The yurk part: experiments in raising my activity level to previous modest heights are proving unsuccessful, or at least inspiring undesirable repercussions. Which is to say I have barely got the hellpack hurtled today, and possibly in slo-mo, I’m too whacked to be sure of what my legs have been doing, but Pav can create her own alternate realities, and hucklebutts rather well on her extending lead, given the absence of large inconveniently-placed trees. And the hellhounds are, after all, well into middle age, and are happy to saunter along, looking elegant and fabulous, with a brief sprint when no one is looking but me.
The rest is a daze.* And this one. Word. After. Another. doohickey, whatsit, blog is just beyond me tonight.**
But I don’t want to leave you entirely without frivolous reading material. So here’s the ridiculous part:
B_twin, knowing my feelings about Peter Jackson***, sent this to me several weeks ago and I laughed and laughed and saved the address so I could hang it on the blog some day† and today is the day. Some of you’ll have already seen it . . . but there are paragraphs definitely worth revisiting.
The sublime part: http://www.diegrossestille.de/english/
Aloysius loaned me the DVD . . . oh, months ago. Probably months and months. I watched it once fairly quickly but really—even after you’ve watched all the extra bits and clips—it raises more questions than it answers so I wanted to watch it again before I gave it back . . . and that plan of a plan went on kind of a while. Poor Aloysius finally asked for its return so I hastily rewatched it right around the time B_twin sent me the SMAUG review . . . and these two so clearly belong together.†† You know. Ridiculous. Sublime.
The SILENCE web site is a little obscure but keep clicking. The film is a documentary about a ‘closed’ Carthusian monastery and it’s . . . well, it’s amazing. I didn’t, myself, ever forget I was watching a film—I’m a trifle resistant to arty films and this one has AAAAAAAART stamped on every frame, and the suggested use of it as a meditation aid I’m like, what?—but the mixture as demonstrated in these monks’ lives of the spiritual and the practical, the outer and inner, the ordinary and extraordinary, was lovely and moving. And the landscape is spectacular. Although I’m glad I don’t live there, aside from the whole no-talking thing.
* * *
* There was a lot of lap time today. This is now the second and third generation of critters to think that ME is a great invention.
** Also I need to claw myself together to go to my monks tomorrow night.
*** The brief polite version is that I thought THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING was a mostly honourable failure, I hated TWO TOWERS and never saw RETURN OF THE KING. There was never any way in any universe similar or dissimilar to this one that I was going to see what smashed and broken melee he was going to make of THE HOBBIT.
† Preferably before the third film comes out, but greatness, in reviewing as in everything, is timeless.
†† I am sick. Yes, I know.
I bought nine roses last week.* AND I PLANTED THE LAST TWO OF THEM TODAY. It’s only been a WEEK.** And I’ve already got ALL OF THEM them in the ground.*** Are you impressed? Trust me, you should be impressed.
So I thought I’d give myself a Slightly Short Blog Day to celebrate.† And maybe I’ll do a little work. Or go to bed early.†† Or something.
* * *
* Hey. I need more roses.
** I can’t remember if I told you this story or not^. I’d ordered from a rose nursery that isn’t impossibly far from here and said I would pick them up. When they rang me that my roses were ready I suggested to Peter that he come too and we’d go on afterward to the big public garden nearby and have a wander. So that’s what we did. Except that by the time we got to the big public garden . . . we were too tired.^^ So we didn’t walk around it. Ho hum. Life in the Slow Lane. But I did get my roses.
^ And the Footnote Labyrinth makes trying to look back and check somewhat challenging.
^^ In my case all that frelling driving was aggravated by a long conversation I had with one of the rose-nursery proprietors about, how surprising, roses. She was full of embarrassing information I should have known.+ I have, for example, never had any luck with the symbiotic fungus stuff that you put in the hole when you plant your rose, and it colonises the roots which then develop like crazy in all directions and your rose is very, very happy. Except it didn’t and it wasn’t. I thought it was another fashionable scam. Nobody told me that root fungi don’t like blood-fish-and-bone which is the traditional rose and general perennial shrub food. You ALWAYS put BFB in the hole you’re planting a rose in. Not when you’re using mycorrhizal fungi. Oh. –So I bought some more of the frelling stuff and have used it. Except I’ve only used about half the packet and it only keeps for about a year and it’s stupidly expensive, you wouldn’t want to waste it nooooooooooo. . . . .
+ Although we did a little mutual howling about people who don’t get it that roses are, you know, living things. I told her a story I know I’ve told you, from when we were still at the old house and opened our garden on the National Gardens Scheme. I had someone at least once every open day saying, your roses are amazing, how do you get your roses to be so amazing? My roses are barely struggling along. And I would say, well, what do you feed them? And they would look at me blankly and say, Feed them? FOR PITY’S SAKE, GUYS. HOW DO YOU THINK ROSES PRODUCE ALL THOSE FLOWERS? MAGIC? How can anyone look at a modern, repeat-flowering rose, frelling bowed down by the weight of its flowers, not least because it’s been overbred for flower production at the expense of everything else like leaves and stems and good health, and not realise it’s going to need a little more help than scratching a hole in the ground and plonking it in?? That’s like buying a racehorse and feeding it straw. GOOD GRIEF.
*** Well. Mostly not in the ground. Not in the All the Plumbing in Hampshire cottage garden. Most of them are in pots. I suspect I have rather good drainage, between the builder’s rubble and all the plumbing in Hampshire, but most roses that aren’t major thugs, in this garden, do better in pots, possibly just because they don’t have to fight off the thugs. But I lost a few this wet winter that I don’t think I should have lost so . . . more pots. A few of the new intake are in pots smaller than they’ll stay in forever . . . but they’ll do for a year or two. Or three. Just keep feeding them.
† Also because I took Peter to the ex-library again today and we battered our way through all the other media and went and hung out in the small dark corner where the books now live. I found a little trove of knitting books . . . and then read one of Peter’s thrillers over tea. During which I absent-mindedly ate a Very Nasty gluten-free pistachio cookie. I think I object to a book so absorbing that you can eat nasty food without noticing till it’s too late. That’s the problem with thrillers: they make you forsake all rationality and keep turning pages.
And then I went bell ringing at Crabbiton for the second week in a row. I haven’t been ringing, I’m too tired, and the idea of facing eighty-six bells and a ringing chamber the size of a ballroom at Forza is too much for me. Crabbiton has six bells, and a pretty laid-back and low-level band, and I found out by accident that Wild Robert has started teaching there pretty regularly again. So I went along last week and made bob minor possible—they generally only have four inside ringers, and bob minor requires five—and so this week they were really glad to see me. It’s a hoot being one of the big kids. Although Felicity had to go and wreck my feeble glow of self-satisfaction by inquiring if I wouldn’t like to make up the number at Madhatterington on Mothering Sunday. Nooooooooooooo.
So . . . after all this febrile self indulgence . . . work would be good.
†† No! No! Not that!
|But back-yard mutts can surprise you. The woman who first taught me dressage . . . did wonders with a series of back-yard mutts.|
I’m glad to hear that on a couple different levels. One is that some day I will need to look for another horse for myself, and it’s good to have those stories tucked in my memory to encourage me to look at “any” horse. . . .
Yes—with those quotation marks firmly in place. I was trying to think of what I would say you must absolutely look for in a horse—four sound legs is always a good place to start, and while Grace’s mare always was sound, no, you know, sane person would have risked her, with that crooked leg. In Grace’s defense she was very experienced as well as knew the mare from a foal, had done most of her Heinz 57 mum’s training and was a friend of the original owner who as I recall insisted she’d always have her back as a pasture ornament if she broke down.
