Ran away at the weekend to a local agriculture show. Deperate housewife that I am. I looked for an escape from the chaos all around and thought: "I know, I'll go look at tractors." There was all the paraphenalia of country life today. Small girls in tweed hacking jackets and enormous, hard hatted heads. I wondered how it is for them when they are twenty-something pretties, locked in airless city jobs when they cannot cling knee-tight to a handsome horse's back; cannot clutch the warmth of his sinewy neck or move in for a kiss and smell damp hay breath. I wondered if they fall for unsuitable men for no better reason than teenage habits and memories of Dobbin. Away from the riding competitions, there was a food hall, a catherdral of diversification churning out chutneys and strawberry fruit wines, caramel fudges and blood brown, vaccuum packed meats. Before any farmer marries these days he would want to know whether his bride to be could make a decent red onion marmalade. After all, there is the future of the farm to think about.
There was also a climbing wall, studded with stones. My motherhood is filled with fear: that they might go to sleep and not wake up despite the bedtime prayer; that they might ride a shiny board through salty waves and be taken by a riptide or a lost and toothsome shark; or that the freakish and bizarre might snatch them in a supermarket aisle as I turned to pick up beans. I once had a friend. She said her father was obsessed with safety: if you did not drive on icy roads, you would not die as your car span merrily out of control to smash against a hard, handy tree. I looked at the wall. I thought: "You and your like. You are my enemy."
My six year old, buckled in and harnessed to a rope, set off, in a pilgrim scramble up the stones. I thought: "If you do not climb that wall, you will not fall off it. If you do not climb that wall, you will not climb a mountain when you are 20. You will not climb another and another. You will not die, young and brave and foolish, caught out by the weather on a mountainside." He climbed and climbed; one foot slipped and then the other to leave him hanging by his arms. I caught my breath to see his white face look down at the ground as his body peeled his fingers from the rocks. He fell. He swung ofcourse. He did not plummet then to hit, bang smash, the ground. He reached out once again, caught a rock, clung on, pushed on and scrambled higher, then still higher.