After a very rocky start, and a naughty break to watch the 3.15 at Yarmouth, I wrote 1177 words of secret project. I also appear to have started a new secret project, which is so clandestine that no other human knows of it, and there was 1060 words of that as well.
After yesterday’s theatrics, the mare and I went for a nice gentle schooling ride. Nothing scared her today. I track her changing moods with utter fascination. There are days when her blood is up, all that ancient pedigree singing in her like starlings; there are other days when you would swear she was part-mule, all dozy and with faint moments of stubbornness.
Today, there was trace of mule, until I would have none of it, and we finally got to the lovely collected canter I wanted, after a bit of wrangling and negotiation. She quite likes a wrangle. Some days, she is docile as a dog, longing to do exactly what I ask; on others she lays down little teases and tests for me.
This is partly, I think, because of her character, which is intelligent, determined and sensitive. But it is mostly, as all things are with horses, to do with me. If I am calm and happy and filled with resolution, she is too. She does not like it when I am melancholy or uncertain or tense. I imagine all these emotions stream out of me and communicate themselves to her equine intuition and unsettle her. I think: you can’t really indulge yourself with horses. You can’t just fall into your own rotten day, and pick at old sorrows and new hurts. You have to be bright and bonny and blithe. I think it’s probably not a bad psychological exercise.
Out in the world, the government is bombing its citizens in Syria, and two policewomen were shot in Manchester, and the ripples from Mitt Romney’s comment that 47% of the American people were victims, dependent on the government, refusing to take responsibility for their own lives, continues to roil the election campaign. With all this going on, the most read story on the Guardian website today is a review of the new iPhone. I did not even know there was a new iPhone, but apparently it’s top news.
In my own small world, someone did something so kind and generous and thoughtful last night that I was lost for words. It was one of those random acts of kindness that are quite small, but have a profound impact. My equilibrium steadied and my heart expanded. Humans are sometimes very marvellous indeed.
As I drove back from evening stables last night, with the wild low sun dancing over the blue of the hills, I suddenly realised what all this was; this equine obsession, this thin skin, this paradoxical combination of deep joy and emotional fragility. It’s such a cliché I can hardly even type it, although I suppose it is slightly less of a cliché than what I had originally diagnosed, which was straightforward mid-life crisis. The reason I am doing all this, and the reason I write about it so much, and the reason I become so quickly heartsick in the face of set-back, is that it is all to do with my father.
Oh, God, BATHOS ALERT. Move quietly to the exits as the klaxons wail. Also, I tell myself, really quite crossly, could you not just be a bit more original? And, and, it’s not as if everyone doesn’t have parents who die.
But there it is. I must have reasons for things, and now I have my reason. All this watching of racing, and working with Red, and naughty betting, is not just a way of keeping a connection with my dad, because he was a racing man, and a Thoroughbred man, and a riding man, but also (I am cringing as I write this) to make him proud.
I did a job he did not understand; he was not a literary fellow. He would pat my hand very vaguely when the subject of my books came up. But if he could have seen me this afternoon, working out whether to go for the in-form Mark Johnston yard or the slightly better rated Michael Stoute runner, he would have been fascinated. He would have liked to have seen me wrangle with my determined mare. And I am really quite pissed off at him that he went and died before he could.
So that’s that, and I shall not speak of it again. I really don’t know why I tell you all this, but then, I think the only point of a personal blog is authenticity. And what I really like is when the Dear Readers say, oh yes, I’ve had that exact thing too, and you can’t get that unless you tell the truth.
That’s another 800 words to add to the tally, so my head is about to explode. Brain says: can’t do pictures this evening. You just get these two lovely faces on which to rest your tired eyes:
And Red’s View, because there must always be a view: