This is not quite a Christmas story, but it was a moment of magic for me.

Granny came to stay a few weeks ago. At 92, granny is something of a legend. She has a better memory than any of us and her knowledge of current affairs would put Jeremy Paxman to shame.

While she was here, we thought it would be nice to take her out for afternoon tea at our local posh hotel. Imagine a menu as long as your arm, and that’s just for the choice of tea. Then a four-tier cake stand groaning with delicate sandwiches, exquisitely decorated cakes and little tiny pots of mousse flavoured with fruit and chocolate. Heaven.

To get there for teatime, I had to get the horses in early. In the winter, they normally stay out until it’s nearly dark, and then wander amiably down the hill towards me when I go out and call them. Like most horses they like their routine, and woe betide anyone who interferes with it.

My fields are steep, with the gate at the bottom. At about 2pm, I headed out optimistically with the headcollars. I called the horses, but they stayed doggedly at the top of the field. I trudged all the way up. My old mare Molly looked up in surprise as much as to say: “What are you doing here? We’re busy. We have about three hours field time left”. She let me get within a yard or two, then leapt away and proceeded to prance along the top fence line, head and tail in the air, with my easily influenced Forester in tow. I trailed along in their wake from one side of the field to the other and back again. Each time I approached her, she would snort in contempt, swing round and prance back the other way.

This went on for some time, and my deadline was approaching. Never mind the drive to get there, when you are heading for a posh hotel, it’s important to allow a few minutes to brush the hay out of your hair and cover up the scent of horse with something a bit more fragrant.

Our afternoon tea

Exasperated, I did something only a batty old horse lady would do. I tried reasoning with her.

“The thing is Molly”, I said “the reason you have to come in early today is that we are taking granny out to afternoon tea, and we can’t be late.” The effect was electric. Without a word of a lie, she ground to a halt, spun round and trotted meekly down to put her nose in her headcollar.

Continued below…

I realised there was no point me thinking I had suddenly developed supernatural horse whispering skills. Obviously the magic word was “granny”, who, being from Yorkshire, read the tea menu in its entirety, from Lapsang Souchong to Orange Pekoe Single Estate, and said to the waiter “I’ll just have tea please”.
JG