The sun shines like a crazy thing. I go out for the first time this year without a coat. In truly inappropriate, not-giving-a-damn fashion, I pitch up at HorseBack in a bright scarlet silk shirt. I’ve no idea why. It seems to suit my mood.
As the weather gentles everything, I feel my shoulders come down. I can get my work done and organise my life without having to be gritted and hunched. This feels like a revelation. It makes me realise that there was an element of battle in getting through that long, bleak winter. Everyone in the village is smiling; everything seems lit with possibility.
I talk at length on the telephone to my very old godfather. I always slightly dread making the call because he is so long in years and so stricken in health and I hear myself making awful platitudinous remarks, which do not cheer or comfort. One must not do the pity voice, but on the other hand, one must be thoughtful and sympathetic. It’s a horrid line to walk and I’m not very good at it. But today, the doughty gentleman, despite being ninety and with three different kinds of hideous illness, is filled with stern stuff and tells me long and antic stories which make me laugh.
He will suddenly say the most extraordinary things. ‘After the war,’ he says, ‘I joined a secret army, Phantom, you know. I was blowing up railways and bridges and that sort of thing.’ Slight pause. ‘I very much enjoyed that.’
When he talks of being staunch in the face of the horrors of old age, he says: ‘Well, I was a Welsh Guardsman, you know.’ The implication being that the Brigade of Guards can face anything, which it probably can.
I am overwhelmed with affection and admiration. I can write this here because he is old school, and does not have a computer, and so will never see these sentences, but I am keenly aware that each conversation I have with him may be the last. I cherish every word.
The Horse Talker and the Remarkable Trainer and I take the filly and the mare out for a ride. (The Trainer walks on foot, dancing about in her athletic, balletic way, taking pictures.) The little filly is immaculate, and Red, in only her rope halter, defies every nasty stereotype about ex-racing thoroughbreds. Without a pause or a shiver, we go past billowing blue tarpaulins, farmyard equipment, a working building yard with all its manifold trucks and diggers, and I have one hand on the rope and a song in my heart. This is a mare who used to shy at shadows on the ground. AND NOW LOOK.
‘I’m so proud of you,’ I yell, in delirium. She wibbles her lower lip and blinks gently at me.
I watched Badminton at the weekend, for the first time in years. It’s an extraordinary level of horsemanship, and those huge cross-country fences are a mighty challenge. But at the same time, there is a lot of stress there, as there is in all competitions, and a lot of kit: martingales and double bridles and all sorts. I feel as proud that my lovely girl will walk out on a loose rope as I would if she were performing those feats of acrobatic daring that I saw on the television. It’s a different kind of achievement, but it is a blue riband nonetheless, even if it exists only in my secret heart.
The lambs are jumping, the sun is shining, Stanley the Dog is laughing. It was A Good Day.
The wonderful sheep:
We haven’t had the beech avenue for a while. It amazes me that we are into May, and there is not yet a single green leaf on any of these venerable trees:
Nor on the limes:
But my young apple tree has suddenly sprung to life:
And the honeysuckle has come into leaf, almost overnight:
The Horse Talker with Autumn the Filly:
MR STANLEY HAS A STICK:
I think this face says - don’t you dare try and take it away. Look at the reproachfulness:
My beautiful brilliant girl:
This is what she looks like when she sees me and Minne-the-Mooches over for love. She is amazingly love-orientated. Not that many horses are. Some can take it or leave it; some really prefer to be left alone, like cats. It’s a mere freak of chance that I ended up with a mare who wishes for nothing more than to stand in a field being adored. Since adoring her is all I really want to do: