I am in wandering, pondering mood today. I am interested in thought processes and the mazy meanderings of the human condition and how it is that people define and redefine themselves. I was thinking about this because one of the things about my work at HorseBack is that it demonstrates to me that I am a bit Other. I meet a lot of new people there all the time, and, after years of sticking quietly to my own cohort, I am suddenly exposed to the eyes of strangers.
I see a lot of revealing looks in those eyes. There is surprise, amusement, that particular indulgent look which I sometimes see in the glance of my mare, the one that says: ah, the old girl is off on one again. I say things which to me seem quite ordinary, and watch people take a metaphorical, sometimes even literal, step backwards. Sometimes I can identify the thing which causes a faint shiver of shock; sometimes I cannot, and go home and wonder about it.
I am aware that I have something of the idiotic about me. I don’t mind this. The absurd bit of my brain even quite likes it. When I meet the very grown-up, organised, proper, capable people I do have a momentary, almost melancholy sense of envy and wonder. How lovely it must be, I think, to do things well in the world, to have a plan, to know where your car keys are. I told someone yesterday that last week I spent half an hour looking for my keys, only to find them in the flower bed. She is a very polite person, and masked her utter astonishment well.
The pondering on this makes me think of my dad, where some of it comes from. On paper, he was a very peculiar person indeed. He got away with his absolute refusal to live by any of society’s rules through a raging, entirely authentic, natural charm. His charm was not of the Charm School variety; he never remembered people’s names or asked them suavely about their lives. He did not tick the ABCs of polished behaviour. His charm was a sort of innocent enthusiasm, a constant subliminal laughter at his own absurdity, a self-deprecating jokiness, an open generosity of heart.
I used to go and stay with people when I was a little girl, and meet fathers who did serious nine to five jobs, often ones which required a suit and tie, and I remember a confused feeling of mild envy and utter strangeness. I had absolutely no clue what it might be like to have a respectable parent. My dad drank for Britain, sang Irish rebel songs using an upturned tea chest as a double bass, gambled so hard that he sometimes left a racecourse with cash by the case, flirted with every woman he met, rode so wildly that many of my childhood memories are of being told to be quiet by strict matrons in hospital corridors. My early youth was filled with antic stories, like the time that a storied Irish band came to stay, and went on such a bender that the only way Dad could get them back to London for a gig was to load the musicians into the horsebox with three crates of Guinness and send them off up the M4, still singing.
Because when you are small you accept what you live with as utter normality, these proper fathers who earned regular salaries and allowed themselves one small Fino before lunch seemed entirely alien to me, a fascinating life-form to be studied from a distance, dissected for clues of how The Other Half lived. I really liked them, and sometimes wanted one for myself, but I could not quite imagine living in their good, ordered world.
Our world was not ordered. The house burst with people, song, the veering highs and lows that go with racing; my father smelt of earth and dung and a lovely citrussy hair oil from Mr Trumper, which is what men in the seventies used to wear. (Hair oil; that really is the mark of a lost world.) The conversation was almost exclusively about equines; I felt most at home in the tack room, with the scent of leather and saddle soap in my nostrils. Gambles were landed and lost; horses celebrated and mourned; the fortunes of the house shot up and down like crazed Mexican jumping beans.
No wonder that sometimes people give me looks. I think that I thought for quite a long time that if I watched carefully I could learn to fit in, and behave in an expected manner. But you can only work with what you have been given. The faint otherness persists, and I don’t think that it matters so very much. And I also suspect that even behind the most respectable facade, even under the neatest tailoring, even in the midst of the most regular life, everyone, secretly, has their own goofy little star, which they quietly follow.
Dreich and rain today. HorseBack morning:
A lot of new flowers and growing things are out in the garden:
Where the hill should be: