of making one feel better about everything. I am an exceptionally lucky aunt.

Most unusually, I’m going away again in four days, so the blog may be spotty, or, like today, rather stilted. Must give them something, shout the stern voices. But what about the packing and planning and emailing and booking and organising? shout the panicked voices. So I do apologise. One I’m settled again on the 14th December, I shall not be going anywhere for months and months, and I’ll concentrate on giving you the good stuff. It is the least you deserve. You really have stuck with me through the thick and the exceptionally thin. Don’t think I take that for granted.


Just time for some quick pictures - of the Best Beloveds, some random trees, and the sweet Younger Niece:

2 Dec 1

2 Nov 1

2 Nov 2

2 Dec 5

Friday, 28 November 2014

Friday pictures.

I’ve given you far too many words this week, so here are some pictures on which you may rest your tired eyes. I’ve been going through the archive for my HorseBack work and stumbled upon these in the process. I have absolutely no technical idea about what makes a good photograph and just choose the ones I like, even though they are often flawed. This feels like a bit of a lesson for life, since I am always battling my competitive and perfectionist urges. I blame my girly swot childhood, when I always wanted to be top of the class. Actually, I don’t blame anything, since that way victimhood lies. They are character traits which need corralling, so they do not ruin everything and make me tired. Ambition can be a lovely thing, and must do better is a fine cry, but lashing oneself for falling short of an impossible peak is sheer folly. Balance, as always, is everything. (Oh, God, I was not going to do words today, and then I started typing, and my fingers appear to be spilling out platitudes. I really do apologise. It’s been a long and rainy week.)

Anyway, here are your Friday pictures – hills and dogs and mares and leaves and trees. All my favourite things:

28 Nov 1

28 Nov 1-001

28 Nov 2

28 Nov 3

28 Nov 4

28 Nov 6

28 Nov 6-001

28 Nov 9

28 Nov 10

28 Nov 12

28 Nov 17

28 Nov 21Some very, very kind comments this week; thank you for them. They do make me smile. Have a wonderful weekend. My extended family is gathering, so I’m looking forward to a very happy two days.


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