Thursday, November 17, 2005
The Horse That Passed Me By
Walking down the corridor I hear a clopping sound standing out from the usual revving of car engines in the street. A horse maybe. No, can’t be? The sound continued as I walked towards the window and sure enough, there, passing by on the road in front of my window, was a large four legged animal. Larger, much larger, than the cars that were carefully swerving around it to give it space, actually having to ride out into the oncoming lane, being careful not to disturb it with the noise of their carbon emitting engines. It had a chestnut brown coat of well brushed tightly knitted hair like it had just stepped from a race course. The rider simply rode, having no special grace, rocking with the motion, the horses head pointing up, eyes fixed on the distance and not looking down at the cars below that appeared clunky and immobile. The drivers, I thought, looked up at the shear mobility of the animal, hidden as they were beneath their flat tin roofs. The options that this animal had at it’s disposal, reigned in by the strapping around it’s nose and midriff. The horse and rider combined to reach almost to the height of a double-decker bus.
It trotted along the lines of the road running at ninety degrees to my flat window, I followed it with my gaze like a Muybridge camera, clicking off a sequence of set moments in the trajectory of its walk, measuring it with an imaginary ruler, wondering at the uncanny size of the animal in comparison to the cars moving past it. The experience induced me think back to the diagrams that I had drawn as a child in my Geography exercise books at school, displaying the relative sizes of dinosaurs that existed during the Cretaceous period, such was the surprise at the vision of a horse against orderly suburban gardens and pathways that face onto my flat. In my exercise book the time scale showed the different dinosaurs and their relative sizes together with the time of their existence on the planet earth, as if all of the various gigantic animals had walked horizontally in the same direction and on the same pathway throughout time.
The fact that you could buy a plastic toy replica in the shops and put it on your desk together with your pencil crayons and writing pens, the moulded plastic version being similar in size and colour to the one that I had drawn in my diagram, seemed exciting at the time. I imagine that this experience must have brought the history subject down to a manageable scale for me. The pre-existence of another world where these long tailed, overweight beasts wandered around waiting for extinction with their contingency of eating or be eaten, ice ages and flying meteorites, probably escaped my notice on the whole. I concentrated on getting the yellow ochre’s and viridian greens right, using layer after layer of pencil crayon to hide the lines of my exercise book pages.
It occurred to me that all that regalia around the head and body formed a restriction to this creature’s natural bounding freedom of movement. The horse had now disappeared down the road and out of site from my viewing angle. That great big animal had been strapped in and saddled as a means of transport and given a price to be paid for and comodified. It had looked so obedient and trained with its shoed hooves clopping a regular beat along the road at a parralell to my flat window.
They say that the dinosaurs became extinct suddenly due to the earth being hit by a meteorite and not a slow gradual extinction. Of course now that I had seen this horse passing me by, as if by some magic the industrial revolution had rewound itself to give me a view of how things could have been, as things once were, the animals roaming in the streets. I now saw horses every where; in the park, around the back, there were various rides in the like of horse models. In the gardens of pleasant houses children were rocking the metal horses and playing giddy up as if that's what you do to a horse, shouting whoa! and Yeehaa, pulling at the straps, of the horse, that then rocked obediently.
Afterwards, when the image of the horse was reduced in my mind from a carefully stepping animal from the fields, nervously entering the streets, keeping to the lines only with guidance from its rider pulling at the reigns (sometimes needing blinkers), it's bold figure became blurred in my mind and gradually became replaced in my imagination with images that I had seen in films and on television and on the stickers that I had stared at, being pasted upon the many horse carts that i had seen being towed along on the M1 motorway. In the end the only understanding that I was left with was of an ever widening gap between truth and reality, between horse and comodity, together with a growing nostalgia for a fictional past represented sometimes in westerns and in the occasional horse that passed by my window.