Alezane's Diary Archive December 2006
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The day to day life of an ex-racehorse and her companions in Dartmoor UK and Mayenne France
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broken treeFriday 1st December 2006
Boats burned as they say, we are going on Wednesday 13th December (twelve days time!).
THEY went and signed the contracts for the sale of the house today and were told that contracts should be exchanged today with completion on 15th (two days after we leave for France). THEY were supposed to hear from the solicitor that the contacts had been exchanged but THEY have heard nothing so far. Still, whatever happens, THEY have decided that we are going. If it all falls through now well, hard luck. We will have to come back after having had a very expensive holiday.
Something funny happened while THEY were at the solicitors’. HE said that HE would need to give the solicitor THEIR bank account details so that the sale money could be put directly into THEIR account, as we will not be in the country by then. When the solicitor asked for the account number, HE had trouble reading it from HIS cheque book so HE passed it over. ‘Is that how you spell your name?’ the solicitor asked. When HE looked it was not HIS cheque book at all but one belonging to someone else in the village. What had happened, HE had used the last cheque in the old book to pay Mark, our farrier, so HE had gone to the box where HE puts new cheque books when they come in automatically from the bank until HE needs it. HE had already written one cheque as someone’s birthday present and it had never occurred to him to check the name on the book, I said it was funny but HE then had to go all the way to the bank, come home and check that HE didn’t have the book that the bank said that they had sent him and then phone them back and request a new book of HIS own. All taking time and effort that HE is fast running out of.
By the time you read his it will be next month but you may remember that the November diary which should have been published on the 1st December was late. That was because HE was up until late last night, writing and printing letters to about 35 different places to cancel accounts, inform of new address details and organising THEIR income to be paid into the French bank instead of the UK one. This morning HE was off getting stamps, doing special mailings and buying envelopes for THEIR Xmas cards. Then it was off to the solicitors and when THEY came out of there, HE suggested going for a Chinese meal to save cooking and washing up. When HE went to pay, the waitress remarked that HE was looking tired.
And then, this evening, when HE came to bring our suppers, HE was singing and telling all about going to France. I think it has now reached hysteria levels!

tree goneSaturday 2nd December 2006
Mims got into trouble tonight. We were all up above the field shelter when HE brought the supper along. As soon as we saw HIM, Wick starts to make his way down and when Mims sees this, she follows. By the time HE got to the shelter, Wick was ready to eat and unusually, Mims followed Him into the shelter as well. Seeing this, HE put her bucket down and them went out to see where I was. None of us are really what you might call hungry, so I hadn’t bothered to rush but I finally got to the shelter and then Mims went all funny. I think she thought she would get into trouble for being in the shelter before me for she flattened her ears and ran out of my way, going out of the shelter. The problem was that this meant passing Wicky who was busily eating and she couldn’t resist giving him a nip on the bottom (although really on his rug) on the way out. Anyway, HE saw this so HE shouted at her and gave her a whack on the bottom with the bag of carrots HE was holding. Now you know I hate getting into trouble, me or anyone else so that made me go all funny and then HE had to spend HIS time calming me down before I could get on with my supper.
Still, it all worked out well in the end, or it would have if HE hadn’t started on HIS singing.
Yes, HE was singing again tonight, but not with delight, I don’t think. You see, HE now has a full mouthful of teeth and the trouble is that HE is not used to them yet so HE cant talk properly. Today was the end of part two of HIS strategy of getting fit to go to France. Previously HE had got new glasses and now HE has got new teeth. The good thing is that HE will be able to eat properly, at least, when HE has got used to them but to learn to talk again with a different shape to HIS face, HE has taken to singing or telling stories like the Three Bears when no-one is around. And, of course, we mere equines don’t count as people so HE practices both on us. HE even got to singing ‘someone’s been eating my porridge’ to us tonight. Oh dear, where is the ILPH when you need it?

wickys favourite sportSunday 3rd December 2006
A bit of a sad day, today. Not for me or any of us equines but for all at the house, humans and cats. As HE was coming back from the re-cycling centre today, HE was stopped by the neighbour that was Mutt’s (Bubble’s) real human and HE learned that Mutt has moved onto that big radiator in the sky. HE told me that THEY had noticed recently how his tummy was getting unnaturally big, far bigger than could be expected from eating a lot. The neighbour said that Mutt fell off a chair yesterday and, on being taken to the vets, was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. I have seen the pictures of Mutt and HE has told me quite a bit about him. As his human said, he was quite a character. It is very sad for them not to see him any more. THEY used to come downstairs in the morning and find him curled up on a kitchen chair or asleep under the radiator. If you remember, he only had one ear and that didn’t work. It was really strange to see him and automatically say good morning or hello and for him not to wake up. Sometimes THEY would creep about silently not to wake him but, of course, THEY needn’t have bothered. It was only if THEY opened an outside door or turned on a powerful light, that he would be awakened by the change of air or lighting. He would most times come into the room and appear to scowl at you but this was just the way his missing ear made him look. He would stare until THEY realised that what he wanted was some cream. That and chicken skin were his favourites. Dear old Mutt-Bubbles. In way it was not so bad as it happened before we went off to France for there was no way to tell him that we were going and he would have been very puzzled to find no-one here when he came to visit. He always purred his thanks when he was given something and he must have been nice for our three cats to let him join their pride.
The weather last night was really atrocious with very high winds and driving rain. Mims wouldn’t cross the stream tonight to come with Wicky and I to greet HIM with our suppers because the water was too high and running very fast. The nice thing is that it is beautifully clean water. Today was a bit better to start with but by supper time if had turned cold, wet and windy again. All we hope is that the weather does it all now so that when we are on our boat, it is much, much calmer. HE has told us that our mover man won’t take us on the ferry unless the crossing is calm so that, at least is good news. But better it is calm anyway as we don’t want to be held up forever in getting to our new home.

eveningMonday 4th December 2006
That’s it. A bit of an anti climax really. THEY exchanged contracts for the
 house sale today with the completion on the 15th. Mind, we are still going on the 13th, it’s just that the house is not officially sold until the 15th (and THEY wont get the money until then). Now, two more panics. First, the weather again today has been very, very windy with gales in some parts of the country. So now HE worries that the sea will be too choppy or the ferry crossing and maybe we will be delayed or worse, have a very bad crossing. I must say, I agree with his concern over this. It’s bad enough being cooped up in a lorry for all that time but to be bounced up and down as well – I wouldn’t like it one bit. I am not mentioning any of this to Mims or Wicky. Quite often the worst bit is what you imagine before an event and when it comes to it there is no problem at all. Let’s hope this is the case here.
His other panic is that HE wont get everything done in time. What happens if the removers have gone and what is left won’t fit into what is a very small car? No point in asking a neighbour to look after it for you as there would be no way to get it later. Do you just throw it away? It would depend a lot on what it was. Anyway, loads of scope for HIM to worry and panic for the next few days. And they are few! In ten days time we will be in France which means only nine days at most (eight really because this one is virtually over) to do all the packing, get the money sorted, sort out the medications for THEM, the cats and us and so on. The ‘and so on’ was only put in to save that last sentence from going on and on. There is also a lot more to be done. HE has to take PC to the vets tomorrow for his final steroid and multi-vit injections and quite probably to take young cat flap along as well. He has turned up for the last couple of days with one of his back feet very swollen. It appears as if he has had a bite. Probably one of the rodents that he loves to play with answered him back. He has had a couple of anti biotics but if it isn’t better by tomorrow he had better go to the vets so that he is well when the journey to France comes on the 11th (for the cats). Then on Friday, Wick has to be brought back to the house to have his legs trimmed. And, on top of all that, Mims and I have to come back to the house sometime to be groomed so that we look pretty when we arrive in France.
That seems enough to keep him nicely worried, even without things going wrong, which they are bound to do. In the meantime, Wicky, Mims and I will just ride out the storm in the field shelter, eating hay and telling stories
mims thinkingTuesday 5th December 2006
A week tomorrow! OK, I’m going to be boring for a little while. That is, even more than usual. But then, this is my diary and it is about my life, me and my friends that is. And, I include my humans in with my friends. Well, most days. HE thinks I didn’t notice that THEY had sneaked a wormer in with my supper tonight. Thinks HE is pretty smart, doesn’t HE. Mais, I know a thing or deux that HE doesn’t suspect. It was only that I didn’t want to upset the others that I didn’t say anything although, thinking about it, Wicky wouldn’t have cared. ‘All the more to eat’ he would say. But Mimbles, well that’s another matter. She is a sensitive soul, my dear daughter. For all her dopiness and clumsiness, deep down inside she is a frail little flower and she needs treating gently. What’s that Wick? Well, you shouldn’t be listening. Sorry about that. I’ve just thought, that’s probably the first time that you’ve heard me call her ‘Mimbles’. I caught that from HIM. I think HE uses it as a tem of endearment. Probably because it fits into some of HIS silly songs that HE sings to us. There’s no point in me telling which songs. Unless you are as ancient as HIM you would never have heard of them.
I nearly didn’t recognise HIM this evening. Part of HIS strategy was to go and get a hair cut today and I think HE is of the opinion that HE wont be able to tell the French hairdressers what to do so HE has had it cut short enough to give HIM time to learn the language. What else did HE tell me that THEY have been up to. Well, SHE has been sorting out and cleaning our tack – some to come with us on the horse box and some, less urgent, to go with THEIR house into store until we have a home of our own. When HE says that HE never wants to move again, SHE reminds HIM that THEY will have to when THEY buy the new house. Then HE says that at least we won’t have to be boxed up again as THEY can ride us from La Chauniere to the new place. Did I tell you our rented place is called ‘La Chauniere’? THEY have looked it up to see what it means but the nearest THEY can get is Chaumiere, with an ‘m’ instead of a ‘n’ which means a thatched place so THEY are wondering if it is something like it or else what, if anything, does it mean. I say, ‘if anything’ because I am not sure that all names mean something. I mean, OK Wicked is straightforward and so is Alezane but what about Mims? That doesn’t mean anything as far as I know, well nothing except a lot of trouble.
So, I bet you can’t wait for me to start tomorrows diary with ‘less than a week to go now …? Or maybe you can!

dew on gateWednesday 6th December 2006
The SOLD sign went up on the house today.
I think it’s getting to HIM, in fact, I know it is. This evening, he weather was quite pleasant – no wind an no rain and even a bit of sunshine making everything seem a lot earlier than it was. The last week of so, what with the clouds and stuff, it has been very dark, almost like night time when our supper has come along. So, today, we weren’t ready for HIM at all. And HE got a bit of a shock. No one was waiting to meet HIM, not even Wicky. HE thought, surely they cant be in the field shelter on such a pleasant day. But when HE rounded the corner of the hedge, we were nowhere to be seen. HE took our buckets up to the shelter and then HE came round the corner and half way up the slope to look for us. It was then that HE spied us, right up in the top west field. As far as you can go. So, HE yelled out to us, to me actually. HE has a funny kind of cry ‘alliallialliallialli’ all rolled into one. HE must think we are blind or something as we were already making our way leisurely down. Anyway, HE went back and started to feed the birds and hadn’t finished by the time Wicky came galloping down into the shelter. He may only have short legs but that lad can move when there is food involved. Mims and I came at a much more ladylike pace.
But then, it became apparent that HE has started going wrong for when we were nearly finished our buckets, HE always comes along with a few carrots each. This time HE didn’t. HE had a couple of bits of apple and a few carrot scraps that HE had obviously stolen from our buckets anyway and a handful of oats. HE did look tired so we let HIM get away with it without saying anything. It did make coming all that way down from the hill a bit of a waste though.
Today HE had to face the fact that computing, or to be more precise ‘on line banking’ isn’t all it is cracked up to be. HE had it all worked out that HE would transfer some funds from THEIR savings accounts into their current account and then make a transfer of enough to live on in France for a while into the new French bank account. However, after making the transfer out of the savings, HE saw the message telling him that it would take 3 to 4 days before it got into his current account. It was lucky HE tried it today with just enough time to still move it to France before we do. Then HE went to the medical centre to pick up THEIR medical histories and medication that HE had requested by hand delivered letter last Friday. After waiting fifteen minutes it became obvious that they had done nothing until HE arrived and now HE has been told it will be ready on Friday. Again, lucky HE had chased it now.
I wonder if THEY will find things much more efficient in France or will they have to drink enough vin so that THEY don’t care?

muddy alliThursday 7th December 2006
And today’s news is …? I cant remember if I told you about Cat Flap. Anyway, he either cut his paw or got it bitten, whatever it was, it swelled up to three times its size and he had to be taken to the vets earlier this week. So, today he had to go back for a check up after having been on a course of anti-biotics. And the good news is that he is now fine. The swelling has not yet completely gone but the vet held and squeezed his paw and he made not a murmur so it was judged to be well on the mend. In fact, he made much more fuss having his temperature taken but then, wouldn’t you if you had your temperature taken in the ay that us animals are made to?
HE also had to pick up some steroid tablets for PC as he will miss having his steroid injection. You should have seen HIS face when HE found out how much these little tablets cost. But now the cats and us horses are well prepared for the journey as far as our medications are concerned.
HE has also ordered some euro currency to tide THEM over until THEY get the hang of writing French cheques (which they do all the time there in preference to the use of plastic cards that we use here). One difference is that the amount goes at the top before the name of the person you are paying and you also have to put the name of the place or town where you are writing the cheque. THEY’ll learn when THEY have to.
Us girls were up in the middle field this morning when HE brought breakfast. Wicky greeted him and then Mims came along but HE thinks that I couldn’t have been very hungry because I just slowly sauntered along. In fact, HE worried at first that I might be lame until he watched me and decided that I was either lazy or just plain tired. This last was much nearer the truth as the wind had kept us up most of the night. Just as HE was leaving, there was a very loud crash and HE wondered if the army was practicing on Dartmoor as they do sometimes. However, when HE got to the car HE saw a vivid lightening flash somewhere over Okehampton way.
SHE has been getting on with packing up the kitchen utensils and crockery and HE has managed to pack all of HIS clothes and has got the bedding organised, ready to go. All that is except what they are using two mugs, two plates, two glasses and one bed. SHE says that THEY will be camping out for the rest of the time before we go.
Finally THEY had a nice ‘good bye’ visit to the neighbours David and Jane next door and had a final Devon cream tea. A nice way to end a pleasant relationship.

black skyFriday 8th December 2006
Bad news in a way. They cat carriers phoned and said that they will have to pick our boys up on Sunday, not Monday as arranged. This means that they will spend even longer in the cattery. The lady said it wont cost any more but that isn’t the point really. Imagine how you would feel if someone came along and picked you up from your home and took you away and kept you somewhere that you didn’t know and you didn’t see a familiar face for nearly five days? I know some people put their cats in catteries while they go on holiday for a week or even a fortnight but that is them. Our family has very close ties and I just can’t help feeling very sorry for them.
HE managed to get THEIR medical histories and a supply of THEIR medication to last them until THEY can organise doctors over there. Then, having picked them up, HE went along to the bank to arrange the transfer of some money to the French bank. Finally, on the way home, HE made one last trip to the farmers shop to get supplies of our feed to last us for a week or so when we get there, again enough until THEY sort out a new source over there. Apart from one last trip to the supermarket for carrots and apples to take with us, probably on Monday or Tuesday, that should be it for the shopping that THEY have to do. From now on it’s all packing, packing, packing!
To make a break from things French, HE came along at lunchtime today to pick up Wicky for his leg trimming session. It was definitely about time as his legs were looking as round as tree trunks with all the hair round them. HE was a bit surprised that Wick made no fuss going and Mims and I, although we accompanied them to the gate, we didn’t make any sort of fuss. Well, OK, Mims ran about for a bit but that was more in the way of a lark. When they walked back an hours or so later, Mims and I were up above the field shelter and, although I yelled out to Wick and he answered me, I didn’t bother to run down and greet him. We’ve sort of got used to Wick going off to the barbers now although, in France it will all be different again.

the last view of the beaconSaturday 9th December 2006
What happened today?  HE went to the supermarket for the very last time to buy our carrots and apples. HE needed to get enough to make up our supplements from today to Wednesday morning and then enough for THEM to make up on Tuesday night for our feeds on the ferry and at the stop we will have to make, either here or in France. And, in addition, HE needed to get some supplies to prepare our food when we get there, at least for the first few days. As HE said, it is not as if the French do not have apples and carrots. In fact, the apples that HE buys for us come from France in the first place. No, it is more that THEY will probably be exhausted when THEY get there and will not want to straightaway get involved in going out and shopping for us. That will come later.
THEY heard for an agent in France for one of the properties that THEY have been very interested in. This agent says that the property is very isolated and, at this time of year, one will probably need a 4x4 to go and view it and do THEY have one as she doesn’t. HE emailed back to say that HE is leaving his 4x4 here (giving it to his grandson, actually) and so the agent will need to get one if she wants to show the property to THEM. It so happens that the property is on the market with several agents so if this one cant show it to THEM maybe another one can. The isolation doesn’t worry THEM. All it has made them do is rethink what vehicle THEY need to buy when they get there. Maybe instead of a town super-mini they will have to look for  a 4x4 after all. Of course, this expense should come off the price of the property.
SHE has been packing HER clothes and getting the cats medication and list ready for their carriers tomorrow. HE has been down the re-cycling centre again and clearing out dark and dingy corners of the kitchen and utility room. The rest of the day is likely to be more of the same. HE called in to the movers this morning, on the way back from the supermarket to get a supply of boxes as they will be closed tomorrow and HE didn’t want a lack of boxes to prevent THEM being ready. It now looks as if HE will have too many boxes but as the movers are picking up over two days, any boxes left over cam easily be returned.
Just a brief mention about Wicky. The weather had turned quite cold in the last couple of days and HE was a bit anxious in case Wicks trimmed legs made him feel cold. But one feel under his rug this morning dispelled all those fears. I must say Wick is looking very suave now and all the French fillies (of a certain height) are bound to fall for him. Mind you, they might not have any midgets over there!

last view of suzukiSunday 10th December 2006
The cats went this morning. At least, we think they did. They left the house for certain. The day started as normal for them except that all three have been concerned that something was going on. As he wandered over the house with boxes or stuff to put in them and the places that the cats recognised grew less and less, they took to sitting on the floor looking baleful and suspicious. Last night Tom disappeared altogether when it was time for supper and was found on the only cupboard in the house that has a radiator in it. The cupboard was empty but Tom was just sitting on the carpet enjoying the warmth. Anyway, back to this morning. There was a bit of a scare at about 8.30 when again, Tom went missing. The carrier was due about 9am to pick them up and HE had visions of having to call out in the street for Tom. However, at about 8.45, Tom walked back in and made himself comfortable as he usually does on the radiator. Then SHE heard a car outside and sure enough, it was the van come to pick them up. Cat Flap was loaded first. And, having been picked up from a nice sleep on THEIR bed, was too sleepy to give much trouble until he was actually in the cage. Then it was PCs turn. He is the only one who has been involved in a move before and THEY are sure he knew what was coming. Tom was carried out to the van from the warm radiator and was fine until he saw the van when he turned into a scratching whirlwind. Tom can be surprising sometimes. When they had gone HE had to come in and put a plaster on a scratch that was literally dripping with blood.
So, why did I say ‘we think they did’ at the start to this piece? Well it is because there was a phone call from Charles who is going to transport us horses. He phoned to say that he is stuck in Spain (he had been there with his horses for a show jumping competition) because the ferries all have been cancelled due to the forecast gales and storms. He says that he isn’t sure if we will be able to travel Wednesday after all. It will all depend on the weather and if our ferry is running. Apparently the ferry company has a lot of problems with broken down boats as well as not being able to operate in these weather conditions. He is going to phone again tomorrow and we might know a bit more what will b happening to us. Even more important (I suppose) is what is going to happen to THEM as the removal people are taking the home away tomorrow and Tuesday. They are booked onto a motel Tuesday night but will THEY have to extend this booking until we can sale?
In the meantime, we three are enjoying ourselves with some nice fresh hay that HE put out for us tonight. Also our diet has been changed to include sugar beet again now so we will stand around in the shelter again with nice warm tummies.

tree at devon rented cottageMonday 11th December 2006
There is a human saying ‘It never rains but it pours’. This morning, faced with the uncertainty of when us horses (and therefore THEMSELVES) are actually going to be able to be moved, first it was pouring with rain and second his little white jeep would not start. In itself this was not a complete disaster as HE just put our breakfasts in the green car and came along in that. However, the jeep is central to HIS master plan for moving us. You see, the green car is pretty small and THEY have to see what can be fitted in to it to take with THEM to the rented place. And this must be done before the house removal people have gone so that anything that won’t fit into the car will have to go in store with the rest of the house.
Now, if the green car is full up then the jeep is essential to move the two big boxes full of our necessary stuff, the six bags of feed and all the tack that we are going to have to wear to get into the horse box, to move it up to Wheatley farm where we are to be loaded (eventually). When HE got back from feeding us therefore HE had to investigate why the jeep wouldn’t start. HE found that one of the fog lights that HE never uses anyway was staying on if the key was in or out. The only way he could turn it off was top disconnect the battery. HE had no way of knowing whether it was the short circuit caused probably by water getting into the wiring that was stopping it starting or whether the battery was just run down by the light having been on maybe all night.

All HE could do was to take the battery out and take it down to Graham (where the jeep was usually serviced) and ask him to put it on quick charge so that HE could pick it up later when HE went to the bank to pick up some euros that HE had ordered. After that, HE set about yet more packing and then had the ideas that, if we were going to be delayed, THEY would rather live in a rented cottage than a bare motel room. So he got on the internet and found a place not far from Willey Farm which belongs to the chap who owned the stable where I first moved to when I came here. Sorry this is so dry and boring but it is what happened today. THEY have still not heard from Charles which might be good news if the reason is that he is on a ferry or, of course, it might not if he is still stranded in Spain.
HE also went and spoke to Michael and Sue about emergency plans if HE had to bring our stuff along early in the green car and leave it there for as long as it takes to move us. Anyway, he got the battery back and the light didn’t come on and he got the jeep to start after all. Then the removal people came along and took half the stuff leaving THEM the evening to pack the rest before tomorrow morning. Then the solicitor phoned, wanting THEM to go along tomorrow morning to sign some papers about the sale of our field so it looks as if it is definitely final. The only question still is when. What will happen about my diary over the next few days is also a bit of an unknown. But it will get written and published in the new year regardless.

cleaning out ivy cottageTuesday 12th December 2006
When HE came along tonight with our supper HE was a quite different person from this morning. Then it was all cuddling and singing and chattering away about taking us off to France. Tonight I think HE was just exhausted. After working all last evening getting things ready for the removers, HE went to bed tired but confident that things were going to turn out OK after all. So, HE was in a good mood when HE brought breakfast. But after that, things started to get hectic. The first thing HE had to do was make sure that all the stuff that THEY wanted to go with THEM rather than into store would all fit into the car. Fortunately it appeared to, just. Then the removal men came along and it was a question of moving the cars round and the jeep had to go next door into Jane & David’s drive o make room for the van. Then the man said that the bunk beds would not go down the stairs unless they were dismantled further. HE admits that HE was not in the most receptive frame of mind and old the man that he had better do it then as they had taken all HIS tools away yesterday. There were bags and boxes to be put out for the dustmen to take as today is the day they come and otherwise HE would have to make another trip to the tip.
Then it was time to go and see he solicitor to sign the papers for the field sale. On the way there had to be a few stops to give some friends some parking tickets that THEY had pre booked. Then to the post box to mail a couple of letters and finally to the milkman’s house to pay the last bill. The drive was OK until THEY reached the town where the traffic was horrendous. THEY weren’t in the solicitor’s long so THEY decided to go and have some lunch as there was no way this could be provided at home. On the way a stop was needed to get some cash to pay for the rented cottage and also some sandwiches and some ginger ale to go with the bottle of scotch that was waiting at home.
Lunch was pleasant and THEY were able to buy some farewell drinks for some friends in the pub. Then back to an almost empty house to wait for the moving men to return to take the last of the things and collect up he last of the stuff going with them. Finally, HE had to make up our food and bring it to us, as I said, utterly exhausted. So much so, in fact, that when they drove off to the rented cottage for a good evenings rest, HE remembered that HE hadn’t brought the scotch to go with the ginger ale. It was lucky therefore that HE also couldn’t find the tea bags that HE was sure HE had packed so HE had to go back out again and eventually came back with tea and scotch and managed a bit of a  rest – at last!

last view of south zealWednesday 13th December 2006
Well it would have been if THEY had slept. HE told me that the cottage was nice and THEY were warm and HE can’t even remember worrying about anything specific. But, THEY hardly slept for whatever reason and so the new day started badly. HE tried to make the best of it by singing to us in between saying repeatedly that we were going to France. However, apparently when HE was at the old (empty) house, making up our breakfast, Maxwell human came along asking when we were going so she could get him out of the way because he does get so excited. And the problem was, HE couldn’t tell her. Last evening, at the cottage, THEY found out that THEIR mobile phones wouldn’t work as they couldn’t get a signal. This meant that THEY couldn’t get in touch with our removal man Charles or let the people in France know that we had been delayed. THEY also couldn’t get in touch with the cats’ carriers to tell them that THEY would be late getting the cats. And, to cap it all – no internet!

However, after feeding us and having a bite to eat in the cottage, THEY went back to the old house and plugged the phone in and were able to contact everyone. The main thing that THEY learned was that Charles was now in France and was arriving in Portsmouth Thursday morning. As he couldn’t be sure of getting to us, in time for THEM to make the ferry, he had booked THEM on the 15.15 ferry and told THEM to go ahead and that he would load us without THEM. HE warned us tonight that this was going to happen, as if we were babies and would be scared.
Anyway, to condense a very work heavy day, HE moved all our stuff to Michael and Sue’s farm. It took him 5 journeys as HE had to make up six hay bales and load up two very heavy water bottles as well. At one point in the proceedings HE was heard to mutter wishing HE’d ‘never heard of ****ing horses’ but, of course, we know HE was just a bit tired at the time. THEY then went out for lunch and SHE bought a new big bag to replace her normal handbag. Of course then it was time to bring our supper but I’m sure HE didn’t have any re-occurrence of those earlier thoughts.
And so today ends with HIM making yet again one of his lists of what must be done tomorrow. That should ensure another sleepless night although HE badly needs some sleep before HE has to drive to Livaie.

queue for ferry to NormandyThursday 14th December 2006
And while the world seems to be getting itself into a state about Xmas, THEY set off on THEIR last grand adventure and let Xmas pass them by. Now, I am going to have to get HIM to do my diary on HIS own for a couple of days until us horses get settled in Livaie.

WE woke up early this morning and, while SHE was left in the rented cottage, I had to drive over to our old house one last time and make up the horses breakfast. Then I took it to them and while they were eating, I went and closed off the upper fields so that when their carrier came, he wouldn’t have to climb up the hills to find them. Next was transporting 3 bales of hay to Wheatley Farm after first having dunked three of the loaded hay nets in the stream and leaving them to drain on the bank. Then back again to pick up the wet hay nets and deliver them and back to the rented cottage. After WE had booked out of there, we drove back to the old house for the very last time, made up and loaded six bucket feeds, checked the house over and turned off the water, gas and electricity and left a note for the new buyers. Finally the old white Suzuki jeep got a bit of a minimal clear out and then WE drove in procession to Wheatley to deliver the feed buckets and most importantly, the horses passports.
And off we drove to Portsmouth ferry terminal. An uneventful but tiring (for us oldies) 153 miles. We were early but as we followed the signs all the way, we found ourselves in the check ion queue. However, it gave ME time to put on the GB plate and headlight modifiers that I had quite forgotten about. Eventually we loaded and SHE headed straight for the restaurant as we had missed lunch. However, it was three fifteen and the restaurant didn’t open until five thirty so WE made our way to the self service buffet and had a light lunch of salad and wine to tide us over until dinner.
We watched England (Portsmouth) fade into the distance through dirty, water splashed windows which would have made photos difficult enough but we were late setting off on a dark cloudy day and with night falling too, very little was seen. One of OUR highlights was forcing the door open against a very strong wind and standing outside breathing cold, fresh air and watching the wash of the boat.
We got to the restaurant and, as there was a special Xmas offer on the Champagne, we bought the (reduced) top of the range. Actually, it was a pleasant surprise to find it was not just all sharp bubbles but a delightful tasting, mildly sparking drink. Well worth the money for the experience and not just ‘to be posh’.
I must record that we were amused but also saddened by the behaviour of one poor, apparently inebriated lady looking for her six foot two, red headed ‘caretaker’. On disembarking, we saw that the gentleman who had more grey than red in his hair had been reunited with her.
The boat docked late at about ten thirty and finally we drove off to Livaie. It was not enough to be driving on the wrong side of the road, at a place WE didn’t know, in the dark but on the way it became very, very foggy. WE were very fortunate that WE only made one mistake which cost us a detour, after unwrapping a giant map in a very small car, of about twenty minutes. As WE drove into the farm, our very courteous and helpful landlady Jo met US and took us to our cottage. Then the farmer James came along to. Both had stayed up until nearly one o’clock just to look after us. We then collapsed into bed, exhausted by happy.

on the ferryVendredi 15th Decembre 2006
Don’t expect the bilingual touch to go any further than this. It just seemed appropriate for the first day. A day of worry touched with humour, disappointment, adventure and great pleasure.
First the worry. It would appear that what they say about French plumbing has a lot of truth in it. Last night, after a long drive and a late night cup of tea (not to mention HER tablets) a visit to the ‘amenities’ was called or. HE went first and found a note in French which HE proudly read and told HER was about the delicate, eccentric single pull type of flush. HE pulled it and it was fine. SHE next tried to use it and was convinced that SHE had broken it by pushing instead of pulling. HE looked at it but late night tiredness won and it was flushed but bowls of water filled from the tap. Next morning, it still wouldn’t work and when Jo visited to ask if we would come and see the arrangements for the horses, WE had to say that WE weren’t complaining but we would happily pay for a new working flush as this was essential for a happy life. A plumber was called, arrived very promptly and fixed it. It is still a delicate knack but one WE feel that WE can now learn.
The great disappointment resulted from a phone call to the horse carriers when WE were told that OUR lovely equines were still in Ninefields as a gale made Brittany Ferries refuse to carry hem until the weather improves. We have inspected where they will be, the barn and the ‘orchard’ and possibly one more open field but are helpless to do anything but wait for the carriers arrival whenever that is.
The adventure was minor but I went shopping for cat food, having ascertained that the cats would join us in a couple of hours and the food that had been packed was with the horses stuff still in England. Having braved ‘Madame’ in the bakers, bought some bread and asked where I could get cat food, all in French, I then went, as directed, to a large shop and bought food for the cats and also for US. Again, talking in poor but recognisable French, I managed to explain to ‘Monsieur’ that I wanted to leave the purchases until I could bring my car from the car park, a considerable distance away. He then explained to me, and would not take no for an answer, that he would carry them to my car. And he did. I. know it made good business sense but it was also a very kindly act and I shook his hand warmly as I thanked him. So far, all nice people.
The great pleasure, of course was the arrival of OUR cats. They made it obvious that they were as pleased to see US as WE were to be reunited with them. Cat Flap raced around everywhere, high and low, getting himself covered in cobwebs. PC wandered about shouting until he had shouted in every corner of the place, at least three times. Tom wandered about and then hid himself, first in HER new large handbag and then in a big, walk in store cupboard in the kitchen. Finally he sat on me for ages while I tried to write this diary and then, when SHE went to bed for an early night, Tom went and joined her As there is (as yet) no cat door, we leave the low kitchen window ajar. They have all been out that was several times and I think they have accepted their new home. Mind you, they have not yet met Garfield! I’ll tell you tomorrow.

normandy is famous for horses (I come from there)Saturday 16th December 2006
I didn’t expect it still to be ME writing this tonight. It is still nearly six pm and we have no word where Alli and the others are. We are all (even our farmer landlords and family) waiting for their arrival. The story so far….
SHE had an early night last night while I sat up and sorted out papers, etc. Then, at the normal time, I fed the cats and went to bed. The cats came too and disturbed HER but I don’t think SHE could really sleep anyway as WE had not had any news of the horses or their whereabouts. Then the phone rang and it was the horse carriers saying that they had been delayed, yet again. By force 9 gales and had only just arrived at Wheatley Farm and that they couldn’t get the items waiting in the garage there because the garage was locked and the Wonnacott’s were not in. They said what they had had to do was to pass the stuff over the wall and load it and were now on the way, finally, to load the horses and wanted directions to the field.
I must admit that, having heard all the excuses about the delays caused by the weather and being dismayed at the way that they had just taken the items from the garage like thieves, WE got very worried about the truth of their statements and SHE phoned Maxwell’s human and OUR friend Faith and asked her to go and supervise the loading of the horses. Faith agreed and later phoned back and said that the horses loaded very quietly and easily and she was impressed at the size of the horse transport. WE were much reassured and then went to bed with the news that they were heading for the early morning ferry from Poole and would be with us mid afternoon. WE were very lucky to have such a good friend to do this supervising for us, particularly as Faith had also been feeding the horses while the transport was delayed. WE must send both her and Sue & Michael a present for their kindness.
WE thought then, at least, WE could get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately the cats had other ideas. Cat Flap found everything exciting and in need of inspection. He did a wonderful job of his housework by going round, under and over everything and getting his whole face covered in cobwebs. WE must rent him out as a housekeeper. Tom and PC decided to alternate between snuggling down inside the bed with us and strutting up and down every corner shouting. WE weren’t sure if they thought that this was speaking in cat French or if they just liked the echoes their voices made. PC was particularly loud. What with that and the various things Cat Flap broke as he sailed from one piece of furniture to the next, WE really didn’t get much sleep at all.
As the horses were due mid afternoon, I decided to go to the nearby town, Alencon, to try and get some essential leads and equipment to connect our computers up to the internet. Also to get some food and essential cleaning materials as the next day was Sunday and we had been told that not much opens on a Monday either. I also needed to get some essence (petrol) as WE forgot to fill up at Portsmouth the day before and the warning light was on in the car. So, I set off on the eleven mile journey to Alencon and when I was very nearly there, I stopped for petrol. Jo (our landlady) had told me that I could get everything I wanted at a big supermarket In Alencon, so I asked for directions and followed the first sentence before the chap got too fast for me to follow. All I could do was nod and pretend I understood where to go. Of course, not only did I not find it but I found myself in the centre of a much bigger town than I had expected, on a Saturday morning just before Xmas, with all the parking places taken and many cars on my tail.
I got lost!
Luckily I managed to blunder around until I saw the number of a road that I knew, followed that and found my way heading back to La Chauniere again with no shopping done. I consoled myself that at least I had bought petrol and turned off to look at the nearest village to our farm, Livaie. I discovered that Livaie is a Marie, a church and a re-cycling centre with a few houses around. No shops and, in the cold rain, little of interest. I took a couple of photos and left. On my way out, Jo had also told me of a farm pork shop (charcuterie) in the next village past their farm so, rather than go home completely empty handed, I visited there and bought some meat.
The afternoon was spent waiting for the horses. Eventually we had dinner for something to do and then tried phoning the transporters but could get nothing on any of their phones. And that is the situation up to date. SHE and Jo have worked out that we might expect the horses around seven so now we can just wait.
One last thing. PC, the old cat WE had thought might not survive the journey, went out on his own and paid a visit to the cows in the barn. He was brought home by Sophie, our hosts charming young daughter. Tom, the coward had spent the day on top of our wardrobe and Cat Flap, exhausted by his efforts at keeping us awake all night, has slept most of the day.

through a wet windowSunday 17th December 2006
Hello again – at last. Time to take my diary back again. I expect HE has made an effort to keep you up to date but it would have been all human stuff and not the important things. We finally arrived here last evening about seven forty. THEY got a phone call from Michael, our groom, telling them that we had got to Livaie and wanting directions to the farm. THEY got in the little green car and drove down to Livaie and then we followed them back to La Chauniere. Wicky was unloaded first and, as soon as he got down the ramp, his head went down onto the grass on the side of the lane. He had to stand while they took off all his travelling gear and put on his field rug. Then Mims came down and HE held her while Sophie led Wicky away to our barn. Then HE took Mims along too and I did get a bit worried to see everyone go, leaving me in the lorry. Finally however, I came out as well and joined up with the others in the barn. The floor was covered with a lovely thick layer of straw and we started to eat this as if we hadn’t eaten for days. However, HE then came along with our buckets but, to tell the truth, we were really too wound up to bother top eat much. Well, excepting Wicky of course who just put his head down and munched,
Our moment of glory came in the morning. We had been locked in by a gate with a tractor on the other side of it to stop it moving. HE came along with our breakfast which Wicky tucked into but Mims and I just messed around with and then left. Next James took the tractor away and we went out into the orchard. Suddenly we realised that we were free and all three of us took off first running and then galloping. Coming out of the orchard I saw this great big open field, where we could really gallop so I headed for it. It was a great shame that I didn’t see the wire fence that separated the field from the orchard and I am afraid I ran right through it. There was barbed wire on top of the fence and I did cut myself badly on the top of both legs but I was so happy to be free that I took no notice and just ran. The sheep all queued up to watch us and then we ran over to the next field and chatted to the cows.
The humans were watching us, James with dismay, as he saw that I had demolished about six or seven of his fence posts. There was nothing they could do and we were left to roam all three fields at our leisure all day. This evening, when HE brought our buckets, Sophie wanted to groom me and it was then that HE saw the cuts on my legs. So HE and Sophie went off to get the would dressings and the grooming kit. Mims and I still didn’t eat a lot, apart from our treats but Wicky made up for both of us, When they finally went off, we all three had a good long chat and decided that we can get used to living here, now that we don’t have to make that big long journey again.

father and sonMonday 18th December 2006
They have a funny habit of closing a gate onto our barn and then driving  tractor against it. I’m not sure if they think that I am going to break down some more of their fences overnight but really I’m not. I didn’t make a fuss but those scrapes that the barbed wire made on my legs are really not very nice although they are scabbing over nicely now. I think in future I will o out by the gate instead of through the fence.
We had a good night in our barn. It is big and covered in deep straw so it is very comfortable and there are no doors to shut out the light so when HE came with our breakfasts this morning, we were all three standing looking over the gate at the orchard. Wicky as usual had a full breakfast. I ate quite a bit but Mims is too inquisitive to get settled And Walked away from hers. I thought I would help her out so I went over to finish her bucket but then Jo moved the tractor out of the way and HE opened the gate so I too lost interest in the buckets and went with Mims to look out at the fields. We both came back to see what Wick was doing but he was, of course, head down in his bucket, so Mims and I went for a little explore, just the two of us. Later however, Wick came along at a canter and the three of us set abut a proper examination of our new home. There is the orchard which Jo says is about two acres but SHE is not so sure. Then there are three big fields, mostly filled with sheep but in one corner there are cows. HE tells me that there are other fields near THEIR cottage also with cows in so I am not sure if the cows move around in places that we can’t go or if there are other cows apart from the ones we got to know..
So that is how we spent our day, getting to know the place without wrecking it. About a half an hour earlier than tea time in Devon, HE turned up in our field. It really was quite amusing. We heard HIM first calling ‘Alli, Alli, Alli’ as HE does when HE wants us. When we looked up, there was this single human figure, holding a bucket, surrounded by about forty hopeful sheep and Mick, one of the sheepdogs here, following him like that ‘One Man and His Dog’ programme. Wicky started walking and then trotting towards HIM, as soon as he saw the bucket, and then Mims and I followed at a sort of leisurely lope.
When we got back to the barn, our buckets were set out against the walls and we all tucked in. After a while, Mims and I sort of sensed something was not right. Mims left her bucket and walked over to the path to the field and looked out. I walked over to see what was happening. Then I realised. No gate, no tractor. THEY were leaving our barn open so we could walk in and out just like we did in the field shelter at Ninefields. Because we could just go out when we wanted, of course, we didn’t. As HE went to go, HE looked back and saw me standing quite happily in the barn, eating from a hay net which was laying on the floor. After HE had gone, we waited for Wick and then went back out to our new fields to enjoy our first night of freedom.

look FranceTuesday 19th December 2006
We had a surprise for HIM this morning when HE brought our breakfast. Our barn is a big three sided stone building with a little door in the side onto the lane. When HE opened this little door to bring our buckets in, we weren’t there. Instead there was an old sheep called Lucky, laying down on our straw. After making her acquaintance, HE walked out of the open side of the barn and turned into the path leading to the fields and found all three of us eating the sheep’s hay from the big round container that James puts the bales into. Of course, we stopped and came along to HIM when we saw HIM and so HE put our buckets down on the grass on the side of the path. I say on the grass but it was very hard to see the grass as it had been a night of very heavy frost, making everything look really Christmassy.
For the first time since we have been here, we really enjoyed our food and it nearly drove the sheep mad as they stood around and watched us eat. In fact, Lucky, who was a hand reared sheep and so is very forward, decided to share Wicky’s breakfast. You can imagine, Wick was less than friendly to her but even after chasing her off, she came back two more times. Eventually, she settled for sharing with me until HE came along with a big stick and asked her kindly to move along.
We had a lovely day today, just wandering about in our three fields and an orchard so when it was supper time, we surprised HIM again by strolling into the barn just as HE arrived with the buckets. After such an icy day, we tucked into our food like Wicky’s (which, of course, one of us was). Then Sophie turned up and asked if she could groom Mims. Mims loved it as she really likes being groomed. Sophie even made an attempt on her tail but that will need more than one try as it has been left far too long (in time, I mean, not centimetres).
Cameron, Sophie’s little brother came along as well and enjoyed giving us treats (as much as we enjoyed eating them) until Wicky’s funny tooth made him think Wick was biting him. We all had a really good time all together and us equines stayed back in the yard outside the barn after the humans went away. Things are turning out really good here and we all are starting to have fun.

Wednesday 20th December 2006
We were waiting or HIM in the barn this morning. Oh, and I have to tell you a little story. THEY had been talking about how our farmer hosts Jo and James didn’t seem to know much about horses. Considering they met at agricultural college, HE thought that they really should have more knowledge than they appear to have, So, do you remember HIM talking about that hand reared sheep, Lucky, that tried to share Wicky’s breakfast yesterday. Well, HE did, at one point, ask her when her baby lamb was due. So when HE got talking with Jo and James this morning about how we were all, sheep and horses, getting along so well, HE found out that the sheep was not the one called Lucky at all, in fact, that sheep was the ram! I reckon that Jo and James know a lot more about horses than HE does about sheep, that’s for sure.we made it
Mind you, sheep or lamb, it is  a greedy creature. HE had to stand guard both this morning and this evening to stop it getting at our buckets. The only one that HE doesn’t have to protect is Wicky who is very capable of chasing it off by himself.
It was a very , very hard frost this morning but this did turn into a wonderful bright sunny but cold day. It was so bright that we quite forgot the time this evening and HE had to come and look for us with our supper buckets. I’m not at all sure that HE recognised me when HE found us as I had been having a wonderful roll in some bright yellow mud. Quite the beauty treatment, it was.
Do you know, THEY went out shopping today and didn’t get lost. That is quite an achievement for HIM. HE has a bit of an excuse though as HE has an ear blocked up with wax and HE complains that it is like having a head stuffed full of cotton wool. Talking of wool, THEY have put all the Xmas cards up by hanging a long thread of very thick red wool from one side of the room to the other. It is really amazing how many card that they have but it is because some of them are ‘new home’ ones and some are for HER birthday which is coming up on the 22nd.
THEY went to THEIR first French town market today. What was interesting about it was that it was nothing special. I don’t mean it was not good. What I mean is that it is just normal for the local people. It’s where you buy your stuff to wear, to eat or whatever. Also the shops are open and the bars and bistros and people just live. I think what HE was trying to tell me to say is that it has none of the ‘trying very hard’ earnestness that one finds in the English ‘Farmer’s Markets’ that have sprung up everywhere. The good thing but one that needs getting used to, HE tells me , is that you only find the produce that is in season – that type of cabbage, etc.
Anyway, that’s a human problem. What we are worried about is that HE gets in a big enough stock of carrots and apples to see us over the Xmas holidays. We don’t really care if they are in season or not. And, an even bigger question, where can one buy our favourite mint sweets?

La Chauniere, LivaieThursday 21st December 2006
Another good day for me. I seem to have found all the good mud puddles to lay in. What’s good about it is that the mud is a lovely mustard colour so when you have a roll you can change your face from red to yellow. Tres chic as we say here.
Wicky has managed to make a couple of good sized holes in his rug. I think he must have been putting his head through a fence with barbed wire along the middle and then drew back while lifting his coat onto the wire. THEY are now scratching THEIR heads trying to think if the mending tape has been packed with THEM here or if it has gone into store back in Devon. The trouble with moving in the way we did is that HE has none of HIS useful tools with HIM. The definition of useful tools is a tool that you just don’t have when you need it. HE did bring a bag with screwdrivers and electrical meters and stuff like that which is really handy for HIS computer things. What HE doesn’t have is HIS chain saw for making the wood that HE found in one of the out buildings, small enough to go into the wood burner that THEY have in the front room. What HE doesn’t have is HIS electric jig saw to make a hole on the outer door to take the cat door that HE bought today. What HE doesn’t have is HIS drill and hammer to put hooks into our stone barn walls to hang up our hay nets so that it is us who get the hay and not the sheep who like to live in our barn when it is cold.
HE went out today to the supermarket the correct way and didn’t get lost at all. What HE has been doing wrong is to turn left onto the road marked Alencon, which is where the supermarket is. Last night HE was on the internet looking at a Pages Jaune map of the town and HE saw that he shouldn’t have turned left at all but kept straight on over the main road to town and turned left at the next roundabout. This way the road then led HIM straight to the store. While HE was there, HE bought a sort of climbing, scratching post thing for the cats. THEY are trying to wear them out so that they don’t keep trying to scratch their way into bed with THEM are walking up and down the house shouting at the top of their voices. THEY are also trying to encourage the cats to go out during the day as, for some reason, THEY are not very keep on the cats litter tray under the side table in the kitchen.
It was good tonight eating our supper for two reasons. First there were no sheep around. Or, to be more precise, there was no ram around. The second reason was that HE is back to the correct way for us to eat because HE bought us some of our old big Braeburn apples to eat as a treat midway through supper. The only thing I am a bit apprehensive about is that HE told me tonight that HE thinks HE has found a French substitute for our Polo mints, when they run out as they will do soon after Xmas. HE bought two lots one normal and one sugar free and HE has had to test them before HE tries them on us. HE thinks that they are nice but nothing like we are used to. I will reserve my judgement. If they are no good we will have to send for food parcels from England!

cows in mistFriday 22nd December 2006
It’s HER birthday today so SHE came along to see us at midday. Well, to be fair we came along to meet HER as SHE just stood at the farm gate and waited for us. Let’s just say that we met halfway as SHE as, at least, out of HER house. In fact, SHE told me, that SHE had been shopping yet again as THEY had begun to panic that THEY didn’t have anything special for Xmas and also SHE wanted to make fish and ships as a special birthday treat. SHE said that THEY were going to have cod and chips and champagne and told me that it was a very sophisticated meal. She could have said swede and apples for all I know but it is HER birthday so I didn’t say anything, just nodded in agreement.
THEY had first gone out in the morning after feeding us to see a doctor in a nearby village. THEY thought that they would register but he didn’t think it was worth it yet until THEY know where THEY will be living. However, the other main reason for going was that HE had had his ear blocked up with wax for a couple of weeks now and the doctor syringed it for HIM so now HE is feeling much, much better. In fact, HE told me this morning that the one thing that is driving HIM mad is having to use dial up for the internet. After broadband (and THEY weren’t even on a very fast service in England), dial up seems to take for ever. THEY had forgotten how maddening it can be. Last night, a lady sent them five photos of a prospective house they might purchase and it took fifteen minutes for the pictures o download.
Still that’s a human problem. We horses are not having any problems at the moment. There wasn’t even any frost last night or this morning. We do get to see some wonderful sunrises and some quite nice sunsets. The sunsets are not quite so good and I can only think it must be the lay of the land to the west or maybe the clouds just don’t form that way to produce such good colours. The best thing is the mud. I may have mentioned this yesterday but now I have managed to get both sides of my face plastered very thickly. HE does try to scrape it off with HIS fingers as Sophie has the grooming kit and she hasn’t been around for a few days. However, HE did warn me, she finished school today for the Xmas holidays so I had better watch out. I’ll get HIM to tell her that Mims loves being groomed. That should do it!

next to the orchardSaturday 23rd December 2006
We are in big trouble. BIG trouble, even BIG, BIG trouble. I could see it in HIS eyes tonight as HE went off. I say ‘we’ but actually the culprit was, again, my darling daughter Mims. You see, THEY were invited to a carol concert in a nearby village and, as it was at three o’clock, HE was worried that there might not be enough time to go there and get back in time for our supper. So, HE got everything ready before going out, even to the extent of filling HIS pockets with our treats – apples and mints and sugar lumps. HIS plan was to put the buckets and HIS horsey jacket and wellies in the car so that HE could feed us as soon as the car got back to the farm. Then HE had another thought that from 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock when we get fed should be plenty of time to get back after all so HE left the buckets and clothes at home after all. HE then came away from the church quickly and drove straight home to be in time. I have to add that the timing is important as it gets dark quite soon after 5 o’clock (it used to be four o’clock in England but the time is different here).
So, HE turned up on time to find no-one in the barn but as he went in, Wicky and I turned the corner and came along for our supper. I must detour here for a minute to mention what happened this morning. Again Wicky and I came into the barn for our breakfast but Mims was nowhere to be seen. HE took her bucket and wandered out into the field but could find no trace of her not in the fields or in the orchard. HE was on HIS way back to put the bucket down safe (away from the ever hungry ram) and was then going to go out on a full scale search party for her, fearing that she had gone and broken through a fence somewhere and got lost, when Sophie appeared, climbing through the gate. HE told her that Mims was missing and she went to look and said ‘there she is’ and Mims came sauntering along from the next field as if nothing had happened.
Back to this evening. Thinking it was going to be a repeat of the morning, HE started out to find Mims again when she came round the corner. HE called to her and put her bucket down and then turned away to give me my bit of apple. When HE looked up, Mims had marched back out of the barn and the ram was eating her supper. He ran to the corner to call her and then turned to find I had left my bucket to find out what Mims was up to. HE tried to get me to go back to my bucket but by this time the ram was eating that. To cut a very long story short, Mims came back a couple of times and went out again into the field and it ended up with both her and me walking out, me having had about four mouthfuls and Mims having had one mouthful and HIM muttering about wasting HIS time rushing about and working for us and us not bothering to eat etc, etc.
Let us hope that HE is in a better frame of mind in the morning.

through the bedroom windowSunday 24th December 2006
Christmas Eve. Well, we made it after all. Xmas in France and very nice it is too. In some ways it is better for us horses than for THEM. We have a very nice, warm stone barn with deep straw underfoot and one whole side open. I would say we have about six times the space we had in our field shelter. Plenty of room for everyone without feeling vulnerable if we are in each other’s space. Then we have a big orchard and three very large grassy fields to wander in as well as a pond and some lovely muddy places to roll in. We also have cows and sheep for company and two collies, one of whom, I will admit, can be a bit of a pain as only collies can. All in all a good life and we are also establishing a proper routine. We meet up with HIM, and also with Sophie now, who comes to pet, feed and groom us, first in the morning at eight thirty (seven thirty old British time) and again at five in the afternoon. If it is cold or windy we meet up in the barn but usually we eat in the little lane leading from the barn, alongside the orchard. HE is kept busy guarding our feed from the greedy ram and sometimes shouting at Mick the collie if he tries to snap at Mims’ heels. Why only Mims, I just don’t know. Maybe he has good taste after all.
On the other hand, THEY are staying in the rented cottage. It is really very, very nice HE tells us but the trouble is THEY keep missing things that one normally has in your own home. Some little things THEY buy but the bigger things will have to be gone without until THEIR own things come out of store. There is also the problem of looking after other people’s property that is not the same worry if it is your own. HE has already broken one wine glass when HE went walking in the dark at night, looking for his medication. HE said, if it was your own you wouldn’t worry but as it belongs to the cottage THEY must remember to replace it with one the same. Little things like that and not having the same work space that you are used to does tend to make life a bit like camping rather than living.
The other thing that THEY miss is, strangely, the TV. I say strangely because THEY only ever watched TV for half an hour in the morning when THEY looked at the news programme while they had an early morning tea to help THEM wake up. Now, THEY just sit over THEIR cups in silence with HIM looking at HIS watch every five minutes to check if it is time to start getting our feed ready. HE has worked out a routine of preparing the feed vegetable supplements for the day in the morning and getting the days feed buckets ready in the afternoon. This replaces THEIR old routine of preparing three days’ vegetables at a time, just over twice a week.
But, without radio or TV and HER not being well and going to bed at seven thirty in the evening, Xmas Eve passed just like any other day, the most Christmassy thing being yesterday’s carol service. No doubt, next year, in THEIR own home will be more festive.

the little green carMonday 25th December 2006
Sophie came along this morning armed with a camera to take all our photos. We were having a good breakfast until the ram came along and HE had to grab a great big stick and chase him away. HE gave most of our treats to Sophie to give us and left her with some mints while HE went off to have breakfast.
As it was Christmas Day, THEY had been invited along to the farmhouse for a pre lunch drink and to meet Jo’s mother and father who had come over from Exeter. THEY had a really nice time chatting with everyone and Sophie gave THEM a big painting of a horse whi looks a lot like Mims with a big white blaze down her face. Then THEY went back to the cottage and prepared and ate THEIR Christmas dinner and by the time HE had washed up and put everything away it was nearly time to make our supper. I think Xmas is a bit like that.
Earlier HE had a phone call from grandson Ben. Normally Ben and sister Rachel come to visit at Xmas and this is the first time for ages that THEY had not seen them over the holiday. It was nice chatting with Ben until HE realised that Ben wasn’t using the free internet phone service and so it must be costing a ot of money so HE wished everyone a happy Xmas and rang off.
I don’t think I have told you what HE has told me about the cat called Scabby. Scabby is one of the farm cats and was called that because, rather like Cat Flap, he adopted Jo and James and when he came he had a bad scab on his face. Anyway, Scabby has been hanging around the cottage trying to come in. In fact he has been found indoors a couple of times when the doors have been left open for our cats. When THEY go up to him, he has appeared a very friendly cat and so, today, when he came in and Cat Flap was watching him, HE thought that they were going to make friends. Instead, Scabby suddenly flew at Cat Flap and started a fight. He was of course, chased out and now wont be allowed in any more. In fact THEY are thinking of getting a water pistol to let him know how unwelcome he is.
And that was Xmas Day. Very quiet and uneventful for the humans and normally very pleasant for us horses. He does think Mims is now in some competition with me to see who can get the most mud on their face. Poor girl, she is trying but she has a way to go yet!

PC meets a sheepTuesday 26th December 2006
Our first casualty. When HE came along with our supper tonight, Sophie told him that Wicky was limping. When HE got onto the barn, HE put Wick’s food down and had a look. HE got Sophie to get th hoof pick from the grooming kit that she keeps somewhere and was able to pick enormous quantities of mud out of three feet but Wick just wouldn’t lift the front foot opposite his bad one as he couldn’t put his weight on it. A visual and manual inspection of the leg did not reveal any wounds or obvious signs of what it wrong. When that foot was picked out, again, nothing was obviously damaged. All HE could do was to leave Wick for the night and see how he is in the morning. Also, of course, HE reported to HER as SHE is the horse expert. SHE says SHE will try to come along in the morning and have a look at him. THEY are both hoping that Wick has just tripped or stubbed his leg and it will get better in time. SHE was worried about laminitis but there really is not much keep in the grass at this time of year and, as Wick appeared OK this morning, such a sudden bad limp is not likely to be caused by laminitis. Or so THEY hope.
In England, today is Boxing Day, a holiday but here in France, it is back to work for most people. A few small shops stayed closed but the big shops and supermarches were open, business as usual. Apparently, Jo and James had a person come to do something about their sheep and had to waken them with very loud knocking on the door at six in the morning.
THEY went out to the supermarket again. THEY have spent as much time there as THEY have at the farm, I think but this time I excused THEM as the main object of the trip was to get us more carrots and apples. While THEY were there, THEY managed to get THEMSELVES some more wine and cheese but that was just a passing fancy. THEY also had an adventure trying to buy some stamps as THEIR English stamps are no good here, of course. Just outside the supermarket there was a small storefront called ‘Poste’ painted yellow as all the post offices here are. The only feature of the storefront was a machine with a sign mentioning stamps and when HE read the changing displays of the machine it appeared you could buy stamps with your debit card. SHE put HER card in the machine and entered HER pin number and then the display offered varying prices for the books of stamps. Not knowing how much it costs to send a letter, HE was a bit surprised at how large some of the offered sums were. Anyway, HE chose the cheapest one at 20€ ( about £14) and pressed the button. HE was a bit surprised when, instead of a book of stamps, out came two 10€ notes – it was a cash machine and not a stamp machine at all!
The next most important thing that THEY have to do is find a shop selling horse food. This is getting near urgent as HE opened the last bag this evening. Jo told him that there are several shops, one of which she recommends as it is run by a very nice man. I think, if THEY do not end up chasing vets for Wicky’s leg tomorrow, that is where THEY will end up. Don’t THEY know how to have fun?

sunsetWednesday 27th December 2006
Aujourd hui or today, if you prefer, THEY spent practicing their French. HE brought our breakfast along as usual and, for a change, Mims and I were first at the buckets with poor old Wicky limping along in third place. It was a strangely silent morning as neither James nor Sophie nor even the dogs Mick and Mack were around and even the ram (Frank the third) was absent so we had a very pleasant, relaxed breakfast. Then off HE went with a determination to get help for Wick who didn’t seem any worse or any better than last night.
First, HE looked up the word for farrier in the dictionary (marechal-ferrant, if HE recalls correctly) and then HE got onto the slow and irritating (his words) dial-up internet and looked up where HE could find one in the area on yellow pages (pages jaune). None were very local but he got a list of six or seven possibles and decided on one that was at least this side of the local town Alencon. Then HE did the brave bit, HE phoned one of them. After ringing for a few times (not many before the French phone system seems to give up) there was no reply so HE tried the next nearest one. This time HE got the farrier’s wife. There followed a lengthy period of word searching and pronunciation problems when HE thought HE had got the message across until the lady explained that her husband was pretty busy right now but could come and see Wick on the 6th of January. Hastily retreating He put the phone down an then SHE said that THEY would have more luck with a vet. Why HE had not decided to look for a vet in the first place is just one of life’s little unexplained mysteries.
After being battered by HIS lack f language skills, HE suggested that, after finding a list on yellow pages again, SHE might like to try out HER language skills. And so SHE did and managed fine until the vet asked for directions. Unfortunately SHE is not the best at directions in English let alone French so SHE opted for sending him directions by email to give THEM time to think.
HE got an itinery from Google France and sent an email with the directions as an attachment and then THEY waited. After hearing nothing THEY phoned again but language defeated YHEM and THEY gave up and had lunch. Afterlunch, HE phoned again and this time got a lady who had a little English who explained that the email had not arrived. They arranged to meet at a church in a nearby village at four o’clock and then THEY would guide her to the farm and that is what they did. The lady vet whose name was Alexia diagnosed a deep down abscess and treatment by poultice which was normal; in England. By then it was supper time and HE brought it up while SHE chatted with Sophie. THEY learned that Sophie plays classical guitar and asked her to come and play for them one evening.
So that was the day after boxing day. All about horses but seen from a human perspective. But then, life’s like that, isn’t it?

