Painted horses

It was an unusually balmy summer's evening in Brighton.


I had just come out from assisting a friend with a personal development workshop he was running, and I went down to the seafront for some decompression.

The water was calm – a smooth slab of silver under a wide, cloud-strewn sky. The beach, despite its uncomfortable pebbles, was liberally scattered with clusters of friends. The setting sun burned with a brilliant orange across the horizon, staining the city buildings behind me in hues of pink.

The air smelled of chip-fat as seagulls swooped past me in the dusk, checking me out to see if I had any food they could pilfer.

A few small sound-systems on the beach were playing pop music, but beyond the tinny tunes, I could hear the relentless cheeriness of a fairground pipe organ.

I made my way towards the merry-go-round. ('Don't you mean a carousel?' a friend once asked me. So I Googled it. Either term will do, and I prefer merry-go-round).

This evening there were no riders for the magic wooden horses – just a few drinkers looking on as they sat outside a nearby bar. And so, beneath the star-shaped arrangement of lightbulbs, the horses hung motionless from their golden poles.

As I circumnavigated the ride, I looked into the horses' painted eyes and thought about how evocative these creatures are. There is something magical, mysterious, and weirdly knowing about them. They hark back to time-bleached childhood memories, flights of fantasy, and the supernatural. They come from a world of fortune-tellers, Mary Poppins charm or horror movie influences.

I stood there and indulged in a little day-dream about hopping aboard one of them, and riding off into that sunset. As it happens, on this occasion, I went home on a train. But who knows about next time...