Alezane's Diary Archive March 2007
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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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Cows in mudThursday 1st March 2007
Yesterday THEY tried to help Arnie avoid the worst of Mims’ threats by putting up a couple of hay nets for him. The idea was that as Mims was stopping him getting to the hay bale, he could still eat from the nets as she couldn’t guard everywhere at once. THEY placed one net on one side of the barn entrance and one on the other and, when THEY drove away, THEY stopped to see how he was doing. And where do you think Arnie stood? On the far side away from the hay net. So HE got out of the car and moved the net near to where Arnie was standing. Then HE got back in the car and Arnie moved top the middle of the entrance, well away from either hay net. THEY gave up and drove away convinced that Arnie was much more concerned about being accepted into our group than he was about eating hay, especially as the grass is starting to come in now down by the river.
This morning was much the same with Arnie standing well away from any hay net but still on the outside of our group. However, Mims was not very nasty to him today. The lunges and nips have turned to just ear flattening and posturing. This evening when THEY turned up, there was another change for THEM to witness. After first Wick chasing Arnie away and then Arnie standing up for himself and retaliating, this evening Wicky and Arnie had chummed up together and came in for supper together. Mims and I were still on the far side of the orchard and came along later in our own time. As I said before, there is now some grass to chew.
THEY had a busy day today. THEY had to go shopping, then go and get some documents photocopied to be able to re-insure the little green car. Then THEY went on to pick up HER computer from the repairers. Finally, THEY went to a place that sells quad bikes (ATVs) on the other side of town. THEY were just congratulating themselves on finding THEIR way through the town centre to get on the right road when there was some sort of incident in front of THEM and THEY had to turn round and try and find another way. Of course, THEY got lost again but finally, after back tracking they got on the correct road and got to the shop just as it closed for the long 90 minute lunch that the French have. There was nothing for it but to do the same so THEY went into a nearby restaurant until 2pm when the shop re-opened.
And, when THEY came out, SHE had ordered HERSELF a quad bike, a trailer and, much to her dismay, a crash helmet that is a requirement here to drive it on the roads!

foret d'ecouvresFriday 2nd March 2007
Last night wasn’t wonderful for THEM. After giving us our supper, HE started re-installing all the software on HER computer. Then HE restored the data that SHE had backed up to an external hard disk. Finally, HE started to re-install the AOL dial up software. And that was when it happened. The dreaded blue error screen came up and said that the computer had to close. After that, it would just not boot up again. THEY went to bed very disappointed.
So, this morning after giving us our breakfast, it was back to the computer repair shop for them. THEY had to leave the machine with the usual promises that the shop will phone which, of course they wont.
HIS next computing disappointment today was when HE tried to copy a set of photographs for Jo and Sophie onto a DVD. Last week HE had tried to copy some of them onto a CD but it just wasn’t big enough to take them all. So HE had bought some blank DVD’s especially as they would have enough storage space on them. Having first spent all afternoon preparing and editing the photos, HE went to copy them, only to find that the drive on HIS laptop is DVD read only. HE will have to wait until HER machine comes out of hospital.
The final blow of the day came at suppertime. Wick and I were waiting in he barn for our food but there was no sign of Arnie or Mims anywhere. It was pouring with rain and the fields were thick, heavy clay mud through which HE and Jo had to trudge to try and find the two missing ones. Eventually they were spotted just about as far away as you can get in a small field next to the river field. At first sight the pair looked just like a couple of mates but when Mims saw HIM and Jo, she turned on Arnie and drove him away as if to say ‘they are MY people, not yours’. I do think however, the pair are getting quite attached. We will see!

moon eclipseSaturday 3rd March 2007
“Ere, Wick, ‘oo’s that geezer?”
“Treg, old man. Great to see you. Who d’ye mean laddie, that great pony there?”
“I don’t see any great pony, Wick. But then, ponies aren’t, are they, if you see what I mean.”
“I don’t think we’ll go into that Treg. Anyhow, the lad you are referring to is Arnold. Arnie for short, although there was some discussion about calling him Arno but I think that was something that got lost on the translation from the French.”
“Oh, right. So what’s whats ‘is name doing here then? THEY are not looking for a replacement for me, are THEY?”
“No one could ever replace you Treg. Anyway, you are coming back when we move to the new place, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. ‘course I am. So, who is he and what’s he doing here?”
“Jo, the lady farmer wanted someone to look after her daughter Sophie so she looked around and found Arnold living with a friend of hers. I understand Sophie is on loan to him. If she works out, he will stay but if not he’ll pack his tack and go home.”
“Oh, right. It does look as if that Mims is taking a shine to him.”
“Well, she soes find him tasty. She must do, she keeps trying to bite him.”
“Women, eh, Wick?”
“Ah laddie, the lassies are a breed of their own, I ken.”
“And who’s Ken?”
“Nae, mon. I’m just practising my Scots. The French girlies are keen on the old Jock you know so it doesn’t do any harm to go long with it.”
“Tell me something Wick. Honest an’ all that. You ever bin to Scotland?”
“Have I ever been to my homeland? The home of the brave? Scotland for ever? Ye banks an braes?”
“Yeah, all them Wick. When were you last there?”
“Tell me Treg. When were you last in Cornwall? Or even the Scillies for that matter.”
“You getting’ personal mate? I might be a bit, what shall we say, provincial, but silly? That’s just downright rude.”
“It’s a plac …. Oh, what’s the use? Come on Treg. I’ll introduce you to Arnie. Hi, Arnie, come over here and meet my best friend Tregony.”
“Oh, bonjour Monsieur, Ca va?”
“Er, hello, I think. What’s ‘ee saying Wick?”
“Just hello and asking how you are.”
“Is ‘ee orlright? Can’t ‘ee speak proper like?”
“Treg, that is ‘proper’. He’s French and we are in France you know. Alli was born here so she speaks it well, although she may have forgotten a bit. Mims and I are trying to learn. We want to fit in, you know.”
“Oh, right. I’ll have to take a few courses back up there before I came and join you. It would be terrible if someone said ‘do you want a carrot?’ and I didn’t know what they was saying. Or worse. They might say ‘do you want a wormer?’ I just want to be prepared.”
“Good idea Treg. Anyway, we’ve been teaching Arnie some English too, haven’t we Arnie?”
“Oh, oui, er yes. Do you know Treg – o ni, I used to say ‘Good Moaning’ when I first met Wicky. No wonder ‘e chased me into the orchar. Now I know ‘ow to propere the say ‘Good Mawny’. See, I learn, non?”
“An’ after you learn ‘non’ then what will you learn?”
“I think that will do for today, Arnie. I’ll tell you a bit about Treggy later when he’s gone back.”
“’ee goes back? Where to ee goes back?”
“Er, Arnie, it’s a bit of a long story old man. Just wait over there a minute, and I’ll come and tell you all about it. Well Treg, you off to have a word with the girls now, I’m sure Alli will be thrilled to see you.”
“What? Oh yeah, righto Wick, see what you mean. Time for some more English lessons, eh? Right mate, see you around. Cheers!

PC died todaySunday 4th March 2007
Barnelou Disco Dancer was born on 17th June 1988. His sire was Ethereal Lilac Chorister and his dam was Barelou First Issue. His grandsires on both side of the family were champions. But no, he wasn’t a horse, he was a Lilac Burmese cat and he was born in Southminster in Essex, England.
The rest of his litter mates left home, one by one, and Barnelou was adopted and brought up by an uncle who taught him how to be a really good uncle, but he didn’t know it at the time.
One day, THEY came along and decided that he would be better of living with THEM at Lambourne End in Essex so THEY negotiated with his uncle, who thought it was time for him to set off on his own, and took him back home with THEM. At that time THEY lived in a little cottage which backed on to a farm. where THEIR first horse Korka had been stabled. The field behind the cottage was full of rabbits and Barnelou was an adventurous soul and ventured out there quite a bit. THEY couldn’t face having to call out ‘Barnelou’ all the time when THEY wanted him to come home so THEY re-christened him ‘PC’.
His new name was a bit of a joke as it could stand for ‘Puss Cat’ or ‘Personal Computer’. After a time THEY found that it was just as difficult to call out ‘PC, PC’ when THEY wanted him so he got given the nick name of ‘Squeezy’ (rhyming with PC). However, while THEY were at Lambourne End, THEY had a series of kittens, all of whom PC became an uncle to and so, he was known formally as ‘Uncle PC’. He usually took a week to get used to the new addition and then he caved in and took up his uncle duties seriously.
THEY were particularly unlucky in that the cottage THEY lived in then was on a road that was quiet most of the day but was busy with fast moving cars both in the morning, going to work and back again in the evening. On the other side of the road was the forest with all sorts of interesting things for kittens and so THEY lost several to road accidents. PC would just train a new kitten and then it would go asnd get itself run over.
When he was not being an uncle, PC would take himself off to the field and mingle with the rabbits. Because of his light colouring, they seemed to think he was one of them until he pounced. He was not a greedy cat and would often bring home the offering of a half eaten rabbit. Many a morning they would come down the stairs in bare feet to tread on PC’s latest offering. The thing was, he rarely ate at home was not at all an expensive cat to look after.
When THEY moved to Devon, THEY acquired a trio of brown Burmese kittens – Tom, Dick and Harriet. Again PC was called upon to be an uncle, this time to three kittens at once. This time, h was getting on a bit and so caved in much quicker, within a couple of days. He certainly had his work cut out as the three were quite a team. However, he brought them all up as proper Burmese cats. However, one by one the trio was broken up. First Dick managed to get himself run over on a road quite far away from where THEY lived. Then Harriet, who had a congenital lung disease just ran out of breath and passed away. This left PC with the lazy one, Tom, who became more of a comrade than a nephew.
A year before THEY moved here to France, THEY acquired PC’s last nephew, a handsome alley cat who THEY named Cat Flap, because his father used to come into the house by the cat door and steal the cat food on the floor. By now, PC was a grand old man but he still did his best with this very bouncy newcomer. By the time THEY moved to France, it was touch and go whether PC would survive the inoculations and ferry crossing but on the vet’s advice THEY gave him the chance.
It was not long after THEY got here that PC was brought back by the farmer here who had found him wandering with the cows. He spent a lot of his time sleeping now and loved to sleep most of the night between THEIR pillows.
PC died today at 10.15 this morning. We were all so lucky to have known him!

mother and daughterMonday 5th March 2007
And after yesterday, a quiet day, a day of remembering and being grateful for the times THEY had with PC. Even I remember him as he would come and visit me in my stable when I was brought in at night. A kind and gentle cat but not a pushover by any means. When he was called upon to defend the territory, he had the most blood curdling yowl that you could ever hear. He was definitely the kind of being of any species that made one stop and think why it is that such creatures just pass away into history just like any other.
On a brighter note, I didn’t get around to telling you about the other thing that happened yesterday. Sophie rode Arnie for the first time. Not far, admittedly and not free but with a lead rein. Still, it was a first. I was chosen, as herd leader, to go out and be a leader. HE lead and Arnie followed being led by Sophie. We walked out of the barn and round past the farmhouse and up to the top of the chicken sheds. The plan was to go in their but James had a puncture on his tractor and it was in there for repair so we turned to go back again. It was then suggested that Sophie might like to get on Arnie’s back for the ride home. And it worked a treat. They both got on very well and everyone was very pleased by the time we got back to the bard.
Today, before supper, we went out again, this time with Sophie up from the start. This time we did go into the chicken shed, a very big barn actually that is earmarked for Arnie to have some lunging work. When we turned round to come back, HE suggested that Cameron might like to ride on my back. He is only five years old so he weighed nothing and I will admit that I forgot he was there a couple of times and nearly had him off when I stopped suddenly and bent down for a bite of grass.
So, from an equine point of view, a good day. Tom and Cat Flap however, are having to adjust without their uncle. A quiet and sad day for them.

hedgeTuesday 6th March 2007
What an interesting day today. One might say a memorable one for Wicky. Let me start at the beginning.
First the weather. It was a terrible night with very high winds and pouring rain. The only thing one could say in its favour was that it was not cold. Well, not very. HE was hoping that it would get better with the coming of daylight. But HE was mistaken. The day started with heavy rainfall and gusting winds. But, other than that it was a normal morning. THEY turned up with our breakfast and Jo turned up with what passes for breakfast for Arnie. I must say, I feel sorry for him sometimes as he just appears to have a handful of pellets in his buckets and maybe a few carrots as he is on a bit of a diet to get him ready Sophie to ride him.
Anyway, after breakfast, THEY went away and we all wandered down to the river field again for some grazing on the tasty grass there.. What was different was that early in the afternoon, Jo turned up and started to lead Arnie in. Of course, we all followed thinking that we were going to have an early supper. What happened though was that we were all put on head collars and then just all stood around doing nothing. Mims and I were not too bad as HE was holding us and HE is always dead easy to bully for a few sweets and suchlike.. However, it did seem a long time, particularly when our buckets didn’t arrive.
At last, the barn door opened and in came the vet who had treated Wicky’s foot. However, this time he seemed to concentrate on Arnie. Then, as I saw him put the gag round Arnie’s jaw, I realised what was going on. Arnie was going to have his teeth done. However, then the vet got, instead of the normal hand rasp that I am used to, a great big long electric vibrating rasp instead. Arnie, just couldn’t take this so the vet went and got a sedative. After that, Arnie just stood and had his top and bottom teeth rasped and didn’t put up a murmur.
This was all very interesting until I realised that it was not just Arnie but all of us having a dental appointment. I was next and even though I was not used to the electric rasp, I didn’t need sedating. Mims did however as she has never had her teeth rasped in any way before. She may have had a trifle more sedative than Arnie as HE had to hold her head up while the vet worked. It did rather look as if she might just lie down at any moment. Finally it was Wicky’s turn. Now Wick used to be very good at having his teeth rasped until one day in Dartmoor a young vet upset him After that, no vet could get near him.
Today, this vet, who really is very good, gave Wick an injection first and then, not only raped his teeth with no trouble, but, at the end, set about tidying up that tooth that Wick has had sticking out of his mouth for ages. HE said he is waiting for a good weather day and HE will take a photo of the new handsome Wicky.
Then, because the others had had injections we had to be locked in for two hours in case they went and lay down in the rain and mud for a sleep. We also had to wait for those two hours for our supper. But, guess what? When those two hours were up and Wicky was wide awake, you have no idea how much he enjoyed eating with his new level and non protruding gnashers!

sky trails at dawnWednesday 7th March 2007
One thing I didn’t tell you yesterday was that he vet did two other things as well as our teeth. First he looked at Wicky’s foot, the one that he had the abscesses on. And the good news is that the leg is OK now. Wick still has a bit of a limp, more of a gait really, but that is due to a touch of arthritis now and again, which is only to be expected at his age. HE has it too but it only worries HIM sometimes at night in bed.
The other thing the vet did was to look at Mims’ marks on her coat. Do you remember I have told you about her where THEY once thought that she was scraping herself or even that I was biting her because she had these mystery bald patches on her skin? Well it would seem that it all ties up with the very bad scabs and sores that she had when she came to us, which SHE cleared up with lots of cream and hard work. This new vet had a look at the places where they patches had been (most of them are healed over now and growing new hair again) and his diagnosis was ringworm. This is a fungal infection and not a real worm at all and the treatment that he prescribed is to wash the infected parts with some special stuff every fourth day for about five applications. It is apparently contagious so we have had our rugs changes and the grooming brushes taken away (how sad – ha ha). However, this will only be a temporary respite because SHE has made up three separate sets of grooming kit so we will all have our own and SHE will be using them in earnest soon (see below).
THEY did two things today. THEY finally picked up her computer that has been in the ‘ordinateur’ hospital ever since it had that electric power surge shock. THEY did pick it up once but after HE had spend ages loading all the software and data back on it, it had a relapse and had to go back. This has meant that THEY have both been sharing one little lap top and one miserable dial-up internet link. Now, at least, SHE can get on with exciting things like planning our worming programme and stuff like that.
The other thing THEY did was to go along to the riding school where Sophie has lessons and arrange for our transport from here to our new home. Yes, we have a date. We are going on the afternoon of the 2nd April – that is 26 days time. I will be very sorry to leave Arnie as he is turning into a very nice young man. Still, he will have Sophie so I am sure he will be well looked after.

Normand cowThursday 8th March 2007
HE forgot to write up my diary today so a lot of the following is what happened today but HE only got to know about it tomorrow (if you see what I mean?)
The reason that he didn’t get round to typing my diary was that HE was, yet again, updating HER computer. I must have told you that it had to go to hospital for repair. Maybe I also told you that after coming home again and HIM re-installing all the data and software, it had a relapse and had to go back. Well, THEY got it back again and then HE re-installed the software and data. But, in doing so, something made the machine stop working again. So, yesterday HE had to first re-install the operating system (XP) and then, yet again, re-install all the software and data. By 2 am this morning (or is that tomorrow morning?) he had got most of it working again. What took longest was the fact that after installing the software it all have to be updated, particularly the anti virus stuff.
Back to more interesting equine matters. THEY were going to have a session, before our supper yesterday, saddling up Arnie for the first time and taking him into the barn for some lunging work. Because Jo had a visitor however, THEY could only feed us and go back. However, Jo and Sophie decided to have a go themselves. They put Arnie’s saddle on with no problems although he was more of a problem with his bit. Eventually, they got him all tacked up and decided to lunge him in the orchard instead of the barn. Apparently he was really very good and went round un circles like a good ‘un despite Mims pulling some faces at him and me going up and making sure he was alright. They ere so encouraged when he was trotting round that they decided to let Sophie mount him. Again, he went round really well, so well in fact that they tried a bit of a canter.
Arnie cantered fine with Sophie on his back and they were so encouraged that they decided to let Sophie have a ride on him in the field. It was then that Arnie disgraced himself. It wasn’t his fault. He was so happy that he shot off like a rocket, bucking with pure joy. Unfortunately Sophie was not ready for this or for the ground suddenly rising up to meet her. There were some anxious moments but she had her hat and body protector on so she lives to try again another day. We all went off with Arnie to the farthest point in the fields just in case he got in really big trouble. We will wait and see!

