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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Horseback virgin

I feel more like a real man today. And the picture surely tells you why.


I think I must have just turned three when my sister (who is eleven years older than I am) took me blackberrying down between the railway lines near our home, twenty miles south of London. What you had there was the fast electrified line that by-passed the towns of Merstham, Redhill, etc., and the slow line which ran parallel to it but through the stations. The two lines were probably separated by a hundred yards of rough grazing dotted with hawthorn trees and brambles.

I was in my push-chair (stroller). My sister – and perhaps a brother or two – busied themselves picking berries. As soon as the first basket was filled she placed it on my chubby little knees and told me to look after it. The next thing I remember, a huge brown head with bulging eyes, and a massive face full of off-white teeth leaned over my right shoulder, snorted excitedly, and dug into the berries. I swear I had never seen a horse before. I  screamed blue murder – and from that day forth was terrified of almost anything with four legs. I well remember my steely resolve to be a good father and take my daughters – we’re talking thirty years later now - down the lane near our place in Yorkshire to pull up handfuls of grass and ‘feed the pretty horses’. They were all a-tremble with excitement; I was quaking with fear.

Later I developed a close relationship with the equine kind – via the counter at the betting shop. But that’s another story. Later still, when I tagged along with those veteran rodeo riders down in the Southwest – and there’s yet another story there involving one of Nevada’s licensed brothels – I learned that I could approach a horse, even take its reins, and not wet my pants.

So-o-o, I call for a roll on the drums and three hearty cheers. I mounted one – and there’s the photograph to prove it. Of course, one of the lady trail-riders had to remark, ‘Let’s see if you can do it again without pulling the saddle off….’ But then, we all know what these western gals are like. Not your shrinking violets.

The trail-riders, alas, have moved on. Back to eastern Nebraska and Ioway, as I now call it.


They brought us laughter, glamour, carrot cake… and lotsa fresh horse manure for the garden. And Joe the wrangler guided me through fixing the toilet, whose cistern mysteriously cracked and flooded the basement yesterday morning. I’m glad I didn’t have to tackle that one alone. I suppose I could’ve called on the Chainsaw, but he was fast asleep – despite all the shrieking as the younger element speculated on what lay beneath my vegetable bed. Blame Matt for putting the cross there.


They were planning a movie: me as the crazed Professor, Phil as the Buzz-saw Killer, the bodies in amongst the potato crop, and all sorts of dark doings in the basement. On NPR just now they announced that more and more school-kids are being taught competency in financial management. Personally, I wish they’d teach boys competency in fathoming the female psyche….

Anyway, the Chainsaw soon came to life with a mighty roar in the p.m. There he is preparing to attack the elm (after some debate we’re calling it an elm) whose roots are surely rocking the foundations of the red house.



And there he is posing with his trophy.


You may note that he bought two hats the other day: the sinister black job and this avuncular straw type. He is now fretting as to how to get them back home on the plane. I am suggesting he wear both, one on top of the other.

Today is cool (48 degrees), windy and threatening rain. I suppose I could move back out of the trailer and reclaim my quarters in the house, but (a) the very thought of re-arranging my stuff yet again fills me with weariness, and (b) we are expecting one last turkey hunter some time this week. Ah well. I’ll cook some porridge and consider the options.