Saturday 14 June 2014

Oedipal Confrontation in Deepest Gloucestershire

I have taken to art therapy to cope with the trauma
Imagine a narrow bridleway where even in winter there is only just room for two humans to pass. In a hot June, after spring rain, there is scarcely room between the high banks of stinging nettles for me to walk the dog. We have come half a mile since the last gap in the nettles or other escape route. Large horse ridden by tall man in impeccable riding gear appears from the other direction. Oedipal crisis.

When Oedipus was forced off the road on his way to Delphi, by a horse-drawn carriage, the self-important king it was conveying tried to beat the pedestrian Oedipus with a horsewhip. King Laius ended up dead. I noticed that my Mounted Magnifico was fingering his whip. The dog whimpered. I now knew—really knew—how Oedipus had felt.

I wondered whether the man, who was older than me, could logistically be my father if I had secretly been adopted. He uttered a command in a cut-glass accent: ‘COME CLOSER AND YOU CAN STEP ASIDE WHERE THE NETTLES AREN'T QUITE AS TALL!’ I was expected to walk straight into the face of large animal I had never met, which might rear, kick, or bite at any moment, and plunge into a wall of stinging nettles six foot high. ‘Can’t horses walk backwards?’ I mumbled. 

Equestrian Toff gestured behind him. He was followed by a miniature of himself, a boy of about 12 sneering down at me from a glossy skewbald pony. Could he be my son? Had I once had a supercilious boy-child I have forgotten about? The thought made me surrender. I retreated with the dog into the nettles. I am still suffering from the stings.

Laius was the one who ended up in the nettles
My previous equine confrontation was with a police horse charging at me outside Parliament during the demonstration against the privatization of university teaching in 2010. But this Oedipal Face Off  occurred near my home. I like horses: it’s the riders I have problems with. 

The moneyed people who ride horses round here have a sense of total entitlement. If they want to ride two abreast, and walk at two miles per hour, then you miss the train you are driving to get to earn a living. What is worse, they smirk and wave at you as if to say ‘Isn’t it GREAT that we have enough money to keep these GORGEOUS horses and you are so LUCKY to be delayed by such a CHARMING SPECTACLE?’  Before they return to their lovely mansions, their equids use the public highway as a toilet. It gets stuck in your car wheel hubs. 

'blame my rider' (pic cropped by S. Poynder)
I was brought up in a Midlands city. I agreed to live in the countryside out of love. I yearn to return to the wide, horse-free tarmacadam boulevards of my urban Nottingham youth. 

And I STILL don’t know whether horses can be made to walk backwards, or whether the Horrid Horseman was my dad.

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