Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Sleep is a sort of miracle. I slept all yesterday; ten more hours last night. I woke, literally dreaming of Cheltenham. I checked my bones and body for the viral aches and pains and decided that I did not feel quite such an old lady as yesterday.
I thought, acutely, of my father. That is something that is happening just now.
I attempted some admin. I organised the transport of the mare. She is going with the amazing Gillie family, who have been moving horses from Scotland to England and back again for over thirty-seven years. She will arrive next Thursday afternoon.
It is perfect timing. Friday will be a very stressful day. My heart shall be wrenched with the desire to see Kauto Star run his race in the Gold Cup.
My dream self says: there shall be one more fairy tale. My rational self says: it is too much to ask, for such an old campaigner. The hill, the extra two furlongs, the coming back from that schooling fall, the twelve years of age: all these mitigate against the glorious, dreamed ending. But if I am very sad, I shall be able to run down and see my red mare, and the heavy heart shall lift.
I went to say goodbye to her this afternoon. She nuzzled my hand and butted her head against my chest. She has had a clip, and looks new and smart. She is very, very dear, and I love her. It's one of the maddest decisions I ever took, and one of the very best.
Now, I must pack.
A few quick pictures:
Red, pre-clip, still a bit woolly:
And post-clip, smart as a whip:
(Don't be too alarmed. First clip is always a bit dramatic. It shall settle down soon.)
Oh, and the lovely Kauto Star did a gentle canter round Wincanton racecourse this afternoon. Whatever happens, he looks magnificent, and it was a treat to see him bowling along, full of beans, happy as a bug.
There was no sign of stiffness or soreness; he was pulling hard at Ruby Walsh's hands, as if impatient to get on with the job. It is impossible to tell what will happen next Friday, but this afternoon was a pleasure to watch, anyway.
Lovely picture, uncredited, from Paul Nicholl's Betfair column today:
As I type this, sighing a bit, thinking about getting on the road, The Four-Year-Old puts The Pigeon's lead on, and takes her for a little walk round the house.
'Come on, Pigeon,' she says. 'You are a very good little dog.'
The Pigeon trots along beside the small figure. The funny thing is that the Nine-Year-Old used to do exactly this very thing with both my dogs, when she was four. There is a singing flash of deja vu. The Pigeon gives me the same slightly baffled, resigned look as she used to, before she was dragged round the kitchen table one more time.
The Four-Year-Old stops abruptly, hurls herself into a chair, and the Pigeon sits politely upright beside her. The Four-Year-Old proceeds to read the dog a back number of Country Life.
'That is a house,' she tells the Pigeon. (I bet it is, I think, imagining some vast mansion that only the new Russians can afford.)
It's a sort of crazy Nancy Mitford moment that makes me laugh. I shall think of it tomorrow, as I drive up the M6.
I'm always sad to leave this house. But I am always happy to get home to my hills. And this time, very soon, the hills shall have a red mare in them.
PS. I know I should not go on about comical children stories, but when one does not live with children, the interesting things they do and say are very, very interesting and funny indeed. The Four-Year-Old has just told me that she is 'going to my office'. She sits down with her notebook and starts to write.
'Where is the Pigeon?' I say.
'She's with me,' says The Four-Year-Old. 'She's an office dog.'
So that's the Pidge, for the evening. She is an office dog.
Never fear, no more cute small people stories for a while, as I flee north. Although of course next week can only be worse, since it is Cheltenham, and there will be just one damn equine story after another. And endless antic tales of bets lost and won, yankees and accumulators and patents and doubles and trebles. I am not my father's daughter for nothing. I blame that wild, gambling blood.
Pigeon, on the right, doing her last pose with her dear Southern Friend:
I love the expression on that dog's face. She is only three years old, but she has the lore of the ages in those half-closed eyes.
Her sister, so very like the late Duchess:
One final Kauto picture, from this afternoon at Wincanton, by Alan Crowhurst for Getty Images:
Very tired writing this now; too tired to edit. Forgive howlers and typos and general ramblings.