Alezane's Diary Archive July 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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The hay field oppositeSunday 1st July 2007
A total lack of visitors today, well, except for THEM, of course, and then only at meal times. HE looked a bit quiet this morning when HE came out to unlock the hens. HE came over to give Wicky a cuddle (HE has a rule – no treats for the first contact of the day) and then XT came over for a bit of a scratch too. We were to far for HIM to touch so HE just grunted something and went in.

Later, when SHE came out as well to bring us our breakfast buckets, we could see that THEY were a bit lacking in sleep after last night’s soiree. THEY were kind and gave us our usual extras but it was more like sleepwalking than THEIR normal welcome. One other big problem was that we only got two rather empty hay nets. Apparently we have finished all of that great big square bale. When I say finished, HE will be quite quick to point out the rather large piles of hay on the floor where we pull it out and let it fall. I don’t think HE will be in a rush to get us any more until that is gone but I’m not worried because I know that SHE will,

There was some good news yesterday. Terry and Veronica were at the evening and, in the conversation, it came up that they will have an excess of hay this year when they have finished cropping it. They say they would be willing to make one metre round bales (small ones) and stock them for us so that THEY can go and get one bale at a time with the remorque. It doesn’t solve our immediate problem but it does help THEM out of the quandary of what to do with our new field when we get it. The original idea was to put it to hay and get a local farmer to work it and crop it for a percentage of the hay. THEY have been informed however that there is so much hay around that no local farmer would be interested in the deal so THEY were going to buy what little hay we need instead of growing it.

Nothing much else to report today (probably because HE was to tired to listen to me properly). One of the hens seems to manage to get out of its fenced area. This is not a problem except if she doesn’t know how to get back. For the moment HE just goes and catches her and plops her back over the fence. What THEY ant to know is if she is flying over for then SHE will be clipping their wings.

Sunny continues to progress at a pace. She now goes outside in the garden with her uncle Tom and has reached as far as under he car parked next to the terrace. The rest of her life consists of hurtling about the house at top speed and then collapsing asleep. Last night, as it was hot, they had the French windows open and the house was filled with moths and flying beetles. There are new toys for her every day!

Early morning moonMonday 2nd July 2007
France is a very interesting place, as THEY found out this morning. It’s Monday, right? The beginning of the week, right? The week end is over and everyone is back at work?
This morning THEY needed more carrots and apples for our feed buckets. What THEY do now is buy in bulk once a week and store them in the sous sol until we eat them. We also used up the last of our hay yesterday. So HE had in mind to go to Alencon  (about thirteen kilometers way) to buy the vegetables. SHE however decided that THEY should go to Ferte Mace (about twenty five kilometers in the other direction) to buy some hay.

HE thought that there should be a supplier of hay nearer to THEM than that and thought that THEY would go to get the vegetables and  then check out the animal feed stores for either hay or, if not, for some haylage (described in French as grass in a plastic bag). So, after breakfast, THEY set out towards Alencon. HE had in mind checking out a feed centre on the way but when THEY were three quarters of the way there, SHE said ‘oh dear’ or words to that effect, ‘the vegetable shop is closed on Monday mornings. There followed a few minutes of silent driving in which HE tried to work out what was best. It was now too far to turn around and a bit silly to go home after making the effort. Then it came to HIM. There was an alternate way to Ferte Mace that THEY used to use when we lived at Livaie. So, HE said, OK, let’s leave getting the vegetables either until this afternoon, or, if I can eke out what we have left, until tomorrow morning. Now, instead of getting the vegetables we will go to Ferte Mace by the old route and get the hay instead. And, that is what THEY did. It was only as THEY drove up to the gate of the hay shop that THEY remembered that it was closed on Monday mornings. It was a pretty long and silent journey home. THEY had traveled goodness knows how many kilometers for two hours and arrived back at St Pierre des Nids empty handed.

‘Well at least we can get some bread’, SHE said. There are two bread shops in the village but one of them is shut for a month, presumably for a holiday. The other is in the road on the way home so HE easily drew in to stop and get the bread. The shop was closed. THEY arrived home really pleased with the whole mornings work.

