The weekend before last I went horse-riding with a friend in the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours drive north west of Sydney. Since the last time I’d been on a horse was when I was about 12 years old, my feeling of sublime confidence about the whole deal was probably misplaced. But I just assumed I’d enjoy it and do it adequately.
My friend and several other people on the ride were nervous, however.
“They look very big. Can I have a smaller one?”
Any smaller and your feet would be trailing in the mud on either side. Muppet.
“What if I fall off?”
It will hurt. So just don’t fall off, k?
“Do I pick it up if it poops?”
Er, no. Unless you really want to.
It turns out that riding a horse is like riding a bike. Well, except for the fact that one is inanimate and the other has a mind of its own with clear ideas about what constitutes ‘the trail’. One needs to stop to wee, the other doesn’t. One necessitates you rising out of the saddle in rhythm when it trots, the other only needs you to rise out of the saddle in order to haul your lardy arse up steep hills. But, like I say, other than that, pretty similar.
My body remembered how to do it… which is weird when you consider that every single one of the cells that make up my body have died and been replaced – in some cases many times over – since I was 12 years old. So quite how I seem to have a ‘muscle memory’ of horse riding stumps me.
2. Swedish fancy dress party
Another skill which it seems I still have is the ability to make decent fancy dress party costumes. This one was for a friend’s Swedish theme party (she’s off on a work exchange program to Stockholm for three months) and was put together in 3 hours – including the trip to the Op Shop to get the second-hand black skirt and yellow skirt which I used for the apron – plus sewing time. Tacking on the flowers and making the cap from a pillow case was the most fun. Plaiting my own hair took the longest time; I hadn’t done that in many years either, and it took a few tries before it came back to me.
Oh, and that’s me on the right. Disconcerting when a man in drag has better legs…
3. dinner party
I could swear I used to be able to cook but that skill deserted me (or should that be desserted me?) last night when I buggered up an extremely simple meal which I have cooked many times before. My mind just would not focus – I kept drifting off and losing the thread of the conversation over dinner after managing to steam the sugar snap peas til they were grey and flaccid, as well as making the sweet potato mash more like sweet potato soup. And don’t start me on the roast asparagus, cherry tomato, black olives and pine nuts starter…
At least my dear friend French-Teacher-Lady and I were able to have a laugh over my attempts to make pancakes without a non-stick pan. My fiendishly sticky pan should be studied by scientists looking for strong glues to keep the thermal panels on the outside of the Space Shuttle while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere; seriously, it has uncanny – one might even say supernatural – adhesiveness. I think geckos must rub their feet in it before they tackle ceilings…
I miss French-Teacher-Lady. She used to work here and she was the person with whom I had most in common and whose company never fails to cheer me. Sadly, I didn’t get much chance to chat to her properly last night, or her new man.
As an aside – why do people insist on characterising me as some massively brainy swot? Okay, I know a lot about a limited number of subjects, and probably more than average about a few more subjects, but there are VAST areas of knowledge of which I am entirely ignorant (maths, physics and chemistry to name but three). I’m not a bloody autistic savant, I’m just interested in history, philosophy, geology, archaeology, natural history and art which means I read and remember stuff on those subjects.
But back to the cooking fiasco. I dislike it intensely when I fail to accomplish something I ought to be able to do. It really upsets me.
And I know it probably didn’t matter to my guests, all of whom were gracious enough to say all the usual polite things about the food, but it mattered to me, dammit.
4. driving and parking
I don’t drink (apart from the very occasional shandy) so I usually offer to be the designated driver after parties. The drive home on Saturday night – in full Swedish national costume – was enlivened by my passenger screeching “Red light! Red light!” at every junction.
By the time I arrived back at mine, having dropped three inebriated friends at their several north shore abodes, I was feeling jolly pleased with myself. I had, after all, managed to focus on the road crossing Harbour Bridge (the lanes are extremely narrow) despite hundreds of distracting coloured lights reflecting insistently in the rain puddles, and we had not crashed and had to be pulled from the mangled wreckage by the Fire Brigade. Although that would have been jolly exciting…
However, parallel parking has never been among my skills. On Saturday night, I needed a visa to get from the car door to the curb.
5. missing my best (male) mate
My Running-Accountant friend started dating a woman he met online at the end of last year and since then I have seen less and less of him. Which is a pity – we used to swap books and have really interesting conversations about stuff (mostly we disagreed, but that’s okay) over dinner once or twice a month, as well as going running together. He rang me yesterday to say he missed me and that we should get together and catch up. Which was lovely.
His girlfriend has stopped being mean to me now, too, and is contenting herself with merely patronising me as though I’m some hot-house freak child who can’t survive in the real world.
My ‘thinking before I speak’ skills are improving with age, though. For instance, last time I saw her I did not say:
“Back off, bitch, I have organised successful fundraising bike rides across India and treks through Nepal so I think I can manage to order my own food in a Thai restaurant, thank you.”
I didn’t sleep well last night (which is unusual; even when I have nightmares I usually still get a full 8 hours sleep around them. Sleeping is one of my top skills.) and it is making me grumpy.