Actually, I’m hoping it isn’t my last post, but I feel I have to account for the possibility.
Tomorrow at this time I’ll be hurtling cross country on a horse I’ve never met before, jumping over obstacles (most likely with my eyes closed) and trying not to look too much like what I really am — a suburban American Jew from an academic family, whose idea of sport ranged from tennis to swimming off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in July and August — with pretty much nothing in between.
My husband says it’s a case of converts being the worst fanatics, and is just pleased that I haven’t embraced Christian Science with the same passion I now show for the English Countryside and its controversial pursuits. But what chance did I have? My favourite books as a child ranged from The Black Stallion to Flambards; as a young adult I scarfed down Molly Keane and Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of A Foxhunting Man, and my favourite painter is Stubbs.
I blame my fixation with horses and country pursuits on my great great-great-grandmother back in Lithuania or Russia, whom (I’m convinced) was raped by a cossack. Where else would I have managed to get hold of these genes?
Anyone thinking of sending me hate mail on the subject, please desist — I accept that my lurchers kill the occasional squirrel and rabbit, that the neighbour’s cats (whom my darlings would love to eat) are decimating the bird population, and that nature is generally quite unpleasantly red in tooth and claw. I’m not a killing sort of person, and prefer to think that my interest is literary — after all, it was Anthony Trollope who observed that “no rural activity did more to bring together every kind of person in the countryside: Attorneys, country bankers, bakers, innkeepers, auctioneers, graziers, builders, retired officers, judges home from India, barristers who take weekly holidays, stockbrokers, newspaper editors, artists and sailors.” And the wonderful Molly Keane, quoted in her NY Times obituary of 1996, explains why she wrote about hunting and balls and Irish rural life under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell: “It would have been death to be known as a writer.”
Thanks to the Labour government, no foxes will be killed this weekend. And let’s hope no writers either