Alezane's Diary Archive December 2005
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A corner of NinefieldsThursday 1 st December 2005
“What did HE say yesterday about December being all jolly and fun filled, Wick?”
“Er, I think HE said that it might rain a little.”
“A little? If it doesn't stop soon we will have to move the field shelter up the hill or it will float away like Noah's Ark. ”
“What do you know about Noah's Ark , Treg?”
“Oh, I was taught all about it when I was little. Funny, I keep remembering things from that time, long ago, that I had forgotten for years and years.”
“Yeah, that's happening to me as well. It's like going back to somewhere that you used to know well but haven't seen for ages, isn't it?”
“There are some compensations for growing old then.”
“Well yeah, except that when you remember them, you quite often want to go back there for real, and, of course, you can't. That can be pretty frustrating.”
“I thought you had a hard childhood, Wick. Surely you wouldn't want to go back to that?”
“Oh yes I would. I think any life is better than no life, at least, almost any. I would undergo all that hardship again if I could be young again. Somehow, if you are young, you can bear things better.”
“Did you do anything special for Christmas, Wick? Did you even know about Christmas, being a pony foal, living out rough on the moor?”
“Oh yes, we knew all about Christmas. The people driving across the moor used to have fir trees strapped to the roofs of their cars. And if they stopped, to look at the view or to have a drink out of a flask, you could always rely on them to be in a good mood and give you a treat.”
“I thought they are not supposed to feed the ponies roaming on the moor.”
“Ah, that's now. Remember, I'm nearly thirty years old. Things were different then. It was really quite easy to get people to give you something then. I remember one way we used to do it. Before we set out down to the car parks, we used to roll in the mud and wet grass so that our coats would stick to us and make us look much thinner and uncared for. Always worked a treat, that did. Then we used to go down as a group and mob the car so that the driver would get all confused as to who he had given something to and who he hadn't. They'd end up saying something like ‘oh alright, take the lot' just to get rid of us. Oh my, those were the days.”
“I can remember Christmas because the children used to come for rides and they would like to dress us up with bits of greenery in our bridles or sometimes even silly reindeer horns. Then they would get us to pull a cart about and pretend we were reindeer and that they were Santa Claus. As long as we let them play and pretend we used to get plenty of treats too. I wonder why Christmas makes humans go all gooey like that?”

“Dunno Treg. But it's better than getting all nasty and grumpy, isn't it? Mind you, that's how some of them get after Christmas. If they've had too much to eat or too much to drink or even if they've spent too much money and are regretting it.”
“Makes you feel sorry for ‘em, don't it Wick. It must be very hard being a human. I'm glad I'm a horse.”
“Yeah Treg, me too, a pony that is!”

Mims looks downFriday 2 nd December 2005
Treg's foot is getting very worrying now. It came up with a very large swelling above his rear nearside hoof. SHE has been putting poultices on but he is hobbling about and had to have his supper halfway up the field last night. When HE turned up this morning with Treg's breakfast, he was even further up the field, which indicated that he did, at least, have some mobility. Anyway, Treg had his breakfast taken to him up the hill as well. Then, when HE was going, HE heard Treg call out loudly and looked up to see that Treg had moved quite a long way down the field. And that was where he had his leg bandaged again, right down by the bridle path gates.
This evening, when THEY turned up with our supper, Treg was in the field shelter which was good news on two accounts. First, the rain has been pitiless today. Heavy rain without stop. And to think of poor old Treg standing out in it was, for humans, heartbreaking. The other good thing, of course, was that he was mobile enough to get there. However, after taking the poultice off and just replacing it with a support bandage, SHE is still not happy and has decided that the vet must be called in tomorrow.
And now to another matter. When THEY turned up with supper, apart from seeing Treg in the shelter THEY also saw Mims and I, right up in the very furthest western field. I don't know how, but the time had just flown by for us and we forgot all about supper. When SHE saw us, SHE called out and then, when we noticed it was supper time. Mims and I had a really good race right down through the fields. I have to say I just beat her by a short head but then I did race in my career whist Mims never had the training due to her injuries as a youngster. However, it was really good for both of us. Great fun. HE later told me though that it did cause HIM some problems later, while HE was walking Mims back to the stable. You see, she was so fired up that she didn't want to go home and after Dry Bridge , started playing up and refusing to walk. HE tried being nice, giving her treats, talking sharply, even hitting her rug with the lead rein but nothing would budge her more than a couple of steps. And that was how they progressed all the way down Ramsley Lane until, finally, he got her to trot just before the Y-junction and from there they flew down the road just like she and I had flown down the hill.
HE got her into the stable but then he nearly collapsed, out of breath. I don't think my Mims is in his best books at the moment!

Ninefields laneSaturday 3 rd December 2005
What a day. If I thought yesterday was wet, it was because I hadn't seen today. It just poured and poured all day long. And, of course, it was the day that the vet came to look at Treg's foot. The good thing is that it was Anna who has been out to Tregony many times and knows him well. One bad thing is that she is leaving the practice next week so this was probably the last time we will see her. Anyway, back to Treg's foot. He was up the hill by the middle tree when HE brought breakfast this morning so HE fed us first and then started out to take Treg's bucket up to him. It was a pleasant surprise to see that Treg had come down the hill to meet him halfway so he had his breakfast down by the bridlepath gates. The HE went home and SHE phoned the vets who could only tell THEM that it would be sometime today. THEY got a phone call about 11 to say the vet was on her way so THEY drove up and where was Treg? Right up by the middle tree again. First THEY walked up there and after about ten minutes Anna came along and walked up as well. All this time it was raining very heavily and we were all getting very wet. I say ‘we', I mean HIM, HER, Treg, Mims and me. I expect Wicky was getting wet as well but he didn't join us. Instead he was right up the top field as far away as he could get from Mims. I am afraid those two are not really hitting it off at all.
After Anna had been cutting away at Treg's hoof for a long while she said she had got a little pus out and that SHE should keep on poulticing it. They then decided that Treg should have a pain killing injection and HE went down to the road to give Anna a lift back up the hill in his old jeep. That was an interesting ride as the fields were just running with water like a lake. Now Treg hates injections. From that point on he refused any treats or anything, just clamping his mouth and sulking.
When THEY came back tonight with the supper buckets, we were all waiting in the shelter except Treg who was still standing where he had been this morning. THEY decided that he should move down to the shelter and that the pain killer should have worked enough to get Treg to walk. Well, it took a long time and several goes but finally Treg was persuaded to go into the shelter for his supper. At this point HE and I left them all to it and walked back to my stable. When SHE drove back after they had finished their supper, SHE said that the three of them were standing in the corners of the shelter eating hay. Let's hope they have the sense to do that all night long, or, at least, until this dreadful rain stops.

In a mistSunday 4 th December 2005
I started this month with the full intention of only talking about good things. I managed it for just one day. Friday and Saturday were all about Treg and his bad foot and today I have something even worse to tell you. HE thinks it's HIS fault and SHE thinks it's her fault and I have my suspicions about Mims, who also thinks it might have been her fault. But really, it doesn't matter whose fault it was, if anyone's, the important thing to do is to sort it out. You see, when SHE was putting Treg's poultice on this morning, she was sitting on her stool because Treg was standing in the field in puddles, not being able to walk back to the shelter without much pain. Anyway, her shoulder was up against his rear leg and she noticed a few scabs, like mud fever, on the leg. SHE picked them off and followed the scabs up, under his rug. When SHE felt under there, SHE lifted the rug and was horrified to find that Treg had very bad patches of mud fever/ rain scald/bed sores where he had been laying down. THEY had both been so absorbed in treating his foot and handling Mims that THEY had not looked under his coat for a couple of weeks.
HE thinks HE should have lifted coats when HE comes to feed us in the morning but, by the time he has kept Mims and Wicky apart, picked three sets of feet and performed sponge ablutions on three horses, someone has finished eating and it takes all his attention to keep the peace. It has been even more difficult when HE has to climb the hill to find Treg and carry his bucket up there.
Mims thinks it might have been her fault because no one has ever had this kind of rain scald before she came to stay and it is supposed to be infectious. She thinks that it is possible that Treg had been where she had dropped hair or something and, what with the terrible wet weather we've been having, it may have infected his coat.
And then SHE thinks it's because she didn't check Treg over. But, why should SHE have. SHE has been very busy getting rid of Mims rain scald and treating Treg's foot. There was no reason to suspect his sore hindquarters until it was accidentally found. The main thing is, it has been found and tonight THEY came up the field armed with cream and rubber gloves. To make things worse, Treg had moved even higher up the middle field and HIS car, which HE used to ride about the field yesterday, has started playing up and only starting intermittently. It is suspected that it got very wet inside with all the rain we had yesterday. HE is hoping it is just that as then it will go away when it dries out.
So they had to make the long trek up to Treg to rub his cream in and pick his scabs. Wicky, Mims and I were up in the top field but, as it was nearly bucket time, we all came cantering down the hill and skidded to a stop. Our field is now getting very scarred with skid marks but I expect it will mend. Anyway, what I had to tell you was that I am afraid that Mims had a go at Wicky again, right in front of where THEY were working on Treg and HE shouted at her in such a loud voice that both her and I had to remove ourselves to under the tree, twenty metres away. I do have to day that my daughter is very much like me. I hate being shouted at.
So, all in all, another horrible day and no doubt a boring one for you to read about. Fingers crossed that things will improve – the sooner the better for poor old Tregony!

Our streamMonday 5 th December 2005
“Ere Wick?”
“Hi, Treg, what can I do for you laddie?”
“Have you noticed how you can see everything that's going on from up here?”
“Depends what you mean by everything, old lad. I agree you can see who comes into Ninefields and you can watch everyone who goes up and down the Throwleigh Road and the Bridle path. But, you can't see what Santa Claus is doing at the moment, can you?”
“You could if he was coming into our field. Ere, do you think he will come to us this year?”
“Tell me first, Treg, what you are doing right the way up here in the top field?”
“Well, it's to keep out of THEIR way, o' course. I'm right fed up with having that stuff stuck on my foot. Then THEY goes and gets the vet to stick needles in me. And, the final straw was when they came and rubbed all that white stuff into my coat and picked all my scabs off until I was all raw and bleeding. So, I thought to myself, if I go right up here, THEY wont came and do things to me. And , if THEY do, it will make THEM all out of breath and feeling rotten so THEY won't do it again.”
“And is that a very good thing to do, Treg?”
“No, it's a very naughty thing, I'm pleased to say. THEY have upset me and I want to upset THEM by being as naughty as I can.”
“And does Santa come to naughty horses?”
“No, of course he doe …… Oh! Oo-er! Oh, fetlocks! You mean that he won't come to me because I've been naughty? No Xmas this year?”
“Well, it's something to think about, isn't it old man?”
“But I was only …..”
“….. being naughty? That's right, that's just what you are being. I should give it another thought, if I were you Treg.”
“Yer, right. That's what I will do then. In fact, I've got lots of time to think, standing up here all night. You don't top with me and I never know who if on duty there days, if it's Alli or if it's Mims. Neither of them comes near me now.”
“That's because you are being such an old grumpy bumpy. You're really not a lot of fun to be with these days, Treg.”
“Well, at least you still come and talk to me. Tell me about Xmas in the olden days Wick.”
“I would think you would know more about that than me, old man. I'm just a kid compared to you.”
“But you've had a wider world experience than I have. Tell me about Xmas on Dartmoor when you were a foal.”
“What I do remember was that it was always snowing during the day, although it cleared at night. But we didn't mind that because we all had great big thick coats. Double layers, a thick short woolly one next to the skin and a longer haired rough outer one which the snow could stick to because that would give us added insulation. Anyway, we used to stand, knee deep in the snow, on Xmas eve and look up into the big bright starry sky. Somehow it was always a bright moonlit night and we all used to gather and watch the northern horizon. At first nothing happened except the odd shooting star, but then, those with the sharpest eyes would get sight of something moving, coming towards us.”
“Did they have the helicopters then as well, Wick?”
“It wasn't a helicopter, Treg. As we watched, we started to be able to make out lots of pairs of legs cantering away and then, being pulled behind was a sleigh. When it finally got overhead, we could make out the sound of bells tinkling and saw that it was reindeer pulling the sleigh. And then, just as it passed right over us, an old man with a white beard, wearing a red cloak, looked down and waved to us and we could hear him laughing ‘Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho'. And, I don't know what it was but we all felt good and warm and loved at that moment. The whole herd felt safe and at peace and grass started to appear through the snow and we all just quietly grazed for the rest of the night.”
“And you're sure it wasn't a helicopter, Wick?”
“Er, yes Treg, quite sure.”
“Then, you know what, Wick. I reckon that it must have been Santa.”
“There's no fooling you Treg, is there laddie?”

Over the hillTuesday 6 th December 2005
“And lo, I bring you tidings of great joy!”
“What's that Wick?”
“I said ‘Lo, I bring yo…. “
“… yeah, I heard that, but what's it mean?”
“Well. What happened this morning?”
“Er, the sun came up and it rained for a bit?”
“Yes. But, what happened different this morning from the past few mornings?”
“Er, it only rained for a bit not constantly?”
“Right, Mr Tregs. Let's get a bit more personal. This morning, when HE came along with our buckets, what happened?”
“Er, HE drove up, opened the gate, drove in and drove down to the stream, then HE got out and brought our breakfast buckets … “
“Hold it, hold it right there, Tregony Bay. Why did HE drive his car into the field?”
“Well, because HE, er, because HE was … Oh, I don't know? Why did HE drive HIS car into the field?”
“Do you think it might have something to do with the fact that a certain cobby old so and so has been standing up in the top field and HE has had to walk all the way up there to give him his bucket?”
“Er, well, er…. Do you mean that HE drove into the field because HE was going to drive all the way up to the top field to give me my breakfast?”
“Well done My Tregony. And when HE did this, where were you?”
“Well, I was waiting down by the stream, weren't I? I didn't ask HIM to drive up the field, did I?”
“And did he tell you off?”
“Funny that. HE was ever so nice and said it was the best thing that had happened to HIM for HE didn't know how long. Bit embarrassing really. Thought HE was going to cry. I mean, all I did was come down for breakfast. Still, if it made HIM happy, I'm very glad. I just wish it wouldn't make him want to sing to me. I mean, I try to be polite and everything but really, enough is enough. If HE is really happy to see that I am a bit better then HE should have some respect for my finer feelings, don't you think?”
“Tell you what Treg. You are a cobby old beggar. Everyone loves you, you know. You have had us all worried sick and we can't help being happy that you have come through this and are alright again. Well, nearly. I know you are still limping a bit but, truly, we thought that you were not long for this world old laddie. You have worried the life out of all of us. Even Mims was worried for you.”
“Yeah. Well it was ‘er that made me come down from the top field. To be honest, I was having a bit of a sulk. I hate vets. And I hate being hinjected. So I thought if I goes right up to the top field, people would leave me alone. To be honest, I forgot about the food bit.”
“Well, now you have got to remember about it again. SHE has gone and bought special fattening food to help you put our weight back on, so you better not miss any more buckets.”
“OK Wick, if you say so. I promise. Now, tell me about this ‘great tidings of glad joy'. Who is she, this Joy. Do I know her?”
“Tell you what, Treg. Don't let's bother with that now. Let's go and get a good mouthful of grass, shall we?”
“Good idea Wick. Ere, tell me. How do you do that bit where you just walk through those gates that HE put up? I thought they were supposed to stop us going through?”
“Another time, eh, Treg. It's just a Dartmoor pony trick. I'll teach it to you one day. Maybe when you get a bit shorter, OK?”
“Oh, right Wick. I'll have to see what I can do, eh? Let's go eat!”

AlezaneWednesday 7 th December 2005
“Yes Mims, what is it?”
“What's that on you neck? You got an ache or something?”
“What? Oh, that. It's HER latest thing to combat all this wet weather we're having. It's just a sort of extension to your rug to keep your neck dry and stop you getting rain scald and stuff like that.”
“Oh. Does it work?”
“Well, I've not got rain scald on my neck today, so I suppose it must do.”
“And you don't mind looking daft?”
“I thought it was rather chic. Almost continental. It does bring a touch of class to Dartmoor , don't you think?”
“Yeah. But that's not hard, is it?”
“Oh, come on dear. Stop being so naughty. What would you like to do today?”
“Er, what day is it?”
“Wednesday, I do believe. Why?”
“Just wondering if it was time to give Uncle Wicky another bite. You told me not to do it so much so I keep it down to every three of four days now.”
“Really? And does he like it?”
“I should care. So what if he doesn't? I'm not worried about such a little squirt as that.”
“Mimsy darling. Sometimes I quite despair of you, I really do. I don't know where you get it from. It's not from me, that's for sure. It must be from your father.”
“Well, I didn't pick him, did I. S'not my fault, anyway.”
“It might interest you to know that I didn't pick him either. He was sort of thrust upon me. Whatever. I do wish you would try to be a bit nicer to Uncle Wick.”
“Don't see why. And he's not really my uncle. Ugh! I wouldn't want someone like that in my family. He's a freak!”
“Now Mims. We don't say that. It's all to do with being challenged. Your Uncle Wick is just challenged, that's all. He's the same as anyone normal, it's just that he isn't.”
“So, what's his challenge then, to get normal? Or is it to grow longer legs. I don't think that would make him normal. He's just a freak on long legs, that's all.”
“You've never forgiven him for chasing you up that hill, the first day you came here, have you?”
“He didn't chase me up the hill. I was just drawing him away from the herd. I thought you lot needed some protection from some ugly little monster. I didn't know then that he was one of our herd. Or, at least, a small part of it.”
“Tell you what, dear. I'm very happy that Granddad is feeling better. He is really coming on well now, isn't he?”
“Best limp in Ninefields, old gramp. Pity about his brain.”
“What do you mean dear? Has he gone and hurt his head now?”
“Dunno. I don't think so. No, gramp's challenge is to figure out what his challenge is. Sometimes he just stands in the field for hours trying to work out what to do next. Then he gives up and just stand's in the field for hours.”
“He's a lovely old chap. You shouldn't be rude about him. Until you came, he was my constant companion. We went everywhere together.”
“Yeah, well. I dunno how you managed all the excitement. Look, THEY're here again, it must be bucket time.”
“Oh yes dear, and look. What a lovely surprise. SHE's carrying another of these neck guards. No I wonder who that is for?”
“Oh no. Groan. What's it granddad says? Fetlocks! Oh well, looks like I'm going to be challenged just like everyone else!”

A Ninefields' treeThursday 8 th December 2005
“Hello there Laddie, have a nice sleep?”
“Oh, what? Oh yeah, I needed that. I'd not laid down for ages till now. Not for weeks. My poor old legs was just about giving way. The trouble's been, what with my sides being so poorly, it hurt too much to lie on them. In the end, it was a toss up, my legs or my sides. And my legs won.”
“I have to say, old man, when I came along a while ago, I wasn't sure if you were still with us. You were spark out, flat as a moo's pancake.”
“Course I'm still with you. Where would I go at my age?”
“Er, what I meant was, you were looking as if you might have passed on. I walked right by you and you didn't stir. I could have been a lion you know, or a snake or even a polythene bag. You wouldn't have known.”
“Course I would. They rustle, them polyfeen bag things. Would have heard it a mile off. Anyway, I've not passed on. I'm here and I'm ready for my breakfast. What time do you think HE'll be along?”
“Oh, come on Treg. HE's been and gone a lone while ago. And, from what I recall, HE carried your bucket up to you. You've had your breakfast, I'm afraid.”
“HE never did. Did HE? Oh, now you mention it, I do remember seeing HIM. I thought I dreamt it. I'm sure I did. HE brought along a bucket with a tiny, tiny bit of breakfast in it and I was so eager to check if there was anymore that I put my foot in the bucket and broke it all up. At least. That's what I thought I dreamed.”
“Ah, that explains it. HE went up to see you again just before HE left and HE came down the hill carrying a smashed up red bucket. I thought HE had been up to get that one right at the top of the hill and had dropped it on the way down. So, you did that, did you? I shouldn't think you will ever get any dinner again now, if you've broken your bucket.”
“What? Come on, I didn't do it on purpose. HE wouldn't be so mean. Would HE?”
“You can ask him yourself now. Look, there HE is at the gate. HE's just brought Alli back from her stable.”
“Has HE got a red bucket in his hands?”
“Now. How's HE going to carry that all the way and walk with Alli at the same time? Don't be daft man, of course HE hasn't got a bucket with HIM. SHE might, though. Look, SHE's just driven up in the car. Maybe there's a bucket in the boot?”
“I do hope so. I really am feeling hungry. All this limping and that gives one an appetite.”
“No, sorry Treg. Hard luck, no bucket, just a head collar.”
“Fetlocks! That means that THEY are going to do my sides again with that cream. I know THEY mean well but it hurts, it hurts like mad.”
“Maybe not. Look, HE's going into the shelter. Hey, what's that HE's got in his hand? It's round, it's red, it's – it's a bucket Treg. Looks like your breakfast has been here all the time waiting for you to get up.”
“Well, THEY could have told me. Still, better late than never. You better run along now Wick, I'll be a bit busy for the next few minutes.”
“Oh, it's alright laddie. I'll just stick around, you know, just in case you might need some help!”

Horse shoesFriday 9 th December 2005
“Oh dear Wicky, you've gone and done it now, haven't you?”
“What's that Treg? Done what?”
“You've gone and kicked HER, haven't you?”
“Er, no, well … er yes but, it was an accident. I didn't mean to.”
“How does lifting your leg and pulling it back and then kicking it out as far as you can, qualify as an accident Wick?”
“Oh, I didn't say that the kicking was an accident, laddie. Only who I kicked!”
“Oh wow. You mean you were trying to kick someone else?”
“Of course I was. That daft Mims tart was trying to steal my food wasn't she?”
“No, actually she wasn't. She was outside the shelter at the time.”
“Ah, yes, well, you see, I thought it was her behind me. I couldn't see very well ‘cause my head was stuck in the bucket.”
“So you just kicked out without even finding out what was going on or who was behind you?”
“Split second decision Treg, split second. ‘S'what you have to do at times like that. SHE'll just have to consider HERSELF and the victim of an unfortunate hazard of war. Caught up in friendly fire, so to speak.”
“I think you'll have to consider yourself in very deep bother Wick. I should walk very carefully when SHE's around, if I were you.”
“Well you win some and you lose some. Come on old man, don't keep dwelling on it. I see you are getting around better nowadays. Foot feeling better?”
“Mustn't grumble Wick. So, tell me, what are we going to do for Xmas?”
“You've asked me that already, Treg. Every day, I do believe.”
“It's because I don't seem to get a sensible answer out of you.”
“Well, what would you like to do? At least let's try and make a stab at it.”
“Not with your foot, I hope?”
“I told you, leave it Treg. Least said and all that. Now, how about we all get together, right up on the top hill in the middle of the night and all take turns telling Xmas stories.”
“That would be lovely Wick. There's a problem though.”
“Well, what is it? There always seems to be a problem with you.”
“It's just that we can't all get together because one of those two girls is always taken back to the stable at night. So there's always just the three of us here at night.”
“Er, yes, that's right, I'd forgotten. Still, no, that's alright. What we can do is have two night's story telling, Xmas Eve and Xmas night. How about that?”
“Yes. Then we can have everyone's stories, can't we. That's great Wick, really good. I must go away and start thinking of a Xmas story.”
“Don't take too long Treg, only two more weeks to go you know.”
“Don't worry Wick. I think I've got a good idea. Something about a mean old cob I used to know who didn't believe in Xmas. Then he started seeing ghosts. Yeah. That seems a good idea, I'll have to work on it.”
“His name wouldn't happen to be Scrooge, would it Treg?”
“How did you know tha……? Have you been listening when I talk to myself?”
“Just a lucky guess Treg, just a lucky guess!”

What Wicky does when he has no bucketSaturday 10 th December 2005
“Barley was dead. There was no doubt about it. Dead as a horseshoe nail. He had once been old Croup's partner in the business but that was ten years ago. Croup has joined up with Barley when they were youngsters running wild on the moor. It had been Barley's idea to start the business, acting as guides to unsuspecting tourists, taking them to lonely, wild parts of the moor surrounded by bogs and then tricking them into parting with their sandwiches and leaving them to find their way back. Croup immediately had seen the profit in such an enterprise and had joined in wholeheartedly. They were doing so well out of it that they were able to trade the surplus food for status and seniority in the herd.
Then, one day, ten years ago, Barley became a victim of his own cleverness and, suffering from a surfeit of egg and cress and peanut butter wholemeal, he staggered into on of the bogs himself and was seen no more. Croup wasn't sentimental but he did have good memories of some of the scams that Barley and he had pulled so he had hung one of Barley's old horseshoes on the door of his stable. Now, coming home off the moor, on a misty winter's evening, he noticed that the horseshoe moved and then turned into Barley's features in their most horrible form, like when he used to practice gurning over the field gate after a drop too much sugar beet. He blinked and the horseshoe regained its natural shape, so he shrugged and kicked the stable door open and barged in.
The stable door creaked shut and then the space was filled with darkness. This was normal and it would take old Croup a few minutes to gain his night vision. But tonight there was a sound in the dark like a one legged farrier kicking his anvil. Croup tried to peer through the dark but could see nothing. He shrugged and made his way by instinct over to his hay rack and stood their munching as the mist crept under the stable door and replaced the black nothing with a white one. Having filled his belly for a while, he folded his knees and sank down on the straw to have a few minutes rest. His eyes slowly closed and his head sank flat on the floor.

No sooner had his head touched the straw than he was awakened in a flash as the air turned freezing and a deep voice called out his name. He sat bolt upright, his heart pounding and he screwed up his eyes to try and focus on the hazy creature before him.

‘Who are you? What do you want?' he cried in a voice approaching panic.
‘Croo-oop! Croo-oo-oop! Do you know what you have doo-oone? Do you know what will haa-aapen to yoo-ou?'
Croup shook his head, unable to take in what was happening to him. ‘Are you real?', he cried. ‘What do you want from me?'”

“Tregony, Treg. Come on, buckets. Come on old man. Dinner time.”

“That's not in the story, Wick.”
“Wasn't me, you old fool. It's THEM. It's bucket time. You'll have to leave trying out your story until tonight, after we've eaten.”
“Oh, right. OK. Tell me Wick, do you think it was any good?”
“Dunno Treg, I not eaten it yet.”

A little rain this monthSunday 11 th December 2005
“Oh, by the way, Treg, shouldn't Barley visit Croup before the ghost appears?”
“What? What's that Wick?”
“I said, oh, it doesn't matter. Are you going to carry on your story?”
“Later on, Wick. I thought I'd just have five minutes rest first, OK?”
“If you're going to lay down now, you'll miss breakfast.”
“Nah. You watch. When HE sees me laying up here, HE'll start to worry and HE'll bring my breakfast up to me like HE did when I was up the top of the hill.”
“That reminds me Treg. Did you bring your empty bucket down from up there?”
“Me? Why should I bring it down? It's HIS job. Let HIM go up and get it if HE wants it.”
“You're a hard man Tregony Bay , a hard man. How long are you planning to stay down this time?”
“Long enough to stop my old legs aching, Wick. I thought I might also lay my poor old sore hindquarters down on that lovely cold frosty grass. Might stop the pain a bit, what d'you think?”
“I think you are just a stubborn old cob, laddie and you will do what you want, when you want and nothing can change that. Am I right or what?”
“Shhhsh, Wick. I can feel the muse coming over me ….

….. ‘Listen Croo-oop. I am the ghost o Christmas past. I am going to take you back in time to when you were but a wee foal, running about on the wide open moor. Do you remember those times Croo-oop? Do you remember …..? ?'
The spirit took Croup by the forelock and together they soared, over the misty valley of Chagford , and along the course of the Teign until they came to a barren and desolate place, all granite and scrub gorse with little tufts of grass here and there, all covered with frozen snow.

‘Look, look down there' cried Croup and he struggled free of the spirit's grasp. It's uncle Bracken and, look, look there, there's my little brother Flicket, limping along in the snow. Oh spirit, let us go down. Let us go and see how my brother fares.'

The spirit kept silent but nodded its assent and they gently glided down to a place a few metres from the limping pony.
‘Can he see me? Spirit, can he hear me? Can my brother of thirty years ago hear what I want to say to him?'
‘What would you want him to hear, Croup? What do you want to say to him?'

“It was me! It was me that stole your feed bucket. And good job too you horrible old scruff bag! There! Did he hear that?'
The spirit just shook his head sadly. ‘Have you no remorse, Croup? Aren't you at all sorry for the way you treated him?'
But Croup was busy pulling the most horrid of faces, his mouth contorted and his misshapen tooth jutting out. ‘I hate you, you little slimy ….'
The spirit tugged firmly on Croup's fetlock and they were away again, soaring over the icy wastes until they came to a little hamlet, nestling under the chimney of a disused copper mine.
‘Look Croup, look down there and remember.'

Croup looked and saw a stable, nestled against the side of a large granite house. Outside the stable were three cars, one of which looked as if it was just visiting. The stable door was shut and inside there was a sound like an angry bumble bee. They floated down and peered over the open stable half door.”



Zzzz… Zzzz…


“Treg? What happened next Treg? Oh bother, he's drifted off. Just when I thought I recognised some thing as well. S'pose I'll just have to go and get something to eat until he wakes up. Well done granddad, well done, you old …”

Michael's farmMonday 12 th December 2005
“What? .. What? I wasn't asleep. Just resting. What were you saying?”
“You were in the middle of your Christmas story Treg and you just, sort of, wandered off.”
“Well, you were listening, weren't you? We don't both need to listen at the same time.”
“But you were telling the story Treg. You can't just drift off if you are in the middle of a story. I was just getting interested.”
“You mean you weren't interested before?”
“Of course I was. It was just, well, this part brought back memories. I was just trying to remember where and when it was.”
“But, it wasn't about you Wick. Was it? I thought it was just a story.”
“Yeah, right, of course Treg. Just, well, it was a bit familiar, know what I mean?”
“Well, I can't carry on for the moment. I need a bit of a rest. Shut eye, you know. Maybe I'll carry on later. Why don't you tell a Xmas story, it might help me doze off.”
“Never known you to need a story to get to sleep before laddie. You just seem to stop and crumple up and there you are – asleep. Still, let me see. Do I remember any Xmas stories? I wonder. Maybe … There was the one about …..

A long time ago, even before Tregony was born, there was a wee bittee of a mousie who lived in the stable of the king of the elves horses. The king was a very powerful man who had over fourteen and a half horses in his stables next to the palace. He had thirteen ostlers who worked there but as they always quarrelled over who should do what, the mousie, whose name was Muddle head, was never disturbed in his bedroom. No one lifted the straw and no one threw more straw down on it so he had all the time in the world to work at his hobby, which was … Well, to begin at the beginning.

Once upon a time, when the world was even younger than Mims, Muddle head lived in the middle of a great expanse of wasteland called Ramsley. His parents had not so much died as run away from him, and he lived all alone in a small hole under one of the large slabs of granite that covered the ground. He didn't have any friends, in fact, he rarely saw anyone at all except for a sweet little girlie shrew called Miss Snout. Muddle head was quite fond of Miss Snout and spent an awful lot of time trying to persuade her that he was the fine upstanding fellow that he was not. However, Miss Snout may have been naïve but she was not silly. “You are a slimy, nasty and altogether repellent fellow, Muddle head”, she said. “But, as there is not a lot of choice around these parts, unless you like elf horses, I suppose that I will have to make do with you until something better comes along.”

“Wick? Wick?”
“Oh what is it Treg, I was just getting into my stride.”
“Is this story going anywhere? I mean, there's not a bit of Xmas in it and I don't think I like the characters very much. Couldn't you make things a bit moiré … well … a bit more mistletoe sort of thing?”
“We were just coming to that, Treg. I was working up to the great love scene…”
“… you can't have a great love scene with characters called Muddle head and Big nose”
“She was Miss Snout, not Big nose. A perfectly romantic name, don't you think?”
“No! No I don't think at all. I'm going off for a lie down. You've quite spoilt my day. I don't know when I'll be up again. I'll let you know if I want any more of this dreadful story. Good night!”
“Some people. Dreadful story? Well, he can just please himself!”

Just grazingTuesday 13 th December 2005
“I think I will continue without any interruptions from Wicky as he is up the hill feeding his face, as usual. Now, let me just remember where I had got to? Oh yes, Croup found himself outside the stable where there was a funny buzzing sound.

‘I remember this' said Croup. ‘It's when THEY cut all my lovely coat and mane off. I must have done something terribly wrong for such a punishment.'

‘Now look, Croup', said the spirit and Croup saw the sight of a very thin and almost bald pony, being lead back up the hill to the field.

‘Oh dear. Look at that poor, sad figure', he said. ‘Don't show me any more, spirit, ‘it's just too sad. To think what he once was. And reduced to this!'
The ghost grabbed him by the mane and, in the wink of an eye, Croup found himself back in his stable once more. He was so shaken by the sights he had seen that he could only shut his eyes and hope to get to sleep before his memories came crowding back.

It felt to him as if he had only just shut his eyes when he felt the air grow very cold and he could sense a very large presence standing behind him. Turning he could make out the shape of a huge shire horse looming over him. All covered in green swathes of ivy and mistletoe and holly with bright red berries. As Croup stared in awe, the shire opened its mouth and as it spoke, the whole stable shuddered.

There appeared to be no option but to raise himself up and walk over to where the shire was standing.

‘What is it? Where are we going?' he asked.

‘I am the shire of Xmas Present, not to be confused with a Xmas Present you understand, more of a Xmas now, so to speak. I am going to take you, Croup, to see how the world is making merry and not being a miserable little twerp like someone we all know.'

Saying that, the shire got behind Croup and propelled him out of the stable window. Croup now found himself looking down on a little village, all covered in snow. His breath was coming all white and he needed to shake his head continually to be able to see clearly.

‘Does this remind you of anything?' the shire asked him.

‘Er, no, er … well… snow. It reminds me of snow.'

‘Of course it reminds you of snow, idiot, but what else? Have you seen this place before?'

Croup peered again and down in the field below him, he could just make out the figures of some horses wandering wearily across the frozen wastes. Ashe watched he was able to discern the figure of a small, rather wasted filly, who trudged along in a very disconsolate manner.

‘That's …er, that's what's ‘er name. We used to be friends, best friends. In fact …'

‘ … in fact, you were a couple, weren't you Croup? Now you can't even remember her name. Shame. Shame on you Croup!'

‘But, it was so long ago. Yes, we were partners but then …'

‘But then you deserted her, Croup, did you not. You ran off to a place where you could be sure of getting a full feed bucket every day with not even a thought for you know who.'
‘That's the trouble, I don't know who. Was it Bracken? Oh no, that was .. er … Was it Torine?, I think it was. Torine my first and only …'

‘Careful Croup, remember who you are with. No exaggerations please. Would you like to go down and talk to her? Let her know why you ran away and left her?'
‘Er, thanks, spirit, but no thank you. It was a long time ago and …'

“Wicky. Wick? Why are you looking like that? Something scared you?”
“What? What? Oh, it's you Treg. Thank goodness. I think I was having a terrible dream.”

“Never mind Wick. Tell you what. I'll continue with my Xmas story, shall I? That should make you feel better, now, shouldn't it?”

Our trimmed hedgeWednesday 14 th December 2005
I'm afraid I have to interrupt this bout of story telling for I have a story to tell myself that is not at all pleasant. To get down to the hub of the matter straight away, Wicky has turned nasty. He not only kicked HER the other day (that could have been put down to an accident or, at worst, a case of mistaken identity) but now he has turned on poor old Tregony.
HE noticed something very funny when HE took the breakfast buckets down to Ninefields this morning. I didn't see it myself, as it as was turn to be in the stable overnight, but HE told me about it as we walked along the Throwleigh Road up to the field. Apparently, Wick was not in his usual place, down by the stream, waiting to greet him. Instead, Mims was standing in the middle of the path with Treg a little to her right and Wick a bit up the slope to her left. This meant that Wick was not able to go up to him first and get a couple of biscuits to eat as they walked to the shelter. Instead, Mims met him and got a treat and Wick had to follow on behind. Now, whether this upset him or if something else happened during the day is not certain. It almost seems quite likely that something occurred overnight and that Mims has won the pecking order battle so that Wick is now definitely in third place just before Treg. Whatever the reason, this evening, there was a real strange atmosphere when THEY brought the buckets along. All four of us were up in the Throwleigh Road field but Wicky was not in his usual place by the gate. Instead, he was a bit down the field to the left, quite near Treg while Mims and I were over on the right.
It was Mims turn to get taken back to the stable so SHE walked into the field (yes, I did say ‘walked', the kick is finally getting better) and went straight over to Mims to put her head collar on. However, when HE went in carrying the buckets, instead of coming up to HIM for his treats, Wick decided to chase after Treg and to bite his rear flank. And, not just once. He got poor old Treg running away and chased after him. I say poor old Treg, not because I think Wicky's bites hurt him through his thick rug, but rather that I know that Tregony is such a sweet creature that he would never have done anything to deserve it. I'm sure it is much more a case of having lost his no 2 slot in the herd, Wick feels that he has to establish his new place as number 3. As if there were any doubt!
Anyway, I'm not looking forward to tonight, having to police those two instead of just getting on with a nice quiet time for a change. I think, if things don't improve soon, I am going to recommend that Mims and I stay up in the field and Wicky gets taken back to the stable to give us all some peace!

Mims and a wallThursday 15 th December 2005
“I don't know why I should? Do you want me to carry on with my Xmas story or not Wick?”
“Aye, of course laddie. I'm sorry for yesterday, I was a little worked up, you know. All these girls around here, it's been getting on my nerves, you know.”
“Well, alright then. If you promise you've stopped chasing me about….”

“Croup woke up and found himself in his stable once more. Obviously the spirit had decided not to make him face up to his old girlfriend after all. Croup realised he was shivering. It had been a very near thing. He went to the corner where there was a nice thick pile of straw and wriggled his way down. ‘I'm not going to worry about it any more', he said to himself. ‘I'll just shut my eyes and get a good night's sleep'. It seemed to him that he had only just closed his eyes when he heard a great loud sound of laughter and the jingling of bells. In fact, he wasn't at all sure that he wasn't dreaming. Without moving, he opened one eye a fraction but saw nothing. Then the noise was repeated and he realised that it was outside his stable. Carefully he got up and went over to the edge of the door and peered out.
‘Oh my goodness, porridge and haggis', he muttered. Standing just outside of the door was the largest Shire that he had ever seen. It must have stood at least twenty hands and it was covered all over with streams of holly, ivy and mistletoe. What was even stranger was that the holly and mistletoe berries were tinkling just like little bells. He went to duck buck into the stable but too late, the Shire saw him and bellowed.

‘Ho there little man, you must be Croup, if I'm not mistaken?' Croup could only nod as he looked at the apparition in horror. ‘And I expect you are wondering who I am, eh?' boomed the Shire. ‘I .. I expect you will tell me... sir?' muttered Croup. ‘I, laddie –ha, ha – I am the Shire of Xmas Present, er, that is Now! I have come to take you on a little trip. Here bite hold of my mane and away we go.'
And, with Croup anxiously grasping his mane, the SOXP (as he liked to be known) soared up into the sky. Up, up, up they went, over Cosdon, streaming past Okehampton and onwards towards Tavistock. Looking down, when he dared, Croup could make out the shapes of sheep, cattle and horses grazing in the moonlight. After a while, he gained the confidence to let go of the Shire's mane and was just carried along by some magical force. Soon, Croup found himself flying lower, over some barns and outbuildings and then they gently landed. ‘Where is this place, please sir?' Croup asked. ‘Just observe, Croup and you will see a sight to make even your cold hear soften.' And, as he watched, an old cob came limping painfully along the path, stopping every few steps to rest from the pain. The, from behind, came a small grey pony who flung himself at the poor old cob and buried his teeth in his flank. The cob tried to run and his fear overcame the pain in his leg. ‘That's how some horses are having to spend their Xmas, Croup. Nice, isn't it?' Croup was still trying to understand what he was supposed to be looking at but, in order not to offend the Shire, he answered. ‘Yes, very nice, I'm sure'. With a frown, the Shire grabbed Croup's mane and dragged him round the corner of a barn. ‘Look at that then!' In front of them. A poor, tired old cob was being pushed off his feed bucket by a small grey Shetland. In his haste to escape, the cob nearly fell over and then he limped away looking painfully thin and hungry. ‘Perfectly normal' though Croup to himself, ‘I wonder what's the point of this?' Seeing Croup unmoved, the Shire shook his head sadly, grabbed Croup's mane again and, once more, took to the skies.
‘I'll give you one last chance, Croup, but I have to warn you, I'm losing patience.'

hoof printFriday 16 th December 2005
“Ere, Tregony, this story is starting to sound very familiar. Are you sure it's a true story and not just one you are making up as you go along?”
“What? Me making up as I go along? What on earth makes you think that Wick?”
“Well, all that about the old cob and then again about being pushed of his bucket and that. Well, it just reminded me of something and someone, you know?”
“I'm afraid I don't know Wick. Maybe it was something in another part of your life, eh?”
“OK, just as long as you are sure. Let's hear some more of it. Right?”

