Hi, Fleur here, remember me? I think they described me as a horse with more looks than brains, something like that anyway. Ellen and the other horses have given me the job of narrating this story and to tell you the truth I'm at the best nervous, at worst scared stiff. Domino, Rosie, Jingle and Ellen have all told me that this story telling thing is, to use their words, "A synch."
"but how can a story be compared with a lump of saddle leather?" I had asked. Rosie turned her head away to disguise the fact that she was smiling. I had made a huge mistake but I couldn't see it at the time. Ellen put me out of my confusion after I had nearly gone spare.
"A cinch is an American phrase which means that something is easy. Don't ask me why they use the same word to name a "lump of saddle leather" as you put it Fleur." Ellen said. I didn't make any further attempt at questioning the English language. If I had then I'm sure I would have drowned in my mistakes. Rosie looked at me with sympathy.
"Do your best Fleur." she said. I was determined to do my best. I thought hard.
"What can I talk about?" I asked dumbly. Ellen suddenly smiled.
"You used to work in Great Yaremouth didn't you Fleur?" she said.
"Yes I did." I replied.
"tell your story about that then Fleur." Rosie suggested. So I'm going to tell you about that. But what can I talk about? Nothing happened. Oh no! I've dried up already! Ellen saw that I was confused and frightened. She tried to nuzzle mee.
"Just tell what happened Fleur. The typist will do the rest." she suggested. So I'll do that. Hmmm well, yes, right, Where shall I start?
I began working at Great Yaremouth pleasure beach on my first birthday.
"Get them young and they'll stay for life." I thought. The first day at work was spent walking about getting used to crowds of people. I attracted stares and a lot of comment.
"That's a beautiful horse you've got there. What's her name?" I had a different name then of course. Horses in the job I was in had strange names. Such as Blue Sparkle. I call that more of a code really. I must say I prefer Fleur, it's more usual than Blue Sparkle. What a bloody awful name, Blue Sparkle! I ask you! Who do they think I was?
The pleasure beach and it's seafront were very close together. My job was to pull cart loads of humans up and down a strip of tarmac all day long. To say it was boring would be too kind. The work wasn't hard, if it had been more of a challange then I might have stuck at it for longer. As it was I was almost falling asleep. Up and down, Up, down, Up, down, same old thing. Is that boring enough for you? Well, I was sick of it from day one I can tell you! I planned to get out of that job as soon as I could. But I reasoned that a horse has no employment contract as such. So I was stuck there, bored silly and feeling that I wouldn't mind a few rides on that roller coaster that had just opened on the Pleasure beach.
"Roller coasters aren't for horses." I thought.
I'm going to introduce a few more people into this story so I'll use the name you know me as and not my "circus" name,that's not a very nice name anyway. I prefer Fleur as I have already said. Back to the story. The typist is getting frustrated.
I only got to talk to one other horse on these lonely trips up and down the seafront. He was named Joe.
Joe was a chestnutt gelding with sad eyes. I couldn't have blamed him if he was upset by his job prospects. I was, I'll make no bones about that one. Joe was stabled beside me. That was good for both of us. He treated me with a more than friendly mannerthat showed he liked me a great deal. I must say I was fond of him also. Horses get like this when they are isolated from a large herd situation. Relationships get very strong between two horses in a situation like we had been put in. Joe looked at me with sadness.
"IT WON'T GET ANY better Fleur." he said. I felt sorry for him, more sorry than I could tell him. I can't bare to see someone in distress! It upsets me too much. I tried to cheer Joe up.
“I don’t know Joe, It’s not that bad. We’ve got each other. Nothing can change that.” Joe smiled suddenly. It was an improvement on five minutes ago.
“Yes Fleur we have each other.” He said softly.
The next day we started work at the same thing we had been doing for the last six months. Joe and I were tacked up and led out to our carriages. I was strapped to the carriage. The driver got up behind me and flicked his whip above my head to urge me forward. I plodded forward slowly and thought murderous thoughts.
“I wish I could escape from this!” I started to run madly towards the sea. The driver got angry, I didn’t care however! I raced along the seafront until I reached the end. Then I turned sharply and raced back towards the Pleasure beach. My driver was now shouting hysterically.
