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Looking for spring

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Usually, by this stage, there are wild signs of the Scottish spring. The earth stirs from its dormant slumber and all the portents are of life and growth. This year, everything is still cold and dark. The oyster-catchers have come in from the coast, for their annual visit. This is usually a moment of hat in the air celebration, as I hear them singing like drunken sailors all night, but even they are subdued at the moment. They wander dolefully about by the burn, looking at each other in bafflement, as if to say: Where is the joyful April sun? The other birds, who would normally be singing their heads off, are silent.

I pick my way through the muddy paddock, trashed after the hard winter, looking for tiny green shoots of grass. The horses, still on hay, dream of verdant pasture. The daffodils resolutely refuse to come out and the snowdrops, which are flowering, lower their heads apologetically. I stare very hard at the garden, looking for signs of hope. The geraniums are poking their green leaves up from the black soil and the cheering hellebores are blooming, but everything else is still shut up for the duration.

Looking on the bright side: the great advantage of there being no grass yet is that there is at least some delightful mud in which to have a really good roll.Looking on the bright side: the great advantage of there being no grass yet is that there is at least some delightful mud in which to have a really good roll.

Spring is having to be internally generated this year. There is no actual blossom, so there can only be the metaphorical kind. I start a new project, dream of the tree-planting programme which is growing in my head, and plot for the summer riding with my mare. I go up to HorseBack UK, where a group of Personnel Recovery Officers are visiting, to see the work at first hand. They shrug off the Scottish dreich, caring not a jot for the rain and high winds. They are so excited and delighted by what they have seen that a bit of weather cannot dampen their spirits. This kind of rampant positivity is contagious, and I come away heartened.

Our one moment of blue sky, with the last of the snow finally coming off the mountain.Our one moment of blue sky, with the last of the snow finally coming off the mountain.

The sun will return eventually. The birds will sing and the flowers will flower and the grass will grow. The heavy winter rugs will finally come off the horses’ backs and they can kick up their heels. In the meantime, I have my sturdy boots and my most excellent rainy day hat. There is no such thing as wrong weather, only wrong clothes.

Admittedly, the sun did come out on Monday. As if embarrassed by its own exuberance, it ran away again pretty quickly, and crazed western winds blew in to threaten the Wellingtonias. But at least it reminded us what it is capable of. There is blue sky in there somewhere, behind the dour clouds. In the meantime, I’m going to generate internal sunshine by having a little bet the lovely Hunt Ball in the 3.55 at Cheltenham. Spring springs for all of us in its own way.

Cheltenham Week

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 19 March 2013
I have been away in the south, ostensibly having a holiday. The peril of being self-employed is that holidays don’t really exist. I do not say this in a pathetic, whiny way; it is entirely due to my own obsessive nature. The computer or the notebook are always there; the brain will not switch itself off. I can’t even remember the last time I took a whole weekend away from my desk.

So this time I was determined to have a proper break. I was to go and stay with my most beloved cousin, in her delightful and comfortable house, and then have a week at Cheltenham. It was to be a thing of light and luxe.

Holiday, schmoliday. In the week running up to the festival, I woke at dawn, sitting bolt upright at 6am, immediately thinking whether Bobs Worth or Silviniaco Conti would win the Gold Cup. I kept making mad dashes into Cirencester to order the special Cheltenham Guide from the very understanding people at Waterstone’s, and to buy a spanking new pair of binoculars from the lovely camera shop, which is manned by experts who understand every nuance of the lens.

Then obviously I had to try and re-try all my Cheltenham outfits, and keep a running eye on the weather forecast. As the cold fronts came roaring in, special new thermals were ordered in from John Lewis, to be despatched by overnight express. (That really was a sort of miracle. I was sitting in Gloucestershire, tapping my credit card number into my keyboard, at seven at night, and the vital articles arrived the next day at 7.30am. No wonder John Lewis is practically the only retailer in Blighty that retains its national treasure status through thin and thick.)

By the time the great Tuesday of the Festival dawned, I was a nervous wreck. I was convinced all my ante-post bets were nonsense, that my absurd scarlet hat with the pheasant feather would not work, and that my lovely suede boots would give me blisters. I was necking iron tonic like it was going out of fashion. (Actually, iron tonic has not been in fashion since about 1937, although I can hardly walk a yard without it.)

In the end, it was all worth it. I had driven 550 miles specifically to see the mighty Sprinter Sacre in the flesh, the first time I had the chance to do so. He did not let me down. He was a Stubbs picture of equine grace and brilliance, and, in the first glancing sunshine of the week, he romped home to an imperious nineteen-length victory over the finest horses of his generation. My two Irish darlings, Hurricane Fly and Quevega, stormed up the hill, inspiring such waves of emotion that I burst into tears and flung my arms around a perfect stranger. The brave and bonny little Bobs Worth, a small horse with the heart of a titan, roared home in the Gold Cup, with my money on his bold back. I saw an array of the most beautiful thoroughbred horseflesh in the isles of Britain and Ireland, and shouted until my throat was raw. The hat went literally and metaphorically into the air.

Now all I need is a little holiday to get over my holiday.

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