dead treeFriday 9th March 2007
This morning we thought we might be in trouble. At least, we thought Arnie might b in trouble. Well, Mims, Arnie and myself thought Arnie might be in trouble so we made ourselves very scarce, as far away as possible down the river field. On the other hand, Wicky thought it was breakfast time so he made his way back to the barn at the appointed time and was just arriving when HE brought our buckets.
So, HE put down Wicks food being, very careful to put ours high up on a straw bale where Wicky couldn’t reach it. HE then trudged out over the slippery, muddy fields to where we were hiding. HE called out as soon as HE could see us but we just looked down intently at the grass. When HE got nearer, I advised everyone to back away just in case there was any trouble. HE had to walk right up to me and give me some sugar and, even then, I was very cautious until I could see that he had no head collars and was not in a bad mood, just a bit puffed with all that walking.
We then followed HIM back to the barn and it was then that HE learned what had happened yesterday. When SHE learned of it, SHE put Arnie’s behaviour down to the way he had been used to be ridden by the couple of boys at his old home. HE had other ideas and though it was just Arnie’s way of being happy and high spirited at being able to be ridden over the open fields. Whatever the truth, and I expect only Arnie knows that (and maybe not even him), there followed a post mortem of the events this evening to decide what was the best way forward now in his re-training.
We though it politic to be back at the barn at the proper time but, instead of bringing our feed in, HE came in with a head collar and led Arnie out. Mims and I watched over the gate while Wicky sulked as he wasn’t eating and tried to lick the salt lick to death while he was waiting. THEY took Arnie out and Sophie got his saddle and put it on him while SHE examined it to make sure it was a good fit. Sophie mounted and he was again checked but that was as far as it went this time. He was brought back in and much to Wicky’s relief, so were our feed buckets.
While we ate, everyone discussed what would happen next and SHE offered to give Sophie a couple of evening lessons for the remaining few weeks as long as she had done all of her school homework first.
Oh, I forgot to tell you something else that happened this morning while we were having breakfast. We were quietly eating away, Wicky and I on the far wall, Mims against he side new the far end and Arnie close to he entrance. Suddenly, Jo’s smallest little timid cat jumped up on the straw bale that lays across the entrance to the yard outside the barn. With the lightening speed of a true prey animal, Arnie shot out of the barn. Mims followed in a millisecond with me following up the rear hard by. And Wicky? He looked up, saw that we had gone and walked over to Mims bucket and started eating her breakfast.

derelict farmSaturday 10th March 2007
A beautiful hot sunny day and what are we doing? Standing around with our rugs on and thick ones at that. The reason for the thick coats is that while Mims (suspected) fungal infection is being treated, SHE wanted to take away the coat that might have been infectious. At least that what I think it was. I said ‘suspected’ because both HE and Jo (who is a farmer and has seen it in her animals) do not think it is the ringworm that the vet said. They think that either it may have lost something in translation or it is just the site of a past infection.
Whatever. It is being treated now and THEY have decided that we can all have our rugs off tomorrow and for the near future, during the day as the weather forecast is for this nice weather to continue for a while. I will advise Mims to treat her coat in the equine way and roll in loads and loads of mud is there is any left after the sunshine.
Over breakfast, SHE and Jo decided on Arnie’s next bout of training. After his taking off and dumping Sophie like that, it was decided that he would need some schooling, quietly, away from us and they would use the end of the vast disused chicken shed as a ménage. It is plenty big enough, especially when James has re-arranged the contents with his tractor. The far end is being used as a sheep’s maternity hospital and now this end will become a riding school. Chickens do have their uses after all, especially when they have gone away.
This evening THEY put the plan into action. Much to Wicky’s disgust, when THEY turned up with our supper, instead of giving it to us, Sophie came in and took Arnie out of the barn. Then they all walked him round by the farmhouse and up to the shed. He had been in there once before with me so it was not completely strange to him but he did get a bit worked up when he realised that he was all alone and he stood and called out to us from inside the shed.
I am afraid he got rather anxious and in a hurry to get back and did become bit headstrong as they walked him back. Arnie has always been a bit headshy and doesn’t like his head collar being held. They got into a bit of a catch 22 situation though because he was pulling so much that Sophie couldn’t hold him on her own so HE had to hold him back by his head collar. This, in turn, made him more upset and so it continued as a bit of a fight until they reached the farmhouse again when he felt on safer ground. Hopefully, he will both lose his fear of being held by his head collar and also of being away from us as we will be leaving soon. I expect he probably will as, when he was first here, he wouldn’t eat any treats and now he is eating biscuits and sugar like the rest of us. Oh, and carrots, of course but he did always like them. Who doesn’t?

tree carvingSunday 11th March 2007
Cant understand why THEY seemed surprised today just because I had a bit of a bath. I thought that was why THEY took our rugs off this morning. And the water and the nice yellow clayey mud was so refreshing in the hot sunshine. And, I wasn’t the only one. However, the mud doesn’t seem to stick to Mims as it does to me, either that or she had been mistakenly bathing in the clean water. Wicky gets a proper colour but the result is spoiled by that rather awful trim he had last time. We were considering giving up some of our feed ration to pay for Pauline to come out and trim him properly but Wicky was against the idea. He said he can live with it and, if it gets to look too unsightly, a thick covering of mud should improve it no end. Whatever, even if he looks like the Shetland from hell he is not giving up his feed rations for anyone.
We were interrupted in our ablutions by Sophie and HIM appearing on the skyline and calling. Sophie came right up to us and put Arnie on his head collar. We thought it was much too early for supper but Wick insisted that we accompany him back to the barn just in case. But, when we got there, all they did was to whisk Arnie out to take him for his next lesson. I have to admit that I don’t like it when one of my herd is taken away without me. OK, so Arnie isn’t really one of my herd but we have sort of adopted him now. It’s going to be a bit of a wrench when we have to leave him behind. Speaking of which, he bit mine today. But, he’s only a boy. I’m sure he didn’t mean it!
When he came back, Mims and I were hanging over the gate in the sheep’s part of the farmyard that we are roped off from. HE was puzzled how we got there but SHE was more puzzled why we didn’t jump the low gate they have which is good enough to keep sheep in. Anyway, Arnie ran round the back and we ran out to meet him then we all trooped back off to the river again. When we got there, Arnie started showing off telling us how good he had been. At least, that is what SHE had told him. From what I can gather he had been taken back to the make do ménage in the chicken shed and had been walking around in circles, first being led and then on the lunge and finally with Sophie on his back. One thing puzzled him though. He was all ready to trot and canter but all SHE let him do was walk. SHE must think I am a baby or something, he moaned, I’ve been walking for twelve years now and I do know how to do it.
I tried to explain it is about doing what Sophie wants him to do and not doing what he wants to do but I am afraid this is a new concept to him. (Did I tell you he bit my bum today? Oh yes, I did, didn’t I?) I think SHE has come to realise that SHE only has 18 days left to teach him so I expect it will be more of the same in the near future!

cats in roofMonday 12th March 2007
I found the most wonderful mud today. It was another of those very warm and sunny days and we had our rugs taken off again this morning. After our breakfast which, honestly, we find a bit hard to eat now that there is good grass to look after all night, we went for a leisurely stroll through the orchard. Wick said should we go to the top field like we used to but he was out-voted by the rest of us who wanted to near both the grass and the mud.
So off we wandered out of the orchard and along the edge of the bushes that separate the fields proper with the ponds, mud patches, weeds and other stuff that make up the entrance to the farmyard. This field leads on to a second field. It is funny, thinking about it but most of these fields seem to be divided by sort of trampled down gates or bits of electric tape. It appears that the sheep (or Wicky) have broken down all these apologies for barriers and then us equines have just wandered through, making all the fields our own as we choose to wander.
So, through the second field and finally into the river field. It is usually here that Mims decides to have a bit of fun with the boys. She is getting very good at the body (or at least the ear) language and just by an inclination of the head, she can get both Wick and Arnie running. Wick only runs just enough to evade her and then go back to where he wants to be. Arnie is much more fun. She really does just have to look at him to make him run far out of reach. He should know that it is only a game for her. A ower game, maybe, but still only a game. She is actually very fond of him, she has told me so and anyway, you can tell just looking at them when she is not practicing to be devil mare of the night.
I digress. I was telling you of how I came to be completely covered in dried yellow mud all over one side. I suppose he true answer is that I am now unable to roll completely over any more. Oh, the problems of old age. It will get you too one day so don’t laugh too loudly. I just was walking along the river bank when I saw this fairly dry looking mud bank. This is the second very warm and sunny day in a row and it is tending to dry up the fields very quickly. But years of experience have taught me that what looks dry on the outside may not be so on the inside. I decided to give it a whiz and crumpled at he knees. Imagine my joy when I felt the lovely cold and squidgy mud seeping into my coat. Although I couldn’t roll completely over, I did manage to roll again and again on one side.
It took the whole rest of the day to get the mud to dry top that lovely yellow/white clay coating that THEY saw when HE brought us in. However, instead of admiring it, THEY just took Arnie out for another lesson. THEY tacked him up outside the barn so we could watch and then took him away to the shed for his first serious lesson. When he came back he told us how he both walked and trotted with Sophie riding him and how THEY made him ride right down to the other end of the barn where all the sheep and their lambs are. Apparently the lesson went really well and both he and Sophie came away with heaps of praise. I tried to remind him about being beware of Greeks bearing gifts but he just looked at me as if I were speaking English and he couldn’t understand a word. Boys can be very tiresome sometimes, can’t they?

