There are particles of sadness floating in the air. I’m really sad about Nora Ephron dying. Seventy-one is no age; she was so clever and funny and witty and true. She gave an awful lot of pleasure to an awful lot of people, and that’s not a bad thing to be able to say about your life. Someone else who gave pleasure was the young jockey, Campbell Gillies, who won me money and brought me great joy at Cheltenham this year, when Scotland triumphed in the Albert Bartlett, with the lovely Brindisi Breeze. Gillies also died yesterday, in one of those freak accidents that make no sense. (I suppose no dying makes an awful lot of sense, but some makes less than others.)
Crash, crash, back to earth I come. The sensible great-aunt in me says: spit, spot, this is life. It’s not a carnival ride. The rain rains, and work must be done, and people depart, and that’s how it goes. The not sensible part says: bugger this for a game of soldiers.
I stomp up crossly to the mare. It’s so nasty out that I was not going to do any work with her, but I have some bizarre puritan streak that pushes me on. As if sensing that I need some good news, she is immaculate, at her sweetest and funniest and dearest. She actually rather loves this weather. Too much sunshine is far too vulgar for her grand sensibilities. A low, soft day is her absolute favourite. She is willing and responsive and I get the sudden thrill of achievement.
Just as the horse is doing something particularly impressive, my step-niece comes out to feed the chickens. The hens are nearly as grand as the mare, and get the remains of the great-nieces’ porridge for their breakfast. ‘Oh,’ says the step-niece in delight, ‘look what she is doing.’ I feel idiotically proud. I have a witness. See what I can do, with my horse whispery skills. See how clever and brilliant my lovely girl is.
The lovely girl, obviously overcome by her own cleverness, sticks her nose into the silver saucepan and eats all the hens’ porridge. For some reason I find this inexpressibly funny. I never heard of a horse eating porridge before. ‘So Scottish and good for her,’ I say, laughing. The mare nods her head, very pleased with herself. I scratch the velvety spot behind her ears and think this really is much, much cheaper than therapy.
Determined to counter the dreich, I come home and make yellow split pea soup with saffron and drink a pot of coffee so strong that I can feel it jump-starting my brain. On I bash. At least the rain means I don’t have to water the garden. It keeps the flies away from the horses. It means we live in a green and pleasant land, instead of an arid desert. It’s just a little bit of precipitation. Out in the east, beyond the beeches and the Wellingtonias and the venerable oaks, a faint gleam of light appears in the sky.