Friday, 27 February 2015

In which I cast off my British reserve, and say the thing. Because sometimes you just do have to say the thing.

It’s been a mighty, mighty week, and there is so much I would love to write for you. I have, however, reached the stage that the poor Dear Readers know so well, when my bamboozled old brain is trying to crawl out of my ears and find a place of safety. Still, I’m going to type a line or two, and hope that I make at least some sense. (At this point, there is a very real danger that I won’t.)

There is a line in The Big Chill, one of my favourite films of all time, which goes something like: ‘How much fun, friendship and good times can one man have?’ Of this week I feel like saying: how much learning, revelation, brilliance, elegance and sheer poetry can one woman take?

I could fill a volume with the specific things I have learnt from watching a great horseman in action. I’ve already applied some of them to the red mare, and even though I am clumsy and bumbling in comparison to the grace and accuracy of Robert Gonzales, we have still made a glittering leap forwards. This week, we rode round a huge open field, with no reins, in a steady sitting trot. NO REINS. I tucked them safely under the pommel of the saddle and lifted my arms in the air, and let the good mare find her own direction. The important thing was that she should keep the same, even gait, with her neck nice and relaxed, going kindly within herself, which she did, with all the fine poise of a dowager duchess.

We did it on two consecutive days, so it was not a fluke. I was so proud of her I felt like crying absurd tears of amazed joy.

I am still in the scrubby lowlands, but I can raise my eyes to the hills, and that view shines like diamonds in my mind and heart.

But perhaps more importantly what I learnt was a human lesson. When somebody is really, really good at something, and has all the quiet confidence that brings, they do not need to hector or swagger or showboat. They do not need to prove anything, or cast anyone else down, or put out more flags saying Look at Me, Look at Me. They quietly go about their business, drawing other humans in through gentleness and politesse. They make their point by shining example. They remain absolutely present, in the moment, carrying their talent and their assurance lightly, so it is a lovely generous thing which sheds its refracted light into observing eyes. Perhaps most importantly, they are entirely themselves.

That is what I saw this week, and it was a great privilege. For once, I am not reaching for creaky jokes, or clever lines, or antic paragraphs. I am committing the great British sin of being as serious as stones. But sometimes in life you see something which is serious, which leaves a profound mark you know you will never forget, which is so beyond the run of the ordinary that it lifts you up and gives you a new and gleaming perspective. Respect is due.

Because I am British, I can’t possibly speak these words to the gentleman in question. In real life, I have to scuff my foot along the ground, and be ironic, and smile a goofy smile and look away. But I can write the words, in the shelter of the page, even though I feel quite shy about doing even that. Sometimes though, you’ve damn well got to say the thing. Because life is too short.

So - thank you, Robert. You are a remarkable horseman. But you are an even more remarkable human being.


Today’s pictures:

26 Feb H2

27 Feb 1

Happy friends, sharing their morning hay:

27 Feb 2

Stanley the Manly, ear flying, with a triumphant stick. It’s not the best picture I ever took in my life, but I wanted you to have the action shot:

27 Feb 3

I grew up in a racing and showing yard, where every single equine was gleaming and pristine. I could not hold my head up unless each hoof was gleaming with oil, and manes and tails were neatly trimmed, and coats were shining from grooming. I used to brush my ponies until my arm ached. Now, even though I can still appreciate a Best Turned-Out, and know how much work goes into a polished horse, I appreciate a different kind of beauty. It is the beauty of a mare just being a mare; hairy, scruffy, unadorned, covered in the glorious Scottish mud, with no prizes to win or points to prove. Herself is herself, and that is the thing I want most for her:

27 Feb 4

Thursday, 26 February 2015


Today, I am very happy.

I’m not happy because I won the lottery or I got good news from the agent or all my workaday frets have magically vanished or even because I got to the end of my absurd To Do list, which I have not, and certainly never shall do. It’s much more nebulous than that.

I’m happy because the sun is shining and I had the privilege of watching a great horseman at work and I rode my mare in a stately trot round a huge open field without using the reins and Stan the Man made a three-year-old laugh. (‘What is Stanley doing?’ Answer: nobody knows.)

I’m happy because I drove the long way home from HorseBack and looked at the mountains and the sheep.

I’m happy because when I went down to check the red mare at lunchtime, she was dozing in the bright light, wearing an expression as near to a smile of bliss as an equine ever comes.

