This week, however, Mrs Grumbler informed me that it was necessary for me to cut the grass in the stallions' field because it was 'too long' for them to eat. This is not a physical problem, you understand, the poor pampered beasts don't suddenly find it impossible to chomp a mouthful of blades once they get past six inches long. Apparently, long grass tastes too bitter for them.
Oddly, in the hundreds of years Ive known her, I've never seen Mrs Grumbler disconsolately pushing a lawnmower over the ponies' dinner. However, now that we have a 'topper' (a mower attachment - not a posh hat) for the tractor, I was instructed to mow the field. This strikes me as pointlessness of the same ilk as drying washing up with a tea towel. Just as the washing up will dry on its own, with time, so shall the horses eat the grass, no? Such arguments cut no ice with the missus, and so I was shortly to find myself driving the tractor round the field in ever decreasing circles.
At first, I learned the hard way that I needed to dodge the low hanging branches round the edge of the field. Fortunately, after giving it a quick suck to get rid of stray grass clippings and horseshit, I was able to pop the eyeball right back in, and now you'd almost never know it had ever been gouged out by an errant sweet chestnut tree much overdue a spot of pruning. I considered holding a chainsaw and doing two jobs at once, but the potential for calamity was too great even for a chancer like me. After the first three 'revolutions' I was safely out of their reach, in any case, and beginning to understand that I had a quite different problem.
Blog devotees will know that I have previously referred to riding a seatless bicycle across a ploughed field as a substitute experience for horseriding. May I add 'driving a tractor repeatedly around a paddock' as another possible alternative? Tractors, or at least MY tractor don't have much in the way of suspension. The vertical jolting was of such ferocity that I suspect the fact that my moobs are a paltry B-cup (and all muscle at that) is all that saved me from TWO black eyes.
I make a small digression to explain my familiarity with the arcane art of bra-sizing. Back when I first met Mrs Grumbler, and love and lust were both in the first flower of their youth, I determined to purchase her some lingerie for Christmas, in the hope that she'd have something nice to unwrap in the morning and I'd have something nice to unwrap in the evening. But what of size? I had heard of 'cantilevered' bras and, as an engineer at heart, I assumed that weight of the contents might be a useful statistic in calculating the correct fit. I should advise any gentlemen readers that approaching the boudoir with a kitchen scale and a large spoon is unlikely to have any positive effect on your chances of a romantic evening, even if you have gone to the trouble (as I did) of warming the spoon. Rebuffed, I realised I'd have to wing it on my mission to purchase frilly things.
Undeterred, I sallied forth to an appropriate posh looking shop, perused the merchandise (suffering many suspicious glares from the unanimously female customers) and, having selected a likely offering approached the lady in charge. Viciously suppressing my embarrassment by staring her unswervingly in the eyes, I pointed over my shoulder at where I'd recently seen what I wanted, and declared, "I'd like a closer look at one of those please". In my defence, I have to say that I had no idea that the changing room was in that direction, nor that the prospective bride who was seeking her friends' opinion on what she intended to wear under the wedding dress had chosen that moment to step out of its curtained depths. Had she been less than an arm's length away from me, my index finger would have had a soft landing - which is more than can be said for the handbag which made contact with the side of my head.
Once the concussion had subsided enough for me to drive, I took myself to a Marks and Spencer. (in another town, just to be on the safe side). You cant go wrong in a Marks and Spencer, and I know it's clientele to be drawn from both genders. Surely I was safe. I found an even nicer possible present, and, as luck would have it, was approached by a helpful young assistant.
"Can I help you sir?"Suffice to say that Mrs Grumbler got chocolates for Christmas that year.
"Yes indeed! I'd like to buy this for my wife. Do you have it in a size thirteen and a half?"
"I'm not sure we have that size sir, how are you measuring it?"
"Well, my hat's a six and three quarters, and each of them fit rather nicely into that..."
Anyway, back to the tractor, I clearly missed a few bits (beginner's luck) and so the finished job had some resemblance to Hampton Court Maze. A carrot in the middle and the rabbits could have had their own amusement park. All in all, though, a job well done, and I sat back with a glow of satisfaction. A very short lived satisfaction, it has to be said, and more than a glow. As I have since found out from a farmer pal, I should have done most of it standing up to avoid the 'soft tissue' injuries to the nether regions.
And that, honestly, is why, when the vicar came round, I was to be found reading the newspaper in the dining room with my plums nestled in a fruit-bowl full of iced water, gently steaming.
To think I thought getting more involved with the horses was going to be a doddle...