Writing Life: Day Out with a Dead Horse


‘Write what you know’ is the ambiguous advice administered to new writers. When I was first trying to write, having finally decided to ‘just do it’, it felt like floundering on a wet slab – where to start, where to turn, who to ask. What did I know? Eventually, I sent articles to newspapers that asked for comments and letters from readers and offered to pay for them. What joy to be published! What more joy to be paid!  The following appeared in the Guardian Family Section a good few years ago.

Perfect Day Out

Sundays were for outings. Sometimes these involved a picnic and planning and sometimes were no more than a walk round the block; five miles of lanes and views, and chatting. On one walk we came across a dead horse lying by the roadside; a big, chestnut coloured mound. ‘Poor noble beast,’ my mother said, in the voice that meant she was upset. ‘He must have had a heart attack.’ We did not linger. 

I suppose there was endless wondering and staring still to do at a beast that was both noble and dead.  When we got back home, word spread like wildfire. ‘We’ve seen a dead horse! We’ve seen a dead horse! We’ve seen a dead horse!’ The announcement summoned the neighbourhood children.

Every wheeled object that would take us back there, faster than our own two feet, was pressed in to use. Skates, scooters, tricycles and bicycles and a go-cart, with those vehicles that would stand it, bearing at least two children, set off in a cavalcade.   We stayed, forming a respectful circle around the horse until the light started to fade, and we knew we had to go home.