I went out to escape. I do not want to read any more news stories about the horse-meat scandal. Not today. I do not want to read about how importers and retailers are blaming consumers, government, schools - anyone but themselves. Though one might argue that individual consumers might become more 'politically active' - now there's an old-fashioned term!
And I do not need to hear from any more Romanians trying to tell me that 'no horses were ever maltreated in their country' and that anyway 'the horse-meat their country exported was all of great quality' (or that 'no horse-meat was exported').
With my own eyes I have seen the gangs that round up horses out there for slaughter. I knew people whose horses vanished in the night. And I have spoken to people who worked in slaughterhouses. No, I do not need assh*les telling me that I must have imagined it all.
No, on a Sunday I don't need to hear from the butt-end of humanity.
Here the trail is going uphill from the bottom of a dry valley. It's a good place to have a little canter. Then it was into the woods where a flurry of deer ran across in front of us.
The blue sky and sun were so welcome after grey rainy days and too many hours indoors. At last the sun warmed my face and I could gaze across to a sharp distant horizon.
Away from the roads this landscape feels timeless. Of course I know that it isn't. A few generations ago there would have been more people out here tending animals, gathering firewood or simply travelling between hamlets. The noise of a motor would have been a rarity, but this trail would have been busier. I'd have needed to be wealthy to own a riding horse, or to have been a farmer.
Yes, it's good to dream.
I started to write that I'd experienced a rural society that depended on horses. And so I had, but was England like that? I wonder. I don't read much about cruelty to animals in Thomas Hardy's works, for instance, though he could be open enough about the raw truths of human failings. (There is an incident in Jude the Obscure where the protagonist castigates a carter who is rough on his horse.)
These past few days have confirmed just how right it was for me to have left Transylvania. I am too sensitive to cruelty and insufficiently tolerant of deceit. It's a strange part of the world though. I fluctuate between nostalgia for the good times up in the mountains and something else. What is that? Well, some mixture of frustration at the corruption, annoyance at the liberties taken, anger at the cruelty and sheer fatigue. Yes, fatigue at the toll those emotions wrought. Exhaustion at the mental gymnastics necessary to suppress enough of the negative that I could live there with a moderately clear conscience. Feeling dirty knowing that I had sold out morally by tolerating all that went on around me, tacitly giving it all my seal of approval. I don't need this toxic legacy, and I don't like the way in which its tentacles reach out for me.
As for Jude the Obscure, here we are entering his home village, Marygreen. It's called Fawley in real life. Hardy describes the village in detail. One day I'll go around Fawley on foot and work out where Hardy places the homes of the various characters. Nowadays it's a pretty little village on a dead-end road surrounded by fields. I can ride around here focusing on that which is bright, picturesque and lovely.
On the way back we found a couple of nice places to gallop. The raw experience of a horse willingly flinging itself across the turf in a burst of exuberance is a fine way to banish all other thought. It's as if Brena and I come to a common understanding in harmony. Each of us wants to cross that field rapidly, the wind whistling past our ears, and she is happy to carry me. The immediacy of a fresh strong reality is enough to take my mind off the world.
Now, back to a week at work. There are reports to read and make recommendations on, a new starter to train, a presentation to prepare for a director, and a programme of works to review. All ways to make a difference for the better. I'm glad for that. Being able to do something positive through my work is a powerful motivator. I can't carry the world's worries on my shoulders, nor - as I have discovered - even a single concern of just one small nation.