“Croup, by this time, was starting to feel a bit uneasy. He didn't really like the things that the Shire was pointing out to him. It was one thing to just do it. OK? With no one watching. But when he realised that the Shire had his whole behaviour recorded ready to show to the world, Croup started to have some doubts.
‘What are we going to see now, sir', he grovelled, hoping that his show of humility might spare him from further exposition.
‘What would you like to show me, Croup?' asked the Shire, meaningfully. ‘What do you have to show me that you are not such a nasty fellow as it would appear?'
Croup had to stop and rack his brains. What good and kind act had he done recently? Or ever, come to that? ‘There was that time when I didn't bite Trego .. er .. the cob', he tried. The Shire just raised his eyebrows. ‘Er, I did let him eat some of that food that was laying in the shelter', he tried again. ‘And what were you doing at the time, Croup?' ‘I was busy', he answered. ‘Busy eating? Was your mouth as full as it could be and couldn't take another drop?' All Croup could do was nod. He would have liked to lie but he knew that the Shire knew everything and that he wouldn't get away with it.
‘I think', said the Shire, ‘I think we have gone as far as we can with the Xmas Now. Maybe we should get you back to your stable, Croup, before we find out any more of your nasty deeds.' And with that, he grabbed Croups mane and flew him back, at the speed of light and Croup found himself waking up, once again, on the straw in the corner of his stable.

He lay still and quiet. Nothing happened. He opened first one eye and then two. Nothing was to be seen except the stable walls. Slowly, he relaxed. ‘It was a dream. Just a dream!' he thought to himself. An enormous feeling of relaxation came over him. It was all in his head. Nothing to worry about. Probably a bit too much sugar beet had upset his digestion. He flopped back on the straw, feeling very tired now and soon his eyes started to close.

‘CROUP!' a voice bellowed. ‘CROUP, get up, AT ONCE!' He sat bolt upright on the straw, his eyes searching from side to side. ‘What is it?' he cried. ‘What's the trouble?”
‘YOU are the trouble, you little worm', a voice sneered. He looked up and saw the ugliest, most malicious looking cob that he had ever seen. Its eyes were red and its head seemed to be aglow in yellow flame. ‘We are going, littler sh .. er .. stinker, to see what will happen to you, if you don't mend your ways. I am the spirit of Xmas to come. Come with me – don't touch me – just follow on, let's see where your ghastly ways are going to lead you!'”

“Er, is there much more of this, Treg? Only I'm going to have to go up the hill now.”
“Don't worry, Wick, I can finish it later. Go on, off you go!”

Treg in winterSaturday 17 th December 2005
Sorry to interrupt again. Mind you, I think you can see where it's going now, can't you? Still, I wanted to tell you about a friend of mine. Where my stable is (I nearly said ‘where I live' but that wouldn't be true, would it?), across the road, there is a house where three little girls live. I often hear them, well, ‘living' when I am stood in my stable either having just come home from Ninefields or waiting to go back to Ninefields. There did used to be only two and I had no real trouble knowing who was crying or who was shouting or who was excited or who was sad. It really was very interesting for I do like children very much indeed. I would get very upset if I heard anyone crying or unhappy. Then the third little girl came along and she was really good at screaming. Now, this was a sound that was quite new to me and I couldn't work out what it was about for quite a long time. Then I realised that it was her way of getting what she wanted. He two elder sisters could talk and argue their case but this new little girl had only sounds to do the same thing. She had very successfully worked out a method of communicating her desires until she was able to articulate them like her grown up sisters.
To come back to the point. I said ‘grown up' sisters. That is, of course, relative. The eldest now goes to school and the next eldest, well, that is the point of this story. It is her birthday tomorrow. And she is (like her elder sister) quite fond of me. So, I decided to give her a birthday present when the time came. She has been reminding me now for about six months that her birthday is in December so I had now trouble in remembering. I decided to give her one of my shoes, as I now no longer have use for them. I only walk on the roads, without a rider, every other day for about a mile altogether (half a mile to my stable and half a mile back to Ninefields). It is therefore not worth wearing those heavy old iron shoes that I used to wear. When Mark the farrier took them off for the last time, SHE kept them and now I decided to give the little girl one, in case her shoes ever wear out.
Now, I know it is not very exciting to receive just useful presents for your birthday so I also got HER to make up a little parcel of hay, for her to eat, some mistletoe and ivy for pretty flowers and one of my next best sweets (after mints), a sort of dark, liquorice boiled sweet, to enjoy for itself. And then, tonight, after I had eaten my supper, we all (HIM, HER and me) went over the road to the little girl's house to give her the present. She said then that her birthday is tomorrow but I had to explain that I will be walking back to Ninefields early in the morning, probably before she woke up, so I was bringing my present tonight. And that's it. That's my story. I then went back to my stable and settled into my hay. What a nice evening.

A sodden fieldSunday 18 th December 2005

“'LOOK DOWN THERE', boomed the Spirit of Xmas to Come, ‘LOOK CROUP AND BE SCARED!'
Croup peered down but all he could see was a group of horses and ponies, all milling around something. Then, as his eyes sharpened, he saw that they were all eating out of a yellow bucket.

‘That's my bucket', he yelled. ‘What are they all doing with my food?'

‘But you are no longer there to eat it, Croup', said the Spirit.

‘Why's that then?' demanded Croup. ‘If it's bucket time, then I am always there.'

‘Not any longer croup, I'm afraid. Listen to what they are saying.'

Croup stretched his neck as far as it would go and pricked his ears to listen to the chatter coming from below.

‘Cor, this is a bit of alright. I bet old Croup would have liked this, if only he were here to eat it', said a little chestnut filly.

‘Fraid it's too late for that now, Conker', said a big, kindly cob, ‘he's been taken away to the place where all greedy, nasty ponies go'.

‘Not Chagford?' said a horrified Exmoor , ‘he can't have been that bad?'

‘Worse than that, Lorna, much worse', said a little donkey, with ears almost as long as his legs. ‘He's been taken to the Sanctuary for Dastardly Dartmoors. They know how to treat them there, alright.'

‘Yeah, Yes, Right on. Course they do'. A chorus of assent rose up from the herd. ‘Serves him right, o' course. Little rotter that he was. Always pushing himself forward. Always stealing other horse's food. Used to bite yer legs. Bit my bum once.'

There was a vast chorus of assent and satisfaction at the demise of old Croup. Only one voice stood out in the crowd with a good word for him.

‘He was my best friend', said old Tregony, a tear in his eye. ‘I used to look out for him, even though he was pretty nasty to me. If there was any trouble brewing, I would volunteer for it to save him from it. I only wish I had been there when they came to take him away. It wasn't my fault. It was just that I was being treated for mal nutrition on account of not getting my fair share of the food. Croup would so insist, I hadn't the heart to refuse him and in the end, it did for me. If only I had had enough to keep my strength up, I could have helped him avoid all this.'

Croup looked up at the Spirit with a great big tear in his eye. ‘Is it really too late, Spirit? Is there nothing I can do to avoid it?'

‘This is the future that will be, if you do not mend your ways, Croup', said the Spirit.”

“All right, all right, Treg. I get the picture. Don't let's bother with the end of the story, eh? I expect old Croup wakes up to find that he is still in his stable and it is still only Xmas morning. And he goes rushing out to find his best mate, a poor old cob called Barley, who looked remarkably like your good self, eh Treg? And he goes and takes Barley back to his stable and offers him all of his nice yellow bucket to eat and tells him that he will never be unkind to him again? I am right? Is that how it goes?”
“Wicky! Have you been reading my notes again? How could you let me go on with the story, when you knew what was coming all along. I would have thought, in this season of good wi …”

“Get over you old fool. Let me get at your bucket. Go on, get out of here before I nip your kneecaps.”
“Alli! Alli, he's doing it again. Can't you come and help me?”
“What is it Treggy dear? I'm sorry, I can't come now. I've got to go and look after my daughter. Just get on with it will you? Make the best of it, eh? Tell you what, why don't you try telling him a story. Maybe that will make Wicky nicer to you.”

Ninefield's viewMonday 19 th December 2005
Hi there, Mims here! Everyone else has been having a go at the diary recently so I decided it was my turn. When no one argued with me, I began to have my doubts but, well, here I am. Seems OK. Bit boring maybe but at least it's communicating, aint it?
Thought, while I was here, I'd tell you a bit about Mum. Some of it I know myself but also a lot of it comes from HIM. HE tells me all sorts of things, as we walk up and down between the stable and Ninefields. I'm actually getting quite fond of him – for a human, I mean. Anyway, I was going to talk abut Special. Mum, that is. When I was born, that was her name; Special, well Always Special to be exact but we just called her Special. Some of the time. Called her lots of other things as well, when she used to tell us off but I was young then. To tell the truth, it's kinda hard to get used to hearing her called Alli. If I say that it sorta sounds funny on my tongue so I usually stick to Mum.

Well, what I was going to tell you is what Mums been like lately. It seems that before I came, she used to be a bit of a live wire. Spooky, jumpy whatever. But since I came (or, at least, since I settled in – we did have a period of adjustment, so to speak) she has become very calm and relaxed. No rushing about, takes no notice of lorries or the school coach passing her, just seems content and happy (HE says, almost dozy) as she goes about from stable to Ninefields and back. And then, recently it seems, she has found something else to worry about. What happens now is that she and me takes turns to go back and sleep in the stable overnight so that we both get a bit of relief from the mud on our feet and allow our mud fever to get better.

Now, when it's her turn, she just walks off with HIM, leaving me in charge of Uncle Wicky and Granddad, without a backward glance. The next morning when she turns up, she just strolls into the field and starts grazing as if she had never been away. But, when it's my turn to go to the stable, she can hardly eat up her supper. She just walks out of the shelter and runs down to the gate looking after me. And, in the morning, it's even worse. She runs up to the Throwleigh Road gate and shouts and shouts for me and works herself up into a right lather until HE comes along with me. Then, when I walk into the field, she goes back to being Mrs Cool, just grazing and, as good as ignoring me. The other two have remarked on it as well. Granddad stands well back when she is in that mood. Uncle Wick just mutters ‘women' and gets on with his eating.

It's funny, aint it. It's nice to know she cares so much for me and, now that I am grown up, I can stand back from it and see her as just another adult as well as being my Mum with some strange and some loveable ways. I wasn't sure when I first came here, it was such a shock learning to be part of such a tight knit community. Now I have settled in, I am beginning to really like it. I enjoy the responsibility of looking after the two old men and I just love being with Special again. We are starting to have some great times together. I'm even getting a bit fond of Uncle Wick – how about that?

Mims and ITuesday 20 th December 2005
Mo sat and listened to the sound of the horses breathing. Every now and then, the mare would give a little contented ‘brrrrhh' and shuffle her feet to get comfortable. The nest was warm and everywhere was still. Mo was feeling pretty pleased with life. How he had ended up in this place was a bit of a lucky chance. He had been living quite rough, moving from hole to hole in the field, ever since the big machine had come and devastated his old home in the hollow sown by the stream bank.

