Author Topic: The Steve letters....  (Read 4628 times)

Offline MidnightZodiac

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Re: The Steve letters....
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2012, 08:16:21 PM »
It was early afternoon on the Tuesday, that Steve noticed a bright yellow Rover SD1 pulling up on the drive beside the house. He watched a rather smartly dressed small man emerge from the car. “Are you the hired help?” he called. “Dyson,” he continued, “Major Neville Dyson. Here about the horses don’t you know.” He ignored Steve’s offer of a handshake, and brusquely carried on, “Well, thought you’d have them ready for inspection, busy man don’t you know. Come on, let’s see them.”  Steve had taken an instant dislike to the Major already, but gave a low whistle, and the two horses that were on the far side of the paddock, came cantering towards him.

They came to a halt a few inches from him, and Steve slipped on their headcollars before rewarding them with a mint each. He dropped their leadropes to the floor and each horse stood there perfectly still groundtied, knowing that they mustn’t move until they were asked by Steve. “Humph,” started the Major “Not much to look at are they, I usually deal with racehorses, jumpers that sort of thing don’t you know, so no buyers for this sort of horse really.” Steve thought to himself that if the Major said don’t you know once more, he’d ram it back down his throat. “Very little market value in these, only taking them as a favour to Jeremy. God knows how long I’ll be stuck with feeding them on my yard. Still, no backing out now don’t you know, but it’s the last favour I’m doing anyone”

Steve looked at the mare and called her over, she stood by him. “Well Major what do you think of this boy, you can see he’s well behaved, perfect lady or teenager’s hack and confidence giver. Would be ideal for a nervous rider.” The Major was unimpressed “Not my cup of tea don’t you know, just like thousands of other worthless horses.” “But,” Steve interrupted “Look at his bone, that alone should mark him as something special.” The Major looked at the horse’s head and body, “Sorry, can’t agree at all, nothing special here don’t you know. Almost worthless, a few pounds at best.” Steve pointed to the gelding, still standing where he had been asked. “Well, what about the mare?” he asked, “Surely she’s worth something, brood perhaps?”. The Major didn’t even bother to look. “I’ve thought it over, and though I’m going to have to care for these two specimens for weeks, I’ll go as far as fifty pounds for the pair. I gather you have permission to sell the horses on your employer’s behalf.”

“Fifty pounds,” mused Steve, “Will that be cash?” “No, it won’t,” replied the Major, “Not that it’s any of your business, but I’ll give Jeremy a cheque and he can pass it on…. Now does fifty pounds sound like a fair offer?” “Yes it does,” said Steve “But sadly they’re not for sale.” The Major started a tirade against Steve, but he remained calm, resisting the urge to knock the Major flying. “When the Governess told me you were a friend of Jeremy’s I knew exactly what your pitch would be. You claim to be a dealer, but don’t know where bone is, nor can you tell the sex of a horse when it’s standing in front of you. No doubt these two were going to the meat man, or to a real dealers for a couple of hundred quid… Not bad is it, a hundred and fifty quid for a day’s work.” The Major started to proclaim his innocence and experience, but Steve continued “I sold these two yesterday for four hundred pounds, they’re going to a local farmer as a present for his twin daughters… And before you ask, that cash is already in the Governess’ bank account. I have no doubt that eventually you and your pal will get your grubby fingers on that money, but not today.” The Major knew that he’d been beaten. “Now,” said Steve, “What you’re going to do is to countersign this receipt I’ve made out to you for the sum of four hundred pounds. You’ll tell her that you’ve sold the horses on, and that will be an end to it.” “If I ever see you again, I’ll call the Police… You see Major, or should I just say ’mate’, I’ve seen you before… Liverpool jail if I remember correctly, you were just coming in for a stretch for fraud on the day of my release.”
"We shape horses, then they shape us, but, we must be what we want our horses to become."

