The sun shines. People appear, from my past. Rather amazingly, they have business with HorseBack, so, five hundred miles away from the old Lambourn valley I am reunited with people who knew that place, who loved my father, who grew up with and loved all the people I grew up with and loved.
I am so excited to see the people and so avid to catch up that I do my fatal thing of talking slightly too loudly and very, very fast. They, being kind and generous, smile at me and put up with it. I do sometimes wish though that I could be self-contained and talk at a reasonable volume. I fear that ship may have sailed.
We go for a walk in the gleaming sun. I take the red mare with us, because she loves a walk and I haven’t had time to ride her today, and insist on stopping so she can say hello to small children. She is like a politician: she has never met a baby she did not want to kiss.
The lovely people from my past ask all about the family. Don’t ask me questions, a faint voice in the dusty corridors of my mind says, because I will answer them. I do answer them. I race through the last thirty years of the mother, the brothers, the sister, touch on the nieces, get to the grandmother, almost go on to the great-aunts.
Then we move on to racing, because that is our love and our history and we all adore nothing in the world like the thoroughbred. So you may imagine that was a happy conversation.
At one point, we speak in low voices of the ones who did not make it. There is a sad litany of those, shining stars from our young days, whose light was extinguished cruelly and too soon. A parade of remembered faces runs before my eyes, a smiling array of fond humans who are no longer here. There is a small pause, in the bright air, as if we are doffing our hats to the Dear Departeds, and then we change the subject and speak of happier things.
I like the idea of not getting stuck in the past, of living in the moment, of not carrying around too much baggage like a poor old pit pony. But there was a lot of happiness and wonder in that past, and I like to remember it and to pay it tribute. It was enchanting to see these people for their own selves, but it was intensely sweet and touching for me because they both knew and adored my father, and as we talked of him and laughed about him it was as if he were with us, alive again, vivid and real in all his eccentric, funny, brave, colourful glory. There was nobody quite like him, and they brought him with them, all the way from the south.