His first stroke of luck was meeting up with his little partner Muse. He had been scrabbling about, under the trees, trying to find a scrap to eat and, to be perfectly honest, he hadn't been paying as much attention as he should to what was going on around him. He was well aware of the danger of cats in this place. He had smelled them and seen them when he was out foraging. But hunger had made him a bit reckless and he was so busy engaged in sniffing out some berries under the hedge that he didn't notice Muse until he very nearly bumped into her.

Luckily, she was more amused than annoyed and she pretended to be extra frightened by their crash meeting and to watch his confusion with some enjoyment.

‘Oh, I'm sorry', he blurted, 'I didn't see you there.'
‘I'm surprised you saw anything, the way you were bumbling about', she grunted, pretending to be offended. ‘I'm sure I don't know what you must be thinking of, bumping into a ladylike that.'
It didn't take long, however, for them to become first friends and then, after spending the day together, hunting for food, rather more than friends. A few days later, they were out together foraging when they came across the tack room, adjoining the horses stable. They didn't come up to the door and just walk in, that would have been for creatures of a much greater size than two little field mice. No, they were creeping along a wooden fence, when they came to the sides of the building and, following it in search of food, they came to a knot hole a couple of inches above the ground. Mo stood up and stretched to look in. He couldn't see anything as the darkness inside contrasted with the daylight outside making him temporarily blind. He could however smell the delicious smell of grain and other tasty edibles.

‘Look here, Muse', he whispered and she came alongside him and stretched up to the hole. ‘Shall we go in', he asked, already knowing the answer. Muse stood very still for a few moments and declared the place safe and, first Mo and then Muse, clambered up and slithered through the hole and onto the ground on the other side.

That had been a week ago now. They had discovered a veritable King Mouse's Gold Mines of edibles just scattered about on the floor and they knew there was more in the big metal box that was only opened now and again. This didn't worry them though because every time it was opened, more food got spilled on the floor and they could eat to their hearts content. They had also discovered the perfect place for nesting and masses of hay to build with. Suddenly life had become wonderful, no wonder they had fallen in love and decided to start a family.”

“Hold it there, Mims. You're not telling us a story about rats, are you?”
“It's not rats, Wick. Aren't you listening? She said it was about doormen.”
“Thank you Tregony. I think, actually, I said dormice, but it is kind of you to defend me like that.”
“That's all right, Miss Mims, I think it's a lovely story.”
“What's it got to do with Xmas, lassie? That's what I want to know, the noo.”
“We're getting there Uncle Wick, just be a little patient, please. And you don't need to put on that fake Scots accent for me, you know. I'm from Dartmoor as well as you.”
“So, are you going to get on wi' it or no? I'm starting to get a bit peckish lassie.”
“Tell you what, guys. Let's go and eat now and finish it tomorrow.”

Tree topWednesday 21 st December 2005
Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick.

Can you hear it?


Sorry to interrupt your story but this is important. I've started to hear it, hear it all the time. It's my clock, my biological clock. You see, ever since my daughter came to live with me, something has started stirrings deep inside me. Mumsy things, maternal urges, you know. And I am quite well aware that I am not getting any younger. However, I'm not ready yet to become a grandma, I feel I still have something to contribute to British Marehood. Maybe a colt this time. I've had two lovely daughters but a boy, well, that would be something, wouldn't it.

I've started looking. I have been spending quite a lot of time standing up at the Throwleigh Road gate, keeping an eye on the passing talent. I'm afraid to tell you though, things have been a bit on the thin side. In fact, that is an exaggeration. For thin read zilch! I had at least expected Mathew to ride by on the odd stallion, or, better still on a normal one but I'm afraid all the lads that he has ridden past have been lacking a thing or two. Quite definitely! I stand for hours up on our top field listening out. I've even tried calling out myself but, as you know, my voice is one of my weakest features. Whatever, it's still no luck. The one or two voices I hear in reply are all a little too much on the soprano side to be of interest.

And in those silences when I am straining to hear the voice of my prince, all I get is ..

Tick, Tick, Tick, TICK!

I am not going to be able to wait much longer. As it is, SHE has decided that it would be unsafe for me to be in foal again. Much as I love Mims, I can't bear the thought that she, and not me, might be the next mother. My god, that would make me a grannie, wouldn't it? Oh no. I must have a word with her and warn her of the nasty ways of males. Well, maybe not her granddad and then there is no need to warn her about Wicky. That reminds me. I hear Wick has been nasty to Tregony again tonight, chasing him over the field, just because Mims wouldn't let him have any of her dinner. Never mind, he'll get his come-uppance tomorrow. I hear that Pauline is due to trim his coat again in the morning. Maybe that will cool his temperature down a bit. I do wish something could be done about mine. Excuse me, I have to go and stand up at the gate again. In case, well, just in case. You never know, some day my prince will come – maybe?

Over the gate to the bridle pathThursday 22 nd December 2005 (HER Birthday)
Sorry about that. Mums, you know. They're like that, it's her age, poor thing. Now, where was I? Oh yes, Mo and Muse had decided to start a family. Oh dear, I do hope mum is not listening. Well, guys, shall we go on?

It wasn't long before there were a handful of pink, squirmy things in the nest and Mo was feeling quite proud as he sat on the hay bale and looked down on them. He had found the perfect place for a nest, the perfect mate in Muse and now he had the prefect family. And Xmas was coming, as well. He swished his tail and wondered what he should get muse for a Xmas present. ‘Well, apart from the children, of course' he thought. She had never been the demanding sort, always pleased with what he provided. In a way that made him want to do more, something special, now, what could it be? This was going to take more than just sitting and thinking, he decided. He'd better get up and go for a walk about and see what his options might be. Flicking his tail in a business like way, Mo jumped down from the bale and onto the floor. The tack room door had been left slightly ajar and he was able to squeeze out with no problem at all. He crossed quickly over the outside path and through the hedge and into the big field. He could see, in the distance, the little stream running through the field and he decided that he might find something there that could make a really good present. He was just about to cross the clearing under the trees when his blood ran cold. There, just in front, not many paces away was the mouse's arch enemy – a cat. He froze, hoping that the wind was in a favourable direction and would not carry his scent to the cat. He eyed his adversary. Even his fear could not disguise the fact that this was an extraordinary looking cat. At first glance, he looked like a common or garden tabby. But closer examination showed that first of all it had ears of a size out of all proportion to its head. Then its rear legs were also to long. And then, to cap it all, one of its legs was tabby striped and the other three were white, as if it had started to put its jumper on and had been interrupted. All of this, Mo noticed in a flash while his overall emotion was one of fear.
‘Happy Xmas, little mouse'.

Mo shook himself. What was that? Who was talking to him? It couldn't be the c…?
‘What's the matter? Cat got your tongue? Ha Ha'

Mo jumped and stared. It was, it was the funny looking cat. It was talking to him. That couldn't be. Cats don't talk to mice they ea….., well they don't, do they?

‘Come on little one. Close you mouth you'll get flies in it. I just wished you happy Xmas, that's all.'

‘Er … yes, er… thank you. And seasons greetings to you as well. I was just going …er… to look for … well, for a Xmas present. I don't suppose you want me to do that, do you? Should I be going home now?'

‘Not at all, little man. A Xmas present eh? And what kind of present are you looking for? Who is it for, a girlfriend? Your mother?'
‘Actually, it's for my wife. And I don't really know what to get her. Just something nice, that's all.'

“Oh dear, there I go again. Sorry guys. I've run out of time, I'll have to finish this tomorrow.”
“Oh Mims! Just when it as getting interesting.”
“Never mind Treg. I'm sure Wick can wait, look, it's bucket time and I've got to go back to the stable tonight. Finish it tomorrow. Promise. OK?”

Treggy, Mims and IFriday 23 rd December 2005
“'A nice bag of nuts, perhaps? Would she like that? Or maybe a biscuit? I could tell you where you could lay your paws on one of those, if she'd like it. Or … I know, you are a mouse, aren't you?'
The cat had a sort of gleam in his eye when he said those last words and Mo felt a shiver go down his spine.

‘Er, well, er yes, sort of'

‘Sort of? Either you are or you are not. Now come on little man, which is it?'
Mo eyed all his exits and got his little legs ready for a quick dash. Looking at the funny shaped cat again, he hoped that this might just give him a bit of an advantage. The cat didn't look very old and maybe was not in complete control of his balance yet. Mo could feel a trickle of sweat run down his spine. Was this how it was all going o end? Would he never see his dear Muse again? Well, put a brave face on it, he decided, if you've got to go, well ….

‘Yes, I am a mouse, and proud of it. Not just a common or garden mouse either. I'm a dormouse and so is my lovely wife Muse.'

‘Muse, eh? What a charming name. And you would be?'

‘My name is Mo, and before you ask it's not short for anything. Mo. Just Mo. '
‘A fine name Mo. And not a bit silly. Not like mine. Do you know what they called me? Cat Flap! There, what do you think of that? It's like calling you Mouse Trap, isn't it?'

It was all Mo could do not to laugh. Cat Flap? Poor thing. He actually found himself feeling sorry for a cat.

‘It's not so bad, really', he said, ‘when you get used to it.'

‘Don't you think so? Really? You're not just saying that?'

‘Of course not. And now, I wasted enough of your time. If I might just be on my way …'

‘What's your hurry, little man? I've not had my tea yet. Wouldn't you like to join me?'

Here it comes, thought Mo. I knew I shouldn't have trusted a cat. But then, instead of pouncing, Cat Flap put a paw behind his back and produced a most delicious looking piece of cheese.

‘Look what I found indoors. I bet Muse would like that for a Xmas present, wouldn't she?' and he edged the cheese towards Mo with his paw, which Mo noticed, did not have its claws out.

‘Really, for me?' asked Mo, his little mouth watering and thoughts of how pleased Muse would be with him when he took it home.

‘Why not. It's Xmas. Oh, I know I am supposed to chase you and all that', he said with a smile, ‘and maybe I will in the New Year, if I find you about the house.

But, for now, I am feeling really kind and happy. I won't chase you and maybe the dog won't chase me and we will all have a very nice holiday. How about that?'

And with that, just to show that he meant what he said, Cat Flap gave the cheese one more push towards Mo and turned his back and walked away, into the .. er .. Cat Door and into the house. Little Mo couldn't believe his luck and grasped the cheep and staggered back to the nest.

‘I'm home darling', he called out, ‘and you're not going to believe the story I have to tell you.'

‘Don't tell me you've bumped into that daft cat, Mo, have you? Everybody is talking about him. And not only daft, he's funny looking.'

‘Well, I thought he was very nice', said Mo. ‘Oh, and he wished you a merry Xmas too so you should be sorry you said anything bad about him'. And, with a flourish, he produced the cheese.
Later that night, warm and cosy in their nest and their little tummies full of glorious cheese, they cuddled up together. ‘Pity about his name' said Muse, 'he's really quite a nice little chap'.

The path up the hillSaturday 24 th December 2005
“Well, not bad, I suppose, if you like mice – and cats.”
“I liked it Wick. It was all warm and cuddly. And it was the first story Mims has told us, wasn't it?”
“All right Treg. I know you have a bit of a soft spot or the lassie. Tell me, what happened to you this morning?”
“Just a bit of a lay down. If a fellow can't have a rest at Xmas it's a sorry state of affairs.”
“I didn't say you shouldn't lay down, Treg. I was just asking, that's all.”
“Come on you two. No bickering. It is Xmas you know. Let's all be nice to one another.”
“Oh, we are Alli. We were just saying how nice it was to have Mims tell us a story.”
“Ay lassie, even if it were cr … er … Christmas and all.”
“Oh thank you Wicked, my dear little friend. How nice of you to compliment me on my story. Well guys, what are we going to do for Xmas eve?”
“I heard that THEY were all going to a carol concert this evening. Couldn't we do something like that?”
“Good idea Treg. What do you know the words to?”
“Oh, all of them. Anyone you like to mention. I just goes la, la, la to all of them. It always fits.”
“Does anyone know the words? Mum? Wicky?”
“I know some of the words dear. HE sings some to me as we walk up the Throwleigh Road . HE's pretty good at the first line of most of them. Tends to fade away a bit after that. I find that he either resorts to Treg's ‘la, la, la' method or worse, HE makes up HIS own words.”
“I don't have too much trouble with the words lassie but I'm really not so good on the tunes. They do all tend to blur into one, with me.”

“Well, I'm sure that between us, we can make some sort of a job of it. What do you all say, we meet up in the top field at a quarter to midnight ?”
“Right, Mims. See you later then.”



“Right, ready, all together!”
“Good King…”
“Oh Come all ye …”

“See amid the winter's sno …”

“Stop! STOP! That's horrible. You're all singing different carols. And yours Uncle Wick is not even in tune.”
“Oh, it is lassie. It's just not a tune you know. It's the auld traditional Shetland version.”
“I was singing the right one, wasn't I Mims? Wasn't I Alli?”
“They are all the right ones Granddad Treg, it's just we all have to sing the same right one. Now, come on, we'll try again. Which one shall we sing mum? You choose.”
“Thank you dear. Now, let me see. Which one do we all know the words to? And the tune, eh Wicky? How about ‘Away in a Manger', that's got hay in it? We all ought to know that.”

“Just perfect mum. Alright everyone? Right!”

“Away in a manger …


…… asleep in the hay”

“That was lovely, everyone. Thank you. Let's all wish ourselves and everybody a really happy and peaceful holiday. OK? Right, back to eating Uncle Wicky. Happy Xmas granddad. I love you mum, it's lovely to be with you again.”
“And you too Mims. Happy Xmas darling, happy Xmas.”

a Wicky XmasSunday 25 th December 2005
A funny thing happened as Mims was coming back to the stable. Everything was normal and relaxed and then, as she was halfway down Ramsley Lane , she came across Mathew sitting on one of his horses talking to Dave. They passed him alright and Dave shouted out ‘Happy Xmas' and they went on by as if nothing was different. Then, as they approached the ‘Y' junction, Mathew came riding up behind them. When Mims heard the sound, she started to get a bit agitated and by the time she got to the stable, she was quite worked up. Just as she went in, Mathew went riding past and, from that moment, she just went silly.
Now, at the same time, the Xmas lights over the road came on. Whether the lights worried her or what, she doesn't know herself. All she knows is that she wouldn't eat her dinner or her hay and she wouldn't go near the stable door. All she could do was walk round and round, getting hotter and hotter or else just stand in the background and refuse to move. Even by the time of late stables, just before THEY went to bed, she was just the same. The floor was awash and the food uneaten. By the morning, she was a bit calmer and her bucket was empty so she must have calmed down a bit. She told me that she was in quite a rush to get back to me in the morning and yet, when she walked up and I called out to her, all she did was to walk in the gate, walk right past me and start grazing. Daughters, eh?
We had quit quite a quiet day today. HE told me that the hunt will be coming back past our field tomorrow so maybe we will have some fun then. Because of her accidents when she was young, Mims has never been hunting, as I have but I am sure, just the sight of all those horses going past will get her excited. With any luck we can have a good run around and get any kinks out of our system.
And that's about it, really. I said I would keep it short today to give HIM a bit of a rest for Xmas. Also HE has a bad toothache or face ulcer or something so I will let him off too much work for now. He'll have to make up for it later though!

ReedsMonday 26 th December 2005
I thought we were going to have the hunt pass by today, but nothing happened. I know they were over Chagford today so maybe they were all driven home in boxes and trailers instead of riding. It did give me the opportunity of telling Mims a few of my old hunt stories however. I'm sure she really enjoyed them. Funny though, she must have been very busy last night because I noticed her yawning a few times during the especially interesting bits. And her jaw did droop a bit so I expect all her exertions keeping our old boys in order plus the soothing nature of having your dam tell you stories must have had a calming effect on her. After my fifth or sixth story, she did say that there was something very important that she had to do up in the top field so I expect she will come back and ask me to carry on another time. I do know that Treg and Wicked are always enthralled when I tell them. In fact, enthralled is putting it mildly. Transported might be a better word as I see their eyes glazing over as they take in all the intricate details. It's not their fault. Being of what you might call ‘common' ancestry, they wouldn't have been able to go hunting. I will say Treg was big enough and able enough, he could have jumped with the best of them when he was younger. But I am afraid that Wicky would have stood no chance at all. Not my fault, but some of those hunt people do tend to be a bit snobby. The sight of a raggedy Shetland in their midst would not have been approved of at all.
It's funny saying that. If you see Wicky when he is up the top field and the buckets arrive, you would have almost thought that he was a race horse. Given just a bit of a start, he can beat me down the hill, his little legs going like lightening. His advantage is that he knows the character of Dartmoor with all its granite outcrops and muddy places like the back of his hocks. Whereas I have to go a bit carefully so as not to slip or stumble, he is as sure footed as a mountain goat.

Mims is like me, except in one respect. SHE put the measuring tape on her the other day. Although Mims is probably a good hand shorter than me, I am pleased to say, she is heavier than me. Actually it is not that she is fatter (although I kid her it is) but rather that she has a quite different build to be. I am tall and slim while she is shorter and stockier. Gets it from her father, of course. Built more for stamina than sprinting, the pair of them. Really, I am very proud of her. She has settled in so well. I am told that a lot of people can't tell the difference between us as we walk up and down from Ninefields to the stable and back. A lady remarked that ‘she is a very quiet horse', probably meaning me. I know yesterday was an exception what with Mathew and the fairy lights but usually now, she walks along the road in a very sedate manner. I don't know what it was tonight but she didn't wait in the Throwleigh Road field with the rest of us. Instead, she stayed up the hill above the field shelter, almost as if she didn't want to go but wanted to stay in the field with us instead. And yet, when HE went up to her, she put her head in the head collar without a murmur. Every day is different, lovely girl. Well, I have to go now to tell the old boys some more stories. That'll really please them!

My matesTuesday 27 th December 2005
“Ere Wick?”
“Aye Treg?”
“What was that all about then?”
“What's that Treg?”
“All that fuss, you know, Xmas.”
“What was Xmas all about?”
“Well, I know what Xmas is about. But why all that fuss. It's over now and things are much the same, aren't they?”
“Aye laddie. Things are much the same.”
“Then what was all the fuss about?”
“You're asking very difficult questions, you know old man. Really, no one knows what the fuss was all about. It just seems necessary to have it. It's like all that stuff inside builds up and up like the abscess's in your foot and by December they have to come to a head so that we can go back to being normal again.”
“Oh? Then it's all over again until next Xmas?”
“That's right laddie. No more for another whole year.”
“Oh good. But … “

“ … but what Treg?”
“Well, what about next week? You know, New Years?”
“New Year? Now, that is something else entirely Treg. That is something that is very important, you know. It's a whole tradition you're talking of now man. No, New Year is a time of very great importance.”
“Why? WHY? How can ye ask that man? We have to pipe the old year out and the new one in and eat haggis haylage and all that. Why, I can remember going around first footing and …”
“What's first footing? It sounds like something I could get to grips with. I'm alright right up to second, even third footing at a pinch”

“It's nae to do with counting your feet Treg. It's being the first to go into someone's stable in the New Year.”
“Oh. That sounds really exciting Wick. And then what?”
“What do you mean ‘and then what'? That's it. And if you carry a carrot with you it brings luck all the year.”
“Right. But what if you've eaten the carrot. Does that still count?”
“No, I don't think so Treg.”
“Then you'd be no good at it, would you? Tell you what Wick. I don't think I'll bother with all that either. I really don't see the point in getting all worked up over a carrot. It's probably alright for you Scottishers and stuff but us Cornish horses wouldn't worry about such as that. Now, if it was a pasty …”
“Each to his own, eh Treg. I expect Alli gets all worked up for Bastille Day, chasing frogs and things and listening to accordion music. And Mims? Well, she gets worked up about anything, don't she? HE says she stops on the way home because of some killer chickens. Don't suppose she needs an excuse.”
“Killer chickens? Where? Ooh, they're horrible Wick. Peck your legs they do. I've seen them.”
“Where've you seen them?”
“Er … well …, maybe not actually seen them but I hear them sometimes. I do. You know when I lie down and then sit straight upright again. That's it – killer chickens.”
“Er, I think it's time for me to go and check out the grass now Treg. You have a rest old man. Try not to think too much, eh?”
“Oh, alright Wick. And you watch out for those chickens, eh?”

 Ramsley CommonWednesday 28 th December 2005
Well, do you know what? That Rachel has been taking some of HIS jobs from HIM. Yesterday, she led me home from Ninefields to the stable and tonight she led Mims down to the stable. And, at the end, she got Mims to trot the last bit. Well, I say ‘trot'. Actually both Mims and I tend to do a bit of an awkward run rather than trot. It's probably because racehorses don't have to trot, they just have to walk and gallop with the occasional canter up to the starting post. I know Mims has never raced but it must run in the family or the genes or something. But, allowing Rachel to lead her back is something of an advance for her. She really is doing well now.

