Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Today the aged Betsy must go to the vet - at least, the animal hospital.

It takes two strong women to get here there; she is tried and tested and blood is taken. It costs a paw and a shank, but I am told it's actually reduced for age.

'My age, or the cat's?' Mine, of course:

I suppose they make half their money propping up adored but senile pets.

A day with nothing in it. The idiotic thing about such a day is that I am always depressed by the blank space in the diary; too many in a row and I start ringing up friends; as a girl I can even remember padding the diary with entries like 'fetch dry cleaners' or 'Brains Trust on wireless'. But in practice I actually enjoy such days, even sometimes tackling those boring things on the 'to do' list. Some of this is due to having these days got a place to read, in what was the study of my husband, Gavin Lyall. When I eventually realised I wasn't reading enough because there was nowhere except bed where I felt comfortable doing it, I started asking people where they did it. The only answer I remember was Martin Amis; he said he read in the kitchen. 'That's interesting - why do you read there?' 'Because it has two sofas and no stove.'

The country never ceases to surprise me. A month or two ago I was taken to camel polo in Warwickshire: four camels, four riders, and not one of them seeming to know what on earth to do.

And two weeks ago in Wales I went to the Llanthony Valley and District Show.

Glaciers or God have conveniently created a wide flat plane with steep sides, ideal for a show which comprises ponies but also bicycle races, sack races with three in a sack. There were dogs in fancy dress - tail sticking out from grass skirt, another in a sweeping gown;

the dogs didn't seem to mind. All round were stalls where you could buy anything from a cupcake to a dress to a tractor, and competitions in craft things like a 'shepherd's crook with horn handle', 'poem of own choice in calligraphy', 'miniature garden on a plate'. I had the same feeling I'd had with the royal wedding: all those crowds of smiling people not assembled against anything. . .

is this as near as you get to Yeats's 'ceremony of innocence'?

Compare and contrast the town. I am in bed reading when a friendly neighbour rings to ask if I'm all right. …

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