If you have read my “About Me” page, you’ll know that my childhood and my teens revolved mostly around a pony called Bluey. We were awesome together. Incase you don’t know, Bluey is a 13.2 grey gelding I had since 1994 when he he was four years old (he’s in his twenties now and still as awesome as ever). The nineties don’t seem long ago, but back then I was thirteen, and now I’m thirty three while he’s twenty two.
Anyway, I was driving back from the farm last week, and found that the road I usually take to get home was closed for roadworks. Therefore I had to take a detour, which took me along the road where I kept Bluey when I first had him on loan. It’s a 2.5 acre paddock at the back of a church, and sits alongside a public bridlepath/private lane. So, having not seen it for maybe fifteen years, I decided to pull in and take a look at the place.
Major flashbacks. A paddock is a paddock is a paddock, right? Well, yes, I guess it is. But no, it isn’t. You see, most of my fondest memories happened right there on that little piece of land, or around it. The first one to hit me was as I walked up the lane, past the church: I’ve only ever fallen off Bluey twice. The first time was at a show when he slipped over but the second time we’d been galloping along the bridlepath, and when we slowed, I took my feet out of the stirrups, let go of the reins and leaned forward to get off so I could loosen his girth and walk beside him. But I sneezed, he shot sideways, and I fell in a heap on the ground. Bluey stood looking down at me as if to say “What happened? What was that noise? Are you okay?” I sat there laughing my ass off, in the middle of the bridlepath with only my pony to hear me. That’s true friendship right there and I’ll never forget the look on his face.
As I approached the paddock last week I walked past the spot where it happened, with goosebumps on my arms and a grin on my face. The latch on the gate was always sticky, and a bit of a nightmare to open. It still is, but I know how to tweak it.
The field has clearly been vacant for a long time. The grass is overgrown, the trees look like they belong in a jungle and there is no lock on the gate, no sign of any horses. So, I let myself in. I know the vicar so he wouldn’t be alarmed to see me there, I don’t think. And if he was, it would be worth the explanation. As I walked into the middle of the paddock, bordered by the bridlepath on two sides, the vicarage on the third and university buildings on the last, I kind of felt like I was home. A few tall, straggly and alien looking hawthorn trees have grown in the middle of it. They weren’t there last time I saw this place which was a little bit strange. And another hawthorn, one I know was always there, has tripled in size. Beyond it, there used to be a little field shelter with a feed room on the side of it. It couldn’t still be there, could it? As I walked across the field I realised a fox was sat in the long grass, staring at me, apparently unfazed by my presence. I gave him a wide berth so as not to frighten him, and walked around the tree, expecting to find a crumpled pile of wood where the field shelter had once been. Even back then it was falling apart, but to my surprise, its still there, looking somewhat smug with a blanket of brambles draped all over it. I swear, if field shelters could talk, this one was saying “ahha, surprise!”
I almost cried. Why? Because that building, as ancient and as crappy as it is, reminds me of the best days of my life. I have brought Bluey into that building a million times, dried him off in there when he was shivering from the rain, spent hour after hour untangling his tail and telling him about my day at school. I’ve sat on the floor sharing plums from a tree in the hedge. That place, as overgrown and abandoned as it is, feels like home to me. It is a place I once belonged, and it is a place I will always love. Maybe one day I’ll get to put my horses back on it, or maybe I won’t. I don’t know. Bluey is an old man now, and I am a grown up. That was a place for he and I. Now I have other horses. Now I’m too sensible to career around the countryside, scattering dog walkers and dodging trees at a flat out gallop. Now my horses won’t fit into that field shelter, and now I appreciate both Bluey and that place more than I did back then. Sometimes its better to let sleeping dogs lie. But it’s nice to know its still there, with a bucketload of memories to remind me of my Blue.