You would think by now that I would have got used to being an idiot. I have a fairly high level of folly. Some of it I am aware of; some of it I am not. There are things which I think quite normal, which make other humans look frankly terrified. (‘What have I said?’ I ask myself.) Some of the idiocies I try to fix up, to make better, to smooth out. Some I think do no harm, and may be left. Some make me want to cry.
Today was my mother’s 81st birthday. All her children are here, which is a very rare thing, since we are geographically scattered. It all started very well. There was the sweet birthday breakfast, with flowers and laughter. I brought roses. Then I went off and did the horse and did my HorseBack work and walked with the Younger Brother and ran back to my mother’s house to make smoked mackerel paté and tomato and red pepper salsa and guacamole. The extended family arrived, right down to the smallest great-niece, and the sun shone, and everyone was in harmony.
I left early to go back to my desk, since it is a school day. Smiling, I leapt in the motor and reversed very slowly into the brother-in-law’s shining new car.
I AM AN IDIOT.
It’s a turn I make every day. Each morning, I go down and cook my mother breakfast, and each morning I leap in the motor and reverse into that space to make the turn for home, and, this lunchtime, because I’m used to there being a big space there, not a gleaming blue car, I did not look. I just drove, heedlessly, thoughtlessly, without care or attention.
I had to go in and confess. I walked slowly, with the steps of a condemned woman. The brother-in-law, who was having a lovely time, looked up. ‘I’ve done something terrible,’ I started to say. But he knew. He knew before the words were out of my mouth. ‘You’ve hit my car,’ he said, sadly. He loves that car. He was having a perfectly delightful time and then some idiot female smashes up his motor.
He is a gentleman and he was incredibly polite and kind about it. But I could tell how sad he was. There was a dying fall in his voice and a mournful look in his eye. I could hardly speak, I was so mortified. I did that awful incoherent apologising which does not make anything better. He was manful.
It’s all very well being a bit of a flake. I’m used to it and most of the time I don’t think it so very bad. But could I not at least look where I am going?
I reflected, as I came home, entirely down in the dumpiest of dumps, about the little things. The regular readers know that I am slightly obsessed with the little things. This is usually in a good way. I cherish the moss, the trees, the stone walls, the low whicker of the mare when she gets her breakfast, the look on Stanley the Dog’s face when he emerges, triumphant, from the vast tunnel he has dug under the feed shed. If I am feeling a little sorrowful, I cast my eyes up to these hills, and everything is all right. But the little things work the other way round too. Everything was enchanting today. Even the dear old Scottish weather was on our side. My mum was having a grand birthday, all the family was there, everyone was in fine form. It will not be all the delight I shall remember, because the stupid unnecessary shunt has wrecked all that.
It won’t wreck it forever. I’ll ring up the perspective police and they will do a raid. I’ve written a note to the poor brother-in-law and enclosed vast lumps of cash so he won’t be out of pocket, although of course that is not really the point. But for the rest of the day I’ll have that awful sick feeling of angst as I recall his stricken face, caused by my folly.
There is a very dear horse forum I belong to. The people there are very kind and encouraging, and everyone writes about their small steps of progress with their horses and everyone else says well done, you’re doing a great job. This morning, a young girl in Australia posted a video of the work she is doing with her beloved mare. I’ve seen the young girl’s posts before, and she is a polite, enthusiastic, rather sensitive person. She tries vastly hard with her horse and is learning all the time. Even though she is thousands of miles away, I feel very fond of her, oddly protective, and quite often leave comments saying how well she is doing and how lovely her horse is. Today, someone chose to write a blighting comment. The burden of the song was that people should know what they are doing. (I wish I knew what I was doing, and quite often don’t, so it rather struck my heart.) The young girl, who is only sixteen, was devastated. The whole group rallied round her, and by the end of the morning there were a hundred kind, supportive comments to the one mean-spirited one. But I suspect that young girl will remember the ungenerous rather than the generous. Her rational mind will be soothed by the good stuff, but her irrational, undefended mind will be laid waste by the bad stuff.
I sometimes think this phenomenon is like smell. How is it that one bad smell will always linger, no matter how many good smells there are to combat it? Drains will always conquer roses; old rubbish wins out over lavender. To a tender mind, the single poison-tipped arrow will always cut through the finest armour.
Ah, well. I suppose it is just another lesson in life. I really must learn to butch up a bit. Make the mistake, make as many amends as one can, learn the lesson, put right what can be put right, and move on. Nobody’s perfect. But oh, oh, oh, I do wish that I were not quite such an idiot, and that I had not made the brother-in-law sad.
The birthday girl:
The red mare:
The Paint filly, very dozy and relaxed after being comprehensively anointed with special neem oil to keep off the flies, with her human:
I love this. It’s very slightly out of focus so I think it looks like a painting. The mare was coming up from the set-aside for her breakfast: