Last weekend brought an excursion two hours westward by road, and an overnight stop at a rural equestrian centre. Two days riding had been planned, with two friends joining in. It didn't quite go to plan, with companions laid low by food poisoning on the first day - whilst still at home, fortunately for them. So Brena and I went out unaccompanied. Up a stony track and into the woods, silence enveloping us, and a cloud of horseflies too. I tried to keep these evil insects off Brena, and was busy with hands and long split reins. Better to be back out in the open, so we fled the woods, a thick plantation where trackways seemed not to conform to the map. Tolkien envisioned woods like that, though here the trees at least didn't move of their own volition. Down a steep slope, along a path of guesswork, to a gate which shouldn't have been there according to the map. Across an open field to see a rider heading fast across our path a quarter mile ahead. Why, I wondered? A quarter mile ahead we climbed a little ridge, and then I saw why.
Slate grey clouds rushed upon us. Down in the valley cattle scattered up the hillside, started by the galloping rider I supposed. Well spaced hoof prints showed where his or her horse had rushed. I saw no more of them. But I did feel the first wind-driven spots of rain. There was no time to lose: on with my stockman's coat. Down came the deluge. Brena didn't mind: all horseflies were grounded. We splashed through expanding puddles and pushed through long wet grass. It wasn't so bad in the end. An hour later Brena was eating hay in a stable. I was camped in my trailer, getting ready to cook dinner. My coat was drying. I was warm and comfortable, and the rum bottle had been opened.
The next weekend saw me in Prague. Not just for sightseeing, though I did some of that too. I was there for a rare concert by the neo-medieval folk-rock band Blackmore's Night. That meant wearing medieval-esque costume, of course, in the front row of the audience with a line of Czechs and others clad in fine and lovely garb. Being properly dressed, we costumed ones got to dance between seating and stage, and had a great deal of fun. I felt a whole lot younger than my fifty-one years. Being so happy, I might just have looked younger too. It was nice, I admit, receiving admiring female glances: which were returned with suitable compliments. Oh, it was a wrench to return to the real world. This was an adventure from which I could not return unchanged, nor wanted to. Magol, elf from beyond the sundering sea, what have you done to me?
Prague, of course, cannot be illustrated without a whole album of photos. It is a stunning old city, vibrant and bohemian (in both meanings), and fascinating to wander through. I was here last as a student in 1986, arriving by train behind a locomotive bearing a red star. Prague was interesting back then, and goodness knows why it took me thirty years to return. The city rewarded me for a tardy return, gifting fine views including that panorama across the Vltava rider, and amongst winding historic streets. It introduced me to talented people, including an artist who creates canvases based upon the world of dreams. And it reinvigorated me, even gave me back a bit of youth.