watching catTuesday 13th March 2007
“Ere Wicky. Car Far?”
“Oh!. Don’t do that Treg. Sneaking up behind me. No, it’s not. It’s just round the corner. Why do you want to know?”
“What’s round the corner, Wick?”
“What you asked, of course.”
“I only asked you how it was going.”
“How it’s going? Fine, I think. I know HE mended that broken bit on the bumber, but, apart from that OK. Why this sudden interest in cars?”
“Cars? Oh, I see. No Wick, not cars. Its my French old mate. I’m surprised you’ve been here now nearly three months and haven’t learned even the basics. When you meet someone you have to ask them Car far and then they reply ‘Beans to you’. I know ‘cos I’ve been studying for when I come and join you.”
“Treg. I think you will find it’s pronounced Ca va? It means …”
“Yeah, I know what it means. It’s ‘how’s it going’. That’s what I said. Cant help it if my pronunciation is still a bit shaky. I’ve only been at it a bit.”
“No, not at all Treg. Full marks for trying old sport. But I’m still not sure what that ‘beans’ thing is about.”
“That’s what you is supposed to reply. It means ‘OK and ‘ow about you?’”
“Oh, right. ‘Bien et vous’.?”
“Yeah. ‘swhat I said.”
“Of course you did Treg. It must be my hearing’s going.”
“If I was you Wick I’d ask it to come back.”
“Enough of the language lessons. What else has been going on Treg?”
“Oh, me? I’m getting demobbed. Going round saying goodbye to me mates. Getting all packed up to come down here with you lot. You aint got no idea how many forms have to be filled in and that. They need to make sure that they can claim you back eventually. You know, when all my friends down here go up there sort of thing.”
“Thanks Treg. That makes me feel a whole lot better. I know I am pretty old but there’s a few more buckets to go inside me yet.”
“That’s one thing I always admired about you Wick. I mean, you’re only a little chap but you can’t ‘alf put it away. I don’t know where it all goes. And anyway, what about your news? How’s that new youngster coming along? Was ‘is name? Barnie?”
“Arnie, Treg, without the ‘B’. He’s doing alright. Having some lessons with HER now as SHE wont be with him much longer. THEY take him out ach night and make him run around in circles in the chicken shed.”
“What? Do THEY think he is a chicken or something? Is he learning to fly then?”
“No, but Sophie is. She is having flying lessons with the school and may go up in a glider next year. Funny, isn’t it. She is a little frail thing and can get afraid when Arnie misbehaves and yet she is quite happy to go up and fly a plane.”
“Say Larvae, Wick.”
“Larvae? What for. What’s maggots got to do with flying?”
“Oh, sorry mate. I forgot. Your French just aint up to it yet, is it. It means ‘that’s life’ in French, that’s all. We learned that this week.”
“Its not Say Treg its …Oh, what’s the use. Righto Treg. Gotta go now. Awe Vwa oh mate.”
“Now you are being silly Wick, even you know it’s Oh vwa!”

dawn mistWednesday 14th March 2007
Alright. I have to admit it. I may be far stronger than HIM.. I am faster and bigger but .I must give it to HIM, HE’s cleverer than me.
I was a bit naughty today. Well, the weather was so lovely and we found some really interesting cows to talk to so we quite forgot the time. Anyway, THEY will insist on coming for us for supper far too early now that the days are lengthening. THEY still come at five thirty when it is not sunset until sevenish. And THEY do it to suit THEIR own convenience and not ours.
Anyway, as I said, we forgot the time and we were quite surprised to see HIM at the bottom of the hill, calling out to us. When I say ‘us’ I mean us three chestnuts. Wicky was down the field next to him but we had gone right up to the top of the field where there were several cow mothers and their offspring. Ilike cows, you know I used to live with some for a while back in Devon, and I just love their little calves as well. Mims was funny. She kept asking me what was wrong with the little cows, were they dwarves or something. I think I will have to have a long ‘mare and stallion’ talk with her soon, especially if HIS plans to make me a grandmother come about.
So, HE called out to us and I told Mims and Arnie to pretend that we hadn’t heard. However, HE kept calling and waving a head collar about and finally Arnie broke. I suppose I can’t blame him really. It is usually him that Jo comes and fetches with a head collar on most days and I suppose habit and routine is a winner with us equines. So Arnie broke ranks and started forward and then, of course, Mims had to make a lunge at him. The result was that we were already splintered and on our way to going down the hill. HE waited until HE was sure that we were moving and, calling out to Wicky to follow HIM, HE started off back over the stream.
When HE got there and looked back HE found that not only had Wick not moved an inch but HE could see through the trees that we had stopped as well. Back over the stream HE had to go again and walked up to Wicky to get a good view of us and call us again. This time we were too near to pretend deafness so we walked on again. HE waited this time until we were almost on top of HIM and then HE moved off again over the stream. HE was surprised (and not very pleased) when HE looked back and saw we had stopped about ten metres from the stream. HE marched back over and walked right up to me and started to put the head collar on me. Howver, somehow the collar had got twisted and HE had to remove it again to straighten it. I took my opportunity and walked off. HE shouted but I took no notice. HE ran after me so I went faster. Then I decided to round up the herd and take them too.
This was when HE outsmarted me. Wick does not move when he is eating. In fact I don’t think he even knew anything was happening around him. So HE just walked up to Wicky, gave him some sugar and put his head collar on. Then, ignoring me and the other two, HE just walked all the way back to the barn leading Wick. What could I do? I knew HE had me beat. So, I walked along side HIM and turned to say sorry but HE just ignored me. It took all my powers and some help from HER to get HIM to come round and give me some treats. But, of course, HE did. And I knew HE would. Maybe HE is not so clever after all!

running calvesThursday 15th March 2007
If it’s not me, it’s Mims. Between us it would appear we are destined to give HIM problems. Everything was fine this morning. HER theory is that I was repentant for yesterday so I organised the herd to be ready in the barn when HE brought our breakfast. Well .. er.. if that is what SHE thinks, I wont disillusion HER. It is possible that the overnight frost making the grass inedible may have had a tiny bit to do with it as well. Whatever, all went well over breakfast. While we were eating, I did overhear HER telling Jo that THEY had to go out this evening for a meeting with the seller of our new home so THEY would be coming early with our supper at five oclock and not half past.
Now, must have just forgotten this when the time came because we were all up in the corner of the furthest field, over the river when HE came along with supper. As THEY were in a hurry, HE straightaway started walking along the field to find us. HE was already out of breath when HE saw us up in the corner. However, after last night, HIS plan was just to get Wicky and lead him home so that the rest of us would follow. When HE saw us, HE called out and Wicky answered his call. Now Wick is know for ploughing through fences and this time he tried to get to HIM the quickest way by walking through a hedge. This time though it didn’t come off and he had to walk round to the entrance which gave us time to walk down the field a bit.
When HE looked up, HE saw us walking down the field but was surprised to see Sophie leading Arnie. HE found out later that she had taken a short cut across the fields and got to us before HE got to Wicky. So, all appeared to be going well. Although having to fetch us would make THEM a bit late, at least we were all walking back to the barn. That is,. Until we got to the stream. Wicky was already over it with HIM and she led Arnie over followed by me. Now, when you have crossed the stream you have to walk along a barbed wire fence that follows the stream to the end of the field. Mims didn’t want to cross the stream which is about a metre wide and not very deep but a bit muddy. So, she walked along the fence on the inside field keeping up with us.
HE said to Sophie that HE would have to go back to get Mims but she said that there was another exit from that field further along. When they got to the end of the field, HE went though he edge of the next one to reach the other exit to find Mims standing at it and refusing to cross the stream here which could only have been half a metre wide. HE got the head collar and crossed to fetch her but when she saw the head collar, she did what I did yesterday and walked away from HIM. HE followed her into the field and suddenly she called out to me, I answered and she took off at a gallop right back to the original exit over the stream and then in a wide circle round the top of the field to meet up with us. I cantered over to meet her and we both raced up to where Sophie and Arnie had reached by this time.
It took maybe five minutes before a completely out of breath HIM managed to stagger into the barn behind us. However, just to prove how fickle humans can be , HE wasn’t at all angry as HE said HE was thrilled at the sight of us two galloping over the grass.

