I had a rest day on Sunday, having been racing around and doing my OU final marking and rewriting screenplay for eighth (and not the last) time. I was sitting in my cabin reading ‘The New Confessions’ by William Boyd and drinking wine when I heard a whickering noise. Immediately I was on my feet and a good thing too, because here they were, the new ponies, cantering down my drive, nostrils flaring, three hopeful sheep close behind them. I had left my gate open and they had already escaped from a holding field somewhere (Nigel or is it Lewis, will you put a fastening on that bloody gate?) and, had I been closeted with my computer marking, my hedge/fruit trees/veggie patch would have been trampled/consumed/desecrated. I soon chased them out with shouts and waving arms.
Later that evening I stood at my gate and watched the high-spirited newcomers galloping around. They are funny little horses, these Welsh ponies, usually white or grey, with big flared nostrils, not pretty but animated. When it rains or snows they just stand there, immobile, enduring, until their owner (breeding them is a hobby round here) either moves them or sells them on. I always ask Edna, my neighbour, whose husband is one of the fanciers, what he does with them. She told me the first year that ‘he puts them in tack’ which I took to mean they were tucked away in some nice warm stable for the winter. But doubt set in when I was told how little they earned on the market. Could it be that he sold them to overseas buyers for horsemeat? I went hot and cold at the thought of my stolid companions through the long dreich winter, being minced up for burgers. Edna is unspecific and evasive, so I don’t know the truth.
I only know that, at the winter solstice, when I walked out in the pitch dark to stretch my legs after a long meditation session, I could hear them rustling near me as I skirted the lake. Perhaps with senses heightened from meditation, I began to sense them perceiving me, examining me curiously and in a not particularly friendly manner. It was a clouded, moonless night and I could see nothing in the dark. My heart started to thump. I was scared. It seemed that the darkness was revealing their true agenda. I walked as quickly as I safely could back through my gate.
I have had more respect for them since that. Last night I heard them galloping, whinnying and neighing on and off throughout the whole night, disturbed no doubt to find themselves so suddenly transported to this open common, with kites, curlews, coots and lapwings for company. And me of course. I raked up the grass cuttings from a strimming session and put them out on the common for them to eat. They glared at me balefully, clearly wishing to get over the cattle grid and back to my rich grass, not be content with my offering. But they did eat the cuttings.