Gaby Book 16 ~ Sweet Sixteen ~ Chapter *3* Jockey

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*Chapter 3*

How can you describe a firework display? Suffice to say that there were lots of whizzes, bangs and explosions lighting up the Bavarian sky for the next thirty minutes. Around me there were sufficient ooh’s, aah’s and other appropriate noises that suggested the Dukes euros were well spent. The whole thing ended with countdown to the New Year with a suitably loud and sparkly finale at the midnight hour.

“I guess it’s bed now,” Mand noted as we started to walk back to the castle.
“Bed!” Sara exclaimed, “And miss the party, not likely.”
“Party?” I dumbly queried.
“Well duh, Gaby, you don’t think we dress up just to eat and watch the Feuerwerk? Now it’s time for the fun.”

And indeed it was clear we weren’t the only ones heading back into The Harburg, the mood was friendly, happy and maybe a little fuelled by a little of the local Anker Brau. It was certainly a step up from watching crappy TV and toasting with some grape juice, I could get used to doing this. By the time the Ducal party arrived back in the courtyard, dancing was in progress with music supplied by that most German of musical enterprise, an Oompah band!

I’ve no idea what time we gave up, I just recall the world spinning, lots of giggling and – well nothing else.

Hmmm, warm. I snuggled deeper, my mind unwilling to switch to ‘get up’ mode or concerned about what I was squidging against as long as it was warm and soft. Something was restraining me, not in a bad way, well actually a very nice way, I felt about until I found the warm thing and hugged it closer about my middle, yeah, luxury.

“Gaby, Sophia, you two getting up?”
“Eh?” my mind tried to make sense of the noise.
“They were well out of it last night,” a second voice suggested.
“Wassup?” I managed to groan.
“There is life,” voice one stated, “you decent in there?”
“Guess.” I replied cautiously.
The door sprang open and I sensed bodies entering, have to open an eye I guess.
“Ooo, very cosy!” voice two that I now connected to a name, Manda, offered.
“Gabs!” my sister’s voice cut through the fug.
“Wassa matter,” Sophia sleepily requested from somewhere close to my ear.
“You coming for breakfast?” Mand asked very matter of factly.
Breakfast? I checked my watch, bum, nearly eight!
“Minutes, we know,” Jules observed.

I know it must’ve looked incriminating but honestly, nothing happened. When I say nothing, well Soph can be a bit feely touchy but sleep was all we did last night whatever it might have looked like. Anyhow I dragged myself out of Sophia’s clutches and started the morning ablutions.

No one looked especially chipper when I reached the breakfast table – Dad looked completely mashed, the Duke no better, even Mum was bleary eyed. It really had been some party.

“Someone slept well,” Gran opined.
There were silly grins on a couple of faces.
“Er okay I guess, morgen,” I replied taking a seat.
“Sophia getting up, Gaby?” the Duchess asked as I helped myself to coffee from the thermos jug.
“She was in the shower when I left.”

Of course the table was laden with the full frühstuck array but I wasn’t sure I could eat much – well I’ll have to give it a try.
“What are you girls doing today?” Mum asked, nursing her coffee.
“Dunno,” I admitted.
Yeah, there’s no way the parental units will be in a fit state to drive until much later today.
“You could come for a ride,” Jules suggested, “right, Sara?”
“On a horse?”
“Live a little, Gabs,” Mand put in.
“I’m sure we have riding kit you can borrow, Sara?” the Duchess suggested.
“Of course, Mama.”
“What about Sophia?”
“She has her own,” Sara noted.

And so it was that the five of us set off for the stables half an hour later, Soph having readily agreed to the plan when she joined the breakfast crew. January the first was, for now at least, blue skies with the remains of a light frost, yep, cold. My sister and Mand seemed quite comfortable in the riding gear they’d worn yesterday, for my part I felt a bit daft and awkward.

“We can go up into the Wald,” Sophia suggested.
“Over the burg, we can get coffee at Mönchs,” her sister agreed.
It sounded like some sort of code and a recipe for personal discomfort.
“I’m not sure about this.”
“Even you can ride, Gab, there’s nothing to it,” my sister told me – thanks sis.
“You’ll be fine,” Mand added, “no pedalling, you just sit there.”
Somehow I didn’t believe that.

After a crash course in horse control I found myself high above the ground on the back of a behemoth known to humans as Freja (I’m not sure what the tonne of flesh thought about that but she seemed to respond to it.). I had a death grip on the reins and nearly fell off when my mount started to walk on – this is so not a good idea! Our little group left the stables and crossed the car park to the field where we’d watched last night’s fireworks.

