Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I come from a line of strong women. Domineering women. Admirable women. Flinty women.

My gran was one such. She was formidable, a typical Yorkshire horsewoman, hard as nails and stonily judgemental. (She had some flaws too!)

She combined this outspoken harshness with an oddly passive-aggressive treatment of us, her family, and an aching sweetness rarely glimpsed. My mum is like her sometimes - but deathly afraid of that side of her character.

Me too. Me too. That fear at least helps control it.

But what she had was grit. She was the kind of woman who would break her ribs hunting, but finish the day out nonetheless. I'm not getting into the ethics of fox-hunting, but believe me, she would have, and would never concede an inch on that (or anything).

Horses were her passion: she bred them and rode all her life. When she was 70 and could no longer ride, we bought her an exercise cart and she learnt to drive (she had driven cart-horses in her youth, but this was show-driving). Foolishly we had expected her just to potter with the pony, but she was soon competing locally.

She taught her daughters and grand-children to ride and to have grit.

I was taught that you never ever let go of the reins if you fall from your horse, no matter what. The only time I can remember her being truly proud of me was after I was dragged halfway up a gritted road, my pony having shied at a plastic bag. I should have been paying more attention obviously, but by god, I had grit. Literally. Embedded from knee to thigh.

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