I am so angry, I can’t speak. It is the most beautiful crisp day. There’s snow on Kinder Scout again, like a Swiss mountain, and the sun is literally talking to me through the window, beckoning me outside. But I can’t go riding today. I’ve got the dreaded flu bug that is going around and have been marooned inside for days on end like a caged animal. If I watch any more daytime TV about people buying homes in the sun or running round showgrounds buying junk masquerading as antiques, I swear I will go mad.

At first it was fun, lolling about with the dogs, spending all day in my pyjamas and living on tea and toast. Admittedly I did feel ill and have eaten so many cough sweets that the dentist will have a field day when I go for my next check-up, but it’s getting boring now. I fully intended riding today and had planned my recovery to coincide with this, but it hasn’t happened and I’m still coughing too much and too weak to venture out.

“Sorry I won’t make it today, I’ve been struck down with the lurgy,” I text Anna.

“You had that last week, are you sure you’re still ill? You’re not avoiding riding in the snow are you?” comes back the reply. She’s not as sweet as you think. There’s a definite inner steel with that woman. I word my reply carefully, I don’t want her to think I’m a weak fair weather rider.

“Definitely not. I still feel terrible so I will have to leave it. Give Patch a pat from me and I’ll see you next week.”

What worries me about leaving it is that someone else might bag Patch. He’s my little secret and I don’t want to have to fight others for him. When the stables first bought him a couple of years ago, he was only five and a bit green. He used to shy a lot and try to throw in the odd buck if you weren’t ready for him and he didn’t like being crowded by the other horses so spent a lot of time with his ears back. And although parts of his reputation have persisted, he has grown up a lot and is quite the sweetest horse you could wish to ride.

I like to make out he’s still a bit difficult but ‘A’ has had her eye on him for a while. I have shamelessly pleaded a worse back then hers, insisting that I need Patch the most. Being a fair sort of person, born under the sign of Libra the scales, and the fact that she’s younger than me, she has always given way and let me have him. But with me out of the way, who knows what might happen?

I set off in another coughing fit and dose myself with another sweet. The kettle goes on and I push a slice of thick white bread in the toaster. Slathered with salted butter and marmalade, it goes down a treat so I make another one. Mmm, maybe I’m feeling a bit better after all? Perhaps I could manage a ride? It wouldn’t make things any worse, in fact it would probably make me feel a whole lot better.

Upstairs in the bathroom, I peer into the overflowing wash basket. My jodhpurs are still languishing from last week — I only have one pair these days as it seems extravagant to have multiple pairs when I only ride once a week. Pulling them out, they look ok, only a couple of splashes of mud round the knees. I drag them on with my warmest jumper and a little thin scarf wrapped around my neck and tucked in the top. My face is a bit ropey but there’s not a lot I can do about that. You can’t help how you look, and as my mum always asked me when I was painfully shy child, blushing profusely and hiding behind my heavy fringe: “Who is looking at you?” She was trying to help in her own bleak way which probably did the opposite and served only to make me hide from people even more.

Continued below…

I run a comb through my hair and pull my coat and boots on. My hat is already in the car as I head for the farm. They are tacking up as I arrive and I breathe a sigh of relief to see that A is leading Ginger out while Patch is dozing is his stable.

“I’m here after all, I couldn’t resist,” I call.

“We expected you,” said Anna as she hands me Patch’s saddle and bridle.
Diane