I decided it was time I started to make more of an effort to ride out with the string rather than hiding away in my office all the time and, boy, did I pick the wrong day to return. With the immortal words of Lloyd Bridges' Airplane character ringing in my ears ("Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking") we rode boldly like the man from Snowy River amid torrents of rain and gusting winds onto a desolate Newmarket heath.
Once again I thanked God for Panto, a prince among horses, who ignored the freshness of his companions who had just returned from their winter break, and stuck resolutely to his job as always - a true trouper.
Brief Goodbye, on the other hand, demonstrated that age is no barrier to silliness (just like his trainer) and took every opportunity to display his excitement at being back on the heath (or perhaps at being back with David as Gemma rode him most of last year). Matilda (who shall soon become formally known as Imperial Decree - a grand name for a grand filly) was a little star. Her regular companion Martha is doing a brilliant job in gently introducing her to the habit of being ridden.
John partnered Belle Annie, who continues to adapt well to life at BHS and Jim rode Jill Dawson, doing her usual impression of big brother Jack, whom we hope will return at the end of this month.
Having finally had the washing machine plumbed in in the old feed room, it was worrying to hear Jim discussing washing his smalls in there. Not a pleasant thought for anyone on an already grim morning.