Magazine article The Spectator

Taking Control

Magazine article The Spectator

Taking Control

Article excerpt

As so often, the commuters of Cobham were treated to the sight of me disappearing down Old Lane on the back of a reversing horse.

There is always a rational explanation for this behaviour, and on this occasion the horse was impressing on me that she didn't much fancy going to Effingham Common today, thanks very much. She clinched her argument by threatening to throw us both into a waterlogged ditch. As we teetered an inch from the edge, we reached one of our usual compromises, which is to say I gave in totally and allowed her to turn herself around and head for home at breakneck speed.

By this time the traffic was backed up all the way down Old Lane to the Black Swan and, despite the inconvenience, the looks on the drivers' faces, from what I could make of them as I flew past, were entirely pitying.

Once in the yard she celebrated her triumph by pirouetting joyously about on her tiptoes.

I swear she was laughing. She has a habit of curling her lip and has even been known to hiss like a Bond villain when she is in a particularly evil mood.

As we hurtled around, the other owners stopped grooming their obedient mounts and came out of their stables to watch me being hauled from pillar to post, smiling stoically all the while and crying out, 'Don't worry, I'm fine, thank you!'

And then, out of the blue, it suddenly struck me that I really wasn't fine. All at once, I had the most tremendous, overwhelming sense of being heartily sick of being pulled about in the wrong direction.

The yard owner, who had come out of her house to see if she could offer assistance, said later that she had never seen such a transformation in a person as she saw in me in that moment.

While Old Melissa would have blithely let the horse catapult her around the yard until it reached its preferred place of stopping, then put her in her stable with a big pile of hay and a pat on the neck in the hope that, if she was just nice enough, everything would be better next time, New Melissa did something very different. Apparently, and I have only a very hazy memory of it myself, she shouted, 'I've had enough of this. I'm sick of you messing me about. I want to go forward, everyone else seems to manage to go forward, why am I the only one who has to go backwards? …

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