Later THEY had lunch and, in the middle of this, a delivery man turned up with out three hay racks. When they were taken off the lorry and unwrapped SHE found that they were twice as big as the ones SHE had ordered and two and a half times the price. Wally said he could fix them though and to save the trouble and delay in returning them, they accepted them and the delivery man drove off. It was only later in the day that Wally discovered that they had not delivered all the correct fittings.

That evening, THEY drove over to Veronica and Terry’s and bought a big bale of hay, bringing it home in the big remorque. After unloading it and, with difficulty, putting the remorque away, HE filled two hay nets which we promptly ignored and went away. We are not bought off that easily!

Following uncle TomTuesday 3rd July 2007
Or Mardi. Mardi is one of the ones I am least able to get used to (and I was born in France). I don’t know why but it is still one of the words that I need to translate in my head before I can understand it. If I can hear a word in French and understand immediately without turning it into an English word, then I feel I really do know it. I am quite at home with abbrevoir and floccone. They just conjure up pictures of a drinker or our mixed grain food. The pictures are enough I don’t need the English work. Similarly Dimanche is the day the shops open in the morning and when some people go to church, when there wont be any post and THEY have a cooked breakfast. I don’t need to translate it into Sunday to know that. But Mardi? What’s Mardi? Oh, Tuesday, that’s what.

HE says HE has a similar problem driving. A lot of the speed signs when you come into a town or village say 70. That’s kilometers. Now HE knows that it is roughly equivalent to 40 mph but, because HE has been used to driving an English car with the speed in miles per hour and not kilometers per hour, HE always has to translate it to 40mph before slowing to an appropriate speed.

This morning it started raining as we started our breakfast and by the end it was pouring down in buckets. THEY had to make a decision and we got our raincoats put on. If you ever want to stop the rain, that’s the way to do it. Within an hour the sun was shining and HE called us in to take the raincoats off again. When we came up it was obvious that what we really needed was our fly masks so HE arranged a swop. Well, that is , all except XT. Not that XT didn’t need his rug off and his mask on. It was just that Mims wouldn’t let HIM get near XT, she kept chasing him away. This led to HIM having to go back into the sous sol one ore time, this time for Mims’ head collar. And there she had to stand, tied up to the fence while he not only changed XT over but also gave him treats. However, he paid for it later.

HE spent the afternoon fixing up some lighting in the sous sol, over HIS work bench. It was unusually a day when, after getting the carrots and apples, the rest of the day was HIS own. HE needed a light over the bench but it also helped for HIM to test out the light as it is the kind HE is aiming to put up in our stable. Wally didn’t come today as he was bust making the doors for the stable ready to put them up tomorrow. It was a bit quiet and really strange not to be able to hear him working as we doze behind the barn in he mornings.

Poules at the windowWednesday 4th July 2007
We now have doors on our stable. Wally and David worked hard all day to erect them. What should have been a simple, straightforward job was complicated by the reinforcement in the walls where the hanging gear had to be mounted. However, the two doors are up now. There are still some little touches to them that need to be done but, at least now, THEY can shut out the weather.

And what weather we have had today. It started a bit overcast but then gave way to nic long sunny periods with just a few showers now and then. No, the problem today has been the wind. It is quite windy where we live anyway as we are high up and at the meeting point of several winds, so we are told. But today was out of the ordinary with very strong gust which blew through the stable if more than one door was open. We horses didn’t really mind as it was not cold and we didn’t need ur fly masks.

Talking of which. THEY went to bed yesterday and forgot to take our masks off. This is pretty bad for while they are OK in the daytime when the strong light makes it easy enough to see through the mesh, the dark nighttime is another matter. It’s a good job we don’t rely entirely on our eyesight but have other senses to help us get around. In fact, sight is really an early warning sense for predators and other dangers. And that is what we lacked last night. Still, I haven’t heard that there are many wolves around St Pierre.

I think I told you that thefirm delivered the wrong hay racks. Well, HE ordered some more from another firm and HE heard today that they will be delivered soon and that also THEY are getting THEIR money back on the wrong ones. Also half of our rubber matt tiles are being delivered tomorrow and the other half on the 15th. It’s all coming together, we wont know ourselves in a couple of weeks. Let’s hope it takes HIM a long time to rig up the shower arrangement SHE wants to give us all baths!

in our stableThursday 5th July 2007
A busy day for us horses today. We had just had breakfast and watched Wally turn up early, when THEY came out and put head collars on us. Then, nothing happened, which was strange. However, nearly thirty minutes later, a van drove in and it turned out to be Pierre Dinard, the farrier. XT went first and showed that he was well used to farriers. He did the usual thing of sniffing all over Pierre’s back while he worked. Then SHE came and was rather clever as SHE took Mims and I out together. That way no-one got worried that the other was being taken away. It worked a treat and Mims was the best she has ever been with a farrier. She and Pierre had started out badly when they first met because she was standing on straw and was nervous so she didn’t keep still. This time, she was a s good as gold. Wick went along last and Pierre inspected his broken hoof and said it was fine now. He said he will always have a bit of a deformed hoof but that it wouldn’t worry him at all.

Wally spent his time putting in air vents into the stable. He had to go rushing off to catch the ferry to England at midday and, when he comes back, he has to start another job elsewhere. However, now the doors are on, the bulk of his work is finished and he will pop in for a day or two to finish things off later. Apart from the hay racks which should turn up any time now and which HE will put up, it is fine for us to start using the stables now.

So, that is what we did. At first voluntarily and then with a bit of persuasion from HER. HE opened the gate at the rear and, when HE saw Wick standing at the fence, HE enticed Wick with treats to follow HIM round to the front o the stable. As soon as Wick was there, he started shouting out loud, at the top of his voice. I think he was calling to Solide and Nougatine as I heard them answer him but we also heard him and came round to the stable entrance to see what was going on. We all had a wander and inspected the boxes and the drinkers and then HE went and got some hay nets and fixed them to the gates.

SHE then said SHE would like to put us all in our proper boxes to try them out and HE got another two hay nets so we had one each. Once we were in the boxes, we were left alone for a time while THEY had lunch and then SHE came out and gave us all a bit of a grooming. We were then left to have a rest until supper when we would have our first indoor meal and then go out for the evening. It looks like a routine that we will enjoy getting used to!

Or is it the chickens stable?Friday 6th July 2007
THEY were expecting the delivery of the rubber flooring mats for our boxes today so HE went out shopping leaving HER at home in case the delivery came first thing. When HE got home though no-one had been so HE set about moving our stuff from the sous sol to the stable. Halfway through this, a large yellow lorry went past the window and THEY wondered if it was for THEM. Our road is a dead end, so THEY waited to see it come back, and, sure enough, it turned into our drive. HE went out to meet it and found that the man unloaded, not the floor tiles but our new hay racks to replace the ones that were no good that had been delivered before. The other firm had said they would give THEM their money back and would pick up the bad ones in 15 days time. HE was pleased as it would give HIM time to find some wrapping as the old stuff had been thrown away when THEY had assumed the racks would be OK.

SHE called HIM in for lunch and THEY had just sat down and were about to eat when a great big truck came up the drive. HE rushed out to get the driver to put the rubber floor tiles where it would be easy for HIM to move them into the stable and was very surprised when HE found that it as not the floor tiles but the truck come to pick up the old no good hay racks. As they had come so soon the racks had to go on the lorry just as they were with no wrapping of any kind. THEY have now got used to the idea that the tiles wont come until Monday at the earliest as they is a law in France banning trucks to travel on the highway at the week end unless they are refrigerated with perishable goods.

HE decided to put up the new hay racks this afternoon but nothing is easy. HE found that HE had the wrong size screws and had to drive 20 kilometers to the shop to buy some new ones and the drill to fix them with. HE also called in the shop where HE had bought some strip lights before to get ten more so that he could fix the lighting in the stable and maybe have some left to make a start on re-equipping the sous sol. Something that is typical here in France. The store (which is quite a big one and part of a chain, not a small local shop) had only three in stock and said that they will get the other seven for next Friday. Maybe everyone is afraid of carrying stock in case they get left with it.

