Xmas : Christmas is a time of celebration amongst the liveries at Vaysey Pastures. The Old Guard normally decorate the common room with paper streamers and balloons and re-erect a dusty old artificial Christmas tree in the corner - by the kettle. Handyman Bert Posthlethwaite usually repairs the flashing lights bedecking the tree each year.
The female liveries all contribute to the Secret Santa and desperately hope to receive something extravagant well exceeding the strict limit of five pounds from one of the wealthier liveries such as Hyacinthe Crabbe- Legge rather than those in genteel poverty such as Patsy Pottle. Although appreciating it is better to give than to receive, liveries are pragmatic and much prefer Hyacinthe's fragrant and chic Jo Malone candles to Patsy's dusty bath cubes from Boots.
The festive season is marked by seasonal gymkhana games in the school where the children are ruthlessly elbowed aside by the older ladies who even during Advent will do anything for a red rosette.
The social highlight of the Yuletide season is invariably the liveries Christmas lunch at the Red Lion. All the adult liveries and staff turn out in their best outfits to a traditional Christmas meal of prawn cocktail, roast turkey with all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Crackers are energetically pulled and mottoes read aloud.
Even the most staid risk a snowball or two and a few glasses of Chardonnay "to be sociable" and mark the season.
The meal is followed by karaoke and dancing led by the life and soul of the yard Bert. One year Bert really did lead what he called "his ladies" astray when he led them in a conga all the way out of the Red Lion and down the High Street to the amusement of the whole village.
On Christmas morning yard staff are given the day off and the liveries muck out their own stables, fuelled by hot mince pies and the odd glass of champagne. The bravest then venture out around the lanes on a hack in fancy dress or at least bedecked in tinsel - depending on the general willingness of the horses involved.
A festive time is generally had by all.
Yards : Judging by the number of cars in the car park and the number of people around Vaysey Pastures from morning until well inot the evening, the Yard is the centre of many liveries' lives.
Experience has taught Bunty Pargeter to take a rather jaundiced view of some of the excesses of life on Yards which is indeed often "too too much".
Here are her top ten observations on life in and about livery yards. To her mind, many livery yards are:-
1. too competitive - whether regarding rosettes won or desired, size of 4x4 or the degree of fashionableness of clothing or other accoutrements,
2. too sentimental. It appears that any poor beast, however aged, gnarled, vicious or otherwise revolting must be cloyingly referred to as “my pony”,
3. too insecure. Rest assured, everything from hoof picks to tack is prone to be “borrowed” unless it’s labelled, lasered, tattooed, micro-chipped, chained up, screwed-down - or all of the above,
4. too girly: a twittering and excitable cross between
, Cell Block H, Acorn Antiques and Tenko, Mallory Towers
5. too emotional: a maelstrom of temperament fuelled by a heady mixture of hormones, the lust for success, Silk Cut and Bacardi Breezers,
6. too dramatic: many incidents, however mundane or harmless, will induce extreme reactions ranging from anxiety and euphoria, through panic and on to hysteria,
7. too congested: numerous horses in close proximity need careful manoeuvring and a degree of concentration not always apparent, particularly when compounded by...
8. too many uncontrolled dogs – to be tripped-over, run-down, and trodden-on daily but on no account ever, ever to be reprimanded, and likewise...
9. too many uncontrolled children, enjoying insufficiently supervised quality time in their busy schedules crammed between jazz tap, clarinet and Brownies, and finally...
10. too costly in terms of time, money and energy to be logical or justifiable – but then it is an addiction. The addicts have no choice and really do deserve our sympathy.
According to the admittedly rather cynical Bunty Pargeter, if our rulers weren’t so profoundly anti-horse, some kind of therapy and perhaps a grant would be available!
Zara : not initially a favourite eventer of Joan and Betty Crumblewick and their circle at Bits & Bobs (high class purveyors of all perquisites for the discerning equestrienne) who much preferred the old school of Anneli Drummond-Hay and Marion Mould. With her "connections" and impressive triumphs at Blenheim and
, however, the Crumblewicks were won over to Miss Phillips and became ardent fans. By the time of her marriage she had won the Crumblewicks over entirely and they counted themselves as devoted fans. Despite this, Joan and Betty are unlikely ever to take to tongue studs and much prefer a nice clean snood and crisp starched stock, asserted by a simple but elegant gold stock pin. Aachen