I’d say the bottom line non-negotiable in a horse for ordinary—um, rider mutts—like you and me is a kind eye, very visible, I might add, in the photos of Amore. Having established the eye you want something who likes its work—which is a little harder to ascertain in the usual for-sale try-out, but that’s where your secret weapon, Rachel, is deploying herself on your behalf. Rachel will know!
The second reason I’m glad to hear that is because of a big change that’s coming to our barn…it’s time to get my girls their own horse. . . .They are OVER THE MOON about this, naturally!
Snork. Naturally. When are you going to get your husband on a horse?
. . . we can get whatever horse is the best fit for us and worry about getting a next step horse for the girls later. Another thing I love about my trainer is that she is happy to work with ANY kind of horse, which is a great attitude to be working with.
It’s really the only attitude to be working with. Yaaaaay for Rachel.
And if there’s a good story attached to it, I’ll see if Robin wants another horse guest post.
YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT? ROBIN ALWAYS WANTS ANOTHER GUEST POST. IF IT’S ABOUT FABULOUS HORSES, SO MUCH THE BETTER.
I’m still assuming—by not thinking about it too clearly—that I’ll ride again some day, but I admit I don’t know how or under what circumstances. The problem is that I went over the casual-hack line decades ago. I don’t want to have the occasional amble on horseback over the countryside, even this countryside*, I want to have a relationship with a specific horse, and contribute to its quality of life, well-being and training as it contributes to mine. And that kind of relationship takes an investment of physical energy I simply haven’t got.
But I still think in horsy terms. My MGB, who is still in the garage at the cottage while I dork around endlessly about selling her, was my little cream-coloured mare from the moment I set eyes on her—the old-car garage who found her for me had actually brought her in from Dorset or Lithuania or something. I’m pretty sure describing her as such still exists on the web site somewhere—and shortly after I’d put that bit up I received a Very Huffy email from a preteen girl who had a horse telling me, more or less, that she had Lost All Respect for me for preferring a car. It wasn’t a question of preference, it was a question of bank balance.
And, about a year later, it began to be a question of ME. Feh. But there are other things. I totally identify bell ringing as a partnership with a live creature with a mind of its own at the other end of a rope/rein. One of the tangential pleasures of Nadia as a voice teacher is that she rides.** I’m not one of her, cough-cough, better students, but I’m easy to get stuff across to, first because I have more imagination than is good for me, and if Nadia tells me to close my eyes and become a tree, I close my eyes and become a tree. . . . And second because I’m another horse crazy and she can tell me to get my weight off my forehand and my hocks under me.
Possibly on account of Bratsche’s horse story I’ve been thinking about singing in horsy terms even more than usual. But I’ve mentioned here that for some time now my voice has begun to feel a lot like another critter, some live thing that is my responsibility, that needs kindness and exercise and attention. Gleep. It no longer feels like my voice—where is all that NOISE coming from??—and ‘I’ feel overhorsed. I don’t know what I was expecting when I got into this voice-lesson shtick but I was not expecting this disconcerting mixture of strength and lack of control. Horsy metaphor: when my voice is warm and full and open I can’t frelling do anything with it, and it reminds me rather a lot of the four-year-old warmblood I exercised for a while many years ago. Four years old can be pretty young in a big horse. This one had barely been backed and had everything to learn, including how to make his legs function in an orderly sequence. Some of you will know about teaching a young horse to canter under saddle and how all over the landscape they can be as they try to figure out how to perform this complex task. This boy was a sweetie—speaking of the kind eye—and totally willing to try, but oh my. Mostly we trotted, which is, of course, what you do with a horse that can’t canter yet. The more stable and rhythmic the trot, the more possible the canter. But he had one of those gigantic warmblood trots as well as being a loose cannon. Actually he was a lot of fun and I hope he grew up to make some nice human rider very happy. But at the time trying to enable him to move in a straight line or a gentle curve even at the trot . . . is a lot like me trying to carry a tune now when my voice is up and running. If I shut down and go all control-freak on myself I can hold that tune, no problem, as I’ve been able to carry a tune fairly reliably all my life . . . but it’s not a sound quality you want to encourage. As soon as you—or more often, Nadia—wakes up my inner young warmblood . . . I’m all over the planet, tune-wise. Arrrrgh. One of the ironies is that at the moment I sing worse for Nadia than I do at home—because she can get the voice out of me whereupon I go to pieces. ARRRRRGH.
