Monday, February 28, 2011

True Grit

Rex took his first fall tonight over a very small jump - he lay prostrated in the arena - tears in his eyes, his face pale.
"What bit is broken?" I asked him.
Turned out there was nothing the matter - his pride was injured, not his neck.
I said, "That was a very small fall, Rex. Get up and get back on your pony. And try not to get left behind this time when he jumps-"
"You're not very kind, Mum," he told me.
I shrugged. "If you're not prepared to fall off, don't ride."
He nursed his injured pride until after the lesson and we were watching Tamara jump Skippy. Skippy swerved and Tamara fell off in to the wing pole, catching her leg on the sharp metal cup. She tore a large rip in her jodphurs and a nasty gash in her leg. She stood up laughing and rebuilt the jump. She caught Skippy and jumped back up on him, cantered round and back over the jump. Then she dismounted to get her leg seen to.
In a very small voice Rex admitted: "You're right, Mum, mine was a very small fall."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


It has been a curious week, since the start of the civil unrest in Bahrian - people I thought I knew really well have been doing and saying the most curious things.
For example, my friend - a staunch Socialist - is furious with the (civil rights) protesters because her organic shampoo is finished and she's too alarmed to drive past Pearl Roundabout into town to buy more.
Yesterday at the primary school a few teachers left before lunch to avoid the late afternoon march.
Pony Club is half full and some hard riding women who take falls with composure have fled Bahrain entirely.
Before they left they said: "We're suffering from low grade exhausting anxiety. We have butterflies in our tummies. We wake up each morning with a sickening feeling of dread. The noise of the helicopters is deafening. We are afraid of the troops on the street..."
I struggled to understand.
I said: "But the helicopters are here to keep you safe - they're looking out for trouble makers. And the tanks and the road blocks and the armed police and the army are here for your protection. You should feel safe not afraid!"
To which they replied: "You grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles... This was your normality. This is not normal for us."

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Stranger in the Mirror

I'd leave the house convinced that I looked tremendous: elegant, original, with a fascinating vintage twist. But.... by the time I reached the office full of busy efficient young women all looking indefinably right in their clothes it would be clear to me that what I had on was, equally indefinably, wrong. Not risibly unfashionable or disastrous mutton dressed as lamb, just very dowdy and a bit eccentric: an opinionated old bird in flat boots, trailing peculiar bits of vintage finery.

Friday, February 18, 2011

How to Get On In Society

Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served.

Are the requisites all in the toilet?
The frills round the cutlets can wait
Till the girl has replenished the cruets
And switched on the logs in the grate.

It's ever so close in the lounge dear,
But the vestibule's comfy for tea
And Howard is riding on horseback
So do come and take some with me

Now here is a fork for your pastries
And do use the couch for your feet;
I know that I wanted to ask you-
Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

Milk and then just as it comes dear?
I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones;
Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doileys
With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.

John Betjeman

Thursday, February 17, 2011


We're two streets away from the trouble. Heard gun shots on Valentine's Night, first time in years but you never forget.
Tuesday morning the man who cleans cars on our street asked could he hide in the garden - they were shooting on the main road.
Last night was noisy with helicopters and tear gas and guns as the army broke up the party at Pearl Roundabout -
We think there may be a curfew tonight.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The End of the Affair

Driven potty with jealousy Bendrix walks away from his married lover and decides to pay for some casual sex to hurt both himself and Sarah... (As you do)
He finds a pretty professional girl and offers her drink...
Looking at her over my whisky I thought how odd it was that I felt no desire for her at all. It was as if quite suddenly after all the promiscuous years I had grown up. My passion for Sarah had killed simple lust for ever. Never again would I be able to enjoy a woman without love.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Just two little girls and one large arena. Learning to trot without stirrups. And not doing too badly, all things considered... Until they wander too close to each other and Munch darts at Jukebox and kicks him and Katie riding Jukebox falls off. And begins to howl at the top of her voice. And Rebecca riding Munch immediately thinks she's in the most frightful trouble for allowing her pony to kick her sister's pony so she starts howling too...
"My mum's going to kill me," she says.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pony Club Mum

I'd been warned about this special breed - tonight I got a chance to meet one.
It is my opinion that Precious Child rides with more confidence than ability but mum - who rides herself - insisted she was ready for pony club. Her child (aged 5) does not need a lead rein...
Tonight's class was riding without stirrups. The children walked without stirrups, then it was time to trot, one at a time with me running along side, ready to grab a leg when they wobble.
"And the rest of you stand there and watch."
Off we trotted - Frosty and me and wee Josh...
Precious Child's pony did not hear the instruction to wait, politely he trotted forward to follow us. After two strides Precious Child wobbled off on to the ground. The pony looked a bit shocked.
Then Pony Club mum had hysterics and started ranting about 'safety issues'.
So I bring a groom into the arena to walk beside Precious Child. Poor little thing, I am thinking - to have such an hysterical mum...
"Get him away from me," shrieks Precious Child. "I don't want him near me."
I have decided Precious Child and her Pony Club mum deserve each other. Next week I'm going to suggest Pony Club mum walk beside Precious Child - that should sort out the 'safety issue'.

Friday, February 4, 2011

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ungrateful Little Beast

At the end of school I was in playground, minding my own business, waiting for my children when Rex's friend, James, races over.
"Where is my mum, have you seen her?"
I shook my head. "Not yet - the bell's only gone...."
He began to look anxious. He said, "I left my homework behind and she said she'd bring it at bell time..."
When his mum arrives he shouts at her: "Do you have my homework?"
Shamefaced she tells him: "I'm so sorry, I've forgotten it."
He throws a tantrum. Shouts a bit more. "I told you to bring it!!!"
She says: "I'm so sorry. I'll run up and explain to your teacher."
When she was gone I said: "Steady on James. It's not your mum's fault you've forgotten your homework. It's your fault."
He was insistent. "It's her fault. She said she would bring it."
I was severe. I said, "You're a very lucky boy to have a mother who is prepared to run after you. If Rex forgets his homework he has only himself to blame... "
But he didn't look at all appreciative. Instead he said - somewhat wistfully: "If I was in your house, you'd train me to remember my homework...."