June and I were the youngest in the home, so we were the first to
be sent to bed. We shared the attic room, the little girls’ room as it
was always called. Usually, four children slept in there. But, with
only the two of us sharing, we had plenty of room. I hated going to
bed early when the evening sun shone. When I heard the sounds of
children laughing and playing in the run-down allotments on the
other side of the wall, it felt more like a punishment. The children
lived in the houses surrounding the home. I watched them from
my bedroom window dressed in my pyjamas. They played and ran
across the field, through weeds where strawberries and all kinds of
vegetables once grew. I longed to be down there with them, to feel
their happiness and freedom.
Sometimes, I almost expected to see the old man in the black
baggy jacket and bonnet leading his lovely big Clydesdale horse
along the narrow path separating the allotment plots from the
wall of the home. I used to wait for him every day, after the rest of
the children came home from school. One of the older girls had to
stay with me because I was too young to be out there on my own.
Soon, I heard a faint clippity clop in the distance. It was the sound
I was waiting for. Horse and master were slowly making their way
through the field at the back of the allotments. Nearer and nearer
they came, past a hotchpotch of wooden sheds and corrugated iron
shelters used for all sorts of gardening tasks. My excitement grew to
bursting point until they finally came into full view.
“Please, mister, can I have a ride on your horse?” I said, as soon as
the old man was within hearing distance. “Go on, mister, let me
ride your horse,” I pleaded.
The old man said nothing as he passed me by. I tried once more,
summoning up all my powers of persuasion as I followed him,
tugging at his jacket sleeve in a final desperate bid to get his attention.
“Just a wee ride, mister!” I cried out, and turning around with a
big sigh, the old man smiled grudgingly, before giving in as we
both knew he would. It was a daily ritual.
“Up you get, lass. Just a wee ride then,” he would say. “Hold on
I grabbed the horse’s reins and proudly sat on its broad back as
the old man led us along the path until we reached the main road.
The distance was no more than 100 yards. The horse stopped and
the old man helped me down and I made my way back to the
home happy and delighted. I loved riding on the horse. Then one
day, I waited at the side of the path as usual and they never came.
Next day, I did the same, listening hard for the faint clippity clop. I
waited every day for a week or more. But I never saw the old man
or the horse again.