I do wonder about our sanity as we ride towards a huge bin truck coming the other way. If the garish colour isn’t enough to put us oldies off, the sheer size of this enormous wheeled monster rumbling towards us should be. What possesses us to keep doing this, week in week out? Do we need counselling? Surely there must be an easier way to spend Wednesday afternoons?
I resort to my usual tactic in tricky situations of singing to Patch, my favourite “On top of old smoky” but he remains stoic, showing no emotion whatsoever other than the tiniest flicking of his fine ears, so I have no idea whether my soothing tones work or not. They might cause more harm than good, alerting him to the lunatic he has on board his back, but at least they give me something to do with such a big hazard heading our way.
We watch as the truck suddenly rolls to a stop in the middle of the road. The driver stays at the wheel, while his two colleagues leap out like mad things and hurtle round to the back of the truck. Acknowledging us, they wait until we pass before attaching the wheelie bins to the lift on the back. I feel Patch tremble slightly but he walks on like the good boy he is. The noise of hundreds of glass bottles and cans dropping into the back of the wagon is deafening as we trot away smartly up the hill, Anna in the lead, me safely in the middle and A behind on Duffy. Perhaps I should give up riding on the roads? They are too scary these days, with things coming at you from all angles.
My mind drifts back to my childhood. Sundays were literally dead. Shops were closed and people had nothing to do other than wash the car or eat their traditional roast dinner with the family. Simple times. That meant the roads were perfect for rides out on horseback, trotting along without a care in the world. Now you take your life into your own hands every time you set foot and hoof on the highway. Any time of day, in the week or at the weekend, there are vehicles speeding at you from all directions and no matter how much high visibility clothing you wear, they seem to still come too close and too fast. It’s a battle of wills as to whether to keep putting yourself through it, but the alternative is to give up and I’m not quite ready to do that yet. So I just sing and keep going.
Up on the tops, we take the lane that leads us home. The odd farm vehicle may trundle along this way but there should be nothing else to worry about. I relax and even manage a smile. The views up here are stunning but suddenly Anna’s horse, Jeanie, takes exception to a wooden box containing eggs for sale that has had the cheek to appear on the gatepost of one of the farms we pass. She skirts wide around it as if it is a veritable demon, her eyes wide and her nostrils flared with fear. Honestly it’s only a tiny box of eggs, nothing to worry about, and we’ve just been past the biggest bin truck in history without a problem. But horses sense things we mere humans can’t see. Perhaps she knows something we don’t? We are on Bogguard Road after all, so going back in time locals must have believed that a boggart, or mischievous demon, lived here. According to folklore, these scary creatures often hid out on bends in the road, pretty much like the one we are on now, and caused no end of mischief. They took different forms, from ones that looked like people with long arms with chains trailing behind them to shaggy cow-like fiends with wild eyes, but all were definitely to be feared. Maybe Jeanie can see something in the scary box other than the eggs that only horses know about! She launches past at speed but Patch hasn’t even noticed it and is gazing out dreamily across the fields instead. Duffy just plods past unfazed by such silliness. They are a good team and between them we can get past pretty much anything.
One solitary car heads towards us. It’s only a narrow lane and the driver doesn’t look like he’s going to stop until Anna gets in the middle of the road and puts her hand up. Jeanie’s sheer height and bulk come in handy at times as he pulls in sheepishly. We ride past, each thanking him, but he just shakes his head.
“Did you see his face?” I ask later.
“Oh, he’s always like that. He doesn’t think we should be on the roads at all. According to him, roads are for cars not horses,” replies Anna.
“Well horses have been here longer than cars so you would have thought he’d have got used to it by now,” I say.
But thinking about it, there is a real conflict on the roads. Yes, we may have been here first but that’s no consolation when they’re heading towards you at breakneck speed and your horse and body are in the firing line.
“Perhaps I am too old after all? I’m not sure my nerves are any good these days,” I mumble.
“Oh stop being a drip. We’ve survived haven’t we?” replies A.
I nod and take a slurp of my tea. Yes we have survived and despite everything, bin trucks, boggarts and all, I still enjoy it this mad sport of ours.