skylineFriday 16th March 2007
HE got a bit of a surprise tonight. HE came to get us on his own because Sophie and the others had to walk back from the place where the school bus leaves them and she wasn’t there at supper time (at first). So, first HE found Wicky, who was not with us three but was waiting to go back for supper. HE gave Wick some sugar then came in search of us and found us waiting at that spot by the river that Mims wouldn’t cross yesterday. HE has great faith in me because HE just stood on the other bank and called me. HIS surprise was that HE then saw that I was scared to cross there as well. To HIM it was only a shallow, muddy stream, at most a metre wide. HE hadn’t realised that for us it was an unknown of any unimaginable depth and horror.
After having seen my problem, HE crossed the stream, treading in it deliberately so that I could see that it could be crossed. Then HE put my head collar on and led m across, not without my holding back and then taking a big charge across. When the others saw me run and leap across, they did the same and this ended up with some high spirits and charging about. HE was kind enough to take my head collar off so that I could join the other two and we all ran of to the barn, leaving HIM to walk back with Sophie, who by this time had come along too.
The reason why the kids had to walk home was that the farm had a very busy day. All the cows had to be brought back to their barns for a blood test and we four spent most of the day watching James, Jo and about four others engaged in the round up, just like cowboys (but without their horses). The cows didn’t deliberately cause any trouble but, with all the calves running about as well, there was a great deal of confusion and noise. In the end, they were checked and some sort of drench put over their backs and then they were released again. You could see them all getting together to discuss the experience and, all in all, it was quite a social occasion.
Arnie was off for another lesson with HER tonight. He was taken out of the barn and we were given our suppers outside the barn so that we could watch him being tacked up and ridden off. I am getting used to it now and don’t make very much fuss although I cant help shouting out to welcome him as he comes back. Today Sophie decided to go bare back and, as she had forgotten her crop and SHE thinks that Arnie might need it, just to see it when he is being a bit headstrong, so HE picked up a small tree branch, stripped it and gave it to Sophie to use instead. Arnie tells me that he was never even tapped with it but he did see it out of the corner of his eye. It was another good lesson with even a couple of canters achieved for the first time. The shed is a bit dark and small for much canter work but it gave Sophie an enormous boost to have accomplished it.

Veronica & TerrySaturday 17th March 2007
Arnie has an injury. THEY took him out for more training tonight and brought him back broken. Doesn’t that sound dramatic? Well, maybe not broken as such but with an egg like swelling on his knee. On his fore leg that is. Which side is a moot point. SHE has never been very good at geography. Near or off side, who knows? Well, we do but if you want to know tou will hv o come here to find out. Whatever. Arnie has a bad leg. THEY don’t know how long it might be for him to get better again but it is going to disrupt his training, just when he was doing so well.
How it happened was that he was in the school tonight and SHE was asking him to do a canter. Now Arnie knows very well how to canter but he is not at all familiar with Sophie’s way of asking him. To be perfectly honest, Sophie was a bit tense and so her aids (signals to the horse) were not terribly clear. So Arnie, instead of breaking into a canter from a trot, just decided to break into a fast run and , in doing so, broke something in his knee instead.
It was not exactly gloom that descended on THEM but the injury has caused them to worry about both the amount of time that he might not be able to be ridden and the possibility of fairly large vets bills, if he has a real problem. If you ask me, he will be fit to be ridden very soon and in a young, fit (if rather overweight) horse this is not an injury to cause a considerable amount of worry.
Apart from that, very little excitement occurred today. The weather was overcast and we just went about our business of grazing. Not without an eye on the calendar however. Seventeen from thirty makes it less than a fortnight before we move to our new home. Well, alright, we are not moving straight away but on the 2nd April, but the house and the land becomes ours on the 30th and that is only 13 days to go!


Normand cowsSunday 18th March (Mars) 2007
I don’t think I have said much about Holly. No, not the tree, the girl. Holly is Sophie’s older sister and she is very shy (as a teenager should be) and is quite different from Sophie in as much as she really doesn’t like much to do with the farm or the animals. She happily admits that she doesn’t like anything to do with looking after animals and that she is scared of horses. She did go riding for a year because Jo insists that if the girls start something then they must carry on for at least the year in which they started. Things must have gone wrong for Holly because she has been put off us equines for life, it seems.
However, she is a lovely girl for all that and THEY have been worried that THEY have given all the attention to Sophie and not enough to her sister. When Holly had to come and look after Arnie when her sister was not able to come last week, SHE tried to get to know Holly better and find out what she liked and didn’t like.
Yesterday HE asked Holly if she had an MP3 player and it turns out that she hadn’t. THEY both had small MP3 players that THEY had intended to use to learn the language on the way here to France. As it worked out, THEY didn’t use them and so HE offered Holly his machine to play her pop music on. HE found some software to copy her CDs to MP3 and today went down to her house to get this working. However, Jo is on an earlier operating system than him and the program wouldn’t load without faults so THEY asked Holly down to the cottage to copy the CDs on the laptop.
You have no idea how long things take on a small laptop. Still, in the end they seem to have got a copy on CD for Holly to transcribe onto the memory card of the player. She went off home hopefully being able to copy from the CD to the memory card on the player.
Ans what did THEY d today? THEY went off to Veronica’s farm and met a load of sheep. Actually, HE took his camera and went to photograph the sheep and new born lambs on the farm. The weather was cold and with sleet in the wind but the sheep were all in an enclosed space and the weather became irrelevant. HE took over 150 photos so there should be quite a record of the day. Just as well really as Arnie was having the day of with his bad knee and so, nothing to report about him.
In fact, it was quite a calm and normal day, today. We are just starting to prepare ourselves for our final move in less than a couple of weeks now.

Monday 19th March 2007
A very funny day today, in several ways. The first thing was the weather. When THEY went to bed, it was a fairly normal night, maybe a bit cloudy but that was all. This morning THEY awoke to a thick blanket of snow and more coming down from the sky.
When THEY came to bring our breakfast, we were felt all over to see that we were still warm enough. Mims and I were warm, Wick was just about Ok but poor Arnie, for some reason was shivering. THEY were not quite sure if it was the cold or if his injured knee was hurting him but, to be on the safe side, THEY put one of Mims’ rugs on him. There was a bit of a discussion about his injury this morning. Jo had arranged a vet to have a look at him as his swelling on his knee, although better, was still not very reduced.
THEY had arranged today to go out and buy him a better bit as the one that he has is too small and also might be a bit harsher than he needs. lamb and admirersWhen he came to us he came with all kinds of stories about how wild he was and how he needed taming. Over the period that he has been training with HER he has proved a very willing learner and not at all wild, just a little confused as to what Sophie is asking him to do. Yes, he has spirit, but he is not really a disobedient pony and the only times he has moved away from his tack is when the bit moved in his mouth and hurt him.
The trouble was, that THEY, as always, were caught out by the French shop opening hours. THEY drove quite a long way to the shop where the horse bits were, only to find that, it being Monday, the shop was only open in the afternoon. THEY then decided to go to another shop in Alencon, about 30 miles away. They finally got there amnd bought a much kinder bit for Arnie and then, as it was now lunchtime, THEY stopped to have lunch at a restaurant on the shopping estate. All this made THEM quite late getting home.
THEY called in on Jo to deliver the bit, to find that Arnie had been seen by a vet, someone who lives quite locally, and he had said that Arnie had a bone injury that meant that he would never be able to be ridden again. Jo was very upset and didn’t know how to tell Sophie. They discussed what should be done, if Arnie’s old humans would have him back or what would have to happen to him. In the end, it was decided that Jo would call in our vet for a second opinion before any final decision was made.
This evening’s supper was a very solemn affair. Sophie was there but very quiet. We had our rugs put on in the expectation of more bad weather and everyone went silently home. About half an hour later, THEY turned up again with Sophie and then a new vet turned up to look at Arnie. It wasn’t our vet but his colleague from that practice. And guess what? He said that Arnie had a swelling from kicking himself and that it needed some medication and a bandage and a few days box rest. Arnie was shuit in the barn with Wicky to keep him company and Mims and I were shut out of the barn to fare as best we can if it snows.
But, really we don’t mind. Just to see the smiles on Sophie’s face and to anticipate Jo’s joy when she hears the news (she was out all evening) was well worth a little snow on our rugs. And anyway, we can still lean over the gate to the barn and tell the boys what to do. So, that’s alright!

snow at dawnTuesday 20th March 2007
What a night! Siberian north winds and heavy snow falls turned our farm into winter again. And, although the snow let up in the afternoon, the winds carried on all day. I am only pleased that THEY put our rugs back on. We don’t worry about the rain or snow but the wind is something that really gets to us. With our rugs on, we can just stand out in all weathers and just turn our backs to the wind.
Surprisingly, Wicky was not at all pleased to be kept in the nice warm barn. In fact, this morning, he was sulking and even let Arnie share his breakfast bucket. THEY were astonished as THEY expected him to bite or even kick Arnie as soon as he came near the feed bucket. But no, in the end, Wick just walked away from it, leaving it all to Arnie to finish. The problem is that Wick sees himself, for all his lack of stature, as the guardian of our herd, so it is a bit of an indignity to be shut up with an invalid while Mims and I can come and go as we like.
Actually, we didn’t go far. We kept coming back to check that everything was alright with the boys. Mostly it was but Arnie’s bandage slid down his knee and just kept his ankle warm. When THEY came this morning, SHE re-did the bandage again but as SHE only had a small bit of bandage that the vet left, SHE was not surprised that it too had slipped down by tonight. SHE did come armed with a new one that does up in a different ay so we will have to see if that stays on overnight.
I got the real ache with Mims tonight. THEY think that it is because I think she is responsible for splitting the herd up because she is always chasing Arnie away but it was not that at all. My daughter has got very pushy and undisciplined of late. Whether it is the spring pushing her hormones about or whether she is just gaining in confidence and needs to push her boundaries, I just don’t know. All I do know is that tonight, she pushed them too far and I had to nip her rug and wave my leg at her so much that she needed to run away and jump past the straw bail to get away from me. Mind you, she just ran a few metres and then turned and came right back again. She knows I cant stay mad at her for long.
All in all, with the weather and my mood, not a good day. Still, we are counting – only nine days to go now!

