English Country Life
Nothing like mud on your face, artfully flicked there by Mother Nature herself. And there is nothing like the smell of rain and trees and cantering through a forest, face splattered Pollock-like, your trusty steed snorting beneath you, nostrils wide, as he glances sideways at his fellow four-legged gallopers. I used to joke that I rode with hounds for the hot bath afterwards, but that would be a lie. I loved everything else about it too, from waking at dawn and smelling the morning air, to picking my horse's hooves, to polishing my boots, and even filling my hip flask ever-so-gently with that ginger liqueur- the brand I forget- that you can only get at Berry Brothers on St James's. Even the pesky business of removing Warwickshire mud from an otherwise lily-white hunt stock was full of intrigue. There was a certain amount of childlike awe that arose in me. Watching with downturned mouth as the stock got submerged alongside mud-flecked gloves into a bucket of hot water was like waiting to see what emerges at the end of one's hook when reeling in a catch.
Memories are funny. The sight of a Barbour will always remind me of the autumn I stood hunched for hours, pruning roses in shivery conditions, obsessed as one can get with finishing off the last David Austin. I often garden glove-less so I can feel the sensation of soil between the fingers and under the nails. And that autumn, despite being wrapped up in multi-layers including wool-lined wellies and super thick ski sox, and despite warming myself next to a nice hot Aga after the task at hand, I got hit hard. Sick in bed with pneumonia, the few weeks that followed were tough. Oddly enough though, the very forces that struck me down were instrumental to my recovery. It was thanks to the consistent sight through my bedroom window of those familiar rows of dark scarecrows, and that smell of the earth. The knowledge that come summer, Mother Nature would create wondrous-coloured cabbage-like blooms from those uneven skeleton shapes is what got me through.
Reflection by Yanti Amos.
Collages compiled by Wati Grossman.