Life dangerous dog. I also strongly object to the imperialism of spirit accompanying these moods, whereby the prevailing mood of the household must conform to hers. On down days she despises happiness. ‘What are you so cheerful about this morning?’ she’ll sneer. On up days, it’ll be, ‘Will everybody lighten up, please?’ Then she’ll start whistling to prove how happy she is. I t’s an excruciating, tuneless whistle, clear and unwitting evidence of the exact opposite.
The cause of her unhappiness is so clear-cut that even she recognises it. She’s traded on her looks all her life and the goods are starting to fade. There is a shortage of takers. A winter sale has not had the results she was hoping for.A catastrophe, in other words.
’ve always thought it must be marvellous to be attractive enough to sleep with almost anyone you fancy. A bit like being a journalist, I imagine: jumping in and out of other people’s universes, having a good look around, taking what you need, leaving without a backward glance. But what a shock when the power of this miraculous spell that you’ve been casting over other people so effortlessly begins to fail! ‘My God, I look like an old witch!’ she exclaims, going on tiptoe and shoving her unmade morning face in front of the kitchen mirror.
But if her vanity was founded on the fact of her beauty, it strangely persists in spite of new and rapidly accumulating evidence to the contrary. She lives and breathes for going out and being chatted up. And before she goes out of the door she always finds time to parade herself in front of me in all her finery to make me feel like a Cinderella (which I don’t).
Aweek it took me to realise her moods conformed to an obvious pattern.The prospect of a night out equals happiness; staying in, misery. I t really is as simple as that. But after a few visits, she found the pubs round here so boring she could no longer face them.Also, I think she ran out of dough. So she stayed in and I had to keep my tin hat on every day for more than a fortnight. She spent the evenings in the garden sipping from tins and chewing her nails or staring angrily at tripe on the telly without taking anything in. I was getting cheesed off with this bad atmosphere all the time. But her moving day was coming ever nearer so I bit my lip and tightened my chin strap.
And then one evening she didn’t appear after work. Pub, I guessed — she’ll be in after 11. She finally turned up at midday the next day with a bruised face and her lips absurdly swollen and bloody. And she was happier than I ’d seen her for weeks. Beneath the swelling she was transformed by joy. She’d fallen over outside the pub, she said. And Calum had been so kind to her, looked after her, and then she’d woken up in his caravan.And this Calum was a lovely, lovely man. She was sure I ’d like him. And
if it was all right with me, she said, she might go and stay with him for a while.
She’s been at Calum’s two days. It was a great relief at first. But it’s funny how I now miss that sullen face, and find myself listening out for her key in the lock in the evening. Each was headed ‘Exclusion notice’ and informed me in legalistic and virtually unintelligible jargon that the insurance people had decided to reassess the risk inherent in my horse’s legs in the wake of the accident. ‘ I can confirm that we will be exclud
Real life Melissa Kite If you’re Eric Pickles, please look away now. I think it only fair to warn the Secretary of State for local government, in case he happens to be reading this in a precious moment of relaxation, that I ’m about to have another rant about the catastrophic events that unfolded after one of his advisors sent me a text message while I was riding my horse one Sunday afternoon. F or those who don’t know the back story, this thrusting young spin doctor, probably thinking he was being really on his game in a retro-Alastair Campbell sort of way, attempted to monster me for a news story I had written which he took exception to. As his own office had briefed me the story, I took exception to this. I ndeed, I became so cross that I rang him back and at the precise moment I did so my horse trod on an old rabbit bone which penetrated her foot and sliced into a crucial tendon. I cannot prove the two things are in any way connected, but I ’ve decided, irrationally and hysterically, to blame Mr Pickles for my horse’s incapacitation.
ing cover for the tendons and ligaments of both hinds. . . ’ said one letter. ‘ I can confirm that we will be excluding cover for the tendons and ligaments of both fore legs,’ said another. The third said, ‘Dear Ms M. Kite, I regret to inform you that as a result of our assessment we will be excluding cover for splints, foot confirmation and all related conditions.’ The fourth letter opined, ‘We have recently undertaken an assessment of the risk presented by the above policy and I can confirm that we will be excluding cover for navicular disease and related conditions.’
nough already! Could they not have simply sent me one letter informing me that I now own a horse which is insured only from the stomach up and that while I cannot claim for anything that might happen to my mare’s legs and hooves, I could seek recompense for a freak accident involving a broken nostril, or a bout of tonsillitis perhaps? I n any case, I lost it. I got on the phone and attempted to show the poor girl at the insurance call centre the error of her ways in a style reminiscent of a young Tory spin doctor.
‘Do you know anything about horses? Hmm?’ I said, in an incredibly pompous tone, before proceeding to lecture the sweet-
Freddie Starr ate my hamster. Eric
Pickles buggered up my horse
No doubt because I am unable to face up to the random nature of life dealing me such a cruel blow by chance, I am taking comfort in artificially constructing some sort of meaningful structure to impose on the trauma in the shape of a good old-fashioned conspiracy theory.
reddie Starr ate my hamster. E ric Pickles buggered up my horse.Again, for the record, I know he didn’t really, it just feels somehow more bearable to see it that way.
’ve since received another text message from the advisor in question suggesting we let bygones be bygones. We should ‘agree to disagree’ about the whole incident, he suggests. This is tricky. I ’d love to move on, I really would. But the thing is, I ’m still drowning under an avalanche of vet bills and battling the nightmarish, Kafkaesque bureaucracy generated by the horse insurance company. So I desperately need to keep blaming someone.
sounding Northerner about the implausibility of my horse developing splintered bones as a result of an injury to the digital flexor tendon. I went on for quite some time and with much snorting of ‘you people!’ before building to a climax with a stupendously patronising finale of, ‘And I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to pay something towards her hospital bills. I n fact, I ’m willing to lay a bet now that you won’t cough up a penny. Because that’s what you people are like, isn’t it?’ And so on until I finished with a great flourish of harrumphs and huffs.
‘ E r,Ms Kite,’ said the nervous but heroically still cheerful little Lancashire voice. ‘ I ’m just looking at your file and it seems we are about to issue you with a cheque for the full amount.’ Yes, they paid out. And they explained that I can appeal the exclusion notices with a simple letter from the vet. I ’m so ashamed. I should never have rung the horse insurance company to harangue them about my equine problems. I need to stick to blaming Mr Pickles.
The other day, for example, I received four almost identical letters in the post.
Melissa Kite is deputy political editor of the Sunday Telegraph.
the spectator | 18 September 2010 | www.spectator.co.uk