Stefano and his boys got to work with gusto and within a few days the upstairs of my house started looking like the upstairs of a house.
‘I’ve got walls!’ I exclaimed, after one day. The next day: ‘I’ve got doors!’
The day after that I had a wardrobe. ‘Oh, you are wonderful!’ I told Stefano, and he looked at me with his usual expression, a bemused grin. ‘Getting… there…’ he said, in between the screeching of his boys putting electric saws through sheets of plasterboard.
‘There’s just one thing,’ I said. ‘What are these?’ A bag of pink doorknobs lay on a table.
‘You don’t like?’ he said. ‘They wouldn’t be my first choice,’ I said. So he made me promise to go to B&Q to buy knobs.
‘Yes, yes, I will,’ I said. ‘Just as soon as I get back from picking up this lorry.’ ‘Lorry?’ he said, frowning deeply to signify that he was moving from bemusement to bafflement.
While the Albanian boys have been making me a house, I have been buying a horse lorry. Just a little one, to transport the thoroughbred to somewhere not run by the Liberal Democrats, where I am allowed to ride her.
Realistically, the No Horse-Riding signs in this village are not coming down while the Libs are in charge, and they will be until at least next year, when the borough elections are held, and possibly for ever if enough Tory voters go on buying into the idea that voting Lib Dem locally is a harmless and rather fun hobby, a dalliance or flirtation with the gauche or risqué, rather like a trip to a fetish club or a weekend’s bog snorkelling.
So I am going to need horse transport. Presumably, the No Horse-Riding policy has resulted in quite a few people having to buy 3.5-tonne lorries to get their horses from their stable yards to the nearby bridleways, which is an interesting environmental position for the Libs to have.
None of this prejudice is remotely legal, of course. One of the tracks they’ve banned horses from is a byway — open to all non-mechanised vehicles and horses by law — and the other is simply a road, a public highway. But I don’t think the laws mean much to these people. Or if they do, they’re working towards a total nationwide ban on all horse-riding anyway, on the basis that
a) they don’t know how to do it and b) posh, rich people know how to do it and they don’t want to look at posh, rich people knowing how to do anything.
Being part of the silent majority of horse-owners who are neither posh nor rich, I found a cheap lorry, a 1980s Ford Transit with a green cab emblazoned with faded gold lettering spelling ‘Horses’. The reg was all Gs and Ls and almost spelled a name.
‘It’s called Gill!’ I told the young girl who had put it up for sale on Facebook, when I went to see it at the stable yard where she worked.
‘It’s called Denis,’ she corrected me, flatly, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world.
A tiny slip of a thing with blonde hair she was, so I contented myself with the thought, as I climbed up into the cab, that if she could drive this rusted old beast then I could.
The engine spluttered to life and I stabbed around with the long gear-stick, almost getting it to move, before it choked out. ‘Oh, no petrol,’ said the girl, and went to get a can.
I drove it round the car park twice. But it had a year’s MOT. When I went back to pick it up, I couldn’t start it. ‘Again!’ she complained, and went for the can. ‘There’s £4 in that now,’ she said, tipping it in. Did she want the loose change, on top of the several thousand I had just given her?
I decided to brazen it out, driving off with a wave and a screaming of gears. ‘Don’t take yer foot off the accelerator!’ the girl called after me. ‘Come on, Gill,’ I said, as we roared down the country lanes in first gear. After stopping at a petrol station in Woking, to the fascination of the locals on their way to mosque, the little lorry cheered up considerably and we chugged home nicely.
I’m thrilled. I’m going to use it to go drag hunting when the season starts next month. The way things are going, the left will probably succeed in getting pretend hunting banned soon, as a pretext to the ban on all horse-riding. After that, who knows? Stiff penalties for the illegal manufacturing of jodhpurs, certainly, and possibly a year’s imprisonment for the wearing of wax jackets.