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