Saturday, 29 December 2012

In which, slightly against the odds, I have a very lovely Saturday indeed.

My poor mum is in the hospital. Even though the news is hopeful and she has fabulous doctors and the treatment in Aberdeen is second to none, I hate the thought of her on a ward.

I take my mind off it with horses. First of all my own, who have survived a night of wild gales, but still have so much wind up their tails that they give me a bronco show all round the paddock. Even the quite tubby, quite elderly mountain pony does pirouettes and leaps and spiffy cantering.

Autumn the Filly, true to her mighty Quarter Horse breeding (she is by some tremendous Western champion, who keeps winning things), does her great ventre à terre gallop from one corner of the field to the other.

Red the Mare, not to be outdone, puts on her full Spanish Riding School of Vienna performance. First of all there is the tail, vertically in the air, flying like a flag. Then there is the actual increase in size. I never quite know how horses do this; it’s like watching them assume superpowers. I swear when she draws herself up to full height, she grows about a hand. Then there are the amazing slow motion bucks, the rolling canter, the leaping turns. And finally, most glorious of all, the floating trot. It is as beautiful and stately as anything you might have seen in the Olympic dressage, but because it is a thoroughbred doing it, it’s higher and finer and lighter. It is an astounding combination of elegance and wildness. I laugh out loud, it is so lovely.

Then there is a fine afternoon of racing: the return of the brilliant Hurricane Fly, back to his pomp, a great old amateur record smashed by Mr Patrick Mullins on his father’s delightful mare, and the continuing winning streak of the bold Pete the Feat. He turns out to be wonderfully well-named, as he puts up a gallant front-running performance to record his fourth win in a row, with my money on his dear back.

All my favourite Twittering racegoers are out in force. It’s a whole new thing, watching the racing with a virtual gaggle. They are all incredibly funny and nice: quick to congratulate on a winning bet, generous with their praise of horses and jockeys, profoundly knowledgeable, fired with an enthusiasm which is leavened with a very British, very dry irony.

People tend to get grumpy about social networks, saying they are a poor substitute for real people. But, as I sit, 500 miles north of the racing action, I find my heart gladdened by the metaphorical hats which go flying in the air when a thrilling race is won. It may be virtual, but it is actual too. It is a proper community, and it illuminates my pleasure in the game.

I think: oh, I wish my mum had been able to see the glorious Fly back to his rampant best. She loves Ruby Walsh so; she speaks of him with a maternal fondness. (‘I hope he is eating enough,’ she will say, over the breakfast table. ‘It’s such a hard life for those jockeys.’) Still, let us hope those good Scottish docs fix her right up and send her back to us.


Another selection of my Christmas day photographs:

29 Dec 1

29 Dec 2

29 Dec 3

29 Dec 4

29 Dec 6

29 Dec 7

29 Dec 10

29 Dec 11

Here I am doing training with Stanley the Dog and the canine of The Older Niece. Who, incidentally, won the Waggiest Dog competition at some very serious London dog show. (The canine, that is; not the niece.)

29 Dec 11-001

29 Dec 12

29 Dec 13


29 Dec 15

I hope you are having a good weekend, too.


  1. Very best wishes for your mum - I'm sure the care is splendid, but it's quite anxious-making when they are in hospital. May she soon be out.

    Quietly loving the photos of lichen, moss, the beech avenue and the hill. Thank you for everything you do and the happiness you bring.

    1. Erika - that is such a very lovely thing to say. Thank you.

  2. What sort of training are you doing?

    1. Laura - very basic at the moment. Sit, stay, lie down, wait. Doing the dog whisperer thing of establishing myself as pack leader, so he feels safe, which means slightly absurd things like going through a door first, and making him sit and wait until I tell him he can eat his breakfast. Apparently, control of the food is practically the number one thing you should do. The idea is that if you make yourself the alpha dog, then your own canine feels comforted, because he or she does not have to guard the homestead and bring back the food. Then they can relax. The next thing I have to work on is Stanley's slight separation anxiety, which comes from being a rescue, I think. Going to have to go back to my bookshelf for that one. :)

    2. My dog, Kip, also worried when we were away at first (we adopted him in June). Fortunately he comes to work with me about every other day, and my husband works from home, so he is generally with his people, and the separation anxiety seemed to just wear off as time went on. At first he wouldn't stay in the inner office that my partner and I share if I left it for more than a few minutes, and he would bark if my husband and I left the house together (he hardly barks, in general), but now he seems to take those absences in stride. I am of course projecting, but I think that most likely he just believes now that we will come back, since we've showed him that is the case. I also think/project that the pack leader thing is very reassuring, and probably dovetails with the reliable-return thing. It's been so neat to the see Kip's personality come out as he's relaxed with us, and Stanley seems to be settling in with you beautifully. Thanks for sharing that process.

  3. Wishing a speedy recovery for your mum.
    Is that the view from your dining table?
    Gorgeous pictures.

    1. Louise - how kind you are. The view is actually from The Landlord's dining room. He lives three miles up the hill, and it is there that Red spent her summer. It's one of the loveliest views in our part of the world.

  4. Oh I am so sorry to hear of your Mum, I hope that she can be home very soon. I had never spent time in a hospital before having George and then I had three spells there in quick succession, and despite the wonderful care I missed home dreadfully.
    Love the photograph of the cow on the hill with the mists in the distance.

  5. I hope your mother is as right as rain soon.

  6. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Mum, I'm sure she doesn't want to be there, either. Unless she's one of those like mine, who never actually put their feet up and rest unless they're forced to by a doctor.

    Beautiful pictures, and I'm glad to hear you are giving your canine critters the training and conditioning they need, just as you do for your equines. Dogs are so much happier and well-balanced when they receive the proper training. Give them expectations, and they love to live up to them! So many people don't realize that. They think they're being kind by letting their dogs chew up their furniture and run amok. Not unlike people who let the television raise their children.

    Amazing photos, as always, making my heart skip a beat for Scotland, its true home.

  7. I am not anonymous either but the buggery bollocks iPad just will not let me be anything else!
    Known to some on Twitter as @SirenCall I have over the last year become completely addicted to my daily fix of your writing and photographs.
    Please wish your Mother a prompt and full recovery it's horrid to be in hospital.
    Today's pic of the "coo" is simply wonderful.. It quite took my breath away.
    I can't thank you enough for the joy your photos bring and the story of Stanley's integration into your menagerie touches me deeply.
    PS: not only can I not sign my name but I can also not go back to edit my text so it will have to do as it is!


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