Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer Read Online (FREE)
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It was May 2013 when I was cooped up in an attic in Austria, au pairing for a family with six Ferraris. They lived in a converted hotel in the jaws of an Alpine valley.
Every morning the mother shrieked my name up the endless floors. “Time to feed the baby!”
I had taken the role to practice my German, but she only spoke in English. My jobs varied from sitting with the toddler to vacuuming up the dead skin that snowed from his father’s bottom.
The family never left their house except to get in their cars, which they kept tucked up in the garage. They viewed their valley through window frames as you would a photograph. So sedentary a lifestyle in such physical surroundings made me itch. At night I hatched plans to creep up the mountain and slide down the other side into Switzerland, yet the mother looked appalled when I so much as suggested running to the church and back.
By the time she sacked me a month later, my body was rusty and yearning for usage. I returned to the silent butterflies of an England on the brink of summer, seeking an experience unlike any I’d had before. In theory, this ought not to have been difficult. The most exciting moment in my eighteen years had been collecting chickens from Dorset on the train and wrapping them up in wine crates for Christmas presents.
The next month, June, marked a year since my release from high school. Fleeing the red bricks had been my dream for years—at fourteen, I had thought of myself as the finished article, ready to either have babies or break free (to where I couldn’t say, though for many years I had been fixated on becoming a burglar). Despite my conviction that more education would poison me like pesticide on a lush forest, I had remained in London until I passed my final exams. Strangely, the dissolution of structure thereafter unnerved me.
What was it about turning into an adult? The color drained from the days and life became a calendar. I floated in a debris of possible dates and implausible plans, with neither the funding nor the fervor to propel me onwards. Friends were busy with jobs or university, inclined to holiday on beaches rather than accompany me to Kyrgyzstan—a place I fantasized about. Meanwhile, I hadn’t heard back from my application to go organic farming in Wales, nor from the orphanage placement in Ethiopia. Dead-end jobs and equestrian competitions came and went. I moved through the month of my birthday without any fixed direction.
It was a warm city day when, for the umpteenth time, I cast my rod into the depths of Google as if the internet might contain my future. After opening and abandoning endless tabs, I brought up the page of a horse race.