Archive for November, 2011

more pride, more prejudice

It’s a terrifying book. Austen only wrote horror stories. One is dumbfounded by the narrowness of their escape. Lizzy’s predicament is up in your face but I am acutely aware, this time, of Darcy’s. Magnificent estate schmagnificent schmestate. His chances of happiness are slimmer even than hers. Lizzy’s constant companion since earliest childhood? Jane. Darcy’s? That bastard Wickham.

Darcy was raised by wolves.

He’s so constrained. He is so alone. He is twenty-six years old and running the equivalent of a Fortune 100 company. He has hundreds of dependents. His mother and father are dead. Georgiana may turn out to be bright, and poor old Colonel Fitzwilliam is sadly underused, but Bingley and his sisters are not clever people (Caroline has rat-cunning but no real wit) and Lady Catherine de Burgh is a vicious fool.

Why does Darcy fall in love with Lizzy? Same reason anyone does. A person looks at you out of their eyes. Suddenly you are no longer the only person in the room.

i hunted down the hunt

IMG_20111125_113607.jpg by yatima
IMG_20111125_113607.jpg, a photo by yatima on Flickr.

Now the hunter has become the hunted!

louie louie louie lou-ie

I’ve been riding at McIntosh long enough now to have a sense of the changing seasons. In summer, the poplars sparkle in the sunshine and we jump vast fences, laughing at danger. Then one day in October someone flips the switch and it’s winter. The horses have the wind under their tails and riders faceplant in the mud.

By November the outdoor arenas are knee-deep in wet and lessons are in the indoor, where the insane horse-traffic is punctuated by ponies having hysterics on the longe line, and where I cannot ride for toffee.

I’ve had three consecutive Tuesday evenings in the indoor on Louie, who it appears I have not introduced. Louie! Where to begin. He is a black Arabian gelding of extreme typiness. His head is very dished, his ears are small and point together, his eyes are like liquid planetoids melting with expression, his muzzle would fit in a teacup, his coat is velvet, his hoofs are porcelain, his tail is a silken black banner.

He’s the very incarnation of Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion, and when I was a child (and very pro-Arabian horse) I thought that kind of beauty would be an ALL SHALL LOVE HIM AND DESPAIR sort of experience. In fact, hunter/jumper barns consider exquisite black Arabian horses to be pretty much hilarious, and the standard reaction when people see him is more in the OOGLE WOOGLE OO IS AN ICKLE WICKLE PONY end of the spectrum.

I must say Louie doesn’t do much to undermine hunter/jumper stereotypes with respect to the Arabian horse. For the first few weeks he was here, every time he jumped a fence he would duck his head between his front legs so that he could glare at it as he went over to make sure that it didn’t move. He’s gained confidence since then, and his big schtick now is Being Alarmed By The Shadows, Being Alarmed By Creaky Sounds In The Roof, Being Alarmed By Those Fence Poles Stacked Over There, and Just Generally Being Alarmed. He bucks, he stands on his hind legs, he twirls. It’s not as scary as it sounds, because he’s probably only 15hh or 15.2 at most, and even my little short legs can wrap around him and stay on.

He makes me appreciate Bella and Dudley (who it appears I have not introduced.) Those guys are experts. When I give inexpert aids, they fill in the gaps. Louie’s not dumb (probably? A bit hard to tell. Excitable! Filled with glee!) but he was a parade horse; he has no very deep understanding of what it is we are trying to do. Bella and Dudley have theory. They can slice up courses and nail distances better than I can. Louie is always being surprised by poles. He hasn’t figured out yet that the poles are the point, the poles are part of a pattern, the pattern is the way people and horses play games and solve puzzles together. So I have to tell him more, explain things to him.

What’s really lovely about Louie is how responsive he is, how light my aids can be, how he does exactly what I tell him to do. What’s endlessly funny and humbling about him is that when he slams on all four brakes, snorting fire like a young and intemperate dragonlet, then Harrier Jump Jet vertically takes-off over A SINGLE POLE ON THE GROUND it’s because, oh God the shame, that’s exactly what I told him to do.

The way I know I love riding is that even when I am terrible, even when the horse is going backwards and sideways, even when I need three days of Ibuprofen to iron out the consequent kinks in my back, I still had more fun that I would have had doing almost anything else.

pride and prejudice

Trigger warning for: Wickham

Things you notice for the first time on the umptieth read through: the chronology is so exact you could set your watch by it.