Another horsy metaphor: I was singing some poor innocent song this Monday at my lesson, soared up to my Big Note and . . . lost my bottle and went flat. I said to Nadia afterward in frustration, this is exactly like coming up to a biggish fence on a horse you know can do it backwards and if you put it up another foot, and at the last minute you bottle out and sit back on her—and she raps it with her feet and brings a rail down. ARRRRRRRGH.
I’m still hoping I’m going to grow up to make some nice human rider very happy.
* * *
* Which at the moment is eyebrow-deep in mud anyway.
** She was a bit of a hot shot in her youth. It wouldn’t surprise me if she dusted off her hot-shot status once her own kids are a little older.
The nice thing about dressage is that there’s LOTS you can do without needing to sit the trot; so if that happens to be a problem, you can still do a ton without dealing with it. . . . your comfort will also probably vary a lot from horse to horse since different horses’ gaits feel so different.
There’s pretty much always something you can do with dressage, given that you have a good trainer, a sound horse, and can get yourself into the saddle. One of the ironies in this skill as in so many is that sometimes what you need is precisely the skill you haven’t got yet: I know I’ve told this blog before that my great breakthrough about sitting the trot was when I realised it was my stomach muscles, not my back or my seat, that were crucial—at which point my back stopped bothering me. But I don’t think it would have done me much good to be told that I would sit the trot with my stomach when I was first starting to learn; I had to be mostly there already and needing only the final thud over the line.* The really counterintuitive thing for me was the way then that those frelling gigantic warmblood trots** became if not precisely easy, then comprehensible . . . and thrilling.
My trainer says jumping is pretty much just dressage where someone left some jumps in the way. . . . That makes some sense to me, but I’m sure it will feel VERY different at least sometimes if I do try some jumping eventually. . . .
But the bottom line about dressage is that it’s about making you and your horse and particularly you-and-your-horse happier, more supple, better balanced and more flexible about anything and everything . . . so jumping is dressage where someone left fences in the way: dressage is the bottom line, whether you call it ‘dressage’ or not. This was really making some good sense with Connie . . . siiiiiiiiigh. . . . and Jenny was a show jumper.*** Jumping was her first love and the years she had suitable horses she even earned money at it. But she absolutely believed that dressage was the necessary basis, for show jumping or anything else. Although she was funny about some of dressage’s little foibles. The point of show dressage is that the horse does exactly what you tell it to† when you tell it to. The last thing I want, Jenny would say, is some animal that waits for me to tell it to perform a flying change. And of course a good show jumper is figuring out the next fence as soon as the rider has settled on their line so it knows where it’s going—which may be about half a stride to spare, depending on the course, so it needs to be able to make some of its own decisions. Connie had lovely flying changes—not that I was necessarily in the right place at the right time, riding her, either to ask her or to let her do them.
. . . I am SO spoiled! I would never in my wildest dreams have thought I could have a guy as great as him! . . . . It does mean, however, that the kind of horse I’ll be wanting for my next one (when Amore can’t be ridden any more — hopefully many years from now) is going to be much different than if my first horse had been a back-yard mutt (so to speak)
Well, add me to the forum chorus of JEEEEAAAAAAAAALOUS. But back-yard mutts can surprise you. The woman who first taught me dressage—and totally did my head in by proving I could learn to ride††—and who had no money, did wonders with a series of back-yard mutts. I learnt the extended trot on her first success story, one of those ‘Quarter Horses’ that has about as much QH bloodline as I do, but they arrive on the East Coast in gigantic truckloads for auction, and the paperwork says ‘QH’ I suppose because they’re from Out West Somewhere and the paperwork has to say something. He had a back as long as a city block and his shoulders and his pasterns were perfectly upright (speaking of the comfort/discomfort of sitting to certain horses’ trots) and he had no business ever so much as coming on the bit and getting his hocks under him . . . but he did it, with Grace training him. It was pretty funny really: his back accordioned about six feet as he came on the bit. Suddenly he was (almost) a normal-looking horse. And his extended trot was amazing.
She had another horse, a mare, she’d (also) got cheap, because she’d broken a foreleg as a yearling and it hadn’t set quite right, and the foot turned out. Eh, she’ll never amount to anything with that leg; and furthermore, as she grew up, her rear end grew more than her front, so she was that disastrous creature, a horse who is ‘higher behind than before’ and will spend its life running downhill. And of course never ever be capable of coming on the bit and getting her hocks under her.
You can see where this is going. The mare loved working and couldn’t wait for Grace to ask her to do something.††† Grace competed her in the New England finals at third or fourth level . . . and I swear every last judge Grace rode for, from her first training show, hissed through his/her teeth and said that the mare would never go any farther because of her conformation and she’d never stay sound on that leg. She retired sound at, I think, sixteen; she had her third and last foal two years later. ‡
And of course my hellhounds are back-yard mutts. . . .
* * *
* Your mileage may vary. I was a very slow learner about riding as about so many things, although some of that was my going into it with the conviction that I was clumsy and stupid and wouldn’t be able to learn. Self confidence? What would that be exactly?
** I don’t know if this is true across the warmblood spectrum—and I’m not going to spend the next frelling hour googling my way through a lot of horse sites, I want to sing tonight—but a lot of warmblood breeding was to produce carriage horses where gigantic sit-at-your-pelvis’-peril trots were a total plus^. The dressage thing under saddle came later.
^ Although I don’t know what the postilions may have thought. In my admittedly limited experience posting to an eighteen-hand warmblood powering over the landscape is even less possible than sitting.
*** Connie was the last horse I rode regularly, before the ME objected. And Jenny was her owner and my teacher.
† Because you and your horse are a PARTNERSHIP. A good horse is never a thousand-pound machine that does the same precise thing every time you flip a lever. I’ve never ridden a true ‘push button’ horse but I’ve ridden several excellent schoolmasters, and they have their ways of getting their point across by doing what you told them, not what you wanted. While your human teacher, standing in the middle of the ring, tries not to laugh.
†† I’d been mostly taught by riders with natural talent who had no idea what to do with someone like me. Grace was herself not naturally talented in that way; she’d worked for her horse skills and had gazillions of approaches to any given horse/rider situation . . . and endless patience. We’ve lost touch, but I hope she’s healthy and thriving, wherever she is.
††† That mare was one of my schoolmasters. And she was . . . a character. Her desire to do stuff was genuine, and she’d try till she exploded—but she loved working because she had a fantastic trainer. She could have been a serious handful for the wrong person—for someone who didn’t allow her to be herself. She didn’t suffer fools gladly, and it was a pretty great compliment that Grace let me ride her.
‡ The downside of this story is that she wasn’t going to get any farther, not because she couldn’t but because she was a back-yard mutt, half thoroughbred, half Heinz 57 and in show dressage, it matters. If a Shetland pony can heave itself over the fences clean in an open jumping class when nobody else has, it’s won. If a Shetland pony does every figure in a Prix St Georges dressage test perfectly, it’s still going to lose to the eighteen-hand warmblood who is perhaps only 98% perfect but is so beautiful you could cry. And Grace’s lovely mare looked like exactly what she was—TB/mutt—and this was also happening right when the dressage fashion was turning away from TBs to warmbloods.
Peter and I went out to dinner tonight. Just because. To the Bard and Orpharion which tends to be our default. And they were out of half bottles of champagne and weren’t offering it by the glass.* We didn’t quite get up and stamp out the door but we thought about it. Peter, in best loyal-husband mode, suggested this drastic course of action. We could go back to the Bulgy Loaf, which was our great find a fortnight ago when the electricity went phut at Peter’s end of town: they had teeny-weeny individual bottles of Freixenet** available, thank you very much, and they’re probably not heaving on a Monday evening in early March. But one doesn’t really want to burn one’s bridges too spectacularly in a small town***. So we stayed. There may have been muttering.
And then I thought, well, okay, I have a minor thing for killer dessert wines—the kind you might mistake for treacle if you weren’t paying close attention, till the alcohol aftershock makes your hair stand on end and your socks pop off†—I’ll have a glass of dessert wine with my brownie. THEY DON’T DO DESSERT WINE BY THE GLASS EITHER.
But at least the brownie was serious.
. . . And yes, we’d been playing bridge, where Peter fiddles the cards first so we have (a) more fun (b) a better Teaching Experience and I actually sort of almost understood what was happening some of the time. I can’t decide if this is a good thing or not.
So we came home and Peter got one of our emergency quarter bottles of champagne out of the cupboard and put it in the freezer for twenty minutes AND I’M DRINKING IT NOW.
* * *
*Their pathetically feeble excuse is that they’d had a wedding which had drunk it all. A wedding that drank all the HALF BOTTLES? What kind of a cheap cheezy wedding is that? With only three people at the reception and two of them are teetotallers?^ We’ll have more in on Wednesday, said the lightly sweating waiter. WEDNESDAY? WHAT GOOD IS WEDNESDAY? IT’S MONDAY AND I WANT CHAMPAGNE.^^
. . . and maybe the Bulgy Loaf had a wedding last week too where teetotalism was rampant and they’re all out of little bottles too.
^ I mean, not cheap. Half bottles are ridiculously expensive per glass—you only do it because You. Must. Have. Champagne and there’s only one of you, or maybe two, you’re both nearly teetotallers and one of you doesn’t like champagne much.+
+ There’s no accounting. Maybe it’s that Y chromosome.
^^ Peter, who can sometimes be noble beyond all measure+, offered to buy a REAL bottle of champagne. Even I quailed at the magnificence of this sacrifice.++
+ Which helps to balance out the times THAT HE’S SPILT MARMALADE IN THE SILVERWARE DRAWER AGAIN AND I WANT TO KILL HIM.
++ I’ll try to remember this moment the next time he spills marmalade in the silverware drawer. Or unloads the dishwasher and puts everything tidily away having not run it first. AAAAAAUUUUUGH.
** I’ve said this before, haven’t I? That Freixenet has come a long way in the last thirty years or so? There was a time when I wouldn’t drink it because it was nasty. It’s still not the Widow, but it doesn’t cost like the Widow either.
. . . I was just looking it up on line so I could spell it correctly and . . . you have to be of legal drinking age in the country you’re in to look at their site? What? Why? Is looking at virtual bottles of B-list fizz really going to tip you over the edge into picking the lock on your parents’ liquor cabinet and getting pootered on Harvey’s?^ I did not, in fact, penetrate past the are you of legal drinking age click here pop up because the site background is all dark and creepy and there is ominous icky music like one of those computer games where stuff starts jumping out at you before I’ve got my finger off the ‘start’ button and I never live long enough to get out of the first level.
^ I feel that a hangover from Harvey’s Bristol Cream would probably cure you of drinking alcohol for life, but maybe that’s just me.
*** Besides, one possibly has a habit of doing it inadvertently and had better mind one’s ps and qs when one notices before it’s too late that they’re milling around in a dangerous manner^ and really need minding.^^
^ like bull terrier puppies. All smiles and little evil eyes . . . and remarkably fast on those little short legs.
^^ Sit! Sit! That’s not sitting!+
+ I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not sitting.
† In my early drinking days I’ve even been known to enjoy a glass of Harvey’s. But I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.