Thus far, I have two titles to my autobiography. The first is Memoirs of a Coalminer’s Daughter. I think this carries some gravitas and fits in with the idea of the continuation of the tradition of working-class women’s autobiography. The other title, ‘Why it was a bad idea to get me Les Miserables dvd for Christmas’, is utilised in a postmodern sense, and its significance will become evident as my autobiography progresses.
Chapter One: ‘April Fool’. This is intended as a reference to my birthday, albeit when looking back at some of the things I have done and said, I cringe and think, ‘What a fucking idiot!’ On these occassions ‘April Fool’ seems wholly appropriate as a pre-text. It also affords me some comfort in knowing that I’m not entirely to blame for my own foolishness: I can’t help it, it’s in the stars.
Case in point: I remember when I was doing A-level psychology, on one occasion the teacher said she thought that it was a good idea if we all wore (what I heard as) mouse suits. ‘Well, yeah,’ I said, ‘it could be interesting and fun, although perhaps we would get a bit hot and the long tails might be a health and safety issue.’ She gave me a strange look of incomprehension (the sort I have now grown accustomed to). ‘Mao suits,’ she said, ‘MAO SUITS!.. M.A.O. Do you not know what a Mao suit is?’ Well, quite frankly I did not. (Let’s get this straight from the start, nobody told me anything.) ‘Oh,’ I giggled nervously, ‘I thought you said mouse suits.’ (Psychologists and mice, you know…long tradition and all that.) Needless to say, the rest of the class found this episode quite amusing. The teacher did not…she gave me a look of disdain, muttered something about me being ‘a silly girl’ and turned away. My heart sank. Henceforth, she would look on me as a moron and they would probably have a good laugh about it in the staff room. She didn’t bother explaining to me what a mao suit is, or why she thought it would be a good idea if we all wore one. But I was intrigued, and after the lesson I made a point of finding out for myself. This was probably my impromtu introduction to communist ideaology. I didn’t think much on it at the time. Now I’ve had time to reflect on the significance of what she was talking about, I would probably agree.
Last Tuesday morning I ran into the Quorn hunt while out for my morning constitutional. Wait, I’m not going to launch into a diatribe about the ethics of hunting, but it did
unexpectedly remind me of my horsey days and prompted this:
Chapter Two: Tally-oh no!
I remember going hunting with the Quorn. This happened. Twice.
After leaving school I went to work as a working-pupil at a riding school in the Vale of Belvoir. I lived-in which meant I got food and lodgings, a very small monetary allowance and free riding lessons. In return I had to look after some horses and give riding lessons. There were more or less six of us working-pupils. We all lived together in what was called the bunk house. It was really a (not very) glorified large shed. There was a living room, a small kitchen area, and a bedroom that was partitioned into six small spaces with wardrobes and chests of draws, just big enough to hold a single bed. It was really cold in the winter. Once, we had to be temporarily transferred to the guest rooms in the main house, in case we died of hypothermia while sleeping. At night, we had company. There were rats or mice running about, I daren’t look! (On reflection, it was a really big health and safety issue to have our living quarters situated so close to the muck heap!) We were always busy. There was always something that had to be done: horses fed and watered, mucked-out, groomed, excercised, and tacked-up. In addition we had to give and have riding lessons; clean bridles and saddles; sweep the yard; rake the indoor school and outdoor menage; and collect the horse poo from the fields. We used to hack out in the woods around Belvoir Castle. Such a lovely place! On one occasion, I was having a riding lesson in the indoor school when someone unexpectedly opened the massive metal sliding doors, and the horse I was on (the inconsiderate beast) seeing daylight, decided to call it a day and bolted for freedom. My face caught the edge of one of the doors and I was deposited on the unforgiving concrete ground. I looked like the elephant man for about six weeks after. We worked really hard. There just wasn’t time to watch the telly, and the internet hadn’t been invented. I got one day off a week. I went home and slept all day. I know what people mean when they say they were poor but happy. We were our own little community. A few years ago, when I felt sad, I went back to visit the riding school. I couldn’t find it. I remembered it was down a hill and on the left-hand side, just after the bend. I drove up and down the road a few times thinking my memory had got it wrong. Then I realised. There was a new housing development where the riding school used to be. It was all gone.
To cut a long story short: