Showing posts with label The Young People. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Young People. Show all posts

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Young People.

I’m always slightly surprised when an entire demographic becomes stigmatised. Show me your working, I want to yell, with my empirical hat on. The Young People, who are so glorious in my eyes that they deserve capital letters, constantly get it in the neck. Oh, the young, with their texting and their gaming and their rising inflections and their like whatever, their inability to write a coherent sentence and their ‘Gr8 to c U’. Oh, oh, the youth of today, who are so coddled they do not know they are born, with their selfies and their instant messaging and their internet obsession and their tragically short attention spans.

This is, of course, old news. If you look at the letters and diaries of the Edwardian generation, the parents of those famous Bright Young Things from the 20s and 30s, you find them filled with despair for the fecklessness and self-indulgence of the pleasure-seeking generation. Many of those same young things went on to fight and die in the Second World War. They turned out not to be quite so feckless, after all.

I’m a huge fan of The Young People. In my experience, they are thoughtful, polite, generous and industrious. The ones I have met cannot all be freaks and anomalies. In my work at HorseBack, I see a lot of the young. Some work as volunteers, some raise funds, some participate in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative. One group walked, cycled and canoed clean across Scotland in aid of HorseBack. The grown-ups who were with them came back inspired, their faith in human nature raised sky-high. The teenagers on that hard challenge never faltered, never complained, and offered help without being asked. I refuse to accept that they are outliers.

I have two lovely young people stories for you today. Both of them are very small stories, but they gave me a pleasure so profound that I wanted to tell you of them.

Yesterday, I promised my mother I would cook her a chicken risotto. I went to the shop. Disaster. No Arborio rice.

A young man was stacking the shelves. Dared I ask him? He would surely think that I was one of those poncy middle-aged, middle-class women, asking him for fancy rice. What was wrong with some nice mince and tatties? Besides, he was busy.

I scuffed my feet and diffidently asked whether he might not have a secret stash of risotto rice in the back. To my astonishment, he did not sneer. Of course he could go and have a look, nothing could be less trouble.

He came back, his face fallen. There was no secret stash. He could not have been sorrier if it were for his own mother. Never mind, I said; thank you so much for taking the time.

I wandered off to gaze at the shelves and replot the lunch in my mind. Perhaps a nice pilaf instead? Pilaf seemed a very poor relation, somehow. I was oddly demoralised by the whole thing.

Suddenly, the young man appeared, beaming and breathless. He brandished the very last packet of Arborio rice in the shop. ‘It was hiding behind the Basmati,’ he said, barely able to conceal his joy.

I could hardly believe it. He had not given up. He had gone and rummaged about on my behalf, and appeared with his prize. I stuttered and gushed. I told him of my delight, of my amazement; I said that he had just made one old lady very happy. ‘I hope your mother enjoys it,’ he said, still grinning all over his face.

‘You have made my day,’ I said.

The smile blazed brighter. ‘Then my work is done,’ he said.

Two days before this happy moment, the post arrived. The post is usually a grave disappointment. It consists of intrusive flyers, charity appeals, cross messages from the council, which clearly believes I am hiding a family of five in my attic and thus cheating on my council tax, and bills. Nobody writes letters any more. Most especially, according to the groaners and grumblers, the Young People do not write letters, because of course they are far too busy composing illiterate texts to pick up a pen.

There was a letter. It was from a Young Person. This particular gentleman had just left university. I had met him at the birthday party of my younger niece a couple of weeks ago. He was exactly my type: witty and thoughtful and very slightly subversive and absolutely his own person. I had done my crazy aunt schtick, and hoped it was not too much.

Apparently it was not too much. The young gentleman had written a letter simply to say that he had loved meeting me. That was the burden of his song.

Another old lady was made very, very happy.

Although I am approaching fifty, most of the time I do not feel that old. Some of the time I feel quite young and quite foolish. But I am keenly aware that to a twenty-one-year-old I must seem perfectly ancient. I am always in danger of falling into the PG Wodehouse aunt trap, and flashing my cloven hoof, and embarrassing the poor niece in front of her friends.

