The sun shines like a proper, blazing thing. It shines so hard that it cuts through the hard cold of the frosty night and brings warmth and life to the field.
I ride the red mare. Three weeks ago I had a massive sciatica attack after my piriformis muscle went into wild spasm. The clever doc fixed me up and gave me the good drugs but ever since I’ve been feeling as if I had been in a bar fight.
Today, I think, is the day to butch up and get back in the saddle. I decide sensibly that I’ll just get on and have a little walk.
We have a little walk. Ah, I think, I am home. This is where I live. The mare feels so soft and happy in herself that I let her roll into a canter, and she gives me her best cowgirl canter, her Green Grass of Wyoming canter, so I only have to keep a fingertip on the rein and I can scan the horizon for all those imaginary cows that must be rounded up.
I’m back, I think.
Fired with achievement, I ring the AA. The day before the piriformis went nuts, I had driven my car into a hitherto unperceived block of granite and ripped one tyre to pieces. Because of the bar fight, I had not had the strength to deal with it. Besides, there is always the terrible embarrassing moment when I have to admit to the AA that I am fifty years old and I can’t change a tyre. I will put off that moment for any money.
The man on the telephone is enchanting, and laughs at my feeble jokes. ‘What we’re here for,’ he says, with happy sincerity. ‘You might as well give us a job to do.’
And in an hour flat the mobile goes and a voice says: ‘I’m Martin from the AA.’
‘Martin,’ I say with joy, ‘you are my dream man.’
Martin takes this on the chin.
I am not exaggerating. At this point in my life, the man of my dreams is one who pitches up with an implement and gets me back on the road.
He gets out his special implement and in two minutes the tyre is changed. The little brown mare wanders up to say hello. I assume this will be a great treat for Martin, and introduce him. He looks faintly dubious, but hides any doubt behind perfect politeness. I tell him about thoroughbreds and how my dad rode in the Grand National. Sometimes, when I veer off onto tangents like this, I catch the flicker of fear in people’s eyes. Not in the eyes of the AA. Martin is a warrior of the road and it would take more than a woman with crazy hair and old horse stories to alarm him.
My kind friend then follows me to the garage so I can drop off the car to get the temporary tyre switched for a proper one and sweetly drives me home. As I get out, she says something so funny that I stand in the drive for three minutes, immobilised with laughter.
The sun goes on shining as I edit 82 pages. Cut, cut, cut, shout the voices in my head. I am warring with the weakness of self-indulgence. There are passages I love, but I know they must go. I stare dubiously at the dead darlings file. I really don’t enjoy this process. When it is over, I feel as exhausted as if I have been working in a factory. I mock myself for this. You are really not putting in rivets on an assembly line, I tell myself sternly. But the stretched brain has had it, and snaps into uselessness.
It was a good day. I’m glad I wrote down this day. It was filled with very, very small things, but they glittered and gleamed in the sun like jewels. They meant nothing to anyone else, but they meant a lot to me. The red mare was mighty, the AA was kind, the good friend was funny, the manuscript was polished. The poor old car, which had stood so forlornly in the field that it actually began growing grass under the windscreen wipers, is now in the safe hands of the garage and will be fixed. Things got done. That, in my book, is a day.