Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Stalwart


Patsy Pottle had been at Vaysey Pastures longer than anyone could remember. She must have been one of Bunty Pargeter’s very first liveries.

Like a prisoner on incarceration, Patsy eagerly laid claim to the driest and most sheltered stable and a favoured position at the far end of the tack room, well away from any draughts and dampness.

Since annexing her territory all those years ago, she had tenaciously remained in occupation as though by right, stoutly resisting periodic efforts to usurp her.

Such effrontery swiftly prompted bewildered surprise and the most brutal and effective of responses. All liveries and staff at the yard soon understood that mild-mannered Miss Pottle was “not to be messed with”.

Spinster Patsy’s life was centred on the yard. She spent much more time there than at her immaculate but empty home in the charming
village of Eggnog.

There was so much to be done each week from collecting the tea money and replenishing supplies to maintaining the birthday list and buying cards and cakes to mark the birthday of every livery.

Patsy never missed the chips on Tuesdays; she would invariably take everyone’s orders, pop down to the fish and chip shop in the nearby vilage of Dibble to collect them and tidy up the tack room after.

Christmas was when Patsy really came into her own, organising the liveries’ sit-down turkey lunch at the Red Lion followed by a surprisingly energetic rendition of the Birdie Dance after her second Martini and lemonade.

Over the years, Patsy shared her life with several irritable skewbalds and participated in all riding club activities.

The living of her Bedford Ladies’ box was festooned with orange and purple rosettes. There was the odd one in green or yellow, but nothing in blue or red.

Patsy could always be relied on to fill a place on the team, but her mare Doncaster Spinner, fondly called Donna, never once became soft or round. Together they never achieved a top three finish or took part in the mounted prize giving at the Championship.

Available for competitions year after year, whatever the weather, distance or inconvenience of starting times, Patsy persevered with her Prelim 10's and occasional combined training.

Her team-mates came, competed and moved on: on to senior school, university, marriage, children and even grand-children.

Patsy’s finest hour came each summer organising the Fun Show at Vaysey Pastures.

Like all such events, this was supposed to be “a little fun, mainly for the younger ones”. In reality competition was fierce, with no quarter given.

Participating as ever, Patsy joined in the 2’3” jumping and, yet again, attempted Prelim 10.

Patsy sighed as she pinned up yet another purple rosette in the living. For yet another year, the red one had eluded her.

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