Darcy wrote his letter to Elizabeth on Friday, April 10, 1812. In it, he says:

About a year ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her in London; and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate; and thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design…

So Wickham’s attempted rape of Georgiana took place after April 1811 but before, say, September of that year.

Bingley took possession of Netherfield “before Michaelmas”; ie, the quarter-day on which houses were traditionally let: September 29.

This explains something that had always puzzled me: why did Bingley and Darcy come to Hertfordshire anyway? Bingley was clutching at straws, hoping a change of scene might help. Help whom? Darcy, who was blaming himself for his sister’s near-catastrophe.

Proud? Prejudiced? Sure, but Darcy’s early scenes resonate even more if you read him as clinically depressed (my diagnosis) or suffering from PTSD (per Liz.)

Pobrecito. No sooner is he finding Elizabeth’s face rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression in her dark eyes, than (on Tuesday, November 20) he runs into her in the street in Meryton – being introduced to that rapey douchebag Wickham. Fun times, fun times.

the autobiography of bertrand russell

So far ahead of his time. On institutional corruption:

While I was an undergraduate, I had regarded all these men merely as figures of fun, but when I became a Fellow and attended college meetings, I began to find that they were serious forces of evil. When the Junior Dean, a clergyman who raped his little daughter and became paralysed with syphilis, had to be got rid of in consequence, the Master went out of his way to state at College Meeting that those of us who did not attend chapel regularly had no idea how excellent this worthy’s sermons had been.

I hear Penn State is good at some kind of sportsball. And Australian journalists are currently apologizing for yet another abuser because he wrote with great sensitivity about cricket. ALL RIGHT THEN. Here is Russell on Keynes:

…it seems to be to be owing to him that Britain has not suffered from large-scale unemployment in recent years. I would go further and say that if his theories had been adopted by financial authorities throughout the world the great depression would not have occurred. There are still many people in America who regard depressions as acts of God. I think Keynes proved that the responsibility for those occurrences does not rest with Providence.

I tweeted parts of that second quote through my work account, and an apparently-Randroid work contact pointed out that many books disagree, notably Friedman and Schwartz in their A Monetary History of the United States. Esprit d’escalier: I should have replied that I regard the current recession as an act of those who regard Friedman as God.

In the same tweet I called Russell Edwardian Cambridge’s Skud. Skud raised a virtual eyebrow, but I stand by it: I meant the lucid prose style and the ability to, for example, shed light on a bitter political struggle by examining a version control system.

bebe the circus queen the cat

Basement cat by yatima
Basement cat, a photo by yatima on Flickr.

that’s why they call it fall

Bella was fresh on Sunday morning. Maybe… maybe too fresh. We rode a bending line from a crossrail to a vertical, then we were supposed to roll back to an oxer. But I was over-focused on the vertical and forgot about the rollback until we had landed, at which point I asked Bella for a canter pirouette in front of the sunken lane and she responded with three sharp bucks. I have a distinct memory of hovering above her at the top of the parabola, still holding the reins, saying in conversational tones: “Oh. Shit,” before gravity took over and I plummeted to earth.

I landed on the broad plane of my pelvis and knocked the wind out of myself. I have spent the week with a cowboyish hitch in my gait and a large bottle of Ibuprofen to hand.

Sometimes I worry this blog will turn into Interesting Falls From My Horse.

chocolate mouse

A chocolate mouse by yatima
A chocolate mouse, a photo by yatima on Flickr.

Claire is having her school friends round for a cat party. Have mercy upon me O Lord.


“Once there was an evil witch and she made a spell that looked like blueberry juice. The people loved blueberry juice so much they drank it all up and then they were under the spell! The evil witch cackled and cackled. One young girl did not drink the blueberry juice because she did not like blueberry juice. Her name was Bella. The evil witch disguised herself. But she loved apple juice. The witch made the spell look like apple juice and taste like apple juice as well. The girl drank it all up!

“Then the little girl followed her everywhere and the other people did as well. Then she noticed something. That she was following the evil witch! And she told everyone! It didn’t curse her at all. It half-cursed her. Then Bella’s big sister Calypso became the new evil witch. The witch drank the evil spell. But! Calypso wanted a partner and she chose Bella. And her friend as well. Her name is Julia. But! Julia saw Bella and she really really really wanted to be a witch. But then Julia saw the old witch. She became a member of the Witch Family.

“And Calypso wanted her as a partner as well. And a speeding cheetah came to the castle! And gave them a potion! But! They all four of them drank it up together and went to show everyone in the entire city that they were best friends! In the entire world! Everyone yelled “We love the new witch Calypso!””