Drizzle

High up on my list of pleasurable experiences is one involving drizzle or light rain. An ideal bedroom is one right under the roof so one might have the lullaby of the patter of rain on the roof tiles or slates. It provides the thin curtain outside the window as I write. Attempts to console children gazing sadly out behind windows come to mind.

‘Plants need it. Imagine how thirsty they are. Didn’t you see the paths with cracks like crazy paving?

In hospital, and now in lockdown, this word irrationally niggles my mind. I should write about something more stirring, but back the word comes, it drizzles on.

In the distant past when I did enjoy some aspects of cooking, I learnt how to ‘drizzle’ icing over my mother’s rather dry cupcakes and then plonk a candied cherry on top for a bit of colour and to make them look cheeky. Exaggerated compliments would follow if my mother had invited friends to tea.

‘My daughter made these cakes!’ Exaggerated compliments followed. I wanted to slink away in embarrassment, fearful of any other requests that might follow. A rebellion stirred. Why should I be expected to know how to cook, just because I was a girl? I wasn’t interested in cooking, just in eating anything – or almost anything – when hungry.

I even liked tripe. Here begins an account of behaviour and habits now deemed unacceptable,  condemned and confined to a disreputable past.

Yes, I did go hunting as a teenager. We never caught a fox (plenty of them were raiding chicken coops). There were two local hunts: the Chiddingfold and Leconfield, which was supposed to be ‘superior’ in a way I couldn’t fathom, to the Chiddlingfold Farmers, who welcomed my idea of forming a Pony Club and even lent us a field off a convenient road for our yearly gymkhana.

Pat Moss, the sister of the famous racing driver Stirling Moss, then just beginning his career, started it all off. The ‘Chid and Lec’ organised a summer gymkhana mainly with jumps designed for adult horsemen and women. However, a distant corner of the field was reserved for young riders, mostly female. The year I entered it Pat Moss arrived with a horsebox filled with horses for all courses and a pony too for our events, as she was just young enough to enter. By evening her pony’s bridle couldn’t be seen for all the rosettes tied to it.

Enough was enough. With a friend, Judith, and my elder sister, we formed our own pony club and informally linked it to the Chiddingfold Farmers so we could ask one of the farmers to lend us a field for our gymkhana. My father pitched his ridge tent to serve as a refreshment tent organised by my mother. All the profits went to repay the loan we had been given to buy the rosettes – there was nothing left over for prizes. My father presented rosettes with a flourish and a wide range of compliments for the riders and pats for the ponies. All were content if not exhilarated.

Those were the golden years before O and A Levels replaced the old School Certificate and gradually led to the end of our pony club. We were forced us to close it through lack of time. The ponies went too as we were no longer at home to look after them, so that chapter of our lives ended and we became adults – the choice of horses or courses to propel us into some sort of career structure and the looming, if still distant, prospect of earning our living.

Those years now seem a dream, but no drizzle – and there were plenty of them – ever cancelled our pony club gymkhanas.

My latest book, Mastering The Sun, is available from Amazon…