Friday, 7 September 2012

A little Friday ramble. Or, horses, politics, mortality and the nicest window cleaners in Scotland

Too tired for proper blog, so here are a few brief, incoherent thoughts, because you must always have some thoughts, especially on a Friday.

Sunshine, suddenly. The smiling window cleaners come and talk hopefully of an Indian summer. My love for the window cleaners has now reached the idiot stage, where I can hardly speak, but just stand grinning at them like a loon. They are always cheerful.

At breakfast, there is serious talk of politics. I very much like talking politics at breakfast; I think it may be the best time to speak of political matters, because people are fresh, and not drunk. (Usually.)

The mare and I have another wild ride. She’s still putting up a bit of circus resistance under the saddle, so we had a mild tussle, and I said, out loud, at one point, quite loudly: ‘It does not matter what you try, I am going to win this battle.’ She seemed to understand this remarkably well, and immediately started behaving like a perfect show pony. I never quite know what these swerves of mood are: a test, still getting used to new rider and new regime, mild objection that her loafing days are over. The thing that makes me hoot with laughter is that the minute I get off, she bats her eyelids and wobbles her lip at me and buries her face in my arm as if to pretend that the previous high spirits had never even happened. I don’t care anyway; I love her and she makes me use all my muscles and all my head and that can’t be a bad thing, at my age.

I do work. The Man of Letters sends me stellar advice on my new project. He is amazingly generous like that and I send him stupidly gushing emails in return.

As a treat, I watch a bit of the racing from Haydock. One of my favourite horses is running, a lovely, game filly called Prussian, trained by the most excellent Mark Johnston. In a fit of madness, I have a HUGE bet on her, out of love and loyalty. She hunts round the inside, beautifully positioned, but then gets trapped on the rails, and Franny Norton has to yank her out and there’s another horse in the way, and some bumping and boring, which would put a lot of fillies off. Rhythm wins races, the old pros always say, but somehow, miraculously, Prussian will damn well not lose her stride. She finds her gap at last, surges through it, and dances off towards the winning post, laughing at everything struggling behind her. It is a very lovely thing and I shout so loudly that the Pigeon ostentatiously goes into the other room in protest.

For all this good horse stuff, I’m a bit grumpy today. I know one must be philosophical and stoical, but I think I’m really, really cross about the old men dying. I’m cross and sad about my own dad all over again. I know eternal life would be the biggest bore imaginable, but this whole dying thing strikes me as a bit of a design flaw. As I lay awake at night, wrangling with mortality, I wonder if everyone gets this in middle age. I wonder if I just have too much time to think. I wonder how people get it all straight in their heads. Is there some lovely, fatalistic solution? (I did try to read some Buddhism on this once, thinking it probably had the monopoly on the whole acceptance thing, but it was so paradoxically prescriptive that it made me crosser than ever.) I suppose one must just work hard and be kind and get on with it and not dwell. I am fatally addicted to dwelling. Perhaps I just need to take some more iron tonic. (Really, someone needs to invent a life tonic.)

Stopping now. As so often, I sat down to write thinking I had bugger all to say. I thought: must just give the poor Dear Readers something for a Friday. And even though my head was blank and my fingers were tired, there were rather a lot of words, after all.


Have been too hopeless to take the camera out today, so here are a few random shots from the last few days:

7 Sept 1

7 Sept 2

7 Sept 3

7 Sept 4

7 Sept 5

7 Sept 7

7 Sept 8

7 Sept 9

7 Sept 9-001

7 Sept 10

7 Sept 11

Oh, actually I do have a good Friday diversion for you. Last night, I was given the best back-handed compliment I ever had. A small, smiling girl of seven suddenly looked up at me and said: ‘I think you are pretty.’ I am ashamed to say I simpered rather. I was having a perfectly awful hair day and had not slept well and was feeling creased and crumpled; my vanity rose up in instant delight.

‘Thank you so much,’ I said.

She smiled at me for quite a long time, her face a perfect study in beatific beaming. Then she said:

‘You see, I think everyone is pretty.’

I started to laugh. Just in case I had not quite got the point, she added, kindly, as if I might be a bit slow-witted:

‘I even think my teacher is pretty.’

Nothing much one can do with that, except contemplate gravely one’s own absurdity.

Oh, and final PS. I do apologise for my tenses being all over the place. This happens when I am tired. I suspect there may be some shaming typos too. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive. There is no more energy for one more proof-read.


