‘Look, look,’ I cry to the Horse Talker, like an eager six-year-old child. ‘Watch this.’
She kindly watches.
I break into a run. Red trots gently by my side. I slow to a walk. She at once walks. I run again; she trots. I walk, she walks. I stop, she stops.
‘ISN’T SHE CLEVER?’ I yell.
The answer can only be yes. The Horse Talker sweetly supplies it.
I very rarely use the Universal We. It drives me nuts, most of the time, especially when it comes to women. We, say ladies on the radiophonic device, or in the magazines, or in the newspapers, all want X and Y and a bit of Z. What We want is often negative: to banish wrinkles, lose six pounds, get rid of cellulite.
Bugger off, I shout; I don’t want any of those things. I may have ovaries, but I have no interest in diets or shoes. Don’t tell me what I want; we have not even met.
But I dare to venture that We, as humans, almost all have a little voice in us which says: Look, look. Watch this. And what interests me is the things we choose to shout about. It may be: look, look, I can write a thesis, or make a million pounds, or drive a shiny car. It may be: I can make a garden or write a sonnet or do fascinating things with an old Fairy liquid bottle and some sticky-back plastic. (Or, in that case: look what I can do with nostalgic Blue Peter references.)
I suspect that possibly the road to inner peace leads to the quiet prairie of not having to prove oneself. Perhaps really, We should all try to get past the Look, Look voice. It is a form of pride and showing off, really. But on the other hand, it is very human. Someone said to me the other day that she thought life could be boiled down to needing three As: affirmation, affection and attention. The most generous thing you can give to a person is your time. You can watch, you can pay attention; you can be a witness.
For some reason, I quite like the fact that my current Look, Look involves something so basic that it would never make a YouTube hit. The other day, I watched a video on the internet of a young New Zealand woman putting a horse into counter canter without a saddle or a bridle. It was skill of a dazzling degree, and so natural and relaxed that it made me gasp.
I have to accept that I shall never be able to do that, just as I shall never be able to play a Mozart sonata, or sing like Nina Simone, for all my private efforts in the kitchen with only Stanley the Dog to hear. (I can, if the light is coming from the right direction, get a little blues break into my voice, and when that happens I flush with idiot pride.)
Yesterday, I did another kind of Look, Look. I had a two pound bet on four horses. My old dad loved nothing more than an accumulator and I do one pretty much every day, for fun, for the challenge, for the memory of the auld fella. I imagine him laughing his head off in the great William Hill in the sky.
My four lovely horses won. The bet paid £207.96. I was beside myself. I took at once to Twitter, to tell everyone. Well done, my racing posse said kindly; you deserve it, they tweeted, generously. Then I felt slightly ashamed. I metaphorically cleared my throat and shuffled my shoes. Of course, I wrote, I don’t tell you all about my utter catastrophes. I was incredibly proud, and flushed with the thrill of the thing, but then I felt a bit bogus, boasting about it.
I’m not quite sure what the point of all this is. I did have a good point, when I started. I like to tell you small stories which have a moral to them. I like to dig out the life lessons, over and over, to remind myself. I learn things and then forget them and have to go back, endlessly, to the beginning.
I think perhaps the point was something about the small things, my enduring theme. I think it was that there will always be a bit of Look, Look, and even though I would love to be able to do complicated steps and championship manoeuvres, I rather like it that my current totem of utter achievement is that my horse and I may move in harmony. It’s not fancy, but it’s real.
Are of the past week:
Ha. Just as I was about to send this, an email dropped into my inbox, from one of my various Google Alerts. It was from CNN. CNN, without fear or favour, was asking the big questions this morning. Are women foolish to love stilettos? it wanted to know. Talk about the utter idiocy of the universal we. There are about eight-seven things wrong with that question. I almost jumped onto the highest of my high horses, ready to gallop off in all directions. Then I thought: it’s a Sunday. The birds are singing. Stanley the Dog is stalking a fly in the next room, amusing himself mightily. I put the horse away. I laughed, instead.