Sunday, 20 November 2016
Sifting through the memories
I have spent the entire morning looking through all my photographs, looking for one batch in particular (still missing) but I have managed to find the early ones I wanted, which show Trish aged 16. The one above is her sitting on her New Forest pony Nickie (Prince Nickovitch, we were into our Russian names in those days, influenced by Ilya Kuryakin from the Man from Uncle!) Any riders among you of a certain age may remember the correct seat on a horse was so that you could just see your toes in front of your knees - though it looks rather WW1 military to our eyes now!!
Another line up - Trish and Nickie (who still has his tongue out); Me with Maize, also New Forest, and just a yearling; and Hilary with Donna, who was a 3 yr old then, and also New Forest. In the background were grey broodmare Cindy and her yearling daughter Corinne. They belonged to the gypsies, and were always underfed and thin.
We (childhood friends Trish, Rosie and me) kept our ponies at Mr Stark's. He'd been a Farrier in WW1, and surviving the war, had bought a 10 acre smallholding on Portsmouth Road, where he kept pigs, chickens and 3 Welsh Black steers we called Simon, Garfunkel and Curley. We paid 2/6d a week rent (including hay). Feed for the ponies was kept in the shed where the pigswill was cooked up, and going in there during the dark of a winter's evening, loud were our screams when the rats ran over our wellies!
We used to walk the ponies for miles along the lanes and they were completely traffic proof long before we ever rode them in traffic.
In the early 1960s we had learned to ride (after a fashion - no instructors there!) at Testwood Riding School, and Tricia's favourite was a fleabitten grey Connemara mare called Mandy. We used to help out at the stables on the Saturday - ride and lead ponies up from the fields, groom them, cut chaff on the chaff cutter (amazing we never lost our fingers, Health & Safety would have had a field day with that), used woollen stable bandages as tail bandages (one flick of a tail and they flew off across the stable), went down the Rec at lunch time and Trish would have a very frugal "lunch" of a frozen lemon mousse - you ate them like an ice cream.
We went dancing at the Royal Pier in Southampton, wore a lipstick called The Palest, thought that girls who wore mascara were trollops, used Manhattan Perfume, rode on the back of Mods' Scooters, hung out in the Mirabelle Cafe (ooh, that Mac the Knife with his tattoos - he was Dangerous), and met a succession of unsuitable boyfriends (more of which later).
Trish worked for local Government after she dropped out of 6th Form, and worked part time at the Concorde Jazz club at Stoneham, behind the bar. She learned to drive and had an old Morris Minor. I can remember trying to drive home in heavy rain one night and the wipers broke, and we took our tights off and tied them to the wipers (through open windows) and limped home pulling the wipers to and fro.
Trish met John Rennie and I can still remember thinking, ah, this is the one, when after 3 weeks she announced "I'm still not bored with him yet!" There's an accolade . . .
They were married in 1975 and went on to have a son and a daughter, and throughout all her married life we would phone and meet up regularly - she has always been like the sister I never had. She supported me when my first marriage broke up (to be honest, it was doomed from the start) and then through a series of rather rocky relationships, also doomed from the start. Gosh, I bent her ear on MANY occasions, and arrived sobbing on her doorstep too, but Trish was always the sensible one to my wearing my heart on my sleeve and leaping in where it really would have been prudent to at least open my eyes before leaping.
Of course, as the years went by we took different pathways in life, and in her 20s Rosie and her husband and son, and extended family moved back to New Zealand to live, but we have always kept in touch.
When we moved to Wales nearly 30 years ago Trish and I saw less of one another, but she and John and the children managed a few holidays down here and I went to stay with her too, as they moved to a series of different houses on the edge of the New Forest. She inherited her daughter's pony Siddy when Laura discovered boys and rode him until a year or two before she became ill - he was always a bit full-on and with her severe scoliosis, it became more sensible for her to ride her friend's old pony Tango instead, and her friend rode Siddy.
Trish was always a great animal lover and supporter of animal charities, and a vegetarian since she was 10 years old. She took a firm stance over vivisection, fox-hunting, animals for slaughter and was an early supporter of animal rights, demonstrating (and often being arrested) on protests. She subsequently became a vegan. She never backed down from her beliefs, and influenced friends and family to back her stance. She was true to her beliefs until the very end.
In 2004, Rosie came over to England to visit family and friends, and we had a wonderful get-together here for a few days. In the photo above are Little Lin - who helped us with the ponies at Mr Stark's, and shared a flat with Trish for a time (there is also a Big Lin, based purely on height), Rosie (standing), Trish doing something practical and me looking rather jolly, as we'd been on the pop and I think were probably a bottle down at this point!
Rosie is an artist and brought her paints and we had some lovely days out - probably visiting Skomer Island was one of the highlights, as it was so beautiful on the day we went, and the Puffins were so tame. We watched a pod of Dolphins at the back of the island, surrounded by acres of Red Campion. Happy days.
Lots and lots of memories have come flooding back as I look back on our shared lives, but I have to say there is one vivid one which pretty well sums up Trish and her no-nonsense approach to life. When we were 17 or so, we met a couple of blokes at a dance, and I think Trish saw one of them a couple of times, and he had something of hers she had lent him, a book I think, and she wanted it back. He was parked outside her house in a sports car, his mate with him (smug git he was too). Trish asked for the book back but Gilbert (dear God, what was his mother thinking?) wouldn't give it to her. Trish got really riled and began to hit him with her handbag, and I quickly joined in. As we were belabouring this bloke, a police car pulled up on the other side of the road and a woman police officer walked across and said, "What's the problem? Are you two girls OK?" I looked at Trish, she looked at me, and she answered the police woman, "No problem at all officer" and lifted her handbag again and carried on walloping Gilbert and the police woman left us to it! That's my girl . . .