Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Proprietor

Vaysey Pastures stood between the pretty villages of Nibble and Dibble in the leafy Vale of Vaysey and had a fine view of Benny Hill. It was Bunty Pargeter’s realm; it was her jewel set in a silver sea – or at least, in a convenient, semi-rural location.

Her role as proprietor was not "a job"; caring for her clients and their horses was her "vocation". For Bunty it had a selfless and noble quality with some Mother Theresa, a little St Joan and a lot of Elizabeth I.

As a cinema fan, Bunty saw herself as regal: a hybrid of Bette Davis as redoubtable Gloriana and Anna Neagle as a feisty, but much-loved, Victoria.

Bunty always said she had been forced to treat her personal life as secondary since she was "married to Vaysey Pastures" and "the liveries were her children."

In reality, managing Vaysey Pastures was a prosaic mixture of coping with blocked drains, missing tack and unpaid livery bills. The job required many different skills in balancing the demands of staff and customers and coping with various incidents.

Experience had taught Bunty to appreciate simple survival and getting through each day. After decades at the helm, she tended to take a pragmatic view of most things and, wherever possible, opted for the line of least resistance. 
Sometimes her staff found this blithe refusal to look deeply into things frustrating.

Her longstanding senior girl Enid Possett was the soul of reliability, being the first to start each morning and last to leave every night. Bunty however myopically failed to recognise this dedication or reward it by the title of "Yard Manager" that would have cost so little, but meant so much.

Similarly, Bert Postlethwaite, her odd job man, had made the yard tick over twenty three years and was personally devoted to her, but Bunty only thought of him as a hard worker with a good sense of humour.

Indeed Bunty’s favourite people on the yard were those that caused her least trouble, such as Bruce and Betty Penge, who paid promptly for full livery and were hardly ever there. They were fully occupied in earning the money to pay for it all.

Privately, her least favourite were the troublemakers like the Hilton twins wreaking havoc and destruction and the complaining ladies who could only just afford the fees and who seemed to be in the common room smoking, plotting, bickering and gossiping sixteen hours a day.

It had been many years since Bunty rode a horse or mucked out a stable. She presided over the yard from her little office next to the tack room wearing a range of colourful print frocks, usually matched with faithful old green hunter wellies.

Her start in life had been comfortable as the only daughter of Reggie, the founder of Pargeter’s Mints and Edwina, the bulwark of the WRVS and local charities.
Well-educated at Rodean and Girton, Bunty could have gone on to a successful life like her school-friend Pandora la Gueriniere, the glamorous dressage teacher.

Depressingly, Bunty’s main concerns were now the next delivery of haylage, which liveries were pilfering straw and whether she could last out until her next holiday.

Bunty’s foreign holidays only addressed the symptoms rather than the root cause of her angst. On her Thomson safari to
Kenya, she considered seizing a new life by marrying a Masai warrior, thirty years her junior.

In Skiathos, she daydreamed about buying a beach restaurant with Costas, the moustachio’d fisherman.

She would return to Vaysey Pastures and look into Patsy Pottle’s missing numnah and wonder what her life might have been without the ‘effing horses.

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