The young gentleman reassured me that this was not the case. What sweetness.

I love these stories because they fit in with my theme of the small things, the tiny, daily, unimportant things which would never make the headlines and yet bring me dancing joy. I like recording the small things, so that I may look back and remember, on the days when the clouds come. But I also love these stories because they are happy reminders to all those grumbly grouches that the Young People should not be written off. Despite all rumours to the contrary, they delight and surprise. I take all my hats off to them.


Today’s pictures:

Too busy for the camera today, so here are some photographs I took of the glorious young people who came to my sweet niece’s 21st birthday weekend. You can see why I was so taken with them:










And one of my favourite candid shots of the niece herself, looking, I think, a bit like Julie Christie:


The thing that struck me about this group was how affectionate they were to each other, how courteous they were to the older generation, and how particularly touching they were with the very little children. You can see in the pictures one set of boys being perfectly enchanting with my great-niece and nephew. They had been dancing till dawn night, and they had all their friends there to talk to, but they took time to play football with the smalls. That’s right up there with the waiter test in my book, as far as character goes. Five gold stars, of the most glittery variety.

Oh, and here is the old aunt, at the party itself, with the glad rags on, just so you can see that I am not always cantering about with hay in my hair and mud on my boots:

18 Aug 12

But still, PG gets the last word:

“It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof. ”

Ha. That is why I cropped the picture.

Friday, 24 May 2013

A ray of light

After the horror of Woolwich, something remarkable happened. This week, as part of my work for HorseBack UK, I’ve been following the progress of the Banchory Academy Across Scotland Challenge. The young teenagers have been cycling, walking and canoeing their way across Scotland to raise money for the charity. They are accompanied by a HorseBack team, including two double amputees, who did the canoeing and the biking, using specially modified bicycles. Yesterday afternoon, as the news of Woolwich still disfigured the airways, I went out to meet this group as they charged down the Deeside Way in frigid temperatures and driving rain.

It was like a great big blast of joy. They were so filled with energy and purpose that you could sense it coming off them like smoke.

Later, they settled for the night in an old walled garden not far from where I live. I went up to talk to them and found a group of the funniest, brightest, most articulate, larkishly antic teenagers I’ve ever met. I was tired after what I thought was a long week. They had just travelled about two hundred miles under their own steam, and they were still making jokes, striking poses, teasing each other, and laughing like drains. Although they are doing a fabulous thing, raising thousands of pounds for HorseBack, there was nothing pi or do-goodish about them. They were just exceptionally nice people; authentic, charming, interesting, absolutely themselves.

As I worked at my desk, and the dusk fell, I heard the odd shriek and laugh as they cycled past my window. Even after thirty miles of hard effort that day, in snow and sleet and rain and absolutely bloody freezing temperatures, their energy was undimmed and they still wanted to explore.

This morning, I rode the mare up to see them. They duly admired her, which of course won my heart even more, if such a thing were possible. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘she’s beautiful.’ She was slightly freaked out, as she had never seen twenty-three mountain bikes gathered together before, but they did not mind. They are all so positive that they seemed to see the best in everything.

HorseBack’s Scott Meenagh, who has seen quite a lot in his life, having been blown up in Afghanistan, said that they restored his faith. All the adults with them were bowled over. Faces shone with admiration and pride. I can’t begin to express what a tonic they were. They were like a shining beacon of goodness and trueness in a sometimes dark world.

Regular readers will know that one of the things that drives me nuts is the lazy idea that infects the media like a nasty virus. The Young People, this tired old assumption goes, are only good for texting and gaming and traducing the English language with their LOLZ and other bizarre acronyms. I’ve never thought this was true. Occasionally, I have a little rant about it. I’ve always believed in The Young People, and now this mighty cohort have come along and proved my point for me. I had to restrain myself from hugging them. (I did fling my arms round most of the HorseBack grown-ups, who stood it manfully.)