“What the!” Mand exclaimed.
“Over there,” she pointed to the top of the car park.


Sitting in red splendour was what even I could identify as an old British bus.
“What’s that doing here?”
“It’s here often I think,” Soph told us.
“They come on excursions from Aalen,” Sara added with more authority.
“On New Year’s Day?” Jules mentioned.
“Why not? The castle is open, lots of people visit today,” Sara advised, “it’s very popular.”
“In England everything’s closed.”
“So what do people do?” Sophia queried.
“Not a lot,” I admitted, go for a ride or a walk.”
“Watch telly,” Mand supplied.
“Well we’re riding so maybe we are British,” Sara offered, “come on, let’s get on.”
We had come to a halt as we talked; now I just had to get Freja into forward gear again.

At some point I released my death grip and relaxed a bit as we made our way up the hill, first across a wide swathe of grassland then into woodland that sits atop the hillside. Conversation was mostly related to the flora and fauna we passed, it’s not really my thing but if it is, well sat on the back of a horse is a pretty good way to see stuff. The path was clearly well used but even so by the time we reached the road again we’d only seen one woman walking her dogs, a pair of Dachshund.

Once back on the trail the path climbed steadily first along field roads then once again into the trees. Another road crossing and the route became steeper, a couple of times my mount nearly dislodged me on the uneven ground but eventually we reached a picnic area. When I say picnic, I don’t mean patch of grass with a bin but rather several bench/table things, the bin of course but also an impressive cooking grill.

“We’ll give the pferde a rest for a few minutes,” Sara instructed.
“Um, how do I get off?”
“Hang on,” Sophia told me.
Well how was I supposed to know? And it’s a long way down from up there.

“It’s peaceful here,” Mand mentioned.
“Hmm,” I agreed around my apple.
“There are often parties in the summer,” Sara told us.
“There’s a place behind Max’s similar,” I told them.
“How’d you know, Gaby Bond?” my sister demanded.
“It’s hardly a secret, Ingrid went to a party there at Halloween.”
“Do you come?” Mand asked our guides.
“We aren’t here often and it’s not like we’d get invited anyway.” Sara sighed.
“How come?” I asked.
“Think about it, Gabs,” my sister suggested.
“Live in the schloss, own half the area?” Sophia noted.
“I didn’t think it was like that in Germany,” Mand opined.
“Maybe not in the cities but in the country it is often how do you say it, still Feudalismus.”
“But last night, the party?”
“Daddy puts it on so everyone comes,” Sara stated matter of factly.
“Come on, I’m getting cold,” Sophia told us.

I have to agree; it wasn’t the warmest place, the winter sun not penetrating the boughs above us to any great extent. We retrieved our mounts and returned to the saddle – I cheated by climbing on from a picnic table! We set off once more with the promise of coffee doing its best to warm us.

After another road crossing we started a steady descent, dare I say it, I was sort of enjoying the ride. There were a few more bods about now, dog walkers; mountain bikers and a family with toddlers who squealed and shrieked with I think delight when we passed. We weren’t the only ones on horses either; at least half a dozen crossed us as we progressed to this Mönchs place.

Everyone seemed happy, well some of the bike riders were a bit serious but generally it was smiles and friendly greetings. There was one thing, well maybe two but one thing in particular that was getting irksome, my hat, helmet whatever you call it. I’m used to wearing head protection, well dur, I race bikes but my helmet weighs nothing, you don’t know you’re wearing it, this thing is heavy and the fit is – approximate and as for the chinstrap.

I was certainly glad when we reached our coffee stop; the place is actually called Mönchsdeggingen, and could actually take the damn hat off. The horses were watered and tethered – you don’t have that effort with a bike, then we went into the ‘Schwarz Adler’.

“It’s gone twelve o’clock?”
“That’s what the clock says,” Mand confirmed.
“We could get lunch,” Sophia suggested as we seated ourselves in one of those horseshoe alcoves so popular in German restaurants and bars.
“Sounds good to me,” I agreed.
“We’ll do that then,” Sara confirmed, “I’ll order the coffee and get the Speisekarte.”
Now that sounds like a plan!
“I stink of horse,” Jules stated.
I sniffed my own hands and wrinkled my nose.
“Urgh! Where’s the ladies?”
I guess you can get a bit whiffy riding a bike but smelling of you is one thing, smelling of horse is something else, something somehow less pleasant. Now where is that toilet?

Maddy Bell 26.04.16

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