“Stop! Stop!” He pulled madly on the reigns making me even more angry. The bit hurt my mouth and I was at my wits end! I suddenly swerved off the tarmac onto the sand and ran straight into the sea. I ran until I had to swim. Then I swam until the weight of the carriage almost drowned me. I floundered in the salty water until my driver released me from the carriage. A crowd had gathered at the water’s edge. A mass of the great British public had congregated to watch this unexpected form of entertainment. I managed to get back to the shore. I ran away! Far, far away. Out of the town, along the motorway, and into a field with two horses in it. They stared at me, one with startled amusement, the other with angar! The furious horse spat on the ground in my direction.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked. Her companion took pity on me.
“Leave her alone Ferna. Can’t you see she’s frightened? What’s your name dear?” she asked.
“Fleur, but why? Where am I?” I asked. Ferna’s companion introduced herself.
“My name’s Bonny, and this is Ferna. But I think you already know that. Sorry about the outburst when you arrived. She’s a funny sort.” Ferna turned on Bonny in a savage fury!
“How can you!” she then bit down on Bonny’s ear making her squeal with pain. I couldn’t watch this any longer! I had been teased all my life because I have rather large hooves. Now they were going to come in useful. I waded into the fight and struck out at Ferna with all my force. I think at one point my right forefoot connected solidly with Ferna’s shoulder. Anyway she was screaming at me to,
“Give up Fleur! Stop it now!” I didn’t mind a horse screaming at me. It was only hot air, hooves flying in all directions was much worse. I looked over at Bonny to see how she had faired during the fight.
Poor Bonny. Ferna had ripped her ear and it was covered in blood. Bonny’s right forefoot was without a shoe and her nerves were, well, I can’t say for sure. What I could see was that she was shaking violently. I walked over to her and nuzzled her shoulder. Bonny responded by rubbing back weakly against my nose with her’s.
“Are you all right Bonny?” You might think this a rather stupid question after the discription above, but it wasn’t really. When I asked Bonny if she was all right, I meant in her mind. I could see the physical damage for myself. Bonny looked with dread at Ferna.
“I want to leave here.” She whimpered.
“Shut up!” Ferna hissed. Bonny buried her head in my shoulder sobbing with fear. I wondered why Ferna hadn’t gone for me. I suddenly had a leap of understanding that doesn’t often happen with me. I had come to the conclusion that Ferna went for the horse she knew wouldn’t fight back. She didn’t know me, so I reasoned that she wouldn’t hit me for fear of getting bashed herself. But Ferna knew Bonny too well for Bonny’s safety. Ferna knew she could attack her without risking her own safety. This thought enraged me so much that I almost struck out at Ferna. I told the repulsive mare what I thought of her. Ferna’s reply was to attack me, or try to at least.
I wasn’t going to go down that easily however. I’m not a fighter and never really have been. But I can defend myself if the need is there. My famous hooves came in very useful that day. The fight was short and sharp. I didn’t want Ferna busting my ribs. I hit her with all my force making sure that she stayed on the grass. When I had finished I was exhausted and feeling very ill. I got bashed up a bit myself. Ferna’s hooves had bruised my nose, right shoulder, numerous ribs and to cap it all my head hurt. Ferna on the other hand had faired worse than I had. She lay on the grass panting for air and looking in a worse state than I had seen any horse before.
“She’s going to die!” I thought franticly. I had never meant to kill Ferna for one moment. She groaned pitifully and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her. I’m not a violent horse and I’ll always avoid it as much as possible. It sickens me to think of what I did to Ferna and how far I could have gone. Bonny looked down at the horse that had made her life hell.
“I hate her so much but I would be sad forever if she died.” Bonny said sadly. I knew what she meant. Ferna struggled to her feet swearing profusely. She looked at the two of us with a mixture of horror and dread.
“You’ve prooved yourself Fleur.” She said harshly. I stared at Ferna in confusion.
“You think that I have to beat you up to proove myself?” I asked incredulously. Bonny looked at me.
“Come on Fleur. Let’s go.” She said. So we left the field leaving Ferna on her own. She watched us go.
Bonny and I walked along the hard shoulder until we reached a slip road. Cars and other stuff thundered past us, the drivers staring at us with too much interest for safety.
“Let’s go away from here Fleur.” Bonny said fearfully. So we left the motorway. We entered another field and walked across it. We increased the pace to a trot and then to a gallop as we came across yet more fields. The mad dash was an amazing experience. Bonny and I raced each other across green grass, ploughed fields, farm tracks and tarmaced roads. We ended up in a town about two hundred and fifty miles away from Great Yaremouth. We were very tired and ravenously hungry. We searched for food finding a store of hay. We broke the bindings and ate our fill. We saw no humans during our meal. Bonny wondered whether the humans had been driven out of the area. We left the village and carried on through fields across country.
We finished up in Suffolk after a long walk. Bonny and I attached ourselves to a string of horses going to a fair. We wanted a home fast. Bonny and I were split up and I arrived at the yard.
“That’s that.” I said. Rosie looked at me.
“That’s a sad story Fleur.” She said. Ellen suddenly had an idea.
“Let’s try and get to Great Yaremouth.” She suggested. Rosie stifled laughter.
“You’ve got’a be joking Ellen.” She said. But Ellen was quite serious.
“No I’m not joking Rosie.” She replied. Rosie stared at Ellen in disbelief.
“Have you gone totally crazy?” Rosie asked.
“No, no, I haven’t Rosie.” Ellen replied.
“It seems to me that you’ve flipped Ellen.” I said. Ellen butted my shoulder with her nose.
“Be quiet you stupid horse.” She said playfully. I engaged with Ellen in a playful rough and tumble game. She kept out of range of my large hooves and lost the contest because of this. Jingle came running from her box.
“What’s this about going to Great Yaremouth?” she asked.
“Ellen’s got this crazy idea of making the trip to Great Yaremouth Jingle.” Rosie replied. Jingle regarded Ellen with a mixture of amusement and interest.
“How do you think we can get to Great Yaremouth?” she asked.
“We can’t escape from the yard Ellen.” Jingle pointed out. Domino suddenly appeared seemingly from nowhere. I watched enthralled as she crept up on Rosie without the large horse noticing. At the last moment Domino yelled into Rosie’s ear from close range! Rosie screamed with shock and pounded off up the yard as fast as she could. Domino smiled roguishly. Rosie turned back towards us and regarded Domino with something bordering on frustration. Lately Domino had taken to creeping up on unsuspecting horses and scaring the life out of them. Rosie had been scared by Domino once before and had kept a watch out for her for days afterwards. But she had relaxed her watchfulness and had now paid the price for it. Rosie shook from nose to tail. She was extremely frightened!
“Don’t ever do that again Domino!” she said harshly. Domino smiled.
“It’s a joke Rosie.” She said.
“No it’s not! It’s not a joke to me Domino!” Rosie yelled. Domino flinched. I could see that Rosie struck fear into Domino when she was acting like this. Rosie advanced on Domino threatening unspoken things. Domino fled back to her box in terror.
“Come on Rosie. Let Domino have her fun.” I urged. Rosie clenched her teeth keeping a lid on boiling fury inside her. She suddenly ran off behind the stable block towards Domino’s box. I felt so sorry for Domino. She and I are only a year apart and I know how she feels. We’re young and we wish to play about. I love life, and it’s got better since I arrived in Suffolk. My need for security and all the other things that a horse needs are taken care of here, I listened to Rosie yelling at Domino.
“Why do you do that?” Domino started to reply but Rosie didn’t let her finish before she ploughed on.
“You could have killed me! You don’t understand how frightening it is to have a horse scream into your ear at close range without any form of a warning!” Domino started to protest.
“But Rosie, it was meant as a joke. Can’t you see that?” Rosie obviously couldn’t. She stormed back to her box leaving Domino in a wrecked state. I felt so sorry for Domino. She was only having a bit of fun, I’ll bet Rosie did much the same thing when she was young! No scrap that. Rosie could never have done that sort of thing. She’s too startched for that. I know that when Rosie reads this she’ll go mad at me. But I have to say it. Free expression of one’s own views and all that you know.