Wick & Arnie in prisonWednesday 21st March 2007
SHE felt real sorry for me today. THEY drove past the barn on the way to HER doctor and saw me just hanging about outside looking very unhappy. Mims was over in the field but I just felt I couldn’t go away with half of my herd locked up, so to speak. When THEY came back, I was still there but what I didn’t know was that THEY were going to let Arnie and Wick out anyway tonight.
Arnie still has his lump on his knee but it appears to be going down slowly. He is having anti inflammatory stuff rubbed into it and SHE has been bandaging it morning and night. Twice a day mainly because it keeps coming off as it is in a funny place, just where it bends. SHE did it again tonight, just before he was let out, but SHE doesn’t expect to see it again as Arnie will probably lose it over the fields.
When THEY did open the gate, things didn’t quite go as THEY expected. HE had placed my bucket on one side of the path and put Mims on the other, quite a way away but that didn’t stop me going over to Mims and pushing her off her bucket. Mims then went to eat the food I had dropped out of mine. When HE opened the gate, Arnie, instead of rushing out, just wandered over to HIM to see if he could get any treats. Then he slowly made his way over to me to pick up anything that I might have spilled out of Mims’ bucket. Mims, seeing that the gate was opened went straight in the barn and pushed Wicky off his bucket. Wick wandered out to see if Mims had left anything in my place by which time I left Mims’ bucket to Arnie and went over to HER for some treats. Are you following all that?
What we didn’t do is rush up to each other with a ‘pleased to see you’ smile like humans would do. We knew we were reunited and were happy enough to revert to our normal equine behaviour – stealing!
And really, that is all the news for today. Well, except for the doctor telling HER that her blood test results were ‘not grave’ which I think is French for good news. What is does mean is that we are all in for some serious grooming when we get to our new place. I only hope there is enough mud there to keep up my good looks.
Oh, and one other thing. I have been having bad, mucky eyes for a while now. Whatever they do to clean them, they get gungy again very quickly. SHE asked the vet about it last time he was here and he said that it was just my allergy to hay and straw dust and would go away if THEY removed the cause. For the last forty eight hours, Mims and I have been shut out of the barn and have had to put up with the rain, snow and wind. When HE checked my eyes both yesterday and today, HE found that they were clear, clean and bright. Maybe the vets do know something after all!

Alli in the snowThursday 22nd March 2007
This morning we were not too far from the barn when Jo came to get Arnie. I think we were all a bit uncertain as to what is going on and so kept within eye contact of the place. Well, that is all except Wicky, who kept drifting off, he was so happy to be free again and needed to catch up with all the grass he had missed. When HE called to us, Wick heard him and called out something like the equine for ‘I’m coming’. By the time we all got to the barn, he had caught up and was in to his bucket first.
Arnie had, of course, lost his bandage. But then, THEY knew he would. Jo is still a bit pessimistic and unconvinced that the second opinion vet was the correct diagnosis. I think she has had too many bad experiences with the farm animals to be optimistic. Even SHE agrees that there is not a lot of difference in Arnie’s swelling, but there is some and she is still expecting it to get back to normal in a couple of weeks. As far as Arnie is concerned, being back out to grass with us is normal and the knee doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
By this evening we had returned completely to normal and were down in the farthest corner of the field across the river. HE came along with Sophie to fetch us and found that Mims and I had had another of our fallings out. She had chummed up with Arnie and I was a hundred metres away down the field. Wick was even further away but not due to any falling out, just to his deep concentration on eating at the expense of anything else.
HE has crossed the river at the nearest point but also at the place we don’t like as it is dark with unknown depths. Seeing me so far away, HE decided to lead us back the long way, the way we always use to get into that field, across the stream at a place that we trust. However, Sophie started off leading Arnie back the way that they came and I had walked up to them by then so HE gave in and started off leading Mims after Arnie and Sophie.
When Arnie got to the river, he refused to go any further, so HE came to the front leading Mims. She also stopped but with a bit of tug and persuasion, she leapt across. Arnie then copied her and so I was left with a decision. I didn’t like it but being an ex ‘over the sticks’ race horse I did what I used to do and gave an almighty leap. It so exhilarated me that I carried on with a little buck when I got to the other side. Wicky, who had been left behind for a while, just crossed over as if the stream wasn’t there. Don’t you just hate show offs?
When we got back to the barn, we found that it was still just Sophie and him. SHE, apparently, had delayed her medication this morning until SHE could get the new stuff from the pharmacy and then, taking the new stuff after a rather nice and large lunch had forced HER to have an after lunch nap and SHE had forgotten to wake up in time to feed us. We thought at first that this was a good thing as we would be able to mug HIM for more treats but then, we forgot that when SHE and Jo are there, they get chatting and HE has to keep treating us until the ladies are finished. So, we lost out this time. You win some and you lose some. C’est rien!

fence in snowFriday 23rd March 2007
It’s getting very difficult to get HIM to type up my diary these days. The nearer it gets to moving, the less HE wants to do anything. HE says it is because there is not much to write about. HE feeds us, we go out down by the river and eat. HE comes along with Jo or Sophie to get us. We eat our supper and that is it. Or so HE thinks.
THEY are getting much more into the details of moving and preparing our new home. The other day THEY drove along to St Pierre to see how our fencing was going. When THEY got there, THEY saw a lorry parked near the house and, instead of the half round rails that THEY had agreed upon, THEY saw some part finished fencing with the round rails instead. When THEY drove up to the van, two English workmen got out and came to meet them, explaining that they were in the van because of the bad weather. As the snow had stopped ages ago, HE said HE thought it must be lunchtime. When THEY asked why the more expensive posts and rails were being used, THEY were told it was because a) us horses kick the other sort down and b) us horses eat them! SHE said that SHE had never heard that before and the man then said that he didn’t know anything about horses but that is what the French had told him.
THEY later organised for the manager to come and visit to talk about this problem and some other possible work. He told them that the more expensive posts would be used at the same price as the cheaper ones and therefore he didn’t think that THEY would mind. Having cleared that, in future, THEY wish to be consulted on any changes to what was agreed, THEY then gave him a list of the next jobs that need doing. First is a concrete apron in front of the barn (what will be our stables) so that we can be washed down or the vet can examine us on level ground, etc. Then, while they are doing this, they can also install a smooth path from the front door to the entrance to the drive where the cars stop. This should be able to take a wheel chair, in anticipation of THEIR old(er) age. The next job is to move the original fencing that has been left to keep the present owner’s dogs in, until they move and to place it around the grassed area in front of the barn, so that THEY can bring us into the barn before the rest of the work is finished and we wont be able to wander over the garden. Lastly, THEY want gravel put down at all the entrances so that our feet don’t make all the ground churned up and muddy. The manager has now gone away to give them quotes for this work.
Today THEY got the draft ‘Acte de Vente’, the document THEY sign to buy the property. It is very long and all in French. THEY have both read as much of it as THEY can and have now organised Veronica, the agent, to come over on Monday to translate it for them. This is the kind of things that are Keeping THEM busy so that HE is too tired to do typing for me. I wonder what HIS excuse will be when we have moved in?
The long range weather forecast has said that next week is going to be really nice. Today was really horrible. Wet, cold and windy. We would all like to think that next week will bring sun and temperatures of 17C by day and 7C by night but, given today’s performance, we will just have to wait and see.

Tom & Cat Flap at playSaturday 24th March 2007
Coats off today but by this afternoon, the weather had turned nasty again so, instead of having to walk across several muddy fields to fetch us, HE found us waiting at the barn for our supper tonight. Supper and coats back on again. It seems the weather forecasters are up to their usual trick of forecasting good weather ten days ahead and then changing their minds when those days actually arrive. Normally this means putting off the actual weather by a few days. They always seem to be in more hurry than nature to make things happen. So, I expect that, by the time we move in just over a week, the weather will in fact be as nice as they say it should be now.
THEY had some good news for us tonight. After shopping for our apples this morning, THEY drove over to see how our new fencing was coming on and THEY found it half finished and looking good. THEY were both much happier now than when THEY went to look last time. It seems that the men are doing a good job which bodes well for the rest of the work that THEY want them to do.
Talking of work, HE is now seeing all the jobs that will be necessary when THEY get there. Some will require workmen to complete (such as putting up some other fencing) and a lot of other jobs, HE can do and, HE tells me, HE will enjoy doing. One of the major ones will be to clear all the brambles down by the stream and make a shallow area where we horses can go to drink. The stream is running pretty quickly now but THEY don’t know what it is like in the summer, if it will dry up or not. It wont really matter if it does because we will have our automatic drinker (abbrevoir) up near the barn. Still, it is nice to have natural fresh water if we can have it.
Finally some more good news. First, Arnie’s swelling definitely seems to be on the way down now. It is still there but much smaller that it was. I don’t remember if I said but he swelling is fluid that should be in his knee (really elbow) joint but that got displaced when he kicked himself. Already he is now destined for some riderless road walking work soon and by next week he should be able to walk with Sophie on his back. Arnie’s other good news is that he has lost weight (while retaining his condition) a thing that Wicky does not think is possible. The weight loss is deliberate as he was deemed to be out of fitness when he first came here and had been living on rations that would kill Wicky ever since. Despite this recent hiccup, he is well on the way back to being a really fit and able pony.
The other good news concerns Wicky. While we were all being measured (which is how one ‘weighs’ horses) SHE noticed that Wicks hair is coming out. Why is this good news? Because, with Wicks Cushing’s Syndrome, one of the symptoms is that he doesn’t shed his coat in the summer and so has to be clipped out. And yet now, he is showing the signs of losing his winter coat like the rest of us. Good news indeed. To end on a slightly less pleasant note, Wick has an unfortunate habit of passing wind very loudly, particularly whilst eating. He hadn’t been doing it often since we have been here but, with the coming of the spring grass, Wicky has become as noisy as a full blown wind orchestra in every sense of the words. Sophie regards him as being very musical and says she will get her guitar and play duets with him. OK, just as long as she stays upwind of him, eh?


Sophies paintingSunday 25th March 2007
And a very early Sunday it is too as the French clocks went forward one hour last night. THEY got this sorted out alright and duly turned up with our breakfast an hour early. Fortunately, we were not very far away so were able to come when HE called us, without making HIM walk all over the slippery, muddy fields. There was one problem though. Jo and Sophie didn’t seem to have got their clocks in order because there was no sign of them. This meant that Arnie would have nothing to eat while we were having our breakfast. THEY did some quick thinking and decided that Mims and Wicky could donate a handful of their breakfast to Arnie and the large salt lick was tipped out of its bucked, washed out and used to hold the improvised feast. Normally Arnie just gets a few dry pellets so it was a real treat for him to get our grain/sugar beet/Lucerne mix with added carrots and apples instead.
It as coats off again this morning and Mims was discovered to have some more of the bald spots that have been a mystery on her for ages. When I say for ages, I mean it literally. She had them on Dartmoor when, at first, I was accused of biting her. The English vets had no real answer, only a series of possibilities. Here, the French vet said it was ringworm but THEY think that it lost something in translation as the patches do not look anything like ringworm. THEY have, though, thought that what he might have meant was some bacterial infection and so are using his recommended treatment – bathing with an anti-bacterial solution. Interestingly, Arnie, who has been sharing one of Mims’ rugs, does not seem to have succumbed so either he is immume or the rug was used by Mims after her treatment started. Whatever, Mims was doused all over again tonight. We will have to see what results. She doesn’t seem in the least worried about it although she is not too keen on the remedy.
THEY have continued to prepare for the move with a visit today to the laundrette to get everything that belongs to the cottage clean before we move. On the way, THEY got involved with one of the French pastimes – road running races. Instead of being able to drive straight to the laundrette in town, THEY had to find the way along the back streets. There seems to be a sweet old French custom here of sending one off on a diversion but then, once you are along the diversion road, not bothering any more to say which way to go. In a way it works because THEY discovered several alternate routes that THEY didn’t know existed before.
While THEY were waiting for the washing to finish. THEY went along to a bar/tabac for a sit down and tea/coffee. It turns out that the place also is a betting shop and is covered inside with posters for the horse trotting races which are very popular in this part of the country.
It seems that wherever you go here, you are never very far away from a cheval or deux!

Monday 26th March 2007
Back to Wicky’s coat again. SHE found that you can just pinch some hair, from the part that wasn’t clipped, between your fingers and huge chunks of it come away. If that isn’t shedding his coat, what is?  SHE then remembered that the chap who used to top and spray our fields in Devon had told her of his Shetland who had been diagnosed with Cushing’s and who had turned out to have a copper deficiency instead. This morning, after we had been fed, SHE phoned this guy in England and they had a chat about Wick. He told HER that Devon has 240 times the average English  amount of iron in the soil and the part where Ninefields was also had arsenic from the mine workings there which makes the iron hold the copper and stop it getting in the bloodstream. It would therefore appear logical that it was this, copper deficiency that caused Wicky’s symptoms and not Cushing’s at all. If it is true, then this is enormously good news and Wick may well live for ever!Sophies painting modified
I think I’ve told you before that Mondays are pretty strange here in France. Only the big chain stores and supermarkets are open so one has to calculate on Saturday if you have enough of the essentials to take you through to Tuesday. Because of this, THEY were expecting to have very little to do today except for a meeting with the agent Veronica this afternoon. However, THEY had a very strange night as Tom the cat, who usually spends the night alternately walking up and down the hall shouting or digging his way into bed with THEM, was very noticeable by his quietness and his absence. They got up and checked him in the night and he was sleeping on a settee and in the morning it became obvious that he was unwell. At one point he was just laying on a radiator and then he fell off.
So, the morning was spent taking Tom to the vets. THEY use a different vet for the cats than for us horses as HER theory is that small animal practice and equine practice are two specialised skills. Tom is very good about travelling in the car, whether he is well o not. THEY never have to use a cat basket, he just sits on THEIR lap. Anyway, the vet took his temperature and said that Tom has the same problem as before (this is his second visit there) a high temperature and poor breathing. He gave him an injection and some pills to take for the next five days and, by this afternoon Tom was good enough to get up and even have something to eat. He spent the rest of the evening sleeping so h really does appear to be getting back to normal.
One final think, again about Wicky. THEY were just going away after our supper when James, who had stayed behind in the barn with Sophie noticed that Wick had a bump on his side. SHE went back into the ban and examined him and thinks that he has been bitten by a hornet of horse fly. Poor old Wick. I knew he wasn’t standing with us this afternoon but put it down to him wanting to be first in to supper. I realise now that he had probably gone running when he had been bitten. I have made a note to make Mims and Arnie treat him nicely, at least until he is better!

passing cowsTuesday 27th March 2007
Today was , for THEM, another of those days when THEY shouldn’t have to do very much but which ended up being rather busy and complicated. For us horses, all we had to do was enjoy the glorious warm sunshine down by the stream. No-one got stung or bitten or scraped, we just splashed about in the muddy water and had a good time.
So, I will tell you about THEIR day.
For a start, there was a sort of mix up over paying for the new place. THEY had a letter from the notaire’s office a couple of days ago which, as well as containing a draft of the purchase document (acte de vente) also had a page giving the total amount that THEY have to pay. At the bottom it mentioned a banks cheque, so THEY thought that THEY would just go along on Friday and write a cheque. When the agent came round to translate he draft for THEM, she asked about payment and then advised if THEY were paying by cheque, THEY should take it along to the notaire’s office today to give it time to clear. THEY decided to do that but the HE had an email from the bank saying it was not usual to write as cheque for such a large amount and that they recommended checking with the notaire’s office to see if a banker’s draft was required. If it was, the bank, which is too far away just to pop in, would require a signed instruction posted or faxed.
This morning THEY went along to the notaire’s office armed with a computer translated letter to find out what was required and, if it was a banker’s draft, a signed for the notaire’s office to fax to the bank as THEY have no fax facilities in the gite. As it was upstairs, HE went in while SHE waited in the car and he tried his best to tell the clerk what THEY needed. After telling her that HIS French was very poor, she proceeded to talk very quickly to HIM in French and answer three phone calls while not appearing to have read HIS prepared document at all. HE came away and told HER that he hoped that it was sorted out but HE wasn’t at all sure it was.
THEY next drove a great many miles to a store where THEY recalled THEY could get a weigh tape for Sophie (well, for Arnie really) and also some wound powder. The store had neither so after a wasted journey, THEY headed towards a shop where SHE had taken some of the curtains and other stuff from the gite for dry cleaning before we leave. Everything had come back but one curtain so she was starting the hunt for the missing item. On the way there, HER mobile phone rang and it was Veronica saying that the notaire’s clerk had phoned her to find out what to do. To cut this story short, the situation was sorted out by the bank doing a direct electronic transfer to the notaire so the money will be there when THEY sign.
The final event of the day was a visit by the guy who is organising our new fence to say his suppliers have let him down and he wont be able to get all the wood for a couple of weeks. However, THEY had already decided on a temporary measure if this should happen, the use of the existing fence until the wood arrives. The chap was both surprised and relieved when THEY took it so calmly and went away promising to make everything OK. I think THEY now just want to get the move over as quickly as possible and sort things out when they get there!

