Sunday 15 August 2010

On the last leg

The Scottish cattle were sold at St. Faith's in the same way store cattle are sold today, being bought by local farmers who then fattened them on the marshes between Norwich, Beccles and Yarmouth over winter before either selling them locally or paying drovers to drive them on to Smithfield market in the spring. We, however, are pushing on, on the last leg of our journey through to London.

I didn't dare mention to Phyl and Ron Buxton, who had been persuaded by John to have me to stay at Kimberley Hall, that there had ever been any doubt as to whether I arrived with them on Thursday evening, having decided it better to keep the dilemmas of my day to myself. They had enough else to think about, and I welcomed Ron giving me food for thought as he showed me the pictures of his three week ride through Kashmir in the 1950s during his time with the Indian army, which he proclaimed the best ride he had ever had, following the "government bridleway" constructed to reduce the number of fatalities previously experienced getting the post through Kashmir. Another reminder of how tame my little ride is in comparison.

I also thoroughly enjoyed reading an account by their son Peter, who 30 years ago set off without any preparation on his in-foal grey Connemara mare to ride from Norfolk to Devon. His route south from Bath coincided with much of Elsa's and my route from John O'Groats to Lands End.

Before I set off again from Kimberley on Friday morning, I e-mailed Boris Johnson to invite him to meet me on arrival at Smithfield, although I've since heard he may be on safari. Perhaps that's what I am?

Riding through Kimberley Park, the thunder was so deafening I thought a bomb might have dropped. Whether excited by that or spooked by some other odd rumbling, Micky yet again had to remind me there are other paces than walk with a brief unscheduled canter up the road before we turned off to Wicklewood. My fingers are much improved after Mary sent me to bed on Wednesday night with a pad of cotton wool soaked in witch hazel wrapped round my fingers, then wrapped in a sandwich bag, but I still can't bend my little finger properly on my right hand so I'm still not as adept with my hands as I usually am. My next finger is blotchy white instead of the purple it was, which I'm taking as a turn for the better.

Heading up the road towards Deopham, Micky and I were taken aback by a white painted stone milepost which said London 100 miles - much less than I thought, and enough to inspire panic at the thought of our fun being nearly over. Which is Micky's excuse for why he spun round and set off at a gallop in the other direction with Magic wondering what was going on because she couldn't see any problem with the milestone in the first place. Later in the day we met a traction engine pulling a giant roller along the road, on its way to a rally. I quickly pulled off the road onto a ploughed field, but needn't have bothered, neither Micky or Magic giving two hoots about something any other horse would go ballistic at.

On we headed past Great and Little Ellingham, along a lovely old byway and bits of track where we could, with it raining harder and harder as the day went on. At least skin is waterproof and there comes a point when you can get no wetter.

Just as well as there were other things to dampen spirits on Friday. Much as I don't want to think about life after this trip, reality (and particularly finanaces) dictates otherwise, and for the past week I've been waiting for word about the outcome of the tender I submitted last week. It was mid-afternoon before I got a phone call saying I'd been pipped at the post, having come a close second, which is always disappointing, particularly this time when I felt that had I spent the time I'd put into the tender sorting out accommodation, I could have made it to St. Faiths. And although it's a relief not to have to find somewhere to dump the ponies and scurry back to Scotland for an inception meeting on Monday afternoon, had I known that morning that I didn't need to do so, I would have retraced my steps and gone to St. Faiths. Too late now, but not too late to spend the rest of the day beating myself up about what with the benefit of hindsight I should have done.

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