In the back of my brain is a perfectly dazzling meditation that I was going to share with you. It scratches away, like a lost dormouse. I think it was something to do with the male and female psyche, and how they are on a spectrum. I wrote it in my head, in a fever of thought, whilst I was brushing my teeth last night. Oh, I thought, what a treat for the Dear Readers. Now, only the faintest ghost of it is left. One of the things I always tell my workshop students is: keep a notebook by your bed. That timeless thought which you have at five minutes after midnight will not be there in the morning. I sound tremendously sage and experienced when I say things like this. Today, I hang my head, for the sin of failing to follow my own advice.
Outside, the wind and the rain and the cold air from the north are having a little party. I had become so spoilt by warmth that I had completely forgotten about what is needed for working outside in chill temperatures. The horses have on their lovely rugs and are happy as grigs, but I cannot find one single pair of gloves. I blow, fruitlessly, on my cold fingers. This is where it starts to get serious, as the mud and the weather return, and seeing to the herd requires more than just a summer waft under leafy trees and high skies.
I am a bit scratchy with life. It has existed in a lovely, sunny dream this summer. Reality seemed a long way away, humming beyond the trees. There was just the grass and the light and the mare and the love and the dog, hurling sticks in the air and catching them again. Now, as autumn sets in, real life bangs on the door with portent. There are serious things which must be done, and knotty dilemmas to be untangled. Somehow, the onset of the weather brings all this reality into sharp focus, and I quail a little, under the onslaught. I have to square my shoulders and face the facts and not put off until tomorrow what I must do today. I know this is very basic human condition, but still, I am going to need all my iron tonic, literal and metaphorical.
Oh, have just remembered. I do have a small story for you. It involves Stanley the Dog, and a Charmless Person.
We were coming out of my mother’s house this morning. Each day, Stanley bounds in there for his breakfast, enchants the lovely Stepfather, makes my dear mum laugh, which is a bit of a miracle since she is in some considerable pain just now, and delights Edward the Puppy. Then, after I have eaten eggs and drunk espresso, he bounds out and we go down to do the horses.
Today, as he leapt down the steps, filled with the joys of spring, a human was walking along with four dogs, one of them off the lead. Stanley gambolled over to play, introduced himself very politely, and then began a quite gentle jumpy sort of invitation to dance. The other dog seemed perfectly receptive to this.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘he’s so happy to have found someone to play with.’
The Charmless Person looked at me, not a flicker of humanity in the stone face.
‘She won’t like it,’ the CP said, bleakly. ‘She’ll bite him.’
There was a challenging stare, as if this was somehow Stanley’s fault. I looked at the strange dog. No signs of trouble.
‘He’s not being aggressive,’ I said. ‘Just exuberant.’
Stan was by this stage lolloping in comical circles, his eyes sweet with invitation.
‘She’s very grumpy,’ said the CP. ‘She’ll have him.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I see.’
And I retrieved my poor dog and took him down to see some less cranky females. (The mare and the filly love him.)
The odd thing was not so much the charmlessness, although that is always a bit of a shock. Most humans attempt to inject a little charm into their daily lives, even if they are not very practised at it, or it goes against muscle memory. The odd thing was my reaction. I felt as if someone had dealt me a stab to the heart. It was not the words, so much. Perhaps the poor old bitch was creaky and grumpy, and would not appreciate a young dog attempting to play with her. The Charmless Person may have been stating no more than a fact. It was the tone, which was accusatory and denigrating, as if my glorious Stan the Man was some kind of intrusive idiot who went around bothering old ladies. It felt like such a smashing bucket of cold water on my sweet boy’s innocent enthusiasm. And they were on his patch, which made it even more unfair.
Don’t you bloody dare diss my dog, my irrational self was yelling. DON’T YOU BLOODY DARE.
He got extra love and treats for the rest of the day, and I had to talk myself down off the ceiling.
There’s a lot of talk at the moment about political lionesses, after a Twitter incident during the cabinet reshuffle. Turns out: I am a canine lioness.
To misquote Barbra Streisand, from one of my favourite weepies ever - ‘Tell me I'm not good enough. Tell me you don't like my politics. Tell me I talk too much. You don't like my perfume, my family, my pot roast. But for God's sake, you didn't have to sneer at Stanley the Dog.’
At which point, overcome by nostalgia, I break into a rousing chorus of The Way We Were.
Seem to be still on a hilly theme:
My most gracious beauty:
With the wind in her hair:
One more of the trees:
How could anyone, ANYONE, not have their heart melted by this face:
And this glorious profile:
PS. He’s perfectly happy now, fast asleep by my side, curled up into a little apostrophe on his bed of vintage Welsh blankets. He does not know that he was sneered at. But I do, and it dies hard.