This evening was the first real use of our stable boxes with both our drinkers and hay racks in place. In actual fact, we all came in while HE was still fixing the hay racks and watched him quite patiently before HE finished and went to get our supper. As I said yesterday, this is something quite nice and, after we had gone out for a while after supper, we came back in to have a stand around an dchat to get away from the flies until the evening got cooler.

Pot of goldSaturday 7th July 2007
For some people, un chateau brings to mind some of the finest buildings in France, virtually equivalent to a cross between a manor house and a castle in the UK. Well, I’ve got news for you. We live in a chateau, that is, according to Eliane, one of THEIR neighbours.

THEY had the second of THEIR soirees this evening, this time for the group of neighbours who couldn’t make it to the one last week. It was quite a small group, just six of the neighbours and the two of THEM, which was just as well really, considering the neighbours only speak French. However, the evening went really well with the French speakers talking, shouting, arguing (in the friendliest of manners), to each other with HER joining in and slowing things down occasionally and HIM saying one or two words such as “what would you like to drink?” or, really “a boire?” together with lots of hand miming and pointing to the bottles.

After the guests had declined to drink any more and virtually all the cheese and pate had gone and the apple tart and chocolates had vanished, SHE had this inspiration and said “would you like to see the stables?” The group moved outside and came along to look at our home and it was then that Eliane said that it was a ‘chateau’. SHE agreed and pointed to the satellite dish that is fixed to the outside. “They even have built in TV”, she said. However, SHE was secretly pleased that the expensive rubber tile flooring had not yet been laid or this would have convinced the guests that ‘les Anglais’ were truly mad. As it was, when someone asked what time THEY got up and SHE answered “6am to feed the horses”, Andre, Eliane’s husband was shocked in turn. “Why do you feed the horses?”, he asked, “don’t they have grass?” Andre is the farmer who looks after Solide and Nougatine, the Percherons and, if you look at the size of them, you might be tempted to think that he has a point. However,  SHE defended us saying that we are English pure blood and so need special attention. I am not quite sure how Wicky and XT qualify for that but it was the best SHE could manage at the time.

As you may have guessed, HE is typing this up on Sunday morning as HE was too busy Saturday night and HE had to check with me for what to write after breakfast on Sunday. Not only was HE overjoyed to have this extra job after HE had cleared away the debris of the night before and then gone down to the village for bread but also, HE hjas the prospect of typing Sunday’s diary for me tonight.

Sunny stalkingSunday 8th July 2007
THEY have been talking about how contrary we horses are. Particularly in relation to being in the stable. SHE was saying that both XT and I were brought up as pampered racing horses, being used to being in a stable and pampered and protected from the elements. When I first went to Ninefields on Dartmoor, I would rush into the field shelter at the slightest drop of rain. If the shelter was too far away, I would run under the nearest tree. Slowly, slowly, I came to be used to the weather and would only come in for the very worst of conditions (and, of course for the flies).

We don’t know about XT’s background except that he was a successful trotter before falling on hard times but, since our stable has been opened he often wanders in there and just stands, as if he feels right at home there. This morning, HE went out to open up the chicken house and saw XT standing there. HE went over to talk to him and found the three of us horses (Wicky is a pony, although an equine), all standing in the stable. It was not raining nor windy but there we were standing indoors. After saying hello, HE went off to Wicky, who was standing at the fence behind the barn, and gave him a cuddle. THEY had THEIR early morning tea and then came down to get our breakfast ready. By then, we were all out in the field again and had to be called in. After breakfast, we always stand around for a while partly to digest and partly as a sort of game. You see, I always spill a lot of my food on the floor and don’t always bother to clear it up. Mims has learned from me to do the same except she is a bit tidier. When we were out in the field, as soon as Mims and I went over to THEM for our mint and sugar treats, Wick would dive into our places and eat up all our leavings. Then XT came along. At first it was alright as he was not used to being fed. He wouldn’t even take a cube of sugar or a minty at first. However, it didn’t take him long to learn to be a real horse and, by watching, saw what Wicky’s game was. He has now decided that he is just as good as Wick at housework and they both try to get to the leftovers first. Now here is where the game comes. Mims and I have taken to just standing around in our stalls so that neither of them can get to the food. We even, sometimes, go back and eat it ourselves.

