A usual winter week on the farm. A new horse arrived, purchased from the sales. Race meetings brought us a winner and some well-placed horses. Jockeys came in and schooled horses over the fences.
Everything has been working well on the gallops. I sense positive results ahead. Then, I’m brought back down to earth with a visit from our friendly council inspector who dropped off a long list of new reasons not to give my barn the ‘sign-off’ certificate I desperately need.
“Ha. You’ve done something to upset someone on the council,” my builder tells me, laughing. “You haven’t stolen someone’s boyfriend, have you?” my father asks seriously. “Certainly not,” I reply. We all chuckle.
Then, at the weekend, it arrived. An email. It sat in my inbox like a shark circling its victim. It wasn’t going anywhere, just waiting to snare me. I ignored it for a day, then two. There was plenty to do in order to avoid it; ride out, mend a water bowl or two, check the sheep, again.
Our pessimistic jockey kept tipping over. With every stumble he became less patient and eventually sat down in a huff - Jo Foster
The seven amateur Yorkshire riders set for the Ride of Their Lives to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Care
But it stared up with unblinking eyes every evening when I opened my account, a benign presence in my inbox. I was putting off the inevitable. The moment I knew future plans could all be altered.
It was my term end exam result. To fail would mean being thrown off my university course midway through. My essay submission had been accompanied with an ingratiating apology. I knew it was sub-standard work.
Let’s call it bad timing. Pressure to complete the house, secure finances, my son moving schools, deadlines to keep, races to attend.
Everything had been wrestling for my limited attention before Christmas, along with this essay.
For weeks the essay notes had sat on my disordered desk screaming for attention, of which I had tried to oblige.
Each time they had left me feeling drained and frustrated. Like an unsettled newborn, I didn’t yet know exactly what it wanted. The outcome, I knew, could dictate so much but I was struggling to grasp the concept.
Things have changed since I was a bright-eyed young graduate. Communication is now done via email, with a five-day reply.
I finally worked up the courage to open it. 40 per cent or less and it was the end of the road.
I pressed the result button. It flicked open brightly like a spiteful trick, listing all the students and their results. My mouth was dry. Suddenly there it was. I read again, checking my sight wasn’t playing up. 54 per cent. I couldn’t believe it. A pass.
I laughed, a mixture of surprise and relief. Just two more modules left, and I am done. I can almost smell the finish line.