About those boots. The ones I hadn’t worn in years. The ones I bought in Liverpool.
I hadn’t been there very long—it must have been the first or second weekend. I’d already been through not three, not four, but TEN bomb scares. Was trapped in the tunnel—UNDER the Mersey River—for hours and hours each time. Had my car searched each time. Had already changed hotels—to one on THIS side of the Mersey. Which is where she picked me up that day.
So it must have been the second weekend.
It’d been a rough two weeks. I was seriously considering calling New York and asking for hazard pay. I was thrilled when one of my new colleagues suggested going riding.
And really disappointed when I woke up Saturday morning and it was raining. The phone rang. I assumed she was calling to cancel—and you know what they say about assumptions. She laughed it off. ‘If we cancelled our plans every time it rains here, we’d never do anything. I’ll pick you up in an hour. I’ll bring a spare jacket.’
Fair enough. Besides, she assured me, it was ‘just spitting.’
I found this recent image when I googled “Liverpool rain.” Just to give you an idea: http://www.pixdaus.com/single.php?id=188006#first_new
(It was a long couple of months. Really nice people, though.)
The British have an incredible number of terms to describe each incremental increase in precipitation. Isn’t it the Japanese who have seventeen words for ‘yes’ and most of them mean ‘no?’ ‘Spitting’ turned out to be what, in California, we call RAIN. That steady, drenching drizzle that doesn’t look like much when you’re standing in a doorway, deciding that you can dash to the car without bothering with an umbrella…until you’re in the car a few minutes later cold, wet, and realize that your clothes are soaked all the way through.
An hour later I was the slightly resentful new owner of a helmet (no rain cover, which is basically just a shower cap, anyway. They assured me I wouldn’t need one—by then it was ‘barely a drizzle’), a pair of slightly water-resistant breeches in some incredibly unnatural polyester blend, and that now-infamous pair of knee-high rubber riding boots.
And her big brother’s borrowed barn jacket.
Just an attractive picture all the way ‘round.
And a wet, windy hour after that, I was flying—right over the head of my horse, ALL BY MYSELF over a three-bar jump.
Apparently, the horse thought I looked lonely. Or that, having seen me go over, the jump was safe, after all. So then he jumped too—damn near landing on top of me.
Afterwards, we put it all together. We’d been over the same jump, with a lower bar, a couple of times already. The rain had tapered off a bit, but the wind had picked up to compensate. As the horse and I were approaching the just-raised bar, one of those ubiquitous white plastic grocery bags went whizzing by outside the ring and >SMACKED< into a nearby post.
My horse startled, planted his feet, and dropped his head. I slid forward on my wet saddle and sailed right over the top of his head, (right between his ears), somersaulted over the jump (clearing it with plenty of room, thank you), and crash landed on the the other side. This surprised the horse, who threw his head back up and, in an effort to catch up (and quite impressively, I might add) bounced over the jump from all almost-complete stop. He landed with two hooves—that’s almost 1,000 pounds of horseflesh in two round, razor-sharp, iron-shod packages—on either side of my head.
This stuff happens. A more experienced rider (or maybe just a drier one) would have kept her seat. I just lay there for a second, stunned, desperately trying to catch my breath and staring up at a great, brown expanse of heaving horsehide above my head.
(It was actually kinda nice to have something blocking the rain for a minute.)
I was fine. Muddy, sore, and mortified, but fine. It did NOT help that my colleague—who has since become a dear friend—still looked like Grace Kelly, despite the rain and the gear, perched blonde and graceful on her mount on the other side of the ring. I had now added mud—a great MUCHNESS of mud—to my overall ensemble. (Plus some impressive, Technicolor bruises which wouldn’t be visible until later in the bath. And for weeks to come...)
As soon as she saw that I was all right, she started laughing her head off.
I caught my breath, caught the horse, and got back on. As you do.
And went over the jump a couple of times—successfully—just because.
An hour after that, I was curled into the tiny hotel tub, tired, and SORE, but happy. And looking forward to going again.
I mean, having invested in all that gear, I kind of had to, right?
I got to wear the boots a few more times after that in Liverpool, then off and on after I moved to London.
And hardly at all since.
But now they’re out again. They’re ready.
Maybe even lucky.
Wouldn’t it be nice?