Features

D&G LifeI write regularly for the award-winning (and completely fab!) magazine Dumfries and Galloway Life. I have a column every month and I write features on a variety of topics – everything from horses to hairdressers really.

Here’s one I wrote on the topic of Friendship – a subject very dear to my heart…

Isn’t friendship an awesome thing? If that sounds as though I’ve only just discovered this fact – well, maybe I have. Or maybe I’ve simply learned – once again – to appreciate it. Doesn’t necessarily take anything big, important or life-changing to remind me – sometimes the small, sweet, silly things are the best.

So picture this scene.  There we are, the three of us, crouched down on the floor in a cupboard beneath stairs, choking back laughter and shushing one another and trying really hard to be silent. Why? Because the fourth member of our party has been lagging behind and we’ve decided to surprise her by jumping out of the cupboard and shouting BOO as soon as she arrives.

A typically juvenile stunt. Something for the young and foolish.  Everybody’s done the same or similar. When they were 12. When did we do it? Last week. See – I’ve pretty much got past the ‘young’ bit (apart from in my Mother’s eyes, God bless her!) but the ‘foolish’ it would seem, is destined to remain a part of my soul. Forever.

Fortunately it wasn’t just any old cupboard-beneath-the-stairs. This one was part of a hotel suite and practically a room in its own right, with a carpet and everything. You couldn’t stand up in it but it was pretty spacious and without even a hint of clutter. If it had been the one in my house, we’d never have got one of us in, let alone all three.  

So – allow me to introduce my under-the-stairs companions.

First of all – there’s Sue. IMG_0278It is my fervent belief that the world would be a far nicer place if everyone had a Sue in their lives – someone warm and friendly with a heart the size of a house, and a non-judgemental nature. She’s the best listener known to man – and really good at giving presents. She also has a talent for organisation most Chief Executives could only dream of having in their P.A.’s.  If you ever need anything, you can guarantee Sue has it.  Lost the padlock for your suitcase? Sue has a spare one. Suffering a slight headache?  Sue has a selection of pain-relieving medications, probably in a range of flavours.  Need to dress up as a duck-billed Platypus? Okay, that one might give her pause for thought, but only for a little while. She’d find a way.

IMG_7628Then there’s Sarah. If Jilly Cooper ever met her, she’d promptly sit down to start writing a new book, with Sarah as its heroine. One glance will tell you that this is a person who will always find the fun in life. She doesn’t take herself seriously and has a deep regard for the ridiculous. I have a treasured photograph of Sarah on her wedding day, pretending to do a dressage test in the garden, cantering barefoot around the grass, with her beautiful, elegant dress bunched up around her knees, completely heedless of the hairdresser’s artfully tousled curls bouncing about her face.  

She’s bright and perceptive yet more than a little bit on the scatty side – she and I couldn’t muster up a passable sense of direction between us. She laughs a lot, but her expression of dismay when things go awry (again!) could be patented by a clown or a mime artist for its sheer comic brilliance. She may not have Sue’s genius for knowing what a person’s going to need before they even know they need it – but she’d go to the ends of the earth to find it for them nevertheless.

005-4The innocent and unsuspecting victim of the BOO prank – is the one I’ve known the longest. Kim  came to Border TV as a wide-eyed trainee and we hit it off from the start.  She’s funny, sparky, snarky, tough as old boots in some ways and softer than mush in others. She knows her own mind and won’t back off from an argument, but she’ll be swift to defend the right of a friend to hold a different view. She’s one of the most loyal people I’ve ever known, she loves with all her heart and  values friendship like a precious jewel.

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I find the mix and the dynamic of our little band highly fascinating. We’re totally different people, from totally different backgrounds, leading totally different lives, yet somehow we mesh. We haven’t known one another for ever – we weren’t friends at school or University and we have little in the way of shared history, yet the foundations of our friendship are as deeply rooted and as invincible as Ground Elder. If the call went up from any one of us, the other three would be there before the echoes had even died away.

Having heard all that – I wonder if you can guess whose idea it was to do the BOO trick? Was it Sarah? Was it Sue? Was it me? I won’t leave you in suspense – but the answer may well surprise you – for t’was none other than Sue who both instigated and led the expedition into the cupboard beneath the stairs. It is true that a glass or two of something white and chilled had been partaken thereof at an earlier stage of the proceedings, but frankly they had little to do with the daftness – as has now been proved beyond any shadow of a doubt, we four can be Olympic-standard daft on fresh air alone. Shame there’s not a class for it in London this year – we’d win hands down.

