I want to be different! I want to creep out from under the table, climb the highest mountain, beat my chest with my fists and yell out to the world, ‘I am great!’
So why can’t I? Why can’t I do just that?
Was I kept small and subservient as a child? I don’t think so. Although, I do have to admit that I was never encouraged to make something, anything of myself. My parents attitude was simple enough to understand – girls didn’t need a career. Girls married, had children, stood by the side of a bubbling pot all day making nourishing soup for the men folks. Yeah right.
So when I left school, which by the way I hated because I was painfully shy, I was like a plastic bottle cast out on the mighty ocean, direction-less bobbing along, never quite knowing which shore to make for. I was instructed by my dear mother that I should get a job as a dress machinist, which I did, ever the compliant one. I hated it, obviously, but around that time something good happened. I bought my first horse, Irish.
He was an absolute pig. Chestnut. Thoroughbred. Ex racehorse. He terrified the life out of me. I looked like a pea on a mountain sitting astride his huge back. He would lash out in the stable and piss off with me across fields. He had to be sold before he killed me. I realise now that I lied through my back teeth telling his new people what an angel he was and how much fun they would have with him – that’s if they ever managed to catch him.
They came to collect him one morning and off they trotted, literally. I received the phone call an hour later to say that they didn’t want a horse any more. Irish had deposited one of them in the middle of the road and was now standing in the post office doorway and no one could get in or out.
I had given up riding Irish weeks previously. He had pushed me to the point where I daren’t even get on him. He was a liability on the road, shying at lorries and then cars and then cycles and finally at pedestrians. And frankly, this was because I was weak and terrified. I blamed myself. I thought a decent rider would be OK with him. Obviously I was wrong. I had no choice but to go and fetch him back.
Sure enough, he was still wedged in the post office doorway, standing in several piles of dung. A small crowd had gathered. I caught him by the bridle and began my long walk back. Half-a-mile down the road a lorry approached and I felt him tense up. As the lorry passed Irish reared, almost kicking me in the head, before dragging me into a ditch full of stinging nettles.
I think that was a major turning point in my life. What the hell was I doing walking when I could be riding – if I wasn’t such a spineless shit! I rose out of the ditch, like the Incredible Hulk, grabbed his reins and leapt aboard. For seconds nothing happened. I think we were both in shock. Me because I was actually on his back, and Irish – because I was actually on his back! Our ‘moment’ was broken by the approach of a lorry. I felt him tense … and then I let him have it! With a swift swipe of the crop I hit him. With my heels I kicked him. And with my delicate tones I cursed him to hell. The lorry was right in front of us but Irish was mobile, trotting forwards. The lorry passed, I held up my hand to thank the driver for slowing down and off we went.
Every time a vehicle approached I growled at him. His ears flicked back. He caught the gist. And he trotted all the way home like butter wouldn’t melt. I learnt a lot about myself that day. Mainly that I will only be pushed so far. And the greatest lesson of all I think – face my fears.
There was nothing wrong with Irish. He had simply cottoned on to a wheeze of a game and I had allowed it. If he could have spoken he would have said, ‘Hey dudes look at me. Am I not the greatest?’
This is an attitude that wrinkles my nose. So maybe that is why I can’t adopt that attitude. Other people can and do. But I can’t. You will never see the day where I have written the words, ‘I sold 5,000 books yesterday.’ Or ‘I’m guest of honour at the opening of the new Aldi shop.’ It won’t happen. Ever. And it isn’t because nice things don’t happen to me or that I don’t have book sales because they do and I do.
Perhaps the answer lies in the few words which were spoken to me just the other day. I was telling my chiro lady, Archna, that Mulligan’s Reach was selling in paperback form and then I said, ‘Oh God, that sounds so big-headed doesn’t it?’ and she turned to me laughing and said, ‘Don’t be silly, you are the most humble person I have ever known.’
And strangely, no bull-shit compliment would have meant more.
So maybe that is the answer? The reason why I can’t climb that mountain, beat my chest and yell out, ‘Hey look at me. Am I not great?’
I am humble? Who knows?
Take care my lovelies x