“Mum you’re living the dream”, my teenage daughter said last week, fingering an Hermes riding jacket given to me as a gift on a trip to Vienna to see the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School.
She wasn’t referring to the magical snowy trip to Vienna, when my host and I sat in gilded coffee shops eating pastries topped with clouds of whipped cream, wandered arm-in-arm through twinkling Christmas markets, and toured the Lipizzaner’s cobbled stables, over which a reigning Hapsburg Emperor later built his palace so he could sleep and dream above the exquisite stallions.
“Because you have a ridiculous amount of clothing.”
She had a point, albeit a self-serving one since this remark was followed closely by requests for certain shoes, dresses, and coats.
“I can’t wait until you die and all this is mine.”
I was trying to pack for Dublin Horse Show, with its variable weather and many social events, and I was getting into a muddle. I looked at my suitcase, and then at my closet, and I knew she was wrong. I had nothing to wear.
“Um, hello, where have you been hiding these?” she held up a pair of vintage Frye cowboy boots bought in downtown New York, where she goes to university and rarely meets a horse. “You may never see these boots again!”, she cried, clutching them to her and fleeing the room.
With my wardrobe deficit at the forefront of my mind, my daughter and I headed to the Horse Show on Ladies Day, passing through the front doors and into the main hall amid clutches of perfumed women in hats and heels. They looked great. I felt shabby. My resistance was down.
The moment we passed through the turnstile, we came upon Mackintosh Ireland, where a daylily orange Mac was making a mannequin look fabulous. Designer and owner Francis Campelli chatted with us about Irish Macs, made of ‘Double Texture Cotton’, which is waterproof, breathable, warm, washable, and quiet (whew no more embarassing friction noises). I put the coat on and belted it – it felt great – not too heavy, not too light, glamorous but casual. I knew it was exactly what I needed for watching horses in rainy Dublin.
“I love this”, I told my daughter.
“Oh Mum.” She rolled her eyes.
We carried on to Mackenzie & George, makers of luxury British accessories, where I bought a snaffle bit belt, a snaffle bit scarf ring, and an olive hat with a pin of pheasant feathers. I pointed out the hat will be ideal for fence judging at autumn horse trials.
“You are ridiculous”, my daughter said. “Anyway you already have a hat like that”, and she wandered off to secure a box of chocolate-covered strawberries.
She caught up with me at Simple Things, Irish designers producing a range of scarves and shawls in Peruvian alpaca wool. I bought a tan and orange-striped shawl – a bit Hermes, a bit Newmarket Horse Rug. It sat snugly in my bag. I suggested it looked like a coachman’s lap rug.
My daughter sighed and shook her head. “R.I.D.I.C.U.L.O.U.S.”
We wandered over to Carl Scarpa, a boot company founded by an Italian family now living in Galway. They had Spanish Riding Boots in every imaginable colour, at half the price of any English company I’ve ever seen.
“These are actually nice”, my daughter said, reluctantly. “I’ve always wanted a pair of tall boots…”
“Such savings”, the salesman said, in a thick Northern Irish accent. So I bought her a pair, in black, because she lives in New York and that’s the only colour they have there. The salesman suggested the black boots would be nice with pink tassels – my daughter scoffed and kept the original black ones.
“I’ll wear them now”, she said, making contented cooing noises as she zipped them up.
I looked longingly at the chestnut ones, which I just knew I would wear every single day if I had them. But I left them – the day was passing, we were at Dublin Horse Show, and we hadn’t even seen a horse.