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering whether our jolly jape proved successful – uh no. Kim proved to be a wilier Miss Marple than we’d given her credit for, spotting the telltale ribbon of light beneath the door, realising what we were up to – and deciding to go off and enjoy a shower, while leaving us to it!  

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I also write a weekly equestrian results report and a monthly horsey column for the Cumberland News.  Cumberland NewsLike this one…

Neuro linguistic programming is one of those things which polarises opinion. People think it’s amazing – or they think it’s hogwash.

I’m no cynic, despite my years in journalism, so I’m generally happy to give new things a try. That’s especially true if it’s something to do with horses.  I’ve been looking for the equestrian equivalent of the Holy Grail for years – that elusive, mysterious something that would miraculously give me the perfect seat, feather-soft hands and – oh yes, the most important ingredient of all – nerves of steel.

It would take a Galahad or a Gawain to find a Holy Grail THAT good – but in setting foot on the NLP path, I’m following in hallowed footsteps. Many sportsmen and women of renown have found the trip well worthwhile.

My guide is local practitioner Catherine Smith, who is herself a horse-rider and owner and no stranger to the debilitating effects of nerves. She now owns a Thoroughbred called George and is quite happy to pop him round jumps and cross-country courses, but freely admits, would once have ‘gone green’ at the sight of a cross-pole. I know I’m not alone in knowing exactly how that feels.

Sheer determination not to let fear get the better of her saw Catherine embark on her first NLP course, and she was so impressed, she decided to become a teacher herself and pass on the benefits to others – including me.

The session started off with a chat – about horses, naturally – in Catherine’s living room. But she also got me talking about myself, and the things I’ve done and the things I haven’t dared to do, and the things I still want to do and because she’s a great listener, the talking was easy indeed.

Then we got to the heart of the matter – she asked what I’d like to change about my riding and what I’d like to achieve. Well – how long have you got. I have many faults in the saddle, but probably the worst is a deeply ingrained habit of hooking or tugging hard on one rein immediately before a jump. I’ve long since lost count of the times I’ve been told not to do it, and my long-suffering husband Malcolm has explained over and over and over again that my last minute intervention isn’t helping in any way whatsoever – in fact it’s downright hindering the horse.

‘If your stride’s wrong that close to the jump, there’s nothing you can do about it. You should have been gathering him up and collecting him when you turned the corner and saw the jump – not when you’re practically on top of it!’

I know he’s right – I know I’m wrong to do it. Heaven knows I don’t even want to do it – but some little gremlin just pops up out of nowhere, yells in my ear that we’ve got the approach wrong, and grabs that rein without so much as a by-your-leave.

So – over to Catherine.  Relaxation’s vital to NLP, so she taught me a few techniques, then asked me to think of a time when I’d been really confident and in control. I had to picture the occasion in my mind, to conjure up all the tiny details of everything I could see, hear, taste, feel, and to intensify all of those sensations to make them as powerful as possible. Then she told me to squeeze my thumb and forefinger together, a simple action which would effectively ‘anchor’ all that I’d been feeling and make it accessible whenever I needed to feel it again.  If that sounds odd – just think of the way certain songs can trigger powerful and vivid memories.  Anchoring does just the same thing, but gives you the power to make it happen rather than it being involuntary. 

Then we got on to tapping, which is a technique to get rid of negative thoughts and emotions, and simply means you tap yourself with your fingers on certain strategic points – such as the eyebrow, the chin, and on the back of the hand.  And again – it sounds like an odd sort of thing to do – but if it works I’m happy to tap my way to kingdom come.

Since then, I’ve been diligently tapping and squeezing my thumb and forefinger together whenever the occasion warranted it and though it doesn’t bring a great rush of courage or adrenalin or anything that could be measured, it undoubtedly does have a marked effect.

But – has it stopped me hooking? Well, I haven’t been shouted at once for doing it since the session – and at the end of a recent lesson my instructor said ‘Your riding’s been much more positive than normal. What’s made the difference?’

I think that’s what they call – a result!

If you’d like to know more about NLP – contact Catherine Smith on 07920 453051 or email: info@onelifetherapies.co.uk

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