Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I know I talk rather a lot about the animal love, but it’s on my mind again. (Non-dog and horse people, and flinty unsentimentalists: move slowly to the exit.)
There is an awful, cruel, sneering cliché about spinsters with cats. Oh, the poor old lady who can’t get a gentleman, with her poor pussy. Ha ha. This never takes into account the Occam’s Razor of the matter, which is that some women don’t fancy fellows, but do really like cats. It’s not pitiable or pathetic. It just is.
I live alone. I regard it as an enormous privilege, although some people, even those who know me quite well, think it frankly odd. I used to get cross about this, as if my lack of desire for husband and children was something which had to be defended all the time. I went about with my fists up, ready to fight the slightest slight, to counter the merest raised eyebrow. Now I am older, I think: everyone must think what they will. Everyone must live the life they want to live.
Despite this new sanguinity, there is the occasional batsqueak of the old judgements, the worn platitudes. Am I like the old ladies with the cats? Are Red and Pigeon my sad feline equivalents?
I think that people get this whole women and creature thing the wrong way round. If you choose to live without someone, you do not need to get some missing love from an animal. It is very nice to have the adoring Pigeon gaze; when she jumps up and down with literal joy when she sees me, of course it makes my heart beat faster. When Red lifts her head and canters from the other side of the field when she sees me, when she gives her lovely low whinny of welcome, of course I feel fired with delight. But it’s not the getting of love that is important. I am practical enough to know that a lot of that comes from the fact that I am The Human with the Food. No, what they give me is somewhere to put the love.
The only disadvantage that I can see of living alone, apart from the fact that there is no one to say, oh don’t worry, I’ll call the plumber, is that sometimes my heart is all dressed up with nowhere to go. It gets filled up with affection, and that adoration needs to come out. I assume that if you have a wife or a girlfriend or a husband or a partner for life, you can fling your arms about them at your whim, and express that fullness of heart. That is the gift my two beautiful creatures give me: I can fling the arms. I can express the love.
The Pidge is a very cuddly, affectionate sort of girl. She loves nothing more than the flinging; she can take all the love I have. Red, at the beginning, was not particularly interested. She was much too posh, for starters. Also, she weighs half a ton and hears the call of the ancestral voices much more keenly. I have a theory that dogs have pretty much forgotten their wolfish past, but that horses are alert to the siren call of the wild things from which they descend.
Now, my grand thoroughbred has turned into a teddy bear. Because of the cold, her coat has even fluffed up, so instead of being sleek and hard, she is soft and velvety. She rests, sleepily, on my arm, angles her head up so I can scratch her favourite place below her right ear, stands stock still at my side as I rub her white blaze and chat quietly to her. She has started to appreciate the love. It is why my greatest pleasure now is just hanging out with her. We do work and have wild rides, but the highest joy for me is being with her; sentient human beside instinctive, mysterious animal.
They give me rewards and affection and attention. I get great pride out of them. Today, when the farrier finally arrived, I felt ridiculously proud that Red stood like a rock as he cut and pared and rasped her poor hooves; she was so relaxed that she even dozed off for a bit. She must be the best horse to shoe in Scotland. She was number one top of the class, and I puffed out my chest with admiration.
But really what they do, these animals, the most important thing, the greatest, most generous present, is they act as receptacles for the love. They don’t argue or equivocate; I do not have to read between the lines. They are fine and steady and true. Although they both have their animal mysteries, they are much simpler than humans. At the same time, they have that creature touch of the wild, which puts them on another plane. I think that is their other great gift: they are not of my world, but they consent to live happily in it with me. It is consent, and as a human, you have to earn it. So, along with all the other loveliness, there is the underlying hum of achievement.
As with all my theories, this one is still a bit half-baked. It needs a bit more work. Whatever the truth is, I feel incredibly lucky that I have these precious things in my life, who keep me straight and bring me joy.
And now I am going to see if I can work out who will win the 2.50 at Sandown. (Hoping for a brilliant Richard Hughes ride on the lovely Prince of Sorrento, who loves the mud.)
Another gloomy old day, so no I did not take the camera out. Here are a few shots of my lovely creatures:
And of course, there is little Myfanwy. I love her too, but she is a family pony, so it is not the same undilute passion that I have for my very own girls. All the same, I have been working with her lately, and we are making great strides together, and she steals, hoof by hoof, into my heart:
And, specially for the Dear Reader who loves the hens – The Hens:
Hill, under the stormy June sky:
Oh, and I meant to say: The Playwright had his first night last night. It is not the official first night, just the initial preview. But still, he will have seen the play he wrote, up on the London stage, with one of our very finest actresses in it. I doff my hat in awe and wonder to him. He is so wise and works so hard and makes me laugh so much; no one deserves such a thing more than he.