I call a friend in Wales. She is a horse person and we talk about our mighty mares.
It is 1pm. We discuss biomechanics for horse and rider. This is the Mary Wanless school. For anyone who wants to get better at riding, it's a riveting subject.
At 2pm, we are talking about creation myths, the collective unconscious, Jung, and the nature of molecules.
'Fuck,' I yell down the telephone, 'we've gone from Mary Wanless to Jung in an hour.'
I love stretching my mind around big ideas, even though I can feel my brain snapping and twanging with the effort. This friend makes me grasp for the big. I'm crap at small talk. I like trying to think higher, even though it makes me swear. 'Bugger,' I bawl. 'Sod it,' I shout. 'I'm bloody well going to look that up the moment I put the telephone down,' I cry.
Everyone should have a friend like that. Mortality is slinking around my heels, like a mangy dog. I'm motoring into the second half of life and my hormones are all over the shop and everyone is bloody dying. My defence against the stupid shortness of human life is to know stuff. I want to learn things and read things and discuss things. So, I have a friend who makes me strive and makes me stretch and makes me think.
At the end of the conversation, we laugh at ourselves. We are British, after all. We are not allowed, by law, to get too serious. We retreat into our safe space of the ironical and the self-deprecating. She goes back to putting out hay for the livestock; I return to my computer. My cognitive function feels as if it has been dancing round the ring like Mohammed Ali.
I should start every week with a big think, I tell myself. Even if it all goes to hell by Friday, I've aimed high. I don't want to fall into the dangerous complacency of middle age, where I believe that I know what I know and I think what I think. When I'm with my grand mare I keep challenging myself, because that's what she deserves. She loathes smugness and hubris. I can do it for her. Now I need to do it in human life as well as horse life. Open up that old mind, and gallop into the unknown spaces. Even if it does make me shout and swear.