Changing the subject, the weather has been really cold and frosty for the last couple of days and nights. They say it has been snowing in other parts of the country. Here, yesterday evening, when I came back to the stable, there were a couple of flakes in the air but nothing serious. We had a really clear night and the frost set in quite heavily. For a change, HE had to top up our hay net this morning (just the one nearest the doorway, as that is where we stand and look out on the world. The other two are in the corners and you would have to have your back to the world to eat at them – alright if there is no grass at all but not necessary for us, at least, yet). Luckily there has been no rain either so that the roads are not iced up so that we couldn't walk to Ninefields. I wouldn't mind then freezing up the other way so that neither of us could be taken away. That way we could both spend a night together under the stars. We will have to wait until the spring for that I expect. Apart from the weather, there is really nothing much to write at the moment. During the day, the sun is shining so that, even though it is cold, it is very pleasant and we spend the day grazing up in the top field. That way we also get to watch what is going on in the world. This week, particularly in the days after Xmas, we have been treated to the sight of groups of hikers getting some air and exercise walking up onto the moor. One of the main routes is along the bridle path which runs along the boundary of Ninefields so we often see them making their way along. We usually feel sorry for these humans as they have such little legs it takes then ages to cover any distance. Also they don't seem to have the same directional sense as we have and are always stopping and looking at their bits of paper to make sure that they are going the right way. The other sights we see are other horses going along the Throwleigh Road , some are Mathew's but also some come all the way from Throwleigh or Gidleigh or others come the other way from South Zeal or Sticklepath. We soon get to know the regulars and enjoy trying to guess where they are off to today.

Well, it won't be long until the New Year. 2005 has been a good year for me, getting my daughter back again. I can only hope 2006 will be as good and that all four of us can have a really good spring and summer together. There is always Tregs age in the back of all of our minds but he has surprised all of us so many times that we can hope that he will continue to do so.

TregonyThursday 29 th December 2005
Cold. C-O-L-D Cold! Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Rory, Rory Oswald Dent. You don't know me but I know all the inhabitants of Ninefields. You see, I live there. I live there and watch all the comings and goings, usually from behind the hay bales. Mind you, I don't just live in the hay, oh no. Can't afford to. I'd starve if I didn't venture out, often right outside of the field shelter. The best times though are when THEY leave something biteable out with corn or peanuts inside. Then I don't have to venture far at all. Sacks and paper bags present no problem, in fact it is quite a pleasant hor'douvres. THEY did try putting the peanuts into a big white plastic drum and I managed to chew a hole through the lid of that. But now HE has gone and replaced it, I am looking around for easier pickings.
In case you haven't guessed already, I'm a rat. A distant cousin of Templeton who used to live here a couple of years ago. I'm supposed to be on a scouting mission for Rita Olive, that's my wife, to try and find a good place to build a nest and have a family. I went to lots of places until I found this one. None of them were very promising however. When I found this, I said to myself, ‘now this, this seems to be the very thing. I'd better give it a proper try out before I go back to Rita'. And, to tell you the truth, I've been here three weeks now. I'm soon going to have to go back and fetch her but life has been quite pleasant, sort of quiet and comfortable, that I keep forgetting to go. You see, my whole life is going to change then, when the family arrive. Instead of just going out to forage for myself I will have to be out and about all the time trying to keep Rita and the kids fed. Building the nest won't be a problem, Rita'll do that. I will just have to keep out of the way, tell her I am acting security guard and the look out for predators. That'll impress her.
What I do like here, is when all the horses come into the shelter. Nice big warm things, horses. Usually, there's only two during the day, those two big red things. Then one of them gets taken away at night and often the little smelly one comes in with the red one and the big smelly one stands just outside. That's not a bad arrangement cause he tends to keep the draught out. And the best bit of all is that there is a gate between them and me. So I get all the benefit of their warmth while being in no danger of being trodden on or nibbled at. When it's warmer than it is at the moment, I climb out of the hay and right up the woodwork and sit on one of the shelves. There's a nice view from their and I can hear better what they are saying. Later on I might let you know what they talk about among themselves. I might even tell you what they say about you humans. We'll have to see. It will depend on how you treat me and my family when they come. HE was very nice and kind to my cousins when they were here. HE even went so far as to take their photos and give them a little bit of food.
Anyway, Alli said I could have this slot to talk to you today (oh yes, the horses all know me, we are on very good terms) so I just look on this as the first of several diary entries, if all goes well. I've got to go now and batten down the hatches for another cold night. I'll spend the time deciding when I'm going for Rita. I'll let you know what happens.

A shepherds hut?Friday 30 th December 2005
My goodness, I didn't know the old girl had it in her. Mum, I mean. You see, we had a bit of confusion this evening when it was time to go home. Mum was up in the Throwleigh Road field with Uncle Wickie and I was standing, with granddad, by the field shelter. Now, we always pretend we don't know who has to go home on any night (although we always know very well, we're not silly you know). So Mum knew it was safe for her to be up near the road and she just followed the rest down, as the buckets came along. Now HE was carrying the buckets and, on the top was my head collar, so when HE got near to me, HE called out to Ben to put it on while HE put Uncle Wick's bucket down. Now Ben isn't used to my head collar and we got into a bit of a mess which allowed me to get into the shelter where the buckets were. HE had to put them down to catch me but I will grant that HE is pretty quick and grabbed me by the rug and held me round the neck while HE put the collar on properly. Even then, I did manage to get a bite out of granddads bucket before HE could move me out of the shelter.

All this while, Mum and granddad have had to wait to get into the shelter and general chaos reigned all round. Then I played my other game of not walking on down the path to the stream. I walk a few steps and then, just when THEY think I am going to walk properly, I stop and lift my head very high in the air. I know, in the end, I will have to walk home to my stable but I don't want THEM to think THEY can just do what THEY like with me. So, I played this game for quite a while and we advanced down to the stream only a few steps at a time. Finally, HE gives my lead rein to Rachel and tells her to take me across the stream while he closes the gate. Now, this is the good bit, the bit Mum and I had been planning all day. Just as HE picked up the gate, Mum comes sprinting down from the shelter, over the stream, past HIM and the gate and up to where Rachel had led me. Just before she skidded to a halt, she did a little kick and a buck of victory and then turned round as if to say ‘well, what about that then?'
You know, I was so proud of her. She may act all quiet and gentle now since we have been reunited but there's a lot of fire in the old girl yet. After that, we didn't push it. We just stood together and enjoyed our moment of triumph until HE had walked back to the shelter to get another head collar. Mum was quite happy to let HIM put it on her and lead her back to her bucket. I waited until HE came back, closing the gate firmly behind HIM this time, and HIM, Rachel and me walked off down the Throwleigh Road. I did stop a few more times on the way really just to rub our victory in but then I made up for it at the end by letting Rachel trot me down to the stable past the last few houses. Really, it was the best fun I'd had since this morning. Oh, I didn't tell you about that, did I?
Well, it was the morning after I had been left out with Granddad and Uncle Wicky (Oh, by the way, HE has just corrected my spelling. Apparently I should have given Granddad a capital G if I gave Mum a capital M and I should have said Wicky with a y and not an ie – OK?). Oh nuts, that sentence got too long so I'll start again. HE came along with the buckets and it was raining and HE was still breathless so HE was pleased when we all just set about eating with no fuss. He picked out our feet and did our eyes and other bits (well, I am a lady) with the sponges and adjusted our rugs. When he was in between Uncle Wicky (with a y) and me, HE remarked how well we had sorted out our differences and were getting along together. HE just moved back to the other side to put the sponges away when … Well, I say Uncle started it, he says that I did, but whatever, we had a little kicking match. HE shouted out in a very loud voice “HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY” and it was all over, with me standing outside with HIM. The funny thing was that Granddad just carried on eating. I think he has just got used to us now and knows that it is no big deal.

Oh dear, HE has just checked my word count and my mouth has run away with me again. I won't get a chance to say it tomorrow so Happy New Year to everyone!

I see the end of the year and wonder?Saturday 31 st December 2005
“Well Treg, the last day of 2005. What do you reckon?”
“Not really sure Wick. I'm still here but it was a pretty rough year for me, one way or another.”
“You sure you're not just thinking about the end of the year. You know, when you had first one then another bad foot and then you went and got those rain scald patches. I agree those were pretty rough. But you had some good times as well, didn't you?”
“To tell you the truth Wick, I can't remember. That's one of the troubles of getting old your memory goes.”
“Could be a blessing in disguise Treg. Things might have been a lot worse than you think they were.”
“Hey, that's true. Maybe I've had a smashing year, after all. How about you, Wick, have you had a good year?”
“Pretty much, pretty much. Health wise it's not been too bad at all. Of course there has been one rather black moment.”
“You don't mean …?”
“ … I certainly do, Treg. I know it's auld lang syne and all that stuff tonight but my life has rather been blighted by the arrival of you know who.”
“Oh, I thought you were talking about leaving half your bucket the other day. You know, when HE gave it to Alli. You're talking about Mims. She's alright Wick. Quite a sweetie really. It's just a bit of adjusting that's needed, I don't think she would blight your life.”
“Before she came laddie, I was number two in this herd. Now look at me. Demoted! Down to number three now. And who's fault is that? Miss high and mighty, I'm the boss' daughter, Mims. That's who!”
“Your not talking about nymphomania Wick, are you? Surely not?”
“I think the word you are looking for Treg is nepotism although looking at the way she trollops up and down the fields, I not sure that you might not be correct anyway. Yes, of course I am talking about her getting the spot because she is family. Why else should she be promoted over me? It can't be long service, she's only just arrived. Wisdom? Even HE says she is daft as lights. Seniority? I'm three … er … twice her age. No, it's all just because she is Alli's daughter.”
“And she's bigger than you!”
“Listen Tregony. You're bigger than me and where does that get you?”
“Well she does take over when Alli has to go back to the stable at night. And she makes a pretty good job of it too.”

“Well, maybe you're right Treg. At least you don't seem to mind moving from third to fourth place.”
“Welcome it Wick. Security! The more the merrier, really. In fact, since she has come along I don't get picked on half as much as I used to be. You and Mims are so busy arguing, you forget about me and I can just get on with my life, as best as I can.”
“You know Treg. You're a smashing fellow really. Just accept things, rarely moan or talk about others. Tell you what, I'm glad you were my mate in 2005 and I'd like to wish you a very peaceful and happy 2006.”
“That's very nice and kind Wick. And I'm happy to be with you and with Alli and Mims, whatever the year is. Let's all just have a really good next year and help each other when things are not so good.”
“Aye Treg. I agree. And lets all wish HER and HIM a happy new year as well!”
“Hear, hear. And may all our buckets be full ones!”

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