So, this morning we played our game until Mims got bored with being indoors. By now it had been raining for a while and, by the time we decided to go out it was pouring very hard. And, this is where SHE says we are contrary. All of us went out in the pouring rain and just grazed casually in the field as if it were a bright sunny day. HE went out to get bread and got soaked. Later on in the afternoon the rain stopped and we all dried out in the sun. Then it was time to come in again for supper. We could well be back again tonight – if we fancy it!

Our herdMonday 9th July 2007
We are still waiting for our rubber floor tiles. There is a strange system here in France. When you want to buy something, it is not in stock, that is unless you want more than one when they do have one in stock but no more. You then have to order it and when you ask when it will be delivered you are told about half the actual waiting time. This fools you into thinking that something will actually be arriving when you are told it will. When this doesn’t happen (and you have waited in for several days for the delivery) you tend to get a bit annoyed and finally decided to chase the item. Now this is when you are told it is coming ‘next week’. Now, what they have failed to tell you is which ‘next week’ this refers to. In the case of our floor tiles, HE was told that there was a delivery problem and they were expecting to deliver on 15th July and not June as HE was initially told. However, they said, they could deliver half now and half on 15th if required, so HE said, OK, let’s have half now please. The reply came “OK nous expédions les 20M2 demain.” Which means we will send it tomorrow. That was on the 4th, we are still waiting.

Just when we were getting used to using our new stable, HE locked us out today. We had our breakfast there and then just sort of hung about having a little morning doze. Halfway through the morning, HE came over and started bringing ladders and tools and all sorts of electrical gadgets. After watching HIM for a while, we decided to go out. And, do you know what HE did? He locked the gate behind us And, it was kept that way all day, even when it rained very heavily. We came back from the field only to find the gate still shut and had to try and shelter behind the barn as best as we could. While we were standing there, Wally turned up and he also unloaded lots of tools and wood and stuff so we could tell that we would be locked out for the rest of the day. Finally, Wally went off and HE came over and tidied up HIS stuff and then opened the gate again. As far as we could see there was not a lot to see for all the banging and sawing and stuff but THEY did give the old washing machine a try out (the one that SHE will use to wash our rugs) and we could see that there was a new light in the feed room and some new lights (as yet not working) over our stables, so they must have done something, HE and Wally.

Tonight we learned that we may have a new stable lad on a temporary basis. Wally’s daughter Jade has come over top France for a bit of a break and, as she has done some riding and as, also, she needs to do something to earn some money for her mobile phone bills, SHE offered Jade a job cleaning up around the stable and field. We don’t know yet if she will take it or if she will like it but she did come into the field tonight with Sandrine and give us a few teats so we are all willing to give her a try. We will have to see if she can get up early in the morning to come along with her dad. If she can then things just might work out OK.

Where to put the clock?Tuesday 10th July 2007
I think I owe the man selling our floor tiles an apology. They turned up at lunchtime today and when HE looked at the paperwork that came with them, the order for delivery was given on the 5th, ‘demain’ in his email. Why it has taken so long to get here I really cant say except that there appears to be a system of carriers for everything that is quite separate from the suppliers and maybe they wait to make up loads to particular places before delivering. Now that THEY have the bookshelves delivered and installed, HE has been looking at some books that THEY got before leaving the UK for France. In one, there is a section on making complaints which, after giving various advice on how to complain, write letters etc., concludes with the advice ‘why bother? Why not just relax and enjoy life and go with the flow’. Maybe that is what THEY should do. We horses don’t let anything except he immediate bother us. Think of all the worry we avoid!