During all this Ellen and Jingle had returned to their boxes leaving me and Cleo alone. Misty, another horse that had had some mension in the last story was stabled next to me on my right. Cleo was stabled on my left. Misty was about twenty seven years old and had not much to say on the matter. She was quiet and unobtrusive and never expressed views on anything much. I wish I had kept my mouth shut when I was in the field with Ferna. I wouldn’t have had to drop her on the grass like I did then. At the time though I felt that telling Ferna what I thought of her was a good thing.
Now I come to think about Ellen’s idea of visiting my old workplace. The idea may appeal to the other horses who might have ideas of going on the largest roller coaster in the world. But I know that roller coasters are not for horses. I have had many a frustrating afternoon standing underneath the track of the ride watching it go about it’s business. On those same afternoons I have thought long and hard about what it must be like to ride it.
“Perhaps I might get to ride it one day.” I had thought on many occasions. But that time never came any closer.
I was not surprised to find that two days later a piece of news came back to me that the Manageress was thinking of helping out some company in Great Yaremouth because they were short of horses. I groaned inwardly at the thought of carriage driving along that same strip of tarmac I had left only three years ago. Ellen told me about it one day.
“We’re going to help the owners of the Pleasure beach during their summer season. Isn’t this great Fleur?” she asked enthusiasticly. I thought it wasn’t but kept my views firmly to myself. Instead I said,
“Oh yeah, that’s great Ellen.” She could tell by the tone of my reply that I wasn’t in the least interested in going back to work in Great Yaremouth. The only good thing that I could see of my returning there was that I could meet up with Joe again. I know that all my raving on about the way I hated Great Yaremouth might sound like it’s a bad place for horses to work. I had better put the record straight as it were and say that it isn’t a bad place to work. I just hated the repetitive nature of the job. I was slightly worried about the list that the Manageress would draw up for the company. I was almost certain that my name would be on it. But the Manageress didn’t know about my past. She had bought me at a fair from a man who had got no idea about where I had come from. The manageress had bought me because of my looks and temprament. She could never have guessed that I had escaped from my old job and was looking for another.
So the day dawned when our contract started that allowed us to pull carriages for the owners of Great Yaremouth pleasure beach. The Manageress had commented on how far we would have to travel to perform our service but the company had said that they had heard of us before and would settle for nothing less than the best. So I worked out that the company thought that the Manageress’s horses were the best so they would work with us no matter what the cost or the travel expenses. I reasoned that,
“They make enough money from what they do so why not pay for the best.”
Jingle, Cleo, Jinja and myself were loaded into horseboxes and driven the huge distance to our three week work placement in Great Yaremouth. The Manageress had insisted that she came with us. We all felt safer when she was around. Cleo and myself travelled in one horse box while Jinja and Jingle rode in the other. Ellen, Rosie and the others were disappointed that they were not chosen for work this time round.
“Perhaps next time.” The Manageress had said soothingly.
The journey was long with many stops so that the Manageress could check on us. I understand that the two horse boxes were escorted by the police.
“So we get special treatment then.” I said to Cleo.
“Yes, well it seams that way. I don’t know for sure Fleur.” She replied. The check finished we started off on the last stage of the journey to a new place for three of us and an old and hated place for me.
We disembarked in a car park in bright sunshine. I must say I recognised the place instantly. We had stopped near the “BIG ONE.” This is the roller coaster that I spoke of earlier in the story. |It’s over two hundred feet high and is said to travel at eighty five miles per hour. I could only manage five or ten at the most, so how that manages to do eighty five I don’t know. Anyway, there we were, four horses and the Manageress waiting for instructions from the director of the carriage driving section of the Pleasure beach. The Manageress was complaining bitterly about not being able to drive one of the carriages.
“We cannot let you drive because you are not licenced to do so.” The director had explained frostily.
“Well they are my horses!” the Manageress replied. When this was pointed out to him the director let the Manageress drive the carriage.
“Tell whoever drives the other carriages to be careful with my horses.” The Manageress said. The director promised that he would and we were split up to go our separate ways. I was taken to my old home. Perhaps the Lad recognised me, I couldn’t be sure. I looked out for my friend Joe anyway. Sure enough Joe was there. When he saw me he whinnied with delight.
“Fleur! What’re you doing here?” he asked.
