Posted by Tania Kindersley.
One of the things that I am most embarrassed by is that I find thinking incredibly tiring. It’s not as if I am digging ditches or manufacturing rivets all day; I merely sit at a desk and type words on a screen. Yet, it does not matter how much iron tonic I take, if I have to concentrate very hard on something, especially a new idea, as I am at the moment, for longer than three hours, I am a wreck.
Last night, I went down to the Co-op to buy some lemons. It was around six-thirty, and I had just come down from the mare, my fingers grimed with dirt. There, I suddenly noticed the dirty people. It was the time when the people who work with their hands go to shop. (This makes sense, I suppose; those who work on the land get up before dawn, so the only time they may shop is at the end of the day.)
There was a farmer with muddy dungarees and a gentleman, possibly a waller, with dust on his boots, and one young fellow who had been so in the earth that he had it all over his face, with only his eyes shining out of a mask of muck. I did rather wonder what he had been doing to get dirt all over every inch of his face; if I were only very slightly flakier than I am, I would have asked him.
Ah, I thought, these are my people. I am with the dirty people now. It is a badge of pride to me.
Tribes interest me very much. I try not to be tribal in politics any more, it’s too silly and tiring. I try also not to stuff people into boxes, and resist labels. I am working very, very hard on my naughty tendency to generalise. But there are still batsqueak recognitions, the sociological equivalents of the old school tie. I had one at Ascot, a few weeks ago. I had been merrily making friends, in the stands, at the pre-parade ring, with gregarious bunches of Australians who had arrived to see Black Caviar, and with some nice Americans whom I graciously welcomed to Blighty (I still don’t believe what I say sometimes when I open my mouth), and it was all enchanting cultural exchange.
Then I found myself upsides a tall, lean gent, of about seventy, rather louche and languid, highly informed about racing, and British to his bootstraps. Instantly, I knew he was one of the old school horse fellows; I could imagine him drinking in the Irish bar with my dad. He made a joke about putting enough money on Frankel to keep both his wife and his mistress happy. I was perfectly certain he did not have a fancy woman in Maida Vale; it is the kind of irony that racing men of that generation employ.
‘I hope you get them both something nice,’ I said. And so we fell into that kind of banter that you can only do with a stranger who shares your cultural markers, and I might not have noticed it so much except for that fact that I had been speaking to people from abroad. I felt like I was reverting to my first language. I grew up with those slightly wicked equine fellows; my father was one of them; I speak fluent old-school horse.
The tribe of my own generation, which came out of university, turned out to be a metropolitan, liberal one, with a bit of the artistic thrown in. It’s not a background thing, or even an education thing; it’s a sensibility thing. I know the language of that one backwards, although I did not grow up with it. All lines may be read between; jokes never need to be explained. That is the thinking tribe, perhaps. Certainly, they rarely have dirt on their boots.
As I get older and creakier, the thinking takes it out of me more and more. After 1873 words of brand new project, I can hardly move my fingers over the keyboard. Yet, this morning I did two hours’ solid work with my horse, on the ground and in the saddle, where she was wild as the wind and needed all my physical balance and strength, and I came home not tired at all. The harder I work with her, the more invigorated I am. The filthier my hands, the more buoyant my soul.
She throws up challenges out in the hayfields, but in her paddock, on the ground, she has moved into a new nirvana of sweetness and joy. Halterless, she will follow my every move. Her greatest delight is to lean her dear head on my chest as I rub the velvet place just behind her ears. We do little dances together; one step forward, one step back. For this perfect harmony, she gets every single sweet spot rubbed and scratched until my arms hurt and my fingers are mapped with black. And then I go to the shop, with my muddy boots and my crappy helmet hair and my filthy nails and exchange happy glances of recognition with my new tribe.
Red the Mare:
PS. I suddenly realise that I say happy glances of recognition, but this may be sanguine projection on my part. In fact, the good working men may be giving me the slightly frightened smiles that people offer to the old birds who look rather deranged. I am definitely moving into deranged old bird territory. After I had my nice chat with the louche gent at the royal meeting, I opened my red patent handbag to rummage around for cash and found a worming tablet and a hoof pick.
PPS. I am so tired from all the damn thinking that I can’t be sure that any of today’s blog makes any sense at all. I have read it twice and still cannot be certain. So, for all my good resolutions about sharpening it up a bit, you end up with the same rambly nonsense. Perhaps that is the point. I really do hope it is. Otherwise I’m in twenty kinds of trouble.
PPPS. Oh, and when I say tribes, I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, or a horridly exclusive way. It’s not a class thing or even a left or right thing. I mean goths and gardeners and lovers of Radio Four and country people and model railway enthusiasts and politics geeks and those of us who cannot go a day without listening to a Leonard Cohen song. The tribes make up Venn diagrams; there are lots of common coloured areas between. But they are tribes, for all that.
I really, really am stopping now, before my brain falls out of my ear.