Over the last few days, I’ve aped the mythical travelogue of Gulliver. Unlike he, I’ve been able to report my journeys along the way, mostly via twitter although detailed episodes of particular interest have also appeared on this blog. It’s been a long weekend, comprised of sufficient adventures to fill a lifetime and now I’m homeward bound to make good a promise to arrive at this evening’s #LewesTweetup by hot air balloon. Before that homecoming though, the engineer of my transport proposed one last encounter to broaden my experience. The idea was to make genuine contact with the houynhyhms, sorry horses, who have been diabolically abused for political gain.
Mr Fogg set me down in a field between Chipping Norton and Dean, in the county of Oxfordshire, which he had previously explained was inhabited by these political prisoners. Just after I climbed out of the basket, he fired his device again and rose up into the sky. We’d agreed that I could wave him down to collect me when I’d finished my discourse with these creatures, whom he described as the most wonderful creation in the world.
Tentatively, I approached the noble beasts. In the few hours travel with the aeronaut, Mr Fogg had taught me some of the language of the horses. It lacked grammatical structure in the way we understand it – the emphasis was on semantic meaning rather than literal understanding. Essentially there were only three or four noises, all gutteral, and I had to interpret them in combination with the horses’ body language.
Thus informed, my reader will understand the impossibility of relating quoted chunks of my dialogue with the horses. However it was very informative. They began by welcoming me as a friend of the cloud wanderer. Next they revealed that he had already briefed them that I was a poor speaker of their physical tongue.
One of the horses had been enslaved to a police force in London, where it had been deployed in all manner of stressful situations. Officers had ridden it repeatedly without consent, apparently to give them a better view across crowds. Although the various protestors this horse had met were unable to interpret his own muffled attempts at communication, their own physical behaviour betrayed the ugliness of their lives. After many years of toiling away in these thoroughly unhealthy environments, my interlocutor had apparently been traded to a ginger haired Yahoo.
“Yahoos” seemed to be the name the horses had given to tabloid journalists, whom they regarded very differently from ordinary humans like myself. In all of their conversation with me, conducted with me at the centre of their group so that I would be hidden from the view of anyone wandering by, this was the only instance when they used a specific word. After clearly pronouncing it, they always cleared their throats of phlegm and spat a disgusting globule of it onto the ground. The contempt they held Yahoos was extraordinary. I found it difficult to reconcile with Mr Fogg’s high regard for them. Sensing my discomfort they pointed to the repeated deceits practised by the Yahoos, their general immorality. A recent incident particularly aggrieved them: the horse traded to the ginger haired Yahoo had been made to carry the chief thieving Tory bastard, for his personal entertainment!
Having heard this account I thought myself very grateful indeed to Mr Fogg for having given me this introduction. My peregrinations over the last three days have entailed much privation, much revelation and also much confusion. The exotic lands beyond London had turned out to be far more dangerous and untamed than I had ever imagine. Yet here, in this humble field, connections between the various threads of my experiences were emerging. Keen to make a proper note, I pulled out my phone and…
… The horses went berserk. Suddenly hooves were stamping the ground and clawing at the air. You wouldn’t have needed Mr Fogg’s linguistics lessons to understand the anger. Realising that they mistook me for a Yahoo in disguise and being unable to correct the error, I turned and ran.
The furious horses gave chase to the fence but no further. Unfortunately I didn’t know they had stopped. I kept running, throwing myself ungracefully over one barbed wire fence after another until I heard Mr Fogg hailing me from above. Seeing my flight, he’d anticipated which field he could intercept me in and was swooping down low across it. Eagerly, I clambered aboard.
“Don’t worry about the misunderstanding”, he reassured. “I’ll explain your purpose later on.” Thanking him, I settled in the corner of the basket and determined to not look out again until reaching the promised land of Sussex.