dawn sunWednesday 28th March 2007
HE is now moaning that the evenings are over too quickly since the clocks have gone forward. Probably what has happened is that HIS body has not yet adjusted so that, when THEY have finished feeding us, instead of having THEIR evening snack right away, THEY just mess about reading or using the computer and so on. Then THEY eat and, by the time that is finished and cleared away, it is later than HE expects it to be. It’s either that or HE is getting lazy about typing my diary up for me. I have to admit that HE has does quite well so far. I started it at the end of April 2003 so in a month’s time HE will have had to type four years’ worth of daily diaries, that is four times three hundred and sixty five day plus one for the leap year, a total of 1461 days. At an average of five hundred words to a day that makes over seven hundred and thirty thousand words. You’d think by now he would have learned to type properly, wouldn’t you?
HE was very pleased with me this evening. Sophie has been unwell overnight so hE set off to bring us in on his own. However, HE was joined by Jo and Cameron who took the short cut from the farm and they all walked along together to find us. HE showed the short cut over the stream that Sophie uses some times and, standing there, were us three chestnut horses. Our little grey pony was some way away but Cam spotted him through the hedge. Jo was about to cross the stream when HE called out to me and HE was pleased that we started forward, with a bit of horse play(ha ha) between Mims and Arnie. However, when we got to the stream, I stopped and halted everyone and HE remembered how we had not liked to cross there before. HE was just about to come over with the head collars when HE saw Wicky turn up and then I led the herd over the stream. HE then realised that I was only waiting for Wick. We all walked back to the barn in a very good mood. Even Mims wasn’t put on a head collar until we entered the barn.
I don’t want to bore you with more tales of shopping but enough to say SHE went out and spent lots of money today on equipment for the new house. THEY then went to the sports shop to try and get Arnie a weigh tape to keep his diet in trim when we leave and also some wound powder for when he hurts himself. And, do you know what, this is the second shop that is supposed to cater for horses that didn’t have either. However, THEY are arranging for the nice lady in Dartmoor who helped us on to the transport there, when we left (Faith, Maxwell’s human from Dry Bridge) to send the items with THEIR furniture. Finally, THEY went on, after a fairly large Chinese meal, to contact the chap who is going to move us to St Pierre, just to confirm the time. We should be leaving between midday and two in the afternoon which should leave us six hours to get accustomed to our new grass!

cow and dog stand offThursday 29th March 2007
Have you ever seen a very long, orange plastic glove, the kind that fits over a human’s whole arm and covers it right up to their shoulder? Possibly you have never seen them in real life but I’m sure you must have seen them being used on TV programmes about country vets. Well, whether you have or you haven’t, I am sure that Arnie has. Not the TV programmes, I mean in real life. He certainly exhibited the kind of behaviour that indicated that he knew exactly what they are for.
You see, he is still having to have some medication applied to his knee joint and the vet said that whoever applies it should wear gloves as it is some kind of steroid and it would be a shame for Sophie to grow a beard. Sophie wasn’t with us this evening so it was her dad’s turn to look after Arnie. James took this bright orange plastic glove out of his pocket, explaining that the last of the small rubber gloves had been used up. Now James is a cow farmer and has a plentiful supply of these other gloves for …, well for what he uses them for. Arnie was sure that he had not come in from the nice grassy field for that sort of nonsense, nice as though James is, so he started to pull away and lift his head right up to the ceiling. I would have thought it would have made more sense to lift the other end, having once been on the ‘other end’ myself when I had colic. Still, there is no telling with boys. Eventually he calmed down when James put the glove away in his pocket. Then, when we all got back to eating our supper, the glove fell out and was blown by the wind. Well, Arnie jumped which made Mims jump which made me jump and for a while it as chaos in the barn. It wasn’t quite bad enough though for Wick to look up, but then, it was eating time after all.
And that was about the extent of the excitement in our day.
THEY started doing some packing and cleaning this morning and HE took some bags down the dump. I don’t know if I have told you before but when we were back in the UK, THEY were used to putting bags outside the gate, once a week, for some guys in a lorry to collect. Actually two lorries because THEY separated out the stuff that could be re-cycled from that which could not and there were two separate collections. Here, because it is in the country (French towns have collections, of course), instead of the rubbish being collected, the householders take it to very local collecting points. The rubbish is still separated in to re-cyclables and not and there are four big containers, one for papers and card, one for plastics and tins, one for coloured and plain glass and finally one for black bags of non re-cyclable stuff. THEY found that one soon gets into the habit of taking rubbish to the bins and it does, of course, save the cost going on local taxes. THEY do have just one worry. What do the elderly and infirm do? It would be nice to think a kindly neighbour did it for them making the community spirit stronger.
Then THEY went off for a final visit to the shop where THEY have been getting our large bags of carrots. Next week THEY must find a new source. And then THEY went for a last lunch at the bar that THEY have been eating at regularly once a week and said an ‘a bientot’ to the people there.
I am not sure what will happen to my diary tomorrow as, once THEY have signed the papers at three pm, the new place is ours and THEY will go over there in the evening. That means my diary is unlikely to get written up until Saturday, I expect. Still, HE has been doing some preparation for the end of month web publication by putting most of the months words and photos on the page ready to just publish on Sunday night. Fingers crossed (yours of course, I don’t have any) that it all goes smoothly.

Notaire's door plateFriday 30th March 2007
What do you do when the event you have been waiting for, for the last three months, is about to happen on the afternoon? That was THEIR problem. It was not possible to just stay indoors and wait for the hours to tick by. THEY decided to go shopping, not for the normal carrots and apples and the few human necessities. No, THEY decided to go and buy two mugs to drink THEIR tea from until THEIR own stuff should arrive from England.
Quite an ordinary quest, you would think, but one that would not take too much effort and would pleasurably while away the time. Alencon is quite a big town, with industrial zones in each quarter filled with supermarkets and hypermarkets, catering for food, electrical goods, DIY, gardening, motors, etc, etc. There is also a busy downtown or centre ville area buzzing with shops and restaurants and the like. You would think it just a matter of finding the specialised chinaware shops or sections in the department stores and then choosing two suitable mugs.
There would appear to be nowhere in Alencon that sells fine chinaware mugs. Pottery, yes. Stoneware, certainly. But China? Rien!
THEY then found themselves in that very French part of the day between 12 noon and 2 pm when everywhere shuts for lunch (except the bars and restaurants, of course). Even the parking meters take time off. If you buy an hour ticket at 11.45 am, you may park until 2.45 pm on that ticket. THEY didn’t want a big lunch as THEY had to be at the notaire’s at 3 pm so THEY went into a small kebab house. THEY didn’t mind sharing the small bare back room with a dozen noisy college students but THEY were surprised to find that a doner kebab in France was not only not like the Greek version THEY were used to in England but was also nothing like the Turkish variety THEY were used to either. Still, it passed the time.
Eventually, THEY met with the seller, THEIR agent and the notaire and the process of becoming French home owners began.

PC asleepSaturday 31st March 2007
This is not a real diary entry but just an attempt to put down a few facts about what happened on this day, quite a while after the event. The problem was that HE had to inform the phone company that THEY were moving and so the phone was cut off and, with it, of course, access to the internet.
On top of this, the preparations for  moving were very time consuming. What they did today was to visit the new house and look it over properly for the first time, something that one cant really do while the previous owners are in residence. THEY made notes about the house lighting, which consisted of one bare bulb on bare wires, sticking out of the ceiling in each room. Well, nearly each room. The kitchen, dining room and living room just had the bare wires with no bulb.
The curtain rods were also missing although the holders for them were still in place. THEY also made a note of where to place the cat door so that TOM and Cat Flap would have a means of going and coming from the start when they got here.
Next THEY went shopping to try and  buy lighting and curtain rods. They tried a sort of DIY shop called Bricolage first and did manage to get the curtain rods but the lighting display was confusing and did not have more than one item of anything. THEY then went to Conforama but again lighting was a problem so THEY gave up and came back to the farm.
THEY finished packing all our stuff and as much of THERE’s as would not fit into the little green car and then, in the afternoon, James came along with his trailer and THEY loaded this up and then led James, bring the trailer, to our new home.
Cameron came with James and when THEY got there he had fun looking all over the place, the house and the field. He is a very bright boy and so tends to be a bit over active. He has got in trouble with HER several times over being a bit bouncy while we were in the barn but he has developed a healthy respect and good liking for HER. When he was being a bit bouncy at the new house, SHE sat on him and tickled him and told him the story about eating worms. SHE told it with all the actions and noises and I am sure he was quite impressed by it. It will be something to remember her for.

And that was roughly how the day was spent. THEY went back to the farm when it got too dark to see any longer in the lightless living room to get ready for the next day’s final touched before we moved.

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