It’s funny, coming back to the blog after a break. Come ON, yell the stern voices in my head; give them the Good Stuff.
I did have a whole thing for you about confirmation bias. In a rather twisted way, I love confirmation bias. I hate its effects, and I find it dismaying that it can turn perfectly intelligent people into idiots, but for sheer, ruthless efficiency, it is as reliable as a virus. You can set your watch by confirmation bias. And in some horrible fashion, I rather admire it for that, even as I am baffled by the humans who fall into its cunning elephant trap.
Ha. Should write something about paradox perhaps, instead.
But in fact, as I sit and think and tap tap tap my fingers over the keys, I come back, as I always do, to the small things. I’ll just tell you about the tiny increments of my life, even as the shouty voice is bawling oh, oh, they’ll find that really interesting, in its most sardonic and sneery tone.
It was minus six this morning, but the sun shone with such grace and conviction that it did not matter. Scotland looked as if someone had come along and cleaned it in the night; it had a vivid, lucid sparkle which made me smile like a loon. The red mare was equally happy. She adores the bright cold. Wind and rain make her grumpy, but she can take any amount of frost. She just fluffs up her dear teddy bear coat and her gentle face falls into an equine smile.
It was too icy and slippy to ride, and the ground was like marble, so I took her for an easy walk in hand, past the hills and the trees. It is one of the simplest pleasures in both our lives. She relaxes and puts her head down and swings along beside me, and I am conscious of this great, beautiful creature, as docile as a dog, in complete harmony with my puny human self. It is the consent of horses that always astonishes me. They have the power to flatten us mortals, and yet, most of the time, they choose not to. It is an act of elegance like no other.
Then I went to HorseBack for my morning work, and I ran up to the very top of the hill, where I could see out over two mountain ranges. Two mountain ranges; it is absurd, really. I have an excess of blue mountains. I feel the luck of it keenly. I’m a little banged up at the moment, tense and unsettled after losing the sweet little pony, still fretful about all the work I must do, fighting off a stupid bug which is trying to grab me in its crocodile jaws. But when I look at those hills, I feel, just for a moment, that anything is possible. I feel beauty running like a curative through my creaky old body.
Back at home, I concentrate on the very domestic and the very small. I make stew. It is a version of the old Irish stew my mother taught me as a child. Stew, like the hills, has the power to make everything better. It is a meditative affair – the careful chopping and dicing, and then the slow, slow cooking. You can’t rush a stew. Even the thought of it makes the shoulders come down.
I think, for some reason, of poor Jonathan Trott. When I get scratchy and glitchy and hopeless and pointless and feckless, I have a dangerous habit of comparing myself to the shiny people out in the world. These are the ones who have all the answers. They do life exceptionally well, as if they took a degree in it. Their houses are tidy and they know where all their vital documents are and they do not lose their wallet and then find it in the fridge.
I am in awe of the shiny people. Yet sometimes I think that perhaps their shininess only exists in my own mind. Everyone has their fears and their heartbreaks and the demons that come in the night. One of the most successful sportsmen in the world, who seemed until very recently impervious, has just admitted to his. The columnists will write columns about it, and the pundits will extrapolate until their ears fall off, and someone, somewhere, will say that lessons must be learnt. But really it is just a human being human.
I think: poor man. I feel an odd sort of gratitude towards him, as he reminds me that no amount of shininess can ever render the frail mortal immune. The slings and arrows do not discriminate; everyone gets bashed up by life, one way or another. And so I hold on to the small things – the sweetness of my mare, the beauty of the hills, the slow goodness of my stew.