Offline MidnightZodiac

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Re: The Steve letters....
« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2012, 07:00:41 PM »
The horses were collected after school time the next day. The farmer arrived in his horse box, accompanied by his twin girls, still in their school uniforms. They looked so alike that Steve couldn’t tell them apart as they chose which horse they wanted. While he was sad to see the horses go, at least he was sure that they were going to a home where they would be loved and cared for… and that meant far more to him than he cared to admit. He showed the girls the special things he had taught the horses in his time with them, and gave them all of the feeds he had left. He told them if they wanted to change their diets, to do it slowly over a few days so the horse’s systems would have time to adapt.

“Thanks Steve,” said the farmer, “As I told you, the girls already have ponies, but they’re nearly outgrown, so these two have come along just in the nick of time… And, I won’t have to buy them any presents for their birthday in a fortnight or so.” Luckily the girls never heard their dad’s remark, they were too busy admiring and cuddling their new mounts. “Oooo,” said Steve, “Don’t forget their saddles, tack and grooming kits will you.” He helped the girls load the horses and the heavy saddles into the box, then stood watching as it drove slowly back past the house and away up the road. Suddenly everything was quiet and calm. Even the birds seemed to pick up on his melancholy and stopped singing, the breeze too died and the leaves on the trees barely moved, it was as though the whole world was staging a minute’s silence in respect of his sadness and loss.

But he still had work to do, he pushed the barrow round the paddocks for the last time, collecting the droppings, then he completely stripped the stables, before coating each floor with a thick, brand new layer of shavings. Both boxes smelt not of horses, but of chipped pine… pleasant to humans, but to horses? he wondered. Then he tidied out the caravan that had been his home, doubtless some dealer would shortly be arriving to take that to a new life too. Apart from the few things he immediately needed, he packed away his belongings, and it slightly shocked him to think that all he owned in the world fitted neatly into a rucksack and small suitcase. ‘But’ he thought ‘There’s more to life than possessions, it’s not what you own, it’s how you feel inside that really makes you rich.’ He thought about what the Governess had said about having money, and how it had changed her life for the worse, then he thought about Dora… Having money had done her no good either.

He woke at first light the next morning, then realised that there were no longer horses to care for. There was no gentle neighed reminder from the horses to let him know that they considered breakfast time was near. So he used the time to write a few lines to Slugger, and as he wrote he wondered what his friend was up to at that very moment.
"We shape horses, then they shape us, but, we must be what we want our horses to become."

Offline MidnightZodiac

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Re: The Steve letters....
« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2012, 07:06:55 PM »
Dear Slugger,

Well, my time with the Governess is finally at an end. She’s gone to live in London, and the two horses have been sold to a local landowner who I first met when out exercising them. The strange thing is that I actually miss the Governess more than I ever thought I would, Oh I miss the horses too of course, but somehow I have this feeling that their future is now more secure than hers. Before she went she insisted on taking some pictures of me and the horses with her expensive Japanese camera, then she balanced it on a sack of bedding and took some pictures of me and her using it’s self timer thing. I hope they come out, and while I’ll probably never see her again, it would have been nice to have had a picture of the horses and me, just for a keepsake like.

One of her fiancé’s partners in crime turned up Tuesday and tried to con me into letting him have the horses for fifty pounds. But you know what mate, he was useless. If you’re going to be a con-man, at least you should take the trouble to learn a little about the subject of your scam. To be honest I think the closest he’d ever been to a horse were the pictures on a bookie’s wall. To make it worse, I recognised him straight away as an ex con from Liverpool jail, but it was quite amusing to see him going through the motions and making a complete twit of himself. Of course he’s threatened all manner of revenge, but I know it won’t come to anything. He daren’t risk losing the bigger fish that he and his mate are trying to land.

After I’ve finished this I’m walking into town to put it in the post, and to get the latest copy of Horse and Hound. I’m pretty sure that there’ll be plenty of grooms positions advertised in there, so for the time being it’s probably best if you don’t write again until I let you know where I am. At most I’m only here for another couple of days, and any letters will lay in the house until the new owners move in. Hopefully by that time, I’ll be settled somewhere else.