sophie and mimsJeudi Decembre 28th 2006
Sophie came out to s first this morning. She came into our barn and turned on the lights so that we should see and come along for breakfast. Wick was of course still limping but even he had sort of got used to it so that he was able to limp along quickly, especially when food was at the end of it.
Then we got a surprise because SHE came along with HIM to supervise the poulticing of Wick’s foot. That makes HER sound like a bossy lady but it is just, with HER illness, SHE cant do the necessary bending down involved. N the end, things worked out OK because Sophie was there to take over from HIM while HE did the poultice. Then Jo came along and lastly James and we had a sort of ‘Poultice Party’ all discussing the ins and outs of abscesses and laminitis and the like. Wicky being Wicky, took no notice at all and just held his leg up while he carried on eating.
Another good thing came from HER being there because SHE asked James to put in some more straw into our barn. I say it is good. Actually I think the sheep use the barn more than we do. Oops, I just remembered. We got told on today as well. SHE found out that when the sheep have their ewe nuts, we horses sort of amble up and help them eat them. Well, fair’s fair. The ram eats out food, doesn’t he?
THEY went out with a couple of samples of our food to the local feed merchant. THEY managed to get one sort but the other wasn’t kept by the merchant so THEY decided to drive over to the next town to another merchants. When THEY got there, THEY first did a bit of shopping and, by the time THEY drove out to the merchant’s it was closed for dinner so THEY went and had dinner too. SHE did manage to order her spin dryer (essoreuse) though although the lady in the shop had a good laugh about spin dryers being museum pieces now. But, that is what will fill the bill until HER own washing machines turn up out of store. I’ve said it before. Isn’t human life complicated?

Friday 29th December 2006
The coldest day in the world, ever – or, at least, that is how HE described it to me. It started off, HE was woken up by the alarm and just didn’t want to get out of bed. When HE did and had to get our breakfasts ready, HE said it felt cold in the shed where HE keeps our food and hen it took Him ages and ages to scrape the ice off the car’s windows.
HE was however made happy by Wicky’s behaviour. He just came limping up and stuck his head in his food bucket and when HE went to change his poultice, Wick just lifted his foot and carried on eating as if nothing were happening, even though HE took a very long time because HIS fingers were frozen and HE couldn’t find the start of the bandage. With Wick’s help HE did manage to change the poultice quite well and so HE headed off for breakfast in a better mood. HE was helped by Sophie turning up as she was able to look after Mims and I while HE worked on Wicky.forest
Then THEY set out to get some more shopping in preparation for the shops being closed over New Year’s. HE needed some swedes and apples for us and SHE wanted to get a scarf, hat and gloves as the icy weather makes HER breathing very bad. Then THEY headed off to get some more horse food from the shop that was closed for lunch yesterday, only to find that because of the time THEY had spend in the supermarket, the shop would be closed again for it’s two hour lunch break yet again. So THEY decided that as THEY were heading that way anywy, THEY would go and have lunch out again for the second day running.
On the way to the town, the trees and hedges were like fairyland as they were white as white with hoar frost. HE wanted to take some photos but the best scenes were where there was no parking places. HE did get some but the best hots are in his memory. THEY had a really nice meal but half way through HE started feeling very tired and the cold had started getting deep down in his bones. By the time THEY got home HE was feeling really bad and then HE remembered that HE had not taken HIS pain killer pills last night or all the day up to then. HE should take two pills four times a day so HE had missed six of them.
After taking HIS pills, HE had a bit of a nap before it was time to bring our supper. Fortunately Sophie came along again as there were two new sheep who were trying to steel our food and HE wasn’t able to guard all of us, particularly as Mims went and placed herself some distance away. The evening ended well however as THEY built up the fire and listened to ‘A Christmas Carol’ on the radio. HE still says t was the coldest day ever but it contained some warm memories.

James and the tractorSaturday 30th December 2006
HE started to get the photos for my diary ready yesterday and was doing well until HE found out that HE had not edited those for the 14th, 15th and 16th – the days that HE took the most photos. This has resulted in HIM having to spend all of today editing photos as well. I say ‘all of today’ when what I mean is all of HIS free time after looking after us and going shopping and so on. Why am I telling you this? Well, the result is that HE didn’t finish until late and so has had to wait to type up my words until tomorrow, if you see what I mean. If you were reading this today, you wouldn’t be because HE hadn’t typed it yet – get it? Oh my, isn’t human life complicated? We horses don’t really think of time in those terms. There is not a today or tomorrow. There is a time before a routine event and a time after it and sometimes there is another time when something happens that isn’t a routine event and that is a surprise. I mean really, what more does one need?

Of course having said that above I suppose I have made a bit of a mess of the concept of a horse keeping a diary, haven’t I? But then, I am a rather special horse and even my humans are a bit special, at least, to me. HE types what I tell him to and I turn a blind (or at leat a mucky) eye when HE adds some stuff of HIS own, particularly when we horses haven’t been doing anything special other han eat. In fact, I often encourage him to add something of his own. You see, if HE only typed what was of interest to equines, you humans might find it extremely boring. What? No, don’t say it, you’ll hurt HIS feelings!
HE reckons it is going to be interesting publishing December’s diary back on dial up again. And yet, THEY used to do it, both of them, publishing web sites on dial up. But like a lot of things, when things improve you never expect having o go backwards again. Anyway, HE says that is going to have to be all for today because HE has got today’s diary page to type up next and it is still only just 2006. Confused? I just nod and walk away and I would advise you to do the same.

frostSunday 31st December 2006
Yesterday it got too warm with the fire blazing away, HE told me, and today THEY didn’t bother with a fire at all until the evening. What a changeable place this is. We arrive here in thick fog, then the weather changes to freezing cold with white hoar frost that makes the trees look like fairyland and then the weather turns warm with high winds and rain. We have HIM worried because we have a lovely deep straw covered stone barn and we never use it. When HE comes to feed us, we are usually standing with the sheep eating their hay while the barn is full of other sheep and that wicked old ram. Actually, I call him a wicked old ram but really I feel a bit sorry for him. He doesn’t look very strong and he is often coughing so I don’t mind when he wants to share my feed.
Of course, it is the last day of the year 2006. Quite an adventurous and eventful year for us. The most important event was losing Tregony on 7th February. I know he comes back to see us now and then but it is no substitute for having his company hour by hour, day by day. He was a wonderful chap and I can never replace him. And I feel even sorrier for Wicky for he was his special friend. I did at least have Mims to turn to but that just made poor old Wick stand out on his own. I know I am no longer a youngster myself but Wick and Treg were of a similar generation and worked really well together. Still, I suppose we can’t dwell in the past.
Of course, the other momentous event was our move here. HE keeps telling us not to get too settled here, on this farm he means, because THEY are now going to start looking for our final home in earnest when the New Year’s holidays are over. THEY already have three properties lined up to view next Wednesday and THEY are in touch with other agents and property sellers to organise more viewings in the new future. There was one property n particular that THEY were interested in but it seems that, since the rains, it may not be too accessible without a 4x4.
That reminds me, the last we heard, HIS old Suzuki jeep refused to start for HIS grandson who came along to pick it up. It’s quite possible it is still sitting in the farm yard at Sue and Michael’s. HE will have to sort out hat is happening with that. There is a story here as well because HE didn’t know about the car or a lot of other things until today. Before THEY left England, HE organised new email addresses for THEM for when THEY had to leave the English Internet Service Provider. However, although SHE was still getting emails and HE could send them, no-one seemed to be sending HIM any, not even replies when HE asked for them. After lots and lots of messing around, HE found out today that, when HE had asked for HIS emails to be forwarded to an English address when in England, HE had failed to precede that address with a dot and a comma, which was necessary to leave a copy of the emails in his own in tray. When HE corrected this, he found HE had 208 missing emails which took HIM forever to download on dial up internet.
Our last bit of news is not so good. Poor old Wick is still lame, I’m afraid. HE changes the poultice every morning but the abscess appears to be very deep seated and poor Wicky is learning to walk like a three legged cat. Let us all hope that the New Year brings him a new foot as well!

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