I’m happy because when I went into the chemist the very nice gentleman behind the counter smiled and said: ‘How is your horse?’

When I was young, my friend The Actor and I used to sit up all night watching the Oscars, in those sort of Soho clubs where they run the ceremony on a big screen. I loved all the frocks and the tears and the brave loser faces and the brilliant thespians joshing with each other to hide their nerves. I really wanted certain people and certain films to win.

Now, I am much more bashed about, and I think about lichen and trees more than little golden statues. I took in this year’s Oscars with the very edge of my brain. I really could not give a bugger who was wearing what, and there were moments when the whole thing seemed so self-regarding that it meant nothing to me. I was pleased for Eddie Redmayne, because he was so pleased, and he seems like a very nice human being as well as a talented one. My eyes were gladdened by the very sight of Cate Blanchett, because she manages to look real and elegant at the same time, and although she appears not to play the fashion game she always wins, hardly trying. (Even more years ago than the Soho days, I was introduced to her, before she was famous. She was one of the most natural, friendly, generous people I’ve ever met, and even though she is even more luminous in life than she is in photographs, she carried her great beauty with a lovely lightness of touch, as if it meant nothing to her.)

But now I could not care much about the winners and losers. I used to dream of prizes. I wanted my moment in the sun. I wanted to thank my mother and my agent and the language of Shakespeare and Milton. Now, I am happy because the man in the chemist took the time to ask after my horse. I am happy because that same sweet horse is at ease with herself and her world. I am happy even though I shall never stand on a stage in a couture frock and be told how bloody brilliant I am. The joys I find as I get older lie in those gentle, everyday things to which mere mortals may aspire.

It’s an odd relief. I was never really going to be an Oscar winner. (Best screenplay was my secret dream, even though I am very, very bad at writing scripts.) I was never going to learn the art of glamour. That kind of spotlight would never shine on me, and, looking back, I’m not quite sure why I wanted it. I was always a bit of a show-off, so perhaps it came from that antic child who would put on her best party dress and tell stories to the grown-ups who came to the house. Perhaps it was the need for validation. LOOK AT ME!!!! AND MY PRIZE!!!!

I find life often confusing and sometimes hard. Sometimes I feel like my little legs are going in a cartoon blur, on the crazy hamster wheel. That’s why the good moments, the fine moments, the moments of glad grace, are so precious to me. A happy day is my prize now. It is a glittering prize, beyond compare.


Today’s pictures:

Spring is in the air. That made me happy too:

21 Feb 5

21 Feb FB6

26 Feb 2

26 Feb 3

26 Feb 7

26 Feb 9

26 Feb 10

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A glimpse of the mountain peaks.

I am in a slightly overwhelmed state. The regular Dear Readers will know that one of the things I love most is watching people who are really, really good at something. I adore brilliance. I doff my hat to it, and observe it with awe and wonder.

Today, I saw a horseman so good that it was like watching Nijinsky dance, or Olivier act, or Yo-Yo Ma play the cello.

I was doing my work at HorseBack, cantering about as usual with my camera, thinking of the Facebook posts I would write. I was very excited that Robert Gonzales had come all the way from California to share his knowledge and wisdom with us, and at first was only concerned with capturing the best shot. But after a while, I realised that something so rare was happening that I dropped the camera and merely stared with my eyes. At times, I could feel my mouth dropping open in cartoonish amazement, or my face falling into a foolish grin of pure delight.

Sometimes, at HorseBack, I hear stories from the veterans of the extremes of human experience, so bad and so far from my imagination that I can feel the very atoms of my body rearranging themselves, as if in outrage. Today, the atoms were on the move from the experience of seeing something so fine, so light, so ravishing, that it had a visceral effect of joy instead of sorrow.

What was it, this brilliance? It was so subtle that I can hardly capture it in words. It does not have soaring words to go with it, although it was a soaring thing. It was to do with steadiness, attention, timing, feel, a beautiful sure touch, a sense of something authentic and enduring. It was smooth and certain; there were no jagged edges. The thought was all about the horse, and getting that equine mind to a soft and easy place.

I thought I’d been doing pretty well with my red mare. I’d had moments of pride, which sometimes slipped into hubris. Now, watching the real thing, I realised that I was like a pub singer compared to Caruso.

That’s not the worst thing. I do not feel discouraged or downcast. At least the pub singer shows up. I feel humble, set in my correct and lowly place, but inspired to keep on going down this long and winding road until I can get within hailing distance of that kind of excellence. It will always be ahead of me, way out on the horizon, but if I could just catch a glimpse, I should be happy.