Jade turned up with Wally this morning, contrary to expectations and got down to clearing up our immediate field and stables. At first, she was a bit withdrawn but we horses worked our magic and we followed her around and she soon loosened up. SHE said that Jade had done a really good job and she was vry pleased with her. As a sort of extra reward (she earned her phone money as well), SHE brought her along in the afternoon to do a bit of grooming. SHE had to wait until the afternoon as it had rained hard in the morning and we had to dry off first. Mims was chosen first for some reason. Maybe the fact that I just rolled in the mud may have had something to do with it. After Mims, they started on XT but the big lad was lucky as it started to rain again and they had to stop. The reason thy couldn’t do it in the stable was that Wally was finishing off his few little jobs there. So SHE took Jade indoors and showed her some of my website but then SHE found that the Special FX page had gone missing. However, HE hunted for it on one of the old computers and luckily found a copy so SHE is busy tonight putting it back on again. Now if Jade wants to look at it, she will be able to do so from wherever she is on the internet.

Alli giving ridesWednesday 11th July 2007
Morgan, the teenager from next door, came and knocked on THEIR porte-fenetres (that’s French for French windows, but of course all windows in France are French windows, aren’t they?) and asked HER to come outside for a moment, something to do with the hens. It sounded as if he wanted to eat one of them, or so HE said, but then HIS French language is not the best in the world. SHE followed him outside and he went off towards the chickens and picked up a stick. He then fiddled about in the chicken enclosure for a while and came back with a snake, over two feet in length, dangling from the stick. It was dead, even if you couldn’t see that you could smell it. Morgan said that the hens were eating it. I don’t think they could claim to have killed it though. When HE looked it up in a European wildlife book, it confirmed what Morgan had said that it was a common viper. He said it was harmless but the book said it was venomous but hardly ever attacked humans. The book said nothing about horses though and I am very, very glad it was dead. When I told Mims, the poor girl nearly had a fit. Wicky said he would stamp on it and kick it but even he wouldn’t eat it. XT just said ‘Err, un viper. D’accord!’

This whole place is teaming with wildlife, particularly birds. No wonder it is called St peter of the Nests. Earlier in the year we would always see the buzzards flying and soaring on the thermals high in the sky. Then they would hover and dive like a stone, flying away with their prey very close to the ground until they reached the tree line. We haven’t seen so much of the buzzards recently but their place has been taken by the kestrels. These don’t soar in the same way but they hover for long minutes and then dive down and either catch something or wheel away to hover again over another spot. In the field of Solide’s human, there is a lake. When we first moved here, there was often a cormorant drying his outstretched wings on the bank. There was also a heron who, when the field over the road from ours was cut for hay, would wander around the big round bales searching for who knows what. Morgan did say that there were many vipers in that field so maybe that is how our one died.

We also have the ordinary sparrows, swallows and wagtails galore, often large flocks of starlings, owls and bats at night and, recently, a mystery pure white bird has been seen flying around with two, what look like , crows. It has not come close enough to be recognised as yet. It could just be a dove or sea bird. Maybe HE will be able to get a photo if it comes close enough. Apart from birds we have a badger set in our field, foxes, deer, crickets, frogs, toads, wild boar (although we have not seen these) and a host of domestic but self feeding hunter farm cats, mainly white but with parches of tabby and ginger thrown in too. The hay field often contains a buzzard on a large round bale, the heron strutting around and one or two stalking whitish cats.

Apart from the wildlife report, nothing much else to tell you today. We have now taken over our stables properly and are making HIM impatient as HE still has to finish the lighting and rubber flooring but we are getting in his way. We do go out in the afternoon, to pass the time until supper but then he is usually too full and sleepy to want to work after his lunch. I do believe we are all settling in to a way of life.

Black and whiteThursday 12th July 2007
Two events today, and only one vaguely concerning us horses. When HE looked out today after getting the bread. HE noticed that two of the hens had escaped from their wired enclosure. THEY had spoken last night about letting the hens have the run of the place as an experiment and, as long as they didn’t go out into the road (the gates are never closed unless us horses are in the garden eating the grass) they would be allowed out to roam permanently. So, when HE saw these two out, HE decided to try out the experiment now. As a result, we have had hens in our field, hens just outside our stable and hens just about everywhere, but not in the road Providing there is no trouble when it is time for them to be locked up for the night (to thwart Monsieur Reynard) then this will be their permanent way of life. Talk about free range. The only thing SHE will not allow is them coming into the house although SHE does have fond memories when THEY were on honeymoon in Brittany, of a restaurant with hens wandering around the tables.

