As the saga of the postcards continues I have at last struck some sort of common thread.
And it’s all about horses. Not all that deep and meaningful but at least it is a consistent theme extending over several of these messages of long ago.
For once during my trawl through these newly discovered mementoes, I have little difficulty in recalling time and place which, in itself, is a great relief.
The first card depicts a white horse looking out over its stable door. “Man’s friend” is how I captioned it on the reverse.
The accompanying message is equally succinct: “Have arrived. This is great. There are 15 of us and it’s an all-male week.”
No hint was given as to whether I thought the all-boys-together situation was good or bad. Maybe on this occasion I preferred the absence of distractions for we were lodged at “the only place of its kind in England” – the home and riding centre established by the legendary Pat Smythe, Britain’s golden girl of the 1952 Olympics.
A week of mucking-out, tuition and riding beckoned.
The location was a dot on the map labelled as Camp, set in the midst of the Gloucestershire countryside.
As I recorded on a second postcard, also bearing a horse’s head on the front, it was seven days of “plenty of good food, excellent company and fine weather.”
The highlight was doing duty as stable lad at a day of polo matches, walking the mounts to and fro, cooling them down, giving them feed, making sure they were fully ready to go again and generally being fully immersed in the whole horsey business.
I loved it. And it is one memory that has remained bright and clear down the years. An idyllic time. Rural England at its very best. Something to be treasured, although I fear it is becoming less and less understood, appreciated and valued by succeeding generations.
Those seven days at Camp, Painsnwick, Pitchombe, Sheepscombe and other nearby villages set in train a love of horses and riding that remains to this day, although time in the saddle has become almost non-existent.
Throughout my travels I have ridden whenever the opportunity was offered – on an Israeli beach, in the Canadian Rockies, across the Hungarian plains, to the summit of an active volcano and on Lipizzaners at their home in the former Yugoslavia.
Like so many young girls, my daughter caught the bug. School holidays were spent immersed in the whole horsey thing, lodged at a riding centre in the Macedon Ranges.
So we acquired horses of our own: loveable former pacer Brandy, the lively Donna and thorougbred Gypsy. And I had to lug a horse float hither and thither – a cumbersoome and scary task I never truly mastered – as proved by the time the car and float parted company on a sharp uphill bend in a long line of Sunday traffic.
Twice during my double life as a travel agent I devised and acted as leader for an eight-week world horse-riding tour.
The itinerary included (inevitably) the Spanish Riding school, tuition under a master of the horse on the Esterhazy estate, pony trekking in the Brecon Beacons, lessons at the Fulmer Riding School, tuition and daylong gallops at the Lipica stud plus show-jumping at Aachen, Hickstead and the Dublin Horse Show.
Trying to control and corral sixteen young Aussie women on what for most was their first overseas trip added a memorable dimension over which a veil has long been discretly drawn.
So many memories from a clutch of postcards.
**To be continued….