I love that there are people in the world who do such glorious things with horses. I love that the word they use the most is softness. I love that they are fascinated and enchanted by the equine mind and give it the respect it deserves. Until now, I’d only seen them on the small screen – old footage of Ray Hunt and the Dorrances, the documentary about Buck Brannaman, the brilliant training videos of the gentleman I take my instruction from, Warwick Schiller. But I’d never seen it in life before, and, up close, it is quite another thing. It is like a ravishing dance, and it made me smile the goofiest, happiest, most blissful smile in the world.


Today’s pictures:

Just time for two, since it’s been a long day, and I’m good for nothing now.

The magnificent Mr Gonzales, with Brook the ex-sprinter. This does not look dramatic, but it was one of the most striking aspects of the whole morning. It was simply standing and waiting for the horse to soften after a bit of work, standing and letting the new piece of learning soak in, staying quiet and still until the head came down and the muscles in the neck relaxed and the eyes went soft. Sometimes it took a moment; sometimes it took many minutes. It was the unforced, patient waiting, the sense of having all the time in the world, the offering the good horse the space to work it out with no pressure on him that was so very lovely, and it was oddly emotional to watch:

25 Feb 1

My furry, muddy, red mare and I have miles to go before we sleep. (The woods are lovely, dark and deep.)

25 Feb 2

But we shall prevail. Because we might have our hopeless moments and our bad hair days and our one step forwards two steps back, but we are triers. Like dear old pub singers everywhere, bellowing out ersatz versions of The Streets of London, we show up. Which must be half the battle:

25 Feb 3

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Chicken soup.

Dazed head has no thought in it.

So here is a recipe instead –

Complete cheat’s clean, soothing chicken broth.

This does four. I’m hopeless on quantities so you may want to adjust.

Poach two free-range chicken breasts gently in chicken stock if you have it or water with Marigold Bouillon powder if you don’t. (No horrid Knorr; it will go greasy and taste disgusting.)

Meanwhile, cook a double handful of pearl barley in plenty of boiling water, with a dash of Marigold if you fancy it or a good pinch of sea salt if you don’t. About half an hour to forty minutes. Don’t be afraid to boil the hell out of it; it cannot spoil as long as you give it lots and lots of water.

Remove chicken breasts once they are done – about ten minutes. Throw in two big chopped leeks and a couple of sticks of chopped celery. Simmer for another ten minutes. Check for seasoning.

Slice the chicken into thin ribbons; drain the pearl barley; put into big white bowls, pour the broth with the celery and leek over; add a scatter of very finely chopped parsley. Oddly, common curly parsley is best for this, rather than its posh, flat-leaf cousin.

Perhaps a tiny bit of black pepper if you are feeling in the mood.

That’s it.

This is completely phony and I made it up out of my own head and the purists will be fainting away. Where is the onion? What, no garlic? Why does the meat not come from a whole bird, lovingly raised by nuns and poached gently in a proper court-bouillon until tender?

I don’t care. Sometimes I want something easy and quick but delicious and wholesome at the same time. The only poncey caveat I have for you is that the chicken must be free-range, and the best you can get, or you end up with a broth that is composed of white scum and the taste of despair.

If you are that kind of person, you could add a carrot.

Or, not.


Today’s pictures:

The HorseBack horses were having a blast this morning:

24th Feb FB3

And dear Polly the Cob was at her loveliest:

24 Feb 5

The red mare is actually covered in her least becoming rug at the moment, because we have gales and sleet. The road to Glenshee is already closed. But here she is from a few days ago, all red and rugless, contemplating the Universal Why:

24 Feb 3

Stan the Man really hates having his picture taken, which is why he always looks rather quizzical and melancholy in photographs. He is sitting on sufferance until I release him to go after those tempting creatures which are rustling in the undergrowth. My lovely Pigeon adored posing for the camera and used to give me doggy smiles. Not this serious gentleman. In life, he is actually a very jolly, busy fellow, constantly hunting for sticks, digging holes in which to bury the horses’ carrots, crazily plunging into the hay stack after mice, and haring off into the woods in vain pursuit of crafty pheasants, who are always ten steps ahead of him. He has never caught any living thing, which is quite lucky for me. I may be a countrywoman, but I’m not good with the agonising deaths of small things. But he never, ever stops trying. It’s almost mean of me to stop him in his tracks, even for a moment:

24 Feb 4

Friday, 20 February 2015

A trot, a drive and a thought.

I found my trot.

There it was, all the time, down the back of the sofa. The red mare, moving lightly within herself on a loose rein, as composed and collected as a 19th century marchioness doing the gavotte, twitched her ears in the Scottish air as if to say: yes, yes, I think this was the item you were looking for.

Then I went for a drive and looked at the blue land in the sunshine and felt lucky.

I did some other things as well, but it’s Friday, and I don’t want to bore the arse off you.

(Wrote book; made soda bread; ran errands; had long and soothing conversation about the human condition. Same old, same old.)

Felt particularly pleased that I captured an image of Stanley the Dog with the Scottish sky in his eyes. All the time he was posing he was itching to be off to the undergrowth, where he heard the rustle of tempting critters. But he goodly stayed, and I got my shot.

There have been some interesting pieces of wisdom floating around on the internet lately. I find these reassuring, as the news gets madder and badder. (Greece; Putin; Libya; chaos and sorrow and insoluble problems.) The small wisdoms restore some sense to the stretched mind. One of them was from a lovely man called Ira Glass, and it had at its heart: don’t give up. Keep trying, keep pushing through, and you may achieve the beautiful thing you wish to make.

When I get frustrated with my bumbling horsemanship, I have to remind myself that I was off a horse for almost thirty years. I sat on a pony before I could construct a sentence, but that long gap meant that old, good instincts and muscle memory had atrophied and even disappeared altogether. The people I admire and wish to emulate have been doing it, every day, for those thirty years. They can do things without thought on which I have to concentrate very, very hard.

I can write a sentence which pleases me because I have been practising with words for those thirty years I was off a horse and at my desk. I knew a lot of the theory when I was in my twenties, because I read all the books and I had an avid mind. I went to all the great ones for example and advice. But I could not quite yet get my ducks in a row, because the knowing is one thing, and the doing is another. The fine doing comes only from the years and years of practice. Do your scales; play your arpeggios. Don’t give up. Embrace your mistakes, because without them you learn nothing.

I can write a sentence because I worked at it. I’d still like to write a better sentence, so I’ll go on working whilst I have a brain that functions and fingers that type. I’ll go on striving to be the horsewoman that my mare deserves until they have to hoist me into the saddle with ropes. It’s never finished.

Don’t give up. Keep trying. Stretch your sinews to the sky.

That, slightly to my surprise, is my thought for the day.


Today’s pictures:

20 Feb 1

20 Feb 2

20 Feb 4

20 Feb 5

20 Feb 6

20 Feb 11

20 Feb 14

20 Feb 21

20 Feb 21-001

20 Feb 23

Every day, in every way, I love that face a little bit more. I should not have thought such a thing were possible. I did not know one small human heart had so much love in it. It’s sort of crazy that it’s a horse who has unlocked this bounty, but I do not look gift mares in the mouth. (Except of course when her teeth need doing.) Love is love, wherever it might be found.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A day.

Sunshine. Cook breakfast eggs for The Mother. Groundwork. Riding. (I have lost my trot. It is tense and rushed where it should be smooth and collected. It takes me some time to find it, a process which cannot be hurried, so I am late to the rest of the day.) Members of the extended family are visiting; a lot of sweetness. HorseBack: photographs, notes, many discussions. Talk to my friend The Marine about the time he rounded up cattle in Colorado. Two hundred foot vertical drops up on the narrow mountain trails. I blanch. I am ashamed to say I make girlish shrieks.

Back to the desk, still at least an hour behind. Important emails and telephone calls. A wonderful plan is hatched. Errands.

Work, work, work, work, work.

Forget lunch. Abruptly remember that I have forgotten lunch. Feel suddenly very weak. Attempt to cram all the food groups into one very late tea-time snack. Still quite weak. Where is the iron tonic?

Back two winners at Huntingdon. The second, in particular, is a delightful gentleman of a horse, flowing neatly and enthusiastically over his fences with his ears pricked, occasionally throwing in a mighty, soaring leap just to show he is no mere workman. He is a Venetia Williams horse, and a lot of them are like this: honest and charming as the day is long.

Take huge amounts of stuff to the charity shop. The saintly glow of having a clear-out is slightly marred because the nice paper bags in which the things were neatly packed have been ripped apart by Stanley the Dog when he was in the back of the car this morning. I suppose he was looking for RATS.

Attempt to upload a HorseBack video to YouTube. Fail. ‘There was an error uploading your video.’ Have burst of First World rage. Swear at the computer, fruitlessly. Buggery YouTube will not have me.

Watch the sun change colour over the trees. Give Stanley the Dog a treat to tell him he is forgiven. (He had not even noticed he was in disgrace, and the ladies in the charity shop were very understanding. ‘I have spaniels,’ said one, darkly.)

Think about work done and work still undone. Find myself reading an article about To Do lists, and how they are never finished.

Feel rueful.

Wonder if I should check my emails again.

Think I’ll go and give the duchess her tea instead. There I can breathe and stand still and feel the air on my face and the love in my heart and see the snowdrops and think of spring.


Today’s pictures:

Happy girls in the lovely morning light:

19 Feb 1

19 Feb 2

Step-sister, step-niece, red mare and me, taken by the Lovely Stepfather. I appear to be having a very, very bad hair day. I try not to mind:

19 Feb 5

A chicken, for the Dear Reader who likes chickens:

19 Feb 11

The Marine, with Brook the ex-sprinter who now works with veterans at HorseBack UK. Who says that ex-racehorses have no useful purpose once their race is run? Quite a lot of idiotish people, is the answer. This fella does a very, very useful job indeed:

19 Feb 12

I know I bang on a little about the prejudices faced by ex-racehorses in particular and thoroughbreds in general. But really, you should read what the ignorant say on the internet. Don’t even get me started on the superstitions about chestnut mares….

Wednesday, 18 February 2015


Very tired today, so this really is just pictures of sweetness rather than any words. I did get one of the loveliest emails this morning, from the old friends, full of compliments for my mighty mare. It makes me smile still.

Here are the only words I have today: I love my horse. Love her, love her, love her, love her. I need new words for love. The love bursts out of my heart and goes crazy in the feed shed and I wave my arms about like windmills and say to my friend who owns the Paint: ‘I don’t know what to do with the love. I can hardly even express the love.’ I am quite cross about this, and may have started shouting. All the time the red mare is standing in the doorway, most unimpressed, her ears akimbo, a quizzical and faintly resigned expression on her dear face. My friend looks at her. ‘Yes,’ she says, dry as a bone. ‘I think what she’s saying is that the love is all very well but where is breakfast?’

I shout with laughter, doubling over, slapping my thigh like a friend of the Prince Regent who is about to go and visit him at the Brighton Pavilion for a game of faro. I walk over and give the duchess a good scratch on her neck. She regards me with fatalism. Yes, she is thinking, WHAT SHE SAID. The thing about breakfast.

By that time I am so full of love and laughter I can hardly make the breakfast. The mare observes me sternly, making sure I am putting in enough seaweed and rosehips for her hooves.

I think then, I think now, I’ll go on thinking for the rest of the day – love, love, love, love, love, love.

That is all.


Today’s pictures:

Some more of yesterday’s sweetness:

18 Feb 3

18 Feb 5

18 Feb 7

18 Feb 8

18 Feb 8-001

18 Feb 13

18 Feb 14

18 Feb 20

18 Feb 21

18 Feb 16

As if all that goodness yesterday were not enough, she did some magnificent Spanish Riding School of Vienna snorty trots whilst I was free-schooling her on the ground this morning, and threw in some rodeo bucks just to show that the clever Paint is not the only one with that skill set. Then, having got the twinkles out of her toes and sternly reminded me that she is descended from lines of heroic champions, she settled down to her dowager duchess collection, changing direction from a mere point of my finger. When I got on, she gave me an easy canter in the Western manner, a real proper lope, on a loose rein. Yes, she seemed to be saying, I really can do any damn thing.

Ha, I said, out loud; did the dressage squirrels come in the night?

Yes, she said, with dignity. They most certainly did.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Joy. Or, old friends and good horses.

Oh, oh, the old friends. The ease, the laughter, the fondness, the absolute lack of need to explain oneself in any way.

These particular friends are like the Radletts in Don’t Tell Alfred. (Oh, Fanny, not Fuller’s cake.) There is a lot of exclaiming – is that a new book, look at your pictures, this lunch is completely delicious, HOW HANDSOME STANLEY IS. All the good things are noticed and delighted in, and none of the bad ones even register.

I love it that we have almost thirty years of history together and that I remember their daughter from the day she was born. She is now a very charming and composed and entrancing young lady, radiating goodness and brightness and enthusiasm.

She is not a rider, although she’s been up on a few Welsh ponies. But I offered her a ride, all the same. She was thrilled by the idea. We went down to the field in the Scottish sun, and I quickly worked the red mare on the ground, partly to show them what she can do, and partly to check her state of mind before I put up such an important passenger. The wind was up, and the mare had come haring up the field to meet me at full canter with her tail in the air, so it was vital to bring her back down to earth.

Foot-perfect. I was flushed with pride. I got on, just to check further. Still as the rock of ages.

Up went the young person. I explained to her briefly about sitting straight and breathing to keep her body relaxed. I led them on a rope to start with. Safety first. But the two girls could not have been happier with each other, so I let them go. Round in a perfect circle went the thoroughbred mare and her youthful rider.

The mother, beaming, said: ‘You ride her like that, in a halter, without a bridle or a bit?’ I’m so used to it now that I hardly notice. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘That’s how I’ve trained her. That’s what she understands.’

The Young Person’s smile was so wide that it was like a beacon, flashing its message of joy all the way to Inverness.

‘You know,’ I said conversationally, ‘there are some grown-ups who won’t get onto a thoroughbred. And there you are, riding her like you’ve been on a horse your whole life.’

Stanley the Dog was prancing around, doing antic things with tree branches. The dear Paint filly, quite recovered from her illness, decided to show off her championship breeding, and did a little reining pattern of her own out in the field, and some ventre à terre galloping. The red mare, conscious of her precious cargo, took no notice, but walked gently with perfect composure. The human joy, unconfined, flew up into the bright air.

I work this mare using the horsemanship I use for many reasons. It is a compliment to her, since it takes into account her equine self, her evolutionary biology, her status as a prey animal, her herd instincts. I do it because it makes her feel happy and safe. I do it because it is practical, and makes every single thing, from putting on a rug in a gale to loading her onto a trailer, very, very easy. I do it because it reduces the risk of these creaking middle-ages bones getting broken. I do it because it interests me intellectually, as I watch the species barrier come as close as it can to being crossed. I do it because it is sheer, visceral pleasure, an earthed and physical thing. I do it because it builds the bond between us, and that makes my heart sing.

But sometimes I think I do it because it gives me a horse I can trust so much that I may offer a happy young person a moment of pure pleasure. I need have no fret or worry. The red mare is not the fiery ex-racehorse of myth, the hot-blooded thoroughbred of stereotype. She is a horse at home with herself who will carry a raw beginner kindly and with care. That is worth more than rubies.


Today’s pictures:

17 Feb 1

17 Nov 2

17 Feb 5

17 Feb 7

17 Feb 10

Monday, 16 February 2015

One picture.

I have guests coming again, all the way from the south, so obviously this means more domestic reorganisation (I love the hopeful re there, as if anything had been organised in the first place). Obviously this also means no time for a blog. So sorry about that.

As I was rummaging through the second spare room, which is essentially a tiny box room with a single bed in it on which everything gets dumped, sweeping up piles of papers and old laundry bags, I found this picture. It is of my friend The Expatriate. She and I met in our first term at Christ Church and we’ve been best friends ever since. She’s been through it a bit, one way and another, but you can see from her smile that she has a fighting spirit. Even though she now lives in Santa Monica, she is a countrywoman to her bones, and she has the strength of the good earth in her.

I remember that day. We’d gone to Hay on Wye, and a wonderful man called Roger Deakin had come to talk about his book on swimming Britain’s wild waters. Roger was so stitched into the earth that I need a new word for countryman. His house in Suffolk looked as if it had grown naturally out of the land it stood on, and was at one with the trees around it. There was wood everywhere, I remember, and he welcomed in all small woodland creatures with a gentle delight. (No reorganisation for guests for him.) After the talk on his book, he invited everyone to come for a swim in the river. Some brave brawny fellows stripped off and leapt in, with quite a lot of macho display, and then a chorus of ahs at the sudden cold, and that is why my lovely friend is laughing her lovely laugh.


This is photographed from the original, which is why the quality is not that good, but you can see the loveliness.

Roger Deakin died a few years ago, but I think of him often, even though he was not an intimate, but the friend of a great friend. He is one of those remarkable people who stay vivid in the mind. His book on swimming is wonderful, but if you want the full enchantment, his book on trees is his masterpiece.


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