Tot­ter­ing-by-gen­tly

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Lucy Bar­ing

AFRIEND of Anna’s is rid­ing from Hamp­shire to Corn­wall in aid of Al­le­gra’s Am­bi­tion, a char­ity set up fol­low­ing the sud­den death of her best friend at the age of 16. In prepa­ra­tion, Lucy wrote to var­i­ous hunts and Pony Club branches ask­ing for in­for­ma­tion about places to stay, where she could rest her horse on days off, names of vets and far­ri­ers, lo­cal knowl­edge about bri­dle­ways that might be im­pass­able and any­thing that might be use­ful as she cov­ers ap­prox­i­mately 241 miles.

The re­sponse was over­whelm­ing. She had so many of­fers of beds, fields, food, sta­bles, com­pan­ions and back-up that she def­i­nitely couldn’t fit us into the route. In truth, we couldn’t fit in Wella, her horse, so it was a re­lief, but, as the route takes her very close in­deed, and ex­actly through the vil­lage where we used to live, Al­fie and I de­cided to go and find her.

That, de­spite a bright-pink jacket and a large white horse, proved more dif­fi­cult than we’d imag­ined. Although she’d told us which bri­dle­way she’d be on, when we found it, I had no idea if she’d gone left or right. We de­cided to head to her end point and walk back to meet her com­ing to­wards us. We parked the car, ne­go­ti­ated Fletcher through the dogs who live in the near­est house and who roam out­side it in a gen­tle if pro­pri­eto­rial man­ner and headed up the hill.

From the top of this, you can see al­most 360˚. No chance of miss­ing Lucy. We waited at the top. After half an hour, we won­dered if we’d got the wrong day, the wrong vil­lage, the wrong end of the stick al­to­gether. We called it quits and re­turned to the car. There were her brother and mother, the back-up team, who had seen our car and asked to use the tele­phone to find us. ‘Where have you been? Lucy came through the gate 10 min­utes ago,’ they said, be­fore go­ing back to dis­cussing species of clema­tis with the house­holder, who had given them a very en­joy­able tour of her gar­den.

I will never un­der­stand how we could have missed one an­other.

After a short catch-up, Lucy made her way to an­other gen­er­ous host—wella was fall­ing asleep on the road—and we bade each other good­bye and good luck.

Our re­turn jour­ney takes us past a house some great friends are mov­ing out of. I am the ex­pert in this area, so I drop in to see if I could give tips— and to re­trieve the Belling oven on which they’ve been cook­ing for the past three months.

I’m thrilled to find some­one else among boxes. How­ever, I’m not thrilled to see that they know, de­spite be­ing novices, to write on the four sides of ev­ery box and not just the lid. This was my top tip, learnt the hard way, and the only one I could have given them.

I no­tice them put a du­vet into a box to line it for the stereo. They top this with a pil­low. These peo­ple are ex­perts. They are mov­ing abroad for a year and are put­ting it all into stor­age, which means they don’t need colour coded Post-it notes, my only other tip.

I hadn’t been able to get to their farewell pic­nic the night be­fore, where they drank pros­ecco out of plas­tic cups look­ing down on the Chalke val­ley. Say­ing good­bye to an­other mu­tual friend, one of the de­part­ing said: ‘I’ll miss you, but I won’t miss your tele­phone man­ner.’

Brusque is an un­der­state­ment for this friend, who doesn’t mean to make one feel like a blither­ing in­com­pe­tent most of the time.

Hav­ing just failed to find horse and rider, I stood among the clearly marked boxes, in the way, ask­ing for tea and de­cided I might not ring her for a while.

They know to write on the four sides of ev­ery box. That was my top tip, learnt the hard way

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