I couldn’t really write this week because I did not know what to say. You really can’t bore them with that, said the stern voices. So I did not bore them with that.
I’m not sure what the that was. It still feels very strange and not quite real. There has been a seismic change in my life, almost a defining change, and yet the sun still shines and the Ebor meeting goes on and Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro win the gold medal whilst I watch with tears in my eyes.
There are great prairies of the unknown. I canter around in them, a bit baffled, not quite sure of my sense of direction. When I have enough of those endless prairies, I read Trollope and watch the racing, to take my mind off the unmapped space.
There is a balance. I’m always looking for balance. You have to feel the thing. You have to look it in the whites of its eyes and mark it. You can’t pretend it is not there or stuff it down inside. But you can’t fall into a vortex of self-indulgence and wailing. You’ve got to crack on, said one of the veterans I have known the longest, as we leaned on the gate this morning and watched the HorseBack horses do their drill. The riders had a box-set of physical and mental injuries. But the sound, in that gentle Scottish morning, was the sound of laughter.
Those HorseBack horses set me to rights. A little while before, my own horses had set me to rights. The red mare did walk to canter to walk transitions, from voice, which were so lovely they made me cry. (We are inspired by the Olympics. Next week, we’ll revert to herding imaginary cows.) A lot of people don’t get horses in general, or the humans who love them. A lot of people don’t get me in particular, and the horses I love. I am used to this, although sometimes I yearn to be got.
I said something I thought was quite normal this morning, and the veteran I was talking to looked at me with an almost literary combination of wonder, amusement, fondness and a very, very slight tinge of sympathy, and raised his eyebrows and said: ‘You’re not quite right, are you?’ I shouted with laughter. I took this as a compliment. I spend half my life now with people who are not quite right, who have the voices of the post-traumatic stress howling in their head. I feel oddly at home with them, although mental illness used to scare the crap out of me. They are my people now, and I am their people. I always felt happiest with the ones who did not quite fit in. Convention alarms me, because I had no experience of it, growing up. It’s not something I know.
My own people have gone. This little corner of Scotland used to have my family in it: two nieces, one with her husband; my sister and my brother-in-law, my mother and my stepfather. The nieces and the sister have gone south, my mother died, my stepfather has returned to Gloucestershire, where he came from. It’s just me now, and the dogs and the mares. My abandonment issues are going nuts. So, I think, I have to make a new herd. There are my HorseBack people, and those good horses, who literally save lives. There is the extended family, with the great-nieces and nephew. There is my friend whose Paint mare shares our paddock, who said something so kind to me this morning that I practically fell over. Everybody needs their people. It feels as if mine are all gone, but they are not, in fact. I still have people, after all. They are just different people.