After the horror of Woolwich, something remarkable happened. This week, as part of my work for HorseBack UK, I’ve been following the progress of the Banchory Academy Across Scotland Challenge. The young teenagers have been cycling, walking and canoeing their way across Scotland to raise money for the charity. They are accompanied by a HorseBack team, including two double amputees, who did the canoeing and the biking, using specially modified bicycles. Yesterday afternoon, as the news of Woolwich still disfigured the airways, I went out to meet this group as they charged down the Deeside Way in frigid temperatures and driving rain.
It was like a great big blast of joy. They were so filled with energy and purpose that you could sense it coming off them like smoke.
Later, they settled for the night in an old walled garden not far from where I live. I went up to talk to them and found a group of the funniest, brightest, most articulate, larkishly antic teenagers I’ve ever met. I was tired after what I thought was a long week. They had just travelled about two hundred miles under their own steam, and they were still making jokes, striking poses, teasing each other, and laughing like drains. Although they are doing a fabulous thing, raising thousands of pounds for HorseBack, there was nothing pi or do-goodish about them. They were just exceptionally nice people; authentic, charming, interesting, absolutely themselves.
As I worked at my desk, and the dusk fell, I heard the odd shriek and laugh as they cycled past my window. Even after thirty miles of hard effort that day, in snow and sleet and rain and absolutely bloody freezing temperatures, their energy was undimmed and they still wanted to explore.
This morning, I rode the mare up to see them. They duly admired her, which of course won my heart even more, if such a thing were possible. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘she’s beautiful.’ She was slightly freaked out, as she had never seen twenty-three mountain bikes gathered together before, but they did not mind. They are all so positive that they seemed to see the best in everything.
HorseBack’s Scott Meenagh, who has seen quite a lot in his life, having been blown up in Afghanistan, said that they restored his faith. All the adults with them were bowled over. Faces shone with admiration and pride. I can’t begin to express what a tonic they were. They were like a shining beacon of goodness and trueness in a sometimes dark world.
Regular readers will know that one of the things that drives me nuts is the lazy idea that infects the media like a nasty virus. The Young People, this tired old assumption goes, are only good for texting and gaming and traducing the English language with their LOLZ and other bizarre acronyms. I’ve never thought this was true. Occasionally, I have a little rant about it. I’ve always believed in The Young People, and now this mighty cohort have come along and proved my point for me. I had to restrain myself from hugging them. (I did fling my arms round most of the HorseBack grown-ups, who stood it manfully.)
I got on with my day, but my mind was filled with these delightful young people. Every so often, I broke out smiling, just at the thought of them. I admit, in my great-auntish way, I feel quite teary about witnessing that amount of sheer loveliness. It was as if they were sent to remind me of all the fine, bright things, at a moment when the news was filled with bleakness.
The brilliant adventurers, setting off this morning:
Scott, on his special bike:
Having fun last night with Jura the Puppy:
Out from the beech avenue they come:
Posing for group pictures. The diagonal arms are a thing:
My last sight of them:
And one more of the special bike. Scott rides horses as well. Nothing stops him:
Meanwhile, back in the garden, everything has suddenly turned green:
Stanley the Dog, with his socking great stick:
Red the Glorious, a little dopey after having her teeth done by the very clever vet: