It was a funny day. The sun shone, but the bitter winds, howling in the from east, kept Scotland in winter submission.
The agent rang to say we are not quite there yet. I was brave and cheerful about it. ‘I am a professional,’ I said. ‘This is part of the job.’ Not quite there yet haunts me, and I must be very, very flinty and practical and sensible and stare it in the whites of its eyes and not let it make me sad. It’s just a bit more time and a bit more work and there really are worse things happening at sea.
I did something catastrophically stupid which has led to practical and logistical problems and I had to walk the fine line of rightly scolding myself and not falling into a brown study. I needed to get my categories in a row. I had to face the stupid thing, understand it did not make me an entirely worthless person, prevent myself from falling into a frenzy of lashing and regret, and take stern steps to put the stupid thing right. I had to resist a sudden urge to fling myself into a defensive crouch. I breathed. I reminded myself that nobody had died. I remembered that imperfection is what makes a human lovable. (I really, really hope this is true.) I fixed up the stupid thing and tried not to let the stupidity haunt me.
Although I had caught up on sleep, I still felt a bit tired and out of sorts. Even though I did not have a deadline to meet, I still forgot to make lunch. (Going to do it now.)
It was a mmm, blah, scratchy, scritchy, uncomfortable sort of a day. It was not a show tunes kind of a day. It was the sort of day when I say, with my fatalistic, philosophical hat on: EVERY DAY CAN’T BE DORIS DAY.
Ah, well, I thought. Not the end of the world. Everyone goes through this, one way and another. Better tomorrow.
Then, as I went down to the field to give the duchess her tea, this happened:
Evverything was better. It damn well was Doris Day, after all.
It was not just that I had the good fortune to bump into The World Traveller and the two great-nieces, the very sight of whom never fails to lift my spirits. It was not just that all one of the little girls wanted to do was sit on the red mare, and that I could confidently say yes, because the dear old duchess is now so soft and relaxed that I can trust her with my best beloveds. It was not just that the mare was so enchanted by the small people that she blinked her eyes at them and wuffled through her nose, so that the smallest small shrieked with delight, making a noise so high that virtually only bats could hear her. It was not just that The World Traveller allowed me to vent all my worries and woes without seeming to mind that I forgot to ask her a single thing about herself, opening up her generous heart and spreading empathy like balm on my wounds. It was not just that they are ridiculously pleased to see me, and love me whether I have sold a book or not.
It is that they are so completely themselves, so happy, so bright and bonny and blithe that they literally jump for joy. You can’t be gloomy and scratchy when there are people jumping for joy in front of your very eyes.
In reality, the universe is a vast uncaring thing, full of dark matter and black holes. Almost every element of it would kill a human stone dead, from solar winds to cosmic radiation to primordial gas. It does not send portents, or care about puny humanity, or do anything but exist. But sometimes I do think of it in a metaphorical, magical sense. Sometimes I think the universe sends me what I need at the exact moment I need it. This is not literally true, and is very, very bad science. It is a metaphor, not a literal fact. But it is one of those things that can feel true.
Today, the universe sent me kind true hearts, and people who jump for joy.
And, of course, a very, very happy horse. If she had her way, they would come and set up camp in the field and live next to her in tents, so she could gaze at them in joy.
Stanley the Dog loves them too. ‘STANLEY, STANLEY, STANLEY,’ they cry, in chanting unison, as he demonstrates his skills with a stick.
Who could fail to love such loveliness?
I did not have to wait for it to be better tomorrow. It was better now.
PS. The thing that makes me laugh is that these pictures really are not the best I’ve ever taken. I was laughing so much and so eager to capture every moment that I merely pointed and snapped. They are technically deficient, but they are filled with sweetness, and the happiness of that half hour pours out like starlight. They are a potent reminder that things do not need to be perfect, or even very good, in order to shimmer with loveliness.