Run even faster

Monday, 16 June 2014

This is still, frequently, the view inside my head

When I was small, Sunday mornings were the most heavenly part of the week.  We kids were dropped off at a stable to go riding on the beach while my parents read the papers in the dunes.

I always had to ride Topper.  He was wiry and malevolent and his toes turned in alarmingly. He had a snappy mouthful of yellow teeth and stubbornly trotted until his legs blurred before he finally gave in and leapt into a canter that felt just like a ride on a rocking horse.

The pony I truly loved was a beautiful Palomino called Stardust.  He belonged to the stable owner, Val, a tiny, toothless woman whose hands and mouth were equally filthy.  She was brusque, and tough as nails, but she spoke to Stardust with a tenderness never wasted on any humans.

She never let anyone else ride him, though I begged every single Sunday.  I brought him carrots and whispered streams of love into his toffee-coloured ears.  I still have notebooks filled with stories of Stardust and I riding off alone on wonderful trips where we slept curled together under the stars and took turns to save each other from hideous danger.  He was my first love.

The ride was an eclectic mix of local regulars and tourists who'd tired of the majesty of the Lakes. The tourists were easy to spot by their bright kagouls and mouthfuls of Kendal mint cake.  We locals had grubby hand-me-down jodhpurs and gave our Polo mints to the horses. The tourists were always seen as the Enemy, and we would circle them at speed as they wobbled along on the older, slower horses.

One Sunday, we local kids took off, as we always did, at a gallop.  To my excitement, I fell off in the sea, grabbed the reins and leapt straight back on.  I heard Val calling me back.  I know she would tear a strip off me in front of the clean Southern riders, so I affected not to hear and used my crop on Topper, charging miles ahead and staying far from her scary orbit.

I was first back to the yard and dismounted, flushed with victory.  Val came in last, riding one of the ancient horses and there, on a leading rein was a tourist, a grown man, for the love of God, on my beloved Stardust.

She told me that she'd tried to call me back because the tourist couldn't handle his horse and she wanted me to ride Stardust all the way home. But apparently, I hadn't heard her.  She fixed me with her small eyes and said what a shame that was because she could guarantee it would never happen again.

I pleaded, shamelessly, I may even have cried.  She left me to untack and refused to discuss it ever again.

In January this year, the Pretty One and I walked out dogs up that beach and met an old man who told us that Val's business partner had swindled her not long after and she had been forced to sell the stables and all the horses and go and work in a jewellery shop in Workington.

She hadn't lived much longer.  I wasn't surprised to hear it.

we shall hear angels, we shall see the sky

Saturday, 7 June 2014

There's a beach near the bots' school where we have gone since they were small enough for me to see the tops of their heads or be in a room with them for more than eight seconds without their lips curling involuntarily and the klaxon in their brains shriek 'NOT LISTENING.'

I bought a painting of it last year at a local art fair; the artist told me how her life had cracked open and she and come here to start afresh.  This was the first view she had of her new home.  The painting shimmers and she told me her jeweller friend had given her a bag of diamond dust that she'd mixed  into the paint she used for the sea.

It's a perfect bowl of changing sky; beige sand and curving banks of navy blue shingle, huge oyster and mussel shells crunching underfoot.  When the tide goes out you can walk for miles on cool watery ridges.

The promenade is Victorian, offering careful pleasure in swan-shaped boats and swathes of stern forest-green bathing huts.  They cost as much as houses in the North.

On this beach, the bots have thrown off little stripy uniforms, free from the exhausting strictures of clapping and finger-painting and shot, chubby-thighed and squealing, into the sparkling sea.

They have played cricket here, had class barbecues, sand-sculpture competitions.  I'm sure they will also come here, furtively and tentatively believing they are the first generation to thrill to booze-fuelled disobedience and all the fun that brings.

They snorted in that teenage way when I told them that there was diamond dust in the painting and said I'd been ripped off and was a mug for a fairy tale.

I drove them in to do huge exams this week and went down to the beach with the dog.  She squealed excitedly, remembering the time before the cool detachment of the school bus when we came down every morning after drop-off and knew all the dogs.

I let her out in the bright early sunshine and she disappeared off across the flats, running up excitedly to friends old and new, sniffing them just to make sure.  I followed with a genteel tea and fistful of poo bags and looked at the spangled, glittering sea.

There's diamond dust there alright.