I was sorry to read about Dora, but I have to say straight away that I’m sure you had nothing to do with her problems. Every time I heard her mention your name it was always in connection with something good, unlike her views on me when it seemed that I could do no right, particularly toward the end of my time at the farm. I suppose of the two of us, I’m far more to blame than you ever were Slugger. So, just bear that in mind, and don’t blame yourself. Thinking about it, her behaviour for the last few weeks before I left was a little strange, she was very active, almost running from task to task, and, she was very critical too, completely reversing any decision I made. I didn’t think it peculiar at the time, just putting it down to a Dora tantrum. But perhaps if I’d been a little more alert about these things at the time, she wouldn’t be where she is now.

There is one thing I would agree with you over  though, the fight that the Colonels going to have with his brother. Dora told me a long time ago that her mother in particular is very overbearing and always gets her own way, so I wouldn’t like to quote the odds on the outcome of that bout!

I’ll write again as soon as I have a new address.

Steve.
"We shape horses, then they shape us, but, we must be what we want our horses to become."

Offline MidnightZodiac

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Re: The Steve letters....
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2012, 07:50:16 PM »
As he approached the house on his walk back from the town, Steve noticed that two men were busy in the garden erecting the estate agent’s ‘For Sale’ sign. “Morning squire” said the older one, “Reckon you’ll get a pretty penny for this little lot. Land and stables too, just suit my missus down to the ground having horses at the bottom of the garden.” Steve was going to explain that the place wasn’t his, but instead just nodded, gave a friendly smile and walked on. He decided that as the Governess was no longer living there, he’d make himself coffee in the kitchen, so he put the kettle on, and found coffee still in the larder. Sitting down he spread out his copy of ’Horse and Hound’ and turned immediately to the situations vacant section at the back of the magazine.

Some of the adverts he ruled out straight away. They were either abroad, or in racing stables where he knew his height and weight would rule him out, or it was insisted that any applicant must hold BHS teaching qualifications. That still left a dozen or so, that he felt were worth applying for. He’d left the water in the kettle to start to cool, so he re-boiled the kettle, picked up the extension phone which, much to his surprise was still connected, made himself a drink and dialled the first number.

The woman on the other end of the line was friendly, but apologetic. The advert had been in for two weeks, but the vacancy had been filled after it had appeared the week before, she said she was sorry that he had wasted his call. The man at the next number was quite abrupt and told him that he only employed female grooms, not males, due he said, to the fact that there was only one set of accommodation, and he couldn’t have men living with the girls he already employed. As he worked his way down the list of vacancies, the story was pretty much the same with all of them. Either he didn’t have enough qualifications, or they didn’t think he’d fit in, or the position was filled. By the time he’d got to the bottom of the list, he was filled with a mixture of despair and anger.  The only advertisers left to try were the agencies that sent grooms to different locations for varying lengths of time. But, thought Steve, work is work and beggars can’t be choosers, and with a little trepidation he rang the first one.

The girl on the other end of the line, sitting behind a desk somewhere in greater London, took his details, then asked for an address where they could contact him when a suitable vacancy came up. He told her honestly that this was his last day at his present job, and that from now on, he had no address “Oh, that’s OK, just give me your home address and we’ll contact you through there.” Steve had to admit that he had no home, which was why he was only interested in applying for jobs that had accommodation. “Well then,” she said “We really can’t help you if we can’t get hold of you when you’re needed, sorry.” With a click the phone call was cut off from her end. The second agency decided almost straight away that he wouldn’t be suitable to go on their books… “You say Mr Ross, that after you came out of prison you were sacked from your next post at a Squire’s stud due to your involvement with a motorcycle gang that terrorised horses, then you were sacked by your next employers niece, is that correct?”  “Well, not exactly, I was never involved in the motorcycle gang, and…” said Steve, but the voice at the other end of the line cut him dead. “Frankly Mr Ross, we have a very exclusive clientele, and I’m afraid your record and work history doesn’t fit with the services we offer, but I wish you well in the search for a new job, goodbye.” That left him with only one more ad to try, almost reluctantly he dialled the number.