The other event was that Wally came along and officially received his final payment to mark the completion of his work on our stables. There is just one little job left which he will do when he comes along to do some work in THEIR house later on in the year. While he was here, it was arranged that Sandrine will bring Jade along sometime nxt week for another grooming session, hopefully when the weather is nicer.

Which reminds me. SHE has it in HER head that we are all to have baths, medicinal shampoos anyway, particularly as Mims and XT still have problems with their coats. I could also do with a wash, I suppose and Wick certainly can. The flies do not just go for his face but his body is covered with them as well. So much so that SHE calls him a walking dechetterie (rubbish dump). The plan is for it to be a warm sunny day so that we dry off quickly. Eventually, HE has to fix up a swiveling shower for her to use on the side of the stable wall. It had better b a warm day as there is only a cold water tap there.

Sunny the kitten is being taught by Tom to climb trees which she has taken to very easily. Tom was out last night in what THEY call ‘Tom C’ mode, in other words furious fighter mode. The row as THEY went to bed was so bad that THEY went out to see what was going on, to find Tom walking in with a victorious grin on his face.

At homeFriday 13th July 2007
Just look at the date above. You would think it should have been quite a bad day, wouldn’t you? And yet, quite the opposite.

First, and best, the vet came to see us today. Now, you wouldn’t expect me to say that a visit from the vet was a good thing. And yet, quite incidentally, I was. SHE phoned him to come and look at my eyes and also Mims’ and XT’s to a lesser extent. For a long while now, I have had a problem with weepy eyes with pus coming out of the corners which, of course, attracts the flies and sets up a cycle of re-infection. I had it in England and then, after a while here, at Livaie, it flared up again. SHE had some cream in England which seemed to clear it up. Then, she got some different stuff here which also worked well. But lately it has not been working on top of which both Mims and Xt developed similar symptoms only less severe.

The vet came this afternoon and examined me and said it was just a form of conjunctivitis usually brought on by the dust in the hay and the weather. He said that bathing it and using an antibacterial cream every day would get rid of it in a few days but that it is the kind of thing that will come back from time to time and is not serious, just a nuisance. He bathed my eyes and put in some cream for starters and then SHE remembered that the vet who had looked at my eyes in Livaie had said that I had a cataract and would slowly go blind in one eye. SHE asked this vet to check to see how far it had progressed in the six months since that diagnosis. He looked in my eye and got HER to look as well and said that I didn’t have a cataract at all. As I had been examined in poor light in the barn at Livaie in winter, it seems that maybe a shadow had given the wrong impression – I am not going blind after all!

And the rest of the good news. The weather suddenly turned summery with hot sunny skies and temperatures in the low 30s Centigrade. THEY had all the doors and windows open in the house and even had THEIR first barbeque here in France for lunch. What THEY had to do though was to put some expanding plastic trellis in each of the doorways to stop the hens coming indoors which was a bit of a nuisance for going in and out. Also HE burned HIS fingers on the BBQ (a small disposable one) for not reading the instructions properly. However, for all that and the fact that THEY were really too hot, it was lovely to see the sun at last.

We horses spent our time going out and then coming back in again when it proved too hot. Having the stable really is a godsend. Even Mims is not so aggressive to XT in the stable and they often exchange boxes. That plus the fact that as he has got better, XT has managed to stick up for himself more. THEY recon Wicky and XT behave like tio grumpy old men. They bite each other’s knees and bums but only in an almost affectionate way. They are not joined so closely as Mims and I, often they will go out and go their separate ways but other times they can be found sharing the same stable box and really enjoying each other’s company.

