Did you hear it, the other day? Brilliant it was, to wake up and hear it, to listen. That was when I realised that the night had not been filled with familiar noises. There was no percussion of rain and hail playing out on the window; the slates on the roof rattled not; and there was no whistling wind finding gaps in the window sealant. The old coppiced willow outside the window creaked not; and the hedging could not even raise a rustle. It was The Sound of Silence.
And it was the same again the next morn, after a day of calm. But it was too early, for the moon and the snow worked a trick of the light, and dawn was still a distance away. The trudge to the office belied the calm, for the snow lay thick and deep, piled up against walls and doors, adding half a foot or more to the roof of the car.
This is not what you want on a Saturday, especially a Junior Cup Saturday. There was no chance of the pitch being clear, the terracing safe, or the opposition bus getting out of Cumnock. Game Off. Bugger.
In time we began to think about getting out. Was the road open? Some work with the wheelbarrow, a shovel and a path well trodden from the grit bin up and down the hill should work. The old barrow was more like a sieve, leaking as it trundled on it’s flat tyre, the metal disintegrating as the salt did what salt does.
We needed wheels turning on the road, working the grit in, spreading the goodness. The car made it down, and back up again, winter tyres doing what once four-wheel-drive laughed at. Yes, we can go the to the stables. Game Off. Bugger.
For it is Saturday, and Girl Urchin is taking a break from drama club, and trying her hand at riding. Well, she’d been once; and was going back again.
But there was a problem. Having made the hill passable, with grit and tyres, up came a tractor, shovel down, a makeshift plough. But it didn’t make the top, and blocked the road, engine seized. We had a problem. Game Off. Bugger.
Another tractor, chains attached. We’ll pull it out, free-wheel down the hill. But it was not be. Brakes seized too. Immobile. Stuck. And time was passing. I was summonsed. To do what I knew not. And the bacon rolls were ready; a slice of xmas cake to follow. Tools. The garage. Snow shovelled away from the door, and there she sat, miserable.
It was the first thing I saw, the bike, the flat tyre. It must have been that last fateful ride, the icy one. Farmers flailing the hawthorn hedges. Puncture. And Murphy’s Law, the one of Sod. It was the back wheel of course, the one with all the gear mechanism and the manky chain stuff. Sod it.
Anyway, back to the tractors. Nothing doing. And Murphy’s Law again, for up the hill comes a snow plough, intent on clearing the road, being paid for it. Three heads to scratch, round immobile tractor, and riding lesson time drawing ever closer.
We could get out the other way? The plough driver agreed to come in from the other end, our escape route. Two and a half miles, ploughed , clear-ish. He left a rumble strip, the whole way, of tractor tyre ridges. But the winter tyres were just the job and we made the main road, and we made the stables.
Up, down, up, down, and trot to the end of the ride. Go large.
The whole script came flooding back. I could spot the flaws without thinking; those toes pointing down; the beasts doing as little as they were allowed; each corner being cut by more and more as the experienced leaders were followed by the novices and the lazy.
The years drifted away; back to when Saturdays were all about riding and not football. She looked like The Prodigal, sitting there, concentrating, red cheeks in the gloom. I know where this is going to lead, and soon it will be body armour and chaps, and horsey smells. But it doesn’t look like we’ll need to worry about allergies, about rheumy eyes and runny nose. Maybe we’ll not need to worry about nights in hospital and concussion, though there will be falls. Bloody Murphy again.
No more ponies; you heard it hear first. But just maybe sisters will find one another. And all I heard was The Sound of Silence.