I got on with my day, but my mind was filled with these delightful young people. Every so often, I broke out smiling, just at the thought of them. I admit, in my great-auntish way, I feel quite teary about witnessing that amount of sheer loveliness. It was as if they were sent to remind me of all the fine, bright things, at a moment when the news was filled with bleakness.


Today’s pictures:

The brilliant adventurers, setting off this morning:

24 May 1 24-05-2013 09-07-47

Scott, on his special bike:

24 May 2 23-05-2013 16-03-29

Having fun last night with Jura the Puppy:

24 May 3 23-05-2013 17-21-22

Out from the beech avenue they come:

24 May 5 24-05-2013 08-48-42

Posing for group pictures. The diagonal arms are a thing:

24 May 6 24-05-2013 09-00-53

My last sight of them:

24 May 8 24-05-2013 09-07-32

And one more of the special bike. Scott rides horses as well. Nothing stops him:

24 May 9 23-05-2013 16-05-18

Meanwhile, back in the garden, everything has suddenly turned green:

24 May 14 24-05-2013 15-10-37

24 May 17 24-05-2013 15-10-46

24 May 17 24-05-2013 15-11-02

24 May 17 24-05-2013 15-11-27

24 May 18 24-05-2013 15-12-03

24 May 19 24-05-2013 15-12-13

Stanley the Dog, with his socking great stick:

24 May 20 24-05-2013 15-01-00

24 May 21 24-05-2013 15-01-13

Red the Glorious, a little dopey after having her teeth done by the very clever vet:

24 May 23 24-05-2013 15-03-24

24 May 24 24-05-2013 15-04-37

The hill:

24 May 30 24-05-2013 15-14-33

Friday, 3 May 2013

A really lovely thing to end the week.

An amazing thing happened today. A group of three schoolgirls, who had chosen HorseBack UK for their charity in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, gave their presentation and WON.

Three thousand whole pounds.

The incredible Young People. All my hats are in the air.

Regular readers will know how livid I get when charmless newspaper columnists and Eeyore-ish pundits grouse about The Young People. (Demonstrating, I always think, nothing more than their own intellectual laziness.) So this news acted as a double tonic for me. I was so delighted and moved that I felt quite overcome and teary all morning.

Then I saw the faces of the two course participants after they finished joining up with their horses in the round pen. One, in particular, a hardened veteran of over fifteen years, looked like a small child on Christmas morning.

So there was an awful lot of goodness.

As the week closes, I run into a wall of exhaustion. My new regime needs a little revising and a lot more iron tonic and spinach soup. But I’ll go on bashing away at it, because everything in it is worth more than rubies.


Only four pictures today, because I’ve run out of tether:

Mikey and his new compadre in the round pen:

3 May 1 03-05-2013 09-59-46 4032x3024

The three Amazing Girls, when they came to visit HorseBack in the snows of February:

15 April H1-011

The wonderful Mikey, who has been a real star all week, and who is one of my absolute favourites among the HorseBack horses:

3 May 3 02-05-2013 10-27-42 3024x4032

And the wise eye of my own darling girl:



There is no longer any time to reply to all your lovely Dear Reader comments, but sometimes someone asks a direct question and I do feel it would be bad manners not to answer.

One of the DRs asked if I were now doing the HorseBack Facebook page. The answer is yes. I have been oddly shy about talking to it, merely referring to a new project or a new bit of work. I’m not quite sure why this is. It is not a closely-guarded secret. There are no Moscow Rules.

I think it is because it is the first piece of truly ego-free work I’ve ever done. It is not about my name or my reputation or the regard of my peers or any of the things which come into my professional writing. It is not about me at all. This is an entirely new sensation, and one I find oddly delightful.

Of course, it is not quite ego-free. I get kind remarks and strokes; I get a giddy sense of satisfaction if a post works, or if one of their Dear Readers says something complimentary. I am not a mystic or a hermit or a lama; I need praise just as much as the next flawed human. But the fact that it is done anonymously, in the name of the organisation for which I have so much admiration, does take a lot of the self out of it, and I don’t think that is a bad thing.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

1st January, 2013. A rather sweet start.

A very sweet start to the new year. The party was a wild success. I danced until three. I have not done that since the old queen died. When I arrived back at my sister’s house this morning, all the young people were milling about looking adorable and sheepish on about two hours’ sleep. (The Younger Niece had a tremendous gaggle of her friends staying, all very funny and polite, and courteous enough not to make me feel like the ancient aunt.)

I had come for post-party gossip, but also because one of the dearest of the Young People was having horse withdrawal. She is having to sell her own equine now she is at university, and had looked wistful and excited when I spoke of my mare last night, so I was going to take her for a visit.

As I mentioned the mare’s name, another of the Young People turned to me, her face blazing with delight. ‘Did you say horse?’ she said.

I knew that look. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘You are one of mine. Get your coat on.’

So out I went with the two young girls, to find Red drowsing and dozing in the bright Scottish sunshine. Her visitors practically swooned with delight.

Red has her moods. Sometimes she is not that interested in human contact; she is just doing her horse thing. But when she is all still and goofy and relaxed, she will soak up love like nothing else. She was, by great good chance, in just such a mood today. She blinked with slow pleasure as her guests exclaimed over her beauty (how my heart swelled with pride), stroked her neck, gentled her muzzle, and generally paid her the obeisance due to such a duchess as she.

I love the Young People. I don’t buy this notion that they are all good for nothing but texting and playing computer games and doing foolish things on Facebook. (So cheap, that argument, and so intellectually lazy.) The Niece’s Young People are a particularly charming bunch. They are very characterful, and they have excellent manners. So to be able to start the new year by giving two of them such simple joy was a very, very lovely thing for me.

It is one of the many blessings this dear equine has brought, in the last year. It if were not for her, I would not have met the brilliant HorseBack people, which has brought a whole new dimension to my life. I would not have the great company of the Horse Talker. I would never have known of the American Paint. I would not have the furry delight of little Myfanwy the Pony. I would not be fit, since I despise exercise for its own sake. Now I have strength in my body which it has not known since I was in my twenties. I am out in the earth and the weather every day; I am no longer a slave to the screen. It really is rather an amazing confluence of events, all from one glorious creature.

There are people who think the horse thing is a bit crazed. It is a bit of a bonkers love, but once it seizes your heart, it is like nothing else. As I watched Red being so sweet with those happy girls, refuting all the horrid stereotypes about thoroughbreds and ex-racing horses, as I saw the gleaming expressions of excitement and joy on their young faces, I thought: this is what it’s all about. The simple pleasures, the true loves, even the faintly nutty obsessions. Why not have a crazed passion? One can’t go through the whole of life being measured and usual and sensible. Red the Mare is my passion, and one of my resolutions for 2013 is not to apologise for that.


Today’s pictures:

1 Jan 1

1 Jan 2

1 Jan 3

1 Jan 4

1 Jan 5

1 Jan 6

Mr Stanley was in fine looks today:

1 Jan 12

We did some excellent work on sit and stay:

1 Jan 15

And here is the lovely girl, at her doziest, donkiest, muddiest, scruffiest best, just a horse in a field:

1 Jan 10

Even though these kind of pictures do not show her full beauty, I love them, because they show her just being her absolute horsey self, at one with the world:

1 Jan 12-001

However, pride compels me to add some more ready-for-her-close-up shots, from the summer, when she ruled Red’s View:

1 Jan 20

1 Jan 21

1 Jan 22

6 Sept 1-003

16 Aug 10-017

1 Jan 23

5 Sept 4

1 Jan 24

And talking of beauty, as I was going through the archive, I found this dear departed face:

5 Sept 9

To all the Dear Readers, a very Happy New Year. And to all your horses too.


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