What a blog I had for you today. It blossomed in my head as I brushed my teeth. It unfurled its brilliant petals as I rode the red mare, who was in her best mood, almost certainly because I was not making her round up sheep. It kindly put itself on hold as I wrote 1574 words of book and spent two hours on my HorseBack UK work. It got a little bit grumpy as I watched the 3.20 from Newbury. (It may have also been dismayed that I seem to be mixing my metaphors.) And then, as I sat down to type – phhhtttt, it was gone.
Carry a notebook, I tell my writing students, when I have writing students. You may think that idea is so shimmering with wisdom and grace that it shall never wander away. You would be wrong. How lovely it would be if I could follow my own advice.
Talking of which, I think the mighty blog was about advice. I pummel my cerebral cortex to no avail. There was something about wisdom and ordinary truths and life lessons and learning from the mistakes of others. All I know is that it was going to be a carnival, and now the carnival has moved on, to another town, and all I can do is watch it go.
You have to tell them something, yell the strict voices in my head. It’s Friday. They’ve had a long week. They want to go out with a bang. Give them some good stuff, preferably not involving sheep. If the strict voices were marking my report card, they would write: COULD DO BETTER.
Bugger it, says my human voice. You have written 10, 731 words of book this week. Admittedly, this is a slightly stupid amount, and probably 7,731 of those words will have to come out in the second draft, all the dead darlings lying bloody on the stage, like the last scene of Hamlet. But still. Your brain is telling you there are no more words. Not everything has to go into words. Sometimes, life can just be. You don’t always have to be explaining and investigating and digging for human truths. Sometimes, you can just pull the ragwort and listen to the Today programme and spend time with the family and laugh at the dog and ride the mare and watch the swallows, as they do that precision flying which seems like a miracle every time you see it. Not everything has to go into words for it to be real.
That, my darlings, is my story, and I am sticking to it.
All my photographic energies this week have gone into HorseBack, so today’s pictures are a rather random selection from the archive:
Here is one of the HorseBack pictures I took this week. There were a couple that really did make me quite proud, and this was one of them. This gentleman was a navy pilot, and he had never sat on a horse before in his life until Wednesday. Pretty impressive stuff. Oh, and he only has one leg:
I’m ashamed to say that I used to be afraid of physical infirmity. I became hysterically British and embarrassed and did not know where to look or what to say. I was like an absurd parody of Fawlty Towers: for God’s sake, don’t mention the war. Since working at HorseBack, I have become almost blasé about the thing. I hardly notice prosthetics or missing hands or fingers or feet any more, because I have never met so many people who refuse to let physical challenges stop them from doing what they want to do. The spirit and character is so strong that it makes the rest seem unimportant.
And yet, it is important. It is worth mentioning. Learning to ride a horse from scratch is hard enough. Learning to balance in the saddle with one limb is that much harder. At the very same time, the vital part of this picture is exactly what you see, rather than what you don’t.
I’m not sure I ever learnt so much from one group of humans. It’s not just that I am no longer afraid or awkward when I meet someone with a missing limb or crashing PTSD; that I no longer see otherness or difference. It’s that I have learnt from their example the supreme importance of bashing on, rising above, not complaining, seeing the possible, joking about things which probably should not be joked about, refusing to be confined to a box or a label, and just damn well getting on with it.
My friends Baz and Jay went up Ben Nevis this week. They have two legs between them. They are Royal Marines, and Marines can do anything, but even so. Jay told me yesterday, as matter of fact as if he were describing a trip to the shops: ‘When we were lying in Headley Court, Baz said he wanted to climb Ben Nevis. So I said I’d go with him. And that’s how it happened.’
I don’t know about you, but if I were lying in a rehabilitation facility after being blown up, I’m not sure my very first thought would be that I wanted to go up Britain’s highest mountain. But that’s the Marines.
Jay and Baz hate it when I throw adjectives at them. They are too modest. They are doers, with no time for fancy talk. So I’ll confine myself to one.
Ha. It turned out that there were some words, after all.