Tuesday, 9 June 2015

I am an idiot.

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.


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.


Today’s pictures:

The birthday girl:

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The family:

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The guacamole:

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The red mare:

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The Paint filly, very dozy and relaxed after being comprehensively anointed with special neem oil to keep off the flies, with her human:

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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:

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  1. You ARE going to put all those lovely photos in a book or a big picture frame for your Mom, yes?

  2. Well, one thing you are not is an idiot. But I do understand that, being demanding of yourself (in a good way), you are still raging inside. Hope that fades away soon.

    At least you are a big girl and, other than emotionally, seem already to have dealt with it. Your 16-year-old friend, on the other hand, is distressing. Why on earth do people have to be mean? You described it so well that it is impossible not to feel sad and angry for her.


  3. Oh, poor you. I so know how you feel - many years ago, I reversed my uncle and aunt's car into a bollard. It was just awful, entirely my fault because I wasn't looking where I was going. And they were lovely about it but it made them sad. One does always remember the bad thing first, but at least as we get older we know how to call in the perspective police. And those wonderful photos of your beautiful family will surely bring cheer... thanks as always, Rachel

  4. Oh please don't call yourself an idiot! I mean, who hasn't driven into their brother-in-law's shiny new car? Happens to the best of us (ahem, me too) so I hope it didn't ruin your lovely day with your beautiful family.

    Best wishes to your mother and thank you for the treat of seeing all your beloveds xx

  5. Yes. Super post. Why do we remember the disasters instead of all the triumphs?

    Congratulations to your mother.


  6. I once went to an after-show party (in my opera-singing days) in late summer. It was still light when I arrived, and parked in the expansive gravel sweep driveway of the hosts' house, but a couple of hours later when I left it was dark. How was I to know that whilst we'd been celebrating the end of the short run of that season's opera someone had quite unaccountably built a low stone wall near my car? The family car, I should say, the one my - then - husband had only bought - new - a handful of days before.

    In effecting the turn to leave the way I had come, I dunched the rear door on the passenger side. I was not the reason for the eventual divorce. Husband #1 was was actually quite good about it. The divorce was about quite other things and happened many years later.

    But, oh! That sickening dull crunch. Worse than a person losing her purse, on a par with...

  7. Dear Tania, thank you for giving all of us a chance to purge our car-crunching sins!

    I hopped into my husband's (admittedly not brand new, but still all in one piece) SUV a few summers ago, to run out and pick up something from the store. One of our tenants had parked a little bit farther out than usual in our communal parking area between the houses. I had my head out the driver's side window, making sure I didn't hit her car... meanwhile, the entire other side of our SUV dragged across the corner of our brick house! The SUV now looks like it had a close encounter with a tyrannosaurus.

    I can totally relate to that sick, awful feeling of guilt/shock/anger/sadness. I'm not usually the crying type (unless it's a movie or one of those Budweiser commercials with the puppy), and I burst into tears like a big sissy.

    Part of it was that my father had given us that vehicle as a gift before he died, and here I ran it quite literally into a brick wall. I eventually got over it, but when I think about it I still cringe inside.

  8. I think it's a thing neurologically - we have evolved to narrow our focus on 'bad' stuff because at a basic level it ensures the survival of the species. If we didn't have this capacity to take notice of and learn from 'mistakes' our forebears might have become extinct by persistently trying to cuddle sabre-tooth tigers. No better teacher than an uncomfortable feeling...


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