“Working, what else?” I replied. Joe was overjoyed at my return. I could see that for myself. Joe’s sad eyes looked somewhat less sad today. Joe nuzzled my shoulder franticly, butting me hard and rubbing himself against me in a friendly way. This pleased me greatly. My spirits were rising to the rafters.
“How’s life then Fleur?” Joe asked.
“Life’s fine now.” I then told him what I have told you earlier. Joe listened atentivly and showed disgust when I told him about Ferna’s treatment of me and Bonny.
“She sounds like a nasty piece of work.” He said. I then told him of the fight between Ferna and myself. He looked down at my hooves.
“They are large aren’t they.” He said.
“Yes they are, and no comments if you please.” I replied. Joe shook his head and looked out at the day.
“Here’s work.” He said. With that two Lads came into sight around a corner and led us out to the waiting carriages.
“You might be able to meet my friends Joe.” I said. We started off along the seafront jogging towards the Pleasure beach. I looked out for Jingle, Cleo or Jinja. Sure enough I saw them as I passed the amusement arcades. They were jogging along the road past me going in the other direction. The Manageress was driving the carriage pulled by Jingle. Jingle raised her head and whinnied at me as we passed each other. The carriages that we were pulling were different. The one that |Joe and I pulled was a larger version of the ones pulled by Jingle, Cleo and Jinja. Their carriages were smaller than mine. I jogged on towards the tower and turned right towards the sandy part of the beach. My mind flashed back to the unplanned swim in the sea I had taken three years before. I told Joe about the swim and he laughed about it.
“Thanks.” I said agrievedly.
“Sorry Fleur.” Joe said.
“No matter Joe. I replied. We jogged over the sand towards the sea. The people that had hired us wanted to be taken along the seafront actually on the water’s edge. We splashed along the edge of the sea, our hooves whipping up spray in our wake. Our journey took us about an hour to complete. We returned to our base to recover from the journey. The run and the sea air had stirred in me a feeling I hadn’t had since I had quit my job there over three years ago. Joe’s eyes held a light in them that I had not seen before. I think he fancys me, I can’t be sure though. That night I told him about Figaro.
“He sounds a very nice horse.” He said. I blinked back tears as I thought of Figaro.
“You’re still chewed up about his departure aren’t you Fleur?” Joe asked.
“Yeah.” I said sadly.
Jingle, Cleo and Jinja came to visit us.
“Hi Fleur, Joe. How’re you?” they asked.
“Fine thanks.” We replied. We compared notes about the day’s work.
“My driver was a complete bastard!” Cleo said with feeling.
“What was so bad Cleo?” I asked.
“Fleur, even you would have lost patience with him. He pulled, pushed, bullied and thumped me into submission. I was sorely tempted to snap and buck!” Cleo replied. Jinja hadn’t got much to report and neither had Jingle, well, she wouldn’t, the Manageress was driving her. Jinja asked,
“Is this all that goes on here?” Joe looked unimpressed.
“Yes, this is the sum of it Jinja.” He replied. Jinja mumbled something about life in the yard being in his opinion more interesting than life working in the Pleasure beach. Joe said that he wanted to come with us back to Suffolk to see where we live. We knew that when he came with us he wouldn’t want to return to his old home.
So Joe came back with us. Without permission of course.
“At this rate there will be no horses working at the Pleasure beach.” I thought. We entered the yard glad to be back in the place where we felt safe and secure. Misty called me over to her as I passed her box.
“Did you enjoy your work placement Fleur?” I thought for a bit.
“It was o’kay Misty.” I replied. Misty could tell that I was less than enthusiastic about my old employment.
“Did you get to ride the roller coaster you wanted to Fleur?” Misty asked.
“No Misty I didn’t.” I replied.
“Pity.” Was Misty’s parting shot.
So that was the sum of our trip to Great Yaremouth and my first job. It’s not very good but I’m not good at telling stories. I THINK I’LL LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS. See you later. Oh! I almost forgot, those comments made about the carriage driver in Great Yaremouth were Cleo’s comments not mine O’kay!
I, MARTIN WILSHER, here by assert and give notice of my right under section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of the foregoing article.
© Copyright Martin Wilsher 1998-2000
Site contents Copyright Martin Wilsher 2010
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