  1. Re "I know eternal life would be the biggest bore imaginable, but this whole dying thing strikes me as a bit of a design flaw."

    Sadly I am afraid it is probably the other way about. NOT dying would be a design flaw, as our cities, our towns, even our villages, nay entire land masses, would be full to overflowing if no-one ever died or had died. Also we - as humans collectively - have used up the world's resources at a stupidly selfish rate even just consuming them one generation at a time. If everyone ever born still needed to be fed and watered and fuelled, or even given air to breathe, we'd have been stuffed long ago. Some alternative to death would have to have been invented. Like being kept in a small box and fed crumbs. Or sent off into space in pods, or summat. Death seems not so bad in comparison to that.

    I don't think death is the problem. Being bereaved is the problem. But which of us wants to volunteer to be the first of our generation go to avoid being left behind?

    You will see I have done my middle-aged wrangling with mortality and come out the other end. There is another end. Having had breast cancer and being 55 has helped. I have long ago accepted the inevitability of my own demise, but the prospect of witnessing that of my best beloveds still freaks me a bit. But no amount of anticipation will prevent that outcome if it is so ordained, I guess, so I keep it to a quick existential shudder and try and take my mind off it by cuddling the dog (who is 10.5 years old so very, very precious).

  2. Your random pictures are better than most best efforts, especially the Pigeon, but then I'm definitely prejudiced.

    Smiling and nodding about the 'dwelling' dilemma. I believe that unless one is braindead or so fanatical that doubts are simply not countenanced, every sentient human asks those questions from middle age on (and some earlier). Fact is that none of us will know for sure until we get there. ;-)


    1. Meant to add, since even I wonder what I was saying, that it's hard to get death in true perspective till one has done it. As Goldenoldenlady says, the bereavement is the problem for us still here after a loved one has gone.


  3. If everyone lived, then you would not be here: there would be no need for you, room for you, desire for procreation.
    At 20, I fretted. At 30, I worried. At 40, I really worried. At 50, less so. At near 60 even less. Funny how nature has programmed us to worry when there is still a need for us to worry, but less so as we get to be less useful and more of a burden.
    Anyway, I agree with the previous comments -- it's the death of a loved one that is unimaginably sad. Your own? You get used to the idea. And I imagine you get tired of being frail or sick or whatever other encumbrance you have in your older years.

  4. The older I get, the more obvious it is to me that my life WILL end, each year bringing it closer to sooner than later. When I was 20, I felt invincible (and behaved accordingly; if I did even 10 years ago what I did at age 20, I'd probably NOT be here now.)
    This year in particular, people I know have been dropping like flies (OK, so most were in their 90s, several sick, so it wasn't a big surprise)...and I continue to "rage against the fading of the light".
    I doubt I'll "get it" until I.....get "It". Seriously.

  5. This is a timely piece as yesterday I visited my father in law in hospital. He was taken there as he can no longer look after himself. The staff were amazing. In my 20s I thought I would never get old. In my thirties I thought I could put it off, in my forties I know it happens but when the end comes I want mine to be swift and without fear if that is ever possible. In the meantime I want lots of life and as much living as I can pack in. I am committed to not worrying or dwelling as much as I have done. I will probably change tomorrow but this is todays resolution.

  6. Oh I can so identify with the dwelling about mortality bit. I seem to be constantly worrying about it, about loved ones of the previous generation. It all seems too unfair, and nothing explains the 'whole point of it'. Been going through numerous books too, and although it makes sense in the words on the pages, - the mind has a mind of its own, and broods and worries and doesn't want to lose the loved ones.

    On a more positive note, once again, what lovely pictures you take. Sometimes I visit your blog as a pick me up, esp the pics are just the tonic one needs of colour and images and beauty. Thks.

    Bon weekend.

  7. You are such good and kind and wise readers. Thank you.

  8. I feel like a complete insensitive clod, after all these folk are discussing mortality in depth, but I really have to ask.... what window washers? Whose are they, and what windows are they washing? Are they washing windows on a corporate building, or do you have people come to wash the windows on your house?

    See, I live in NY - the only window washers I'm familiar with are those that contract with corporations to wash business building windows.

    Do tell!

    1. Marcheline - that is such a funny question; it's making me laugh a lot. The window cleaners come and do the house windows, with their mops and cloths and ladders. They are a family of father and sons, and they come every six weeks and do the windows of my mother, my landlord, and me, in a little round of smiles and loveliness.


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