Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

After a lot of false starts, I am now the proud occupant of a small weekend rental in the country. It is very exciting. No more commuting from Balham to Cobham to ride the horses. I wake up on Saturdays in a converted barn down a farm track and drive two minutes to the stable yard to see Tara, Grace and Darcy.

The three mares have now moved from their expensive livery yard to what we horseowners rather disingenuously call a DIY yard. I say disingenuous because it's not really DIY. A nice lady called Sue looks after them on weekdays and I 'do them myself' at weekends. Somehow, it saves a lot of money.

I had to move from the livery yard in the end because, despite the high prices, it was turning into a right dump. Once a smart eventing yard with rows of gleaming horses looking over the doors of polished stalls, it had started to look like the stables round the back of Albert Steptoe's rag and bone yard.

This, I am afraid to say, was because of the pikey quotient. In a recession, the number of pikeys scamming livery in any given stable yard sometimes goes beyond the optimum level whereby the mess is containable.

Yes, that's right, I said pikey. In Surrey, the word pikey has nothing to do with gypsies or travellers and is commonly used to describe anyone of an unhygienic bent who refuses to sweep up after themselves, claims lavish state benefits, has a morbid BMI rating, at least two black teeth and more than seven tattoos.

The damage wrought by this sort of person in a public place can only be contained if the ratio of professional-to-pikey is no lower than 10-1. When it tips beyond that you are going to get an effect known as pikefication. Everything is going to become pikefied.

Your stuff will go missing, whatever possessions you manage to hang on to will become bent and broken, you will smell pungently of Benson & Hedges even though you don't smoke.

Even your horses will start trashing their bed at night so that by the morning it looks as if an IRA prisoner has been protesting in there because, well, they've seen the pikey ponies doing it. It wasn't so bad for the two older mares but the thoroughbred yearling was learning some terrible habits.

'I've got to get you out of here, ' I told Darcy one morning after I found her standing in a stable which she had comprehensively redecorated an interesting new colour called Hint of Poop. …

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