Two nations divided by a common language.

When I came to live in London, way back in 1989, I learned a lesson early on about the difference between British English and American English.

Running into a stationers in a terrible hurry, I asked the salesperson for a Week At A Glance diary.

'No, don't have 'em,' he said, as I scanned the large display of diaries on the wall.

'What about that one?' I asked, pointing to a Week At A Glance diary just to the left of his head.

'Except that one,' he said.


An incident a few days ago brought this story to mind.

I was trying out a new horse. 'He's wonderful,' said his owner. 'Never puts a hoof wrong. He's gentle as a lamb, calm, easy, anxious to please, no problem to anyone. A three-year-old child could ride this horse.'

In other words, a miracle horse. Wow!  How lucky was I?

It must be said that I ignored a few clues that might have made me suspicious. Like his name (Ricochet). The fact that he's a competition horse, which suggests a certain excitability of nature. But I'm a trusting soul. If someone tells me a three-year-old can ride this horse, I'm thinking, how cool, a three-year-old can ride this horse!

I mounted Mr Perfect in a state of rosy relaxation, rode around the indoor school at a sedate pace for a few minutes, carefully, sensibly. Lovely. A bit keen, but am I worried?  Of course not. A three-year-old can ride this horse!

'Ask him for canter' suggested his owner, from way off in the opposite corner.

And suddenly we were at Newmarket, flying into the second mile at 35 mph. Ricochet ran flat out round and round the school like Little Black Sambo's tigers, in a screaming dead run for what seemed more or less forever, but was probably about four minutes. Which is quite a long time to be contemplating your own mortality. My life, being not-crammed with incident, had time to flash before my eyes six or seven times.

Finally, bored and possibly a teensy bit winded, he slowed.

'Were you meaning to go that fast?' asked his owner.

I jogged over to her. 'Not really,' I said, wild-eyed and panting. 'Is he often like this?'

'Oh, yes,' she said. 'When he hasn't been ridden for a day or two.'

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE THREE-YEAR-OLD CHILD??? I wanted to scream. Having lived in England for 22 years, however, I merely smiled politely.