The man at the other end sounded almost tired, his day was being almost as frustrating as Steve’s. But he listened to Steve’s story, jotting down the relevant points on an official application form as they were told to him. A couple of times he had to ask Steve to spell the names of the places he had worked, the line wasn’t too good, and the man was a confirmed Southerner, having very little interest in anywhere north of Birmingham. “Right,” he started “we’ll just need to clear up a few points… Firstly you say you were imprisoned for striking some one who was abusing a horse, correct?… Right I’ll list you as standing up for horse’s rights. Now, about this motorbike thing, you were only chasing those responsible for attacking the horses, yes?… And finally, you think you were dismissed from this horse rescue farm due to an almost intimate relationship with the owner’s niece, would you say that was fair?” By that stage Steve was getting a little irate, and told the man that he didn’t want to blacken Dora’s character by admitting to intimacy, even if telling lies like that would get him work. “Now look,” he started, “It’s obvious that you’re not going to be able to help me, and I’d rather not waste any more of both our times talking like this….” “Whoa now Mr Ross,” came the voice from the telephone, “I only have two more questions for you. Can you be in Brecon, South Wales by 9a.m. Saturday, and what are you like with children?”
"We shape horses, then they shape us, but, we must be what we want our horses to become."

Offline MidnightZodiac

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Re: The Steve letters....
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2012, 08:54:58 PM »
It had been the Friday from hell. Steve had started out early enough but his troubles had started first thing. He’d gone into the Post Office to draw out enough money for the journey, then found he’d mislaid his Post Office account book, he had to turn out his case and rucksack, before he finally found the book hiding beneath his wash bag. Then he had to rejoin the long queue before he finally got served. He thought that if he walked to the A1, someone would be bound to give him a lift, but it wasn’t until early afternoon, that an articulated container truck finally stopped for him. After the truck had gone a few miles, it was pulled over by the Ministry for a weight check… another hour wasted. Eventually the truck dropped him off at Tilbury, it was the driver told him, as close to London as made no difference. But of course it wasn’t. He had to catch a train into Fenchurch Street, before fighting his way on to the tube, against the flow of homeward bound commuters. ‘London’, he thought ‘Why do people live like this?’ After getting lost twice on the Underground it was very late and dark by the time he finally reached Paddington.

The man behind the ticket counter was less than helpful. “Brecon, mate, Brecon. There ain’t no station there, thanks to your Dr Beeching. Brecon was cut off years ago… You want Merthyr mate, it’s only a fifteen mile walk from there!” As he issued Steve’s ticket he continued, “Funny though mate, you’re the second person tonight wanting a ticket to Brecon, popular all of a sudden, perhaps if you’d wanted Brecon years ago, they’d have kept the railway open.” It was very late, and the next train to South Wales consisted mostly of parcels vans, with only a couple of ordinary coaches behind the locomotive. As Steve walked the length of the platform, he could see in the arc lighting, two streams of blue black exhaust from the diesel that was impatiently waiting to take him to his new life. He passed the porters and postmen busily loading van loads of sacks and parcels into the waiting train. Opening the door of the first passenger coach, he made his way along till he found a seat in an empty compartment. He pulled out his copy of ’Horse and Hound’, stowed his belongings on the rack, and tried to read in the carriage’s half light.

He was aware that another passenger had entered the compartment, but gave them no attention. After the day he’d had, conversation was low on the list of his priorities. Gently the train started it’s journey to the very West of the country, and as  it cleared the platforms and picked up speed, he could see the inside of the compartment reflected in the darkness outside the window. Sitting opposite him was a young blonde girl who appeared to be waving her arms about her head. Then a painted fingernail tapped the very top of his magazine “Horsey person?” said a female voice. “Yes.” said Steve as he lowered the magazine to his lap. “Me too,” said the blonde, “Can’t pick up anything on this little radio, must be lack of signal or something… Do they work on trains?” Steve was a little bemused, “I don’t know,” he said, “Probably not.”  “Oh well, might as well chat then,” came a cheery reply “I’m Carol, Carol Smith, but you can call me Carol…and you are?” “Steve Ross, how do you do.” He reached forward to shake hands with this strange little filly. She went off at a tangent, “It’s all Loraine’s fault, we were supposed to be going together in her car, then yesterday what does she do? Calls the agency, cancels and runs off with a bloke on a motor bike. What do you make of that?” Steve didn’t have time to answer before she started again, “So dad has to get me to London, car packed up, two hours waiting for the RAC, then there’s no station, I mean how can there be no station where you want to go.”

Suddenly her ravings made perfect sense “Are you going to Brecon?” He asked. “Yes I am, how did you know?” “Oh,” he said, “I think I’m Loraine’s replacement.” She laughed. It was completely different to Dora’s laugh, this girl was outgoing and not ashamed to let the world know how she felt. There were no secrets no hidden meanings. It was clear that if the other staff were like Carol, it might not turn out to be a bad summer after all.
"We shape horses, then they shape us, but, we must be what we want our horses to become."

Offline MidnightZodiac

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Re: The Steve letters....
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2012, 07:43:56 PM »
It had also been the Friday from hell for the Colonel. His brother and sister in law, had finally flown in to Heathrow in the early hours, from where a waiting government car had whisked them to York. Following a visit with Dora, it then took them on to the Hall; somehow the Colonel didn’t think that receiving them at Follyfoot would have gone down too well. Refreshments were waiting for them in the drawing room, which the Colonel chose to serve himself, rather than expose his housekeeper to the acrimony that he knew was coming.

“Well Geoffrey,” started Pru, “I have to say that I hold you entirely responsible for this state of affairs. Had I thought for one minute that leaving her in your care would have led to this… Well, I’d have made certain that Arthur made other arrangements for her while we were away.” Arthur sighed inwardly to himself, he knew that as usual he would be burdened with part of the blame, and that his wife would, as always, emerge unblemished. Pru carried on, “We’ve seen her in that, that, lunatic asylum, and she didn’t event recognise us… her own mother and father, complete strangers to her. Can you imagine how that makes us feel Geoffrey? Well, can you?” The Colonel, as always, was calm and collected, “Of course I can’t Prudence. At very best all I can do is to imagine the bond that exists between a mother and daughter, or the bond between a girl and her father,” he looked towards Arthur, who shuffled a little uncomfortably in his seat, “But Prudence, you must understand that as her uncle, I have feelings for the girl too… This whole thing has shocked and upset me as it has you.” But Pru was on the attack, “Her doctor says that she’s made little or no progress since she was admitted, despite visits from you and your … manservant. He’s now talking about using some form of electric shock therapy with her. She’s sitting there in a bed covered in childish drawings and surrounded by people that she doesn’t know… I really don’t see how you letting her end up like that, can in any way be described as having feelings for her.” The Colonel allowed Pru to carry on with her tirade; he already knew that she was attacking only in self defence, exploring any avenue to draw attention from the fact that deep down she knew she was partly to blame.

Arthur waited until his wife fell silent before speaking, “I had one of my aides check out a place in Lausanne, Switzerland. Apparently they’re expert in treating this sort of disorder and frankly I think putting her somewhere like that might be the best thing for her. She’ll have the mountain air, the lakes and the best care that money can buy.” Pru agreed instantly, “Yes, for once you’re completely right Arthur, that would be best all round. At least she’d be away from that dreadful place and she might start to receive some proper care for once!” It was obvious that the Colonel was not at all happy with this suggestion, “Yes,” he started, “That might be best all round. That way the three of us can wash our hands of the girl, see her safely locked away out of our gaze and still have completely clear consciences.” His attitude surprised his brother and sister in law, but he carried on. “Arthur, do you remember Mother’s old hunter, that bay mare ‘Boadicea’? The one that was so good even the Master of the Hunt wanted to buy her, but Mother would never sell.”  “Yes of course I do Geoffrey, she’s buried out on the estate, just by that big oak in the distance.” Arthur pointed out of the window. “That’s right,” started the Colonel, “She was the mare that brought Mother home that afternoon when she had a fall and broke her arm… Carried her right up to the front door completely unguided… But do you remember what she was like when Mother first bought her?” “Do I,” said Arthur, “Damn thing was crazy, kicked and bit everyone that got near her, including Mother, you and I. Father wanted rid, but Mother wouldn’t let her go.” “Yes,” the Colonel carried on with the memories, “Mother said that the mare had so many homes and had passed through so many hands she didn’t know if she was coming or going. Until she came here she’d never had a secure, continuous home, nor anyone to care for and love her, and that was why she was so dangerous to start with...” Pru interrupted, “Geoffrey, I hope you’re not comparing Dora to some bygone horse…” “Of course not,” said the Colonel, “But what I am doing is drawing a parallel. That mare changed because of the time and affection Mother put into her, and in the same way we need to put time and affection into Dora. Shipping her off to another part of Europe isn’t the answer, it’s making her feel secure and loved by the people and surroundings that she knows and loves that will help her… can’t you see that?”
"We shape horses, then they shape us, but, we must be what we want our horses to become."

Offline MidnightZodiac

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Re: The Steve letters....
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2012, 07:47:28 PM »
“I’m sorry Geoffrey,” started Pru, “But I think Arthur’s idea is the best so far… Dora will then be in a place where she’s cared for and nursed twenty four hours a day, rather than being left to vegetate in a pile of silly drawings. To be frank, the way you talk about time and affection almost makes me think that you blame Arthur and I for Dora’s problems. We’ve always paid for the best start in life that she could possibly have… she has wanted for nothing. Besides, thousands of other children undergo the same start that she had, and they never have a problem.” “No, that’s true,” the Colonel replied, “But, thousands of other children aren’t Dora. She’s a sensitive individual, as are some of those other children. But what happens to them isn’t my concern, it’s what best for Dora that worries me. If you think you’re completely blameless in all this, that’s fine, but, before you go any further I’d like you to look at these…” The Colonel opened a draw in one of the small, fine, tables that adorned the room and pulled out the sheaf of papers he had collected on his first visit to Dora. “Her doctor discovered, with some help from my ‘manservant’ and I, that Dora is communicating her fears, and her past, in the shape of these drawings. If you’d care to look, this first shows a very young Dora crying as her parents fly away from her, then this one shows her with a group of other girls... see how she doesn’t fit in. Then there’s this, it shows her with a birthday cake and pile of presents, but so completely alone… This one is the same but shows a Christmas scene. You might not like it Prudence, but she’s drawn almost everyone around her that’s in any way important to her…. But the truth of the matter is that you and Arthur appear in only the very first drawing she did… and that shows you leaving.” Pru was speechless. “And now,” said the Colonel, “You’ve decided that taking her away, away from all she knows and holds dear is the best thing for her… Once again you’re going to place her into someone else’s care and simply fly away.”

The Colonel turned his back on Arthur and Pru, stared out of the window toward the burial site of his Mother’s beloved mare and lit up his pipe. If this appeal to their better nature didn’t work, he only had one more trick up his sleeve, and even that was a bluff!

“No,” said Pru “I’m afraid I can’t take this as evidence of our neglect or desertion of our daughter. To be honest they’re just the ramblings of someone suffering temporary delusion. Tomorrow, Arthur will make the arrangements for Dora to fly to Switzerland… I have no doubt that they will be able to start her on the road to recovery far quicker than they ever could here in England. I’m sorry Geoffrey but that’s my final word on the matter.”

“I see,” said the Colonel, not even bothering to turn away from the window “But I have to tell you this… Yesterday I had a word with the family solicitors about Dora. It seems that under some precedent of law, as I was the one responsible for signing her into care, I am the only one to have the authority to sign the paper work needed to allow her to be released from care… So unless you intend to fight me through the courts, Dora is staying right where she is.”
"We shape horses, then they shape us, but, we must be what we want our horses to become."