Horses Coming In All Directions

When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he’s being surrounded by
Horses, horses, horses, horses
Coming in in all directions
White shining silver studs with their nose in flames
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses

Well, I think most of us in SE10 can now begin to understand what Patti Smith, mystic poet of New York’s very own Lower East Side, was getting at. Horses. And I feel such a fool now, after my last post. Because it turns out that all those metal fences were nothing to do with letting the grass grow back, and everything to do with setting up a cross-country course and showjumping arena for… horses. I finally twigged when, on my way to buy the paper on Saturday morning, I had to wait at the zebra while a coach with a placard on its windscreen saying Equestrian Hotel Shuttle attempted to make a sharp right into the park. It also had a brightly coloured poster on the side informing me I could ride any bus in Northampton for £3.75, which seemed an odd sort of add-on to dressage, especially dressage in Greenwich, but I guess after you’ve seen your twentieth camp stallion do the turkey-trot and soft-shoe-shuffle, a visit to the former home of the UK boot industry might start to sound moderately appealing, and an all-inclusive-ticket giving access to both the horses AND the whole of Northampton’s bus network (though probably not including the park-and-ride, as these things never do) a bit of a bargain.

Anyway – in retrospect, it all becomes clear. The lines of white posts east of the Observatory are marking out the cross-country course, and those little pointy tents dotted about behind the fences like something out of a medieval jousting tournament are where the horses get changed. Which might explain why the security guard got so iffy when I tried to take the photo of this one up by Maze Hill Gate. Though it was a slightly surreal conversation:

Horse tent at Maze Hill GateSecurity Guard: Could you not do that, sir.
Me: Sorry?
Security Guard: Could you not take photos.
Me: Oh. [pause] Why?
Security Guard: It’s a temporary structure. They don’t want people taking photos of the temporary structures.
Me: I can’t take a photo because it’s temporary?
Security Guard: You can take a photo when it’s gone.
Me: But then it won’t be there.
Security Guard:
Me: Will it?
Security Guard:

Given he’d now turned his back and was refusing to speak to me, I decided not to press the issue. Though I rather wish I had now, as I’m really not sure what authority he had.

Footnote:
Could I offer a quick apology to anyone who’s alighted on this page after having googled the phrase “camp stallion” – it probably wasn’t what you were expecting. Though I’m sure you’d find something of interest in Northampton’s Shoe Museum, so hopefully it’s not been a complete waste of your time.

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