A Bird in the Hand..

ParrotWhen a joke backfires. Oh dear.

My new neighbours, Vanessa and Craig, with their two delightful off-spring, Reuben and Cicily, had a house-warming party three days ago; we had some lucky heather to give to them and since recently we had been talking a lot about palm reading and doing it in an Irish accent, I decided to combine the two activities and marry it all with a bit of a saucy joke.

My ‘ex’, John, used to relish finding a suitable suspect to play this practical joke on, but the recipient had to be particularly broad-minded. The joke went as follows; you take the hand of the person and hum and ha a bit and ask…’Have you had a parrot in this hand?’ The answer is always ‘No’!!

So, you ask for the other hand and say, ’Ah, but I see you’ve had a cockatoo in this hand!’ There follows some hilarity and coy looks. I’ve witnessed many a culprit but never delivered it myself.

On Tuesday I decided to try my luck at this ploy, but seeing the company at the gathering I thought better of it. So the following morning I gave Vanessa her lucky heather and asked her if she knew about my prowess as a fortune teller, proclaiming I’d often been pretty accurate in my predictions. She didn’t look too surprised, so I took her left hand, asked if she was right-handed, and proceeded. I deliberated and stroked her hand, then pointed at a line from her wrist to her index and asked ‘Funny question, but have you ever had a parrot in this hand’? ‘Parrot’ she repeated. ‘Parrot’?

‘Yes’, I said ‘a parrot’.

‘Umm’, she looks puzzled, ’why do you ask that?

This wasn’t going the way I wanted, so I said ‘Right’, and pushed to get to the punch line before she suspected there was a rabbit away, ‘you’re right-handed aren’t you’?

‘Yes’ says the suspicious victim.

‘Then let me see here. Ahah!’ But you’ve had a cockatoo in this hand I can see’!

She giggled a bit and walked into her new home, coming back with her husband with a grin from ear to ear.

‘How did you do that?’ She was absolutely beaming.

‘Well it’s a knack I have,’ I lied.

‘My mother wouldn’t have a dog in the house, so my father took me to Leeds market and got me a parrot and a cockatoo’ she explained.

Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. Can you Adam and Eve it?





Mother Hen ….Always

Hats off to Louise

Hats off to Louise

If you have a Pussycat, a Treacle, a  Candy and a Bridget, a posse of other  riding school ponies and oft times a box of Golden Retriever puppies, as well as an obligatory  tolerance for teenage hormones, you may be bestowed with  the honorary title of Mother Hen. I was.

In another life, starting around 27 years ago, I began with a potato field ,an enterprise that grew into a veritable monster, a  full blown  Equestrian Centre that began as a little Riding School. The clientele flocked and before long I could not leave the house without a string of children, from toothless to hormonal, at my heels.  Following me was a means to an end….. a pony.  Apart from my own brood of one son and three daughters, husband, and a live-in father, my maternal instincts and love of horses  assured us all of a constant presence of pony-mad children.

They were happy days  and special times for many people, including ourselves.

Enterprising is the word, for cash was short and ingenuity was never far away to stay ahead of the game.

We used to make an annual pilgrimage to the East Midlands County Showground;  the largest show solely for ponies and horses I know of. A whole week of indulgence, hoof oil, plaiting thread, timetables, brow-bands, successes and disappointments.

One of our livery clients with us one year,  Louise, hugely successful in her own right now, was struggling with her confidence and ring-craft. Her father asked me to be firmer with her when we  worked the horse before her class. Louise’s problem was she couldn’t stop her cob, Riff-Raff, after the obligatory gallop.  Duly encouraged and sent into the ring to ‘strut her stuff’. Well, she certainly did get to gallop, and the judge, fortunately, was looking the opposite way as she took some time to ‘pull him up’.  The end result was a place in the evening finale. Despite the horse’s exuberance  she certainly merited  her place in  the evening  performance.

We tickled around and beautified the horse, his tack was impeccable, his coat shone like no other and his rider…….didn’t have the correct top hat and tails! So we begged and borrowed  (we didn’t steal) and in the  final moments the hat went on……..and dropped over her eyes !  Yikes !

Louise was distraught. What could we do ? Can we find another one now, at this last minute?

I ran into our horse-box and pulled out the very thing to ensure a snug fit and not too much discomfort for her head. A lovely big night-time sanitary towel, ‘Always’.  Just the thing!  Oh what a fuss! No, she wasn’t going to wear the hat with that inside! What if it fell off and the thing came out. ‘Well’, I said, ‘they’ll say «  Oh, Pat’s here again »’ ! More encouragement from the sidelines, more lipstick, more rouge for the cheeks and a slap on the bottom ( for the horse) and away she went. No turning back.

Tense moments, and again, she galloped and showed her horse off so well we could applaud no more.  Such success is so sweet, especially when your hat stays in place !

When, in 2003, we decided to move on to a quieter life,  (Ha Ha) our clients, past and present, each presented us with a book of memories, ……. a wonderful  reminder of special times with some extraordinary and special people. More of them later.

At  the beginning of the book of photos of past livery clients and their horse/pony ,  is a lovely picture of Louise and Riff-Raff ready to enter the ring that evening….and the offending article inside her hat. The inscription is as follows………..

Those were the days, those Happy Days, when you were our ‘Mother Hen’.

 We will remember you ‘Always’.