Memory’s  Path

Silver is the horse in the middle

It may be the approach of winter but now, instead of looking up at a stone retaining walls beside the rutted track in Tuscany where I imagine I’m walking in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci, I’m looking down at what is underneath my shoes, travelling from ruts to pavements, and thinking of abstract art. Autumn leaves scattered over rectangular paving stones provide their own abstract palette. Stop. Photograph it into your mental picture gallery to conjure up at whim.

I delve into visual more than verbal memories and up spring pictures of uncertain dimensions. Memories differ according to focus, and this determines the frame which always seems to be shifting, uncertain of its own scope or limits. I assume everyone’s memory is the same – a sequence of remembered images tinged with the gentle blue of emotional recall. We are our yesteryears.

One of mine centres on a sloping lawn just large enough to exercise a horse circling it at the end of a lunging rein during a cold winter snap. Snow had melted enough to reveal the grass underneath. Silver was frisky, indulging in some back-leg kicks when led out of his stable – a garage converted in spite of my father’s protests. He couldn’t afford a car, so I saved up, bought a horse instead and the garage became its stable.

Once on the lawn, Silver pranced round it at a fairly reliable canter. I glanced up at the crisply clear sky and smiled in relief. All was well with the world! A tug at the rein as Silver tossed his head and neighed and it slipped out my gloved hands. Head high, tail raised, Silver began cavorting on my father’s neatly tended lawn, stabbing holes in it before leaping over the hedge between us and our next door neighbour’s garden.

He was soon banging on our front door and demanding to see my father. Meantime I had caught Silver and, with some difficulty, persuaded him to jump over the now mangled hedge and cross our pitted lawn back out of sight in his garage-stable, There he created his own three-note tune of protest, rotating and banging his empty oat bowl until I replenished it with his evening ration of oats and an armful of hay paid for out of money from my paper round. Outside snow was beginning to fall while a storm raged between father and our neighbour.

At times like this, even in winter, I would dive into my den inside the thicket of tangled raspberry bushes that bordered our other neighbours at the bottom of the garden. There was a road on the third side of our property with the garage-stable gate.

In summer, after the early morning paper rounds and Saturday morning help in a local shop to pay for the damage to the neighbour’s hedge and rose bushes, I hid away in the raspberry jungle to sit safely in my den and, in season, gobble the raspberries to my heart’s content.

Every time Silver was taken out of his garage-stable and saddled ready for a frisky walk along a sunken lane leading to gallop over the windy downs, he would rise his tail and relieve himself onto the asphalt. I would take the hazardous decision to clear it away on my return. By then it was always miraculously cleared away. One less task for me. Every year our neighbour on the other side of the hedge won a prize at our local flower festival – for his roses.

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