Friday, October 22, 2004

White Horses 

Friday, October 1, 2004

If you’re sitting on a horse and you decide you want it to go faster, here’s what you should do. Give it a kick in the ribs, a firm tap on the rump with your whip - you do have a whip, don’t you? - and you need to say in an authoritative tone “Go on Molly! Go on Molly!”

To make your horse stop - well, the truth is that you’re pretty much at your horse’s mercy. You can try pulling on the reins saying “Woah there Molly!”, or perhaps even screaming “For fuck’s sake stop! You’re going to get us both killed!” But the horse is in charge now and will only stop when it wants to, so you’d better have been nice to it earlier on.

I rang a nearby riding stables and left a message on their machine to let them know we were coming. Girlfriend and me used to have lessons and were OK with the basics - walking, trotting, a little bit of cantering. But it had been a while, so I went over in my head all I could remember (see above) on the way.

When we eventually found it, the stables looked abandoned. There was neither sight nor sound of horses, and no office to report to. I took a look around.
A house down the hill had a marquee set up in the garden and a little girl was skipping barefoot between the guy ropes. The sun came out. No dogs barked. The sun went in. After five minutes a lad in a truck skidded noisily into the yard.
“Is this the stables?”
“Can we book a session please? I rang earlier.”
“We’re closed today. There’s a wedding on.”
“OK. Can I book a session for tomorrow?”
“You need to ring up.”
“But I’m here now. Isn’t there anyone I can speak to?”
“There’s a wedding on. You need to ring up.”
He shrugged his shoulders apologetically and walked away.

Bugger. Everything I’d just written about horse riding would now be irrelevant and go to waste.
“There’ll be horse riding at Franconia,” said Girlfriend. “Maybe you can use it then.”
How does she do that?
“ I just can,” she said.

We drove south to Brattleboro.
It’s a nice little town, with a vaguely hippy-ish vibe going on. It has the appealing scruffy buzz of a university town, but there is no university, and hence no students puking into traffic cones. So it’s got the best of both worlds. We liked it a lot.
We pottered around bookstores and junkshops, and had falafels for lunch. I bought some CDs and a calendar with arty photos of wild horses. Girlfriend bought some books that you actually read, and a badge that says “Girls Can Do Anything.”

Driving back, we stopped in Newfane to top up our beer and postcard levels. It’s a two store town - a grocers and a quilt shop. The grocers seemed to be run by a collective of kids in their early twenties who, when not serving customers, sat around talking about films. It looked like fun.

“I’d just like to say,” said one of that day's new draft of guests, “how much I appreciate what your Tony Blair has done to support us.”
He’d been a pilot in Vietnam and was a very nice man to boot. His wife was clearly very proud of him, though in the circumstances, perhaps she could have been a bit more sensitive about it. Also present was a woman who’d lost her husband in the same war.
Talk turned to last night’s debate, and Iraq in particular. Passions rose, sparks flew. If our fireside chat was anything to go by, it’s true what they say about Democrats and Republicans being so polarised.

One thing they could agree on is how great they think Tony Blair is.
I said I’d pass it on.

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