No day is perfect. Every day has a bit of fret and scratch in it. But some days are composed of a great deal of loveliness and I think these should be marked. I think of them like that pot of gold of which Sebastian Flyte speaks in Brideshead Revisited: I bury them so that I may go back when I am old, and remember.
I also think, as I get older, that life is not made of grand sweeps. It is a thing of increments, not arcs. The question is not so much how far have you come, or how high may you fly, but – Did you have a good day?
The goodness of my day lay in small things. I wrote 1496 words. I watched my sweet canine make my mother smile and smile. I told her and the Lovely Stepfather the story of the great gamble, which came off yesterday, to the amazement and delight of most of the racing public. (Some were cross and strict about it, but the rules of racing were not breached, and it turned a mediocre card at Kempton on an ordinary Wednesday into a three-act opera.)
I rode in the clear Scottish air, and felt my red mare roll under me into the most lovely, relaxed canter, on a loose rein, her powerful body contained and at home in the world. I got my HorseBack work done.
I FINISHED THE TAX RETURN.
The paperwork wasn’t that terrifying in the end and I no longer feel like quite such an idiot. As I told myself this evening, I am a bit of an idiot, so it’s not surprising that sometimes I feel like one. It really is a logical cause and effect. This thought both soothed me and made me laugh.
I watched an enchanting horse called Little Legend win the hunter chase in the Warwick sunshine. Hunter chases are not the richest or most glamorous races on the card, but they often throw up some of the most taking horses. Little Legend is one of those. He is very small, and gallops along with his neck stretched out and his head low, and he is as tough and honest and willing as the day is long. He got a lovely sympathetic ride, and both he and his jockey had an absolute ball, and it was one of those tremendously happy sights that lift the heart. Nobody much is going to remember the 3.20 at Warwick. It shall not make the headlines. But it had a glancing loveliness which stayed with me and has made me smile ever since. I’m smiling now, as I write of it.
Then, after all that, with all my tasks done, I went down to do what I call evening stables. This is what it was called in my father’s yard, and it is what I call it still, even though we have no stables and at this time of year it takes place in the middle of the afternoon. It is the job of feeding and checking and settling the horses for the night. The hay must be put out, the water trough checked, the legs felt, the rugs adjusted. And, of course, the love given.
I left it late today, as the light is starting to stretch out now, and I arrived in the gloaming. A high, limpid sky had turned a gleaming blue, and the air was cold and still. The two dear white faces were turned expectantly towards me in the distance, and Stanley the Dog danced about the set-aside, hunting for critters. I did all the jobs, and I reflected that the good physical work of setting an equine to rights is one of the most uncomplicated pleasures there is.
I stood with the mare for a while, in the dying of the light. She ate her food and lifted her head from time to time to regard me with her kind eyes. I spoke to her, telling her my thoughts. She is a very good listener. ‘In this moment,’ I said, ‘every single thing is all right.’
She nodded, sagely.
I said: ‘Perhaps all that really matters is that in each day there is one moment when everything is all right.’
She sighed through her velvet nose.
I wondered if it were possible to love a sentient creature more than I love her. I thought probably not.
So, my darlings, it was a good day. That is all I wanted to tell you.
I haven’t had the camera out much lately, so these pictures are from the archive. They give you some idea of the tranquillity and joy: