I did manage to go riding today. Jenny was chuffed because someone who went off to be famous a year ago has had enough of being famous, sold her (successful and very nice) fancy horse and all his fancy kit to someone who wants to spend their lives on the road and plaiting manes every morning at 5 am, has taken a deep breath and become ordinary again. And wants an ordinary horse. Not too ordinary. Connie would do. No. Jenny keeps telling me she’s not going to sell Connie, but people do hang round her (Jenny’s, but Connie’s too) neck occasionally, weeping, and offering ridiculous amounts of money. Connie will never go to Horse of the Year but she’s top drawer ordinary.
She was also rather loaded for bear again today. Jenny managed to wedge me in for a lesson–I having missed my normal Tuesday lesson due to press of canine circumstance–and every time we went past the (closed) door of the indoor school Connie got several inches taller and, you know, elevated. What price self-carriage. Once there were actual feet visible under the door: I mean, feet. How totally alarming.* Jenny had clipped her again this week, so at the moment she looks like a contour map, and she’s probably feeling a bit chilly. And Jenny said she’s short of exercise because Jenny hasn’t had time** to get her out often enough. I’ve been worrying that she seems to be having too many loaded-for-bear days–oh gods I’m a bad rider and a bad influence–but it occurred to me that your fit horse is your lively horse***, and Jenny makes a point that work is to work, and is impatient with people who let their horses slop around at a shuffle on a slack rein. None of that with any horse of hers. Which suits me very well, since shuffling on a slack rein is boring. But there’s a certain amount of reaping what you sow involved. Fortunately Connie’s saddle is a nice old Stubben and it kind of bends around and helps hold you on. Chains and padlocks would be better but Connie probably wouldn’t like the clanking.
Then I raced home in time to feed hellhounds lunch before I clattered off to my next thing, which was handbell practise for this carol gig at the old folks’ home.† We’re improving: several of the carols were recognisable this week. We’re only working on a few of the really, really obvious ones because we’re hoping our audience will sing along and drown us out. I suggested passing out lyric sheets.
Then I finally got down to the mews. †† We had some old friends of Peter’s coming by–well, they’d been there for lunch †††. Cough. Cough. Ahem. ‡ Fortunately they’re used to me, although they hadn’t heard the ‘handbell carol’ excuse before. But I was listening to what they’ve been doing and are about to do–they’re both taking half-year sabbaticals and going to India–Henry was last seen on his tailor-made kryptonite-alloy bicycle‡‡, pedalling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. She has a pilot’s license and we get occasional postcards from her in Turkey or Alaska or wherever her little group of small-planes pilots have gone for fun this time. She and Henry go to New York City for the weekend occasionally for the shopping. They also have a sailboat. I’m tired–and more than a bit dazzled–just thinking about it.
Except I’m just as bad, in my stay at home way. I was thinking about glamour–Henry had, of course, bicycled down from London (it’s only about 75 miles, he said carelessly), which meant he could flash his bike at us: it really does look a bit like a rocketship without the rockets–we see Georgina oftener, so I’m a bit more inured to her flying. I know if I accused either of them of being glamorous they’d look nonplussed and then burst out laughing. I, of course, know that I am not the least bit glamorous, and any‡‡‡ reader of this blog knows it too. But I get an awful lot of book mail taking the glamorousness of Being a Writer as a given. And riding a round ten-metre circle§ is glamorous, as is ringing a touch of Stedman Doubles§§. Glamour is not only in the eye of the beholder, it has a lot to do with the angle of the light at the time.
* * *
* Jenny went out, told Miles that Connie was having a silly day, and to please play somewhere else.
** Guilt. Guilt.
*** Being exercise girl at a race track never appealed to me, and you read these very blasé interviews even with top flight dressage riders who say, oh yes, my Olympic-gold winning horse, Piffling Panjandrum, likes to drop-kick me over the perimeter fence and then dance along the roofs of the cars in the car park. Ha ha ha, he’s so funny.
† We’re a peculiar mixture: two teenagers and the rest of us won’t see fifty again (nor have seen it in a while). I don’t suppose the old folks will care. I’m looking forward to the conversation about performance dress code.
†† Having thoughtfully swung past the cottage to pick up hellhounds, who are feeling that there’s been too much of this ‘leaving hellhounds behind’ thing the last couple of days: yesterday there was puppy visiting, going to the dentist^, and bell practise.^^ Today there was Connie, and handbell carols. Hellhounds are beginning to contemplate forgiving me now however since I haven’t been out of sight of their beady little eyes since midafternoon.
^ To no avail. The moment I rang up and rather than just letting me cancel next week’s appointment like sensible people, insisting instead on dragging me in for a consultation yesterday, the tooth subsided like sticking a pin in a balloon. It’ll be back next Tuesday afternoon, when he steps on the drill pedal.
^^ I rang a near-perfect touch of Stedman last night, including both the doable cat’s-ears call and the undoable coathangers’ call. At the end of which . . . nobody said anything. They just went on with tying up their ropes and going on to the next thing. I know what this means: it means I am considered to have arrived. It means Robin Now Rings Stedman Doubles. This should be good, yes?+ No. It also means Robin in a permanent panic on Sunday mornings for months, in fear–no, in utter pop-eyed terrified dread–of the possibility of touches of Stedman Doubles. I’m still most likely to go wrong slightly after a successfully negotiated coathanger, when I start shaking from shock. No, I’m afraid I’m not exaggerating for effect. Stedman is a castle you storm. They should hand out medals.
+ Although it’s good too. Golly! I ring Stedman! I ring touches of Stedman, not just plain courses! Lots of ringers never get this far! I’m the real thing! I’m a bell ringer!~ Eeep! . . . And for my next trick, I will start memorising Cambridge. Cambridge is a ‘surprise’ method–I have no idea, although when you look at your first ‘surprise’ method line, the surprise could kill you if you have a weak heart. But I’m under the impression that if you survive Stedman you’re assumed to toil on and fall over the edge of the ravine into surprise. Besides, I’m convicted out of my own mouth: I want to ring Yorkshire, which is a very nasty surprise method indeed, only it sounds so pretty.
~ It doesn’t feel like it. Being a real ringer still feels like something that happens . . . later.
††† Lunch! I knew I was forgetting something! Well, hellhounds had theirs!
‡ I got there just in time for the rugby.^ Ewwwwwww.
^ I may mean football. I don’t know and I don’t care.
‡‡ sic. Well, maybe not the kryptonite.
§ Round is the issue, as any rider will tell you
§§ Wearing a false moustache so none of the little old people at the old folks’ home will recognise you behind the handbells is not glamorous.
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