I wake feeling rather Sunday-ish, tired from a long week. I was on firework duty with the livestock last night, dashing about to calm the horses, check on the sheep, rush up to the cows. The bad part of this was that I was fired with adrenaline and could not get to sleep. The good part was that I had a lovely midnight chat with the farmer.
The farmer, who keeps his animals in the meadows around my house, has the rare, inborn talent of making me feel better about everything. I have no idea how he does this. We are hardly more than nodding acquaintances. We see each other out and about and occasionally stop to talk of the dogs and the horses and the ewes and the weather. I know nothing of his life and he knows nothing of mine, except in the liminal space where our existences intersect, the place where the four-legged creatures live. That is our mutual concern and passion.
He is of the earth and he speaks like a philosopher. I never knew a human work as hard as he, and every day I read in the papers of the traumas and trials of the farming life, besieged by cheap imports, China flooding the market, export ships from New Zealand literally turning around mid-voyage to send their lamb here instead of to the east. Yet, my farmer is always smiling, even though that smile sometimes looks a little rueful and ragged round the edges.
The sun this morning shines down like gangbusters. It is almost too vulgar. I squint at it crossly with my tired eyes and fall to picking up the dung. (The shimmering glamour of my life.) The mares graze peacefully in the set-aside and the dogs gambol and wrestle and race each other to the burn. I start feeling less tired. I suddenly realise that the air is filled with birdsong. The music is so loud that it is as if someone has switched it into full stereo. For a moment, I am amazed. How can such tiny beings make such a grand noise?
I ride the mare, loping around the meadow cowgirl-style, and then we put on our dressage hats and work on our transitions. It may be Sunday, but we must still work on our transitions. The dogs come with us, doing a bit of dressage of their own. My shoulders come down and I forget about the people on the radio, shouting at each other about Europe, about the forty-seven things I have to do in the coming week, about my usual mid-life box-set of frets and frailties. The animals, like the farmer, make me feel better about everything.
I go up to the dear stepfather’s house and help him with something on his computer. Last time I did this there were glitches, and I edified him with a drunken sailor exhibition of full court swearing. This time, I only said bugger twice. The thing was done.
I sit in the garden for a few minutes, looking out on the ravishing space my mother made. Her garden, lovingly tended in her memory by the kind gentleman who helped her make it beautiful, is coming into its summer pomp. Even the old oaks at the southern end are finally putting out their leaves. The dear stepfather will go south in July, leaving Scotland for good. I think: I must sit in this garden every day and look at it with my eyes, because in two months I shall not be able to see it any more.
And then I go gently home to see if I can work out what will win the 4.15 at Naas.