Over the stable door: Why dressing the Patterdale is leaving my baffled

Writing has many similarities to racing, either in the short story or long story form.
Writing has many similarities to racing, either in the short story or long story form.
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From the moment I wake the days just seem to rush by. At this time of year rising from my contended slumber grows increasingly difficult.

When the alarm jolts me to life I look out to see darkness, beyond it there is merely a hint of dawn creeping over the skyline and the pull of a warm duvet feels stronger than ever.

I snuggle back down to enjoy a few sacred moments of warmth and comfort before guilt begins to niggle, disturbing my peace. Animals are relying on me, waiting patiently to be fed. Not until they here the familiar beat of footsteps shuffling down the yard do the horses cry to greet me.

Baffle the Patterdale careers around excitedly showing far too much energy for such an hour. She is always so ridiculously happy to see me she brightens my mood on the darkest days.

Before we ride out the first lot I must remind myself to tie her up or she will follow us. It is still dusk so the traffic sees us in our fluorescent sheets but not the little black figure accompanying us, wiggling around sniffing for rabbits in the verge. Last year as a puppy she was hit by a car. She rolled over and over underneath it until I thought she must be dead but by some miracle she jumped up and ran off squealing and holding her leg aloft. She had broken it but thankfully there was little else to show from the harrowing ordeal.

For the rest of the winter I dressed her in a fluorescent puppy coat which she hated. I would find them discarded everywhere; among bales of straw in the barn, hooked on gateways, rubbed off by a tree, down a rabbit hole or chewed up on her bed. The naughty Patterdale made it her mission to wriggle out of them as soon as a new and increasingly expensive one replaced the last.

I became an expert on incandescent dog coats but have yet to find one she cannot rid herself of. I already have a new stash of Day-Glo jackets for her to model (all too briefly) this winter but may have to resort to designing a straitjacket version before we suffer any further accidents.

I have been thinking about writing a book. It has almost become something of an obsession now, the next lifelong ambition I must fulfil. I have loved writing ever since I was at Menston Junior School. I had the most amazing teacher called Mr Byng who, when I was nine-years-old introduced me to sarcasm and to the endless possibilities my imagination had to offer. Both of which I found utterly appealing. It was a life-changing moment. Almost like the time my younger brother Thomas and I discovered ‘The Young Ones’ on my parent’s portable black and white television set late one night at the tender ages of 10 and 12. It was so amazingly funny and original, like nothing we had seen or heard before. We loved it but knew we would be in serious trouble for watching late night TV when we should have been asleep. It’s a memory neither of us will forget.

I went to see an author discussing her latest novel at the Ilkley Literature Festival recently. She made me realise writing had many similarities to racing.

Writing poetry is the hardest and most intense; every word counts rather like riding in a sprint where you need to be super fit, every move has an effect on the final position and it all counts.

A short story is a mile race; still urgent and intense but on a more diluted level. Then there’s the long fictional novel, the three-mile staying chase of writing. Mistakes might be made, a breather can be taken part way through but ultimately the final result is a long build-up of planning and subtle moves.

I always did prefer riding the staying chasers so I guess that’s where I’m heading.