Breathing messagesSaturday 14th July 2007
Until HE told me, I had completely forgotten that today is Bastille Day, July 14th, a national holiday here in France. Although I was born here, I didn’t spend enough time to really get to know the national customs that well. I was vaguely aware that there were holidays but I didn’t know the difference between Christmas and Liberation Day. But then, as a horse, I don’t suppose I ever will as it doesn’t really matter to us in the slightest. As long as we get our food and our freedom to roam our fields, it doesn’t really matter to us what the humans do.

Being new here, it didn’t make much of an impact on THEM either. In fact, HE had quite forgotten about it until he was going into the supermarket and there was a sign on the door saying they would be open on the 14th. HE turned to HER and said ‘When is that?’. When SHE answered ‘Today’, HE was just mildly surprised and wondered if there would be fireworks in our village tonight. If there was, I’ll let you know tomorrow but don’t hold your breath.

The day started very cloudy and, in fact, you couldn’t see past the farm over the road for thick mist. However, by the afternoon, the clouds vanished and we returned to the unbearably hot weather of yesterday. HE is getting quite frustrated as we are spending all day in the stables. He has to get on fixing the lights but needs to climb ladders to do so and we are always in the way and in danger of pushing the ladder down even if HE did get past us. The other problem for HIM is that if we are in the stable all day, the resulting mess is all over the floor and not in the field and has to be cleaned out. He had to cart two very full barrow loads today before HE could think of giving us our supper. Even as HE is typing this, HE is waiting to get into the stable to wash it down but we are still hanging about to avoid the heat.

Yet another problem about us staying in the stable is that we have to eat something and we are getting through all our hay at a great pace. SHE recons if things go on like this in the summer, THEY will need as much hay then as THEY normally get for the winter. Still, if THEY had nothing to worry about, THEY’d only worry!

Chicken shelterSunday 15th July 2007
I forgot to tell you yesterday, Sunny caught and brought her first mouse indoors. She came running in through the cat door and jumped straight up onto the settee with it. SHE shouted ‘take it out’, Sunny dropped it and HE jumped up and caught it and threw it outside into the herb garden. Sunny spent the next ten minutes hunting all over the settee for it before losing interest and going back to catching flies and beetles again.

Then, this morning while we were having our breakfast, SHE looked up and saw Sunny upstairs in our stable. ‘How did she get up there?’, SHE asked. ‘Up the stairs, of course’, HE replied and then, suddenly, HE realised that Sunny was upstairs on the other side of the stable which has to be reached by ladder. She must have gone up the stairs to the covered in floor above Mims’ box and then climbed round the edge under the eves to get to the floored area over XT’s box. It obviously wasn’t a problem for her because THEY went back for THEIR breakfast and, in a minute or two, in came Sunny as well.

It has been another terribly hot day for us horses and we have spent most of the time in the stable. We were able to watch HIM early in the day while it was still just bearably warm as HE tried out the pressure washer and its rotary scrubber attachment on the tiled terrace at the rear of the house. I call it the rear because the other side has the formal front door but, in fact, no-one uses that and THEY go in and out on the other side that faces our stable. At first HE was disappointed in the results that HE obtained. The terrace had obviously not been cleaned for a long time if ever and as the tiles are not all level, dirt accumulates on one side. HE found that even applying pressure on the brush and putting the edge to the dirt, it still didn’t remove all of it. He then took the rotating brush off and put on the wand, more to rinse everything down. To experiment, HE changed the jet and found that, by putting the nozzle close to the tile, it did get rid of all the dirt so HE set to going all over the terrace again but was finally happy with the result.

So happy that we next watched HIM clean out the chicken house next. HE had to wait until they had all stopped laying and had gone out. We were very interested to see that the hens have some of our hay to lay their eggs on. It’s nice to know that we are really generous and kind hearted. HE didn’t think so later on when XT and I had a bit of a set to. It started when XT had the cheek to lean over into my box and ask for some of my hay. When I told him what he could do, somehow we clashed heads and his tooth caught me a long thin cut on the bottom of my jaw. That did it. I rolled my eyes, flattened my ears and kicked and kicked my stable walls and hay rack. HE came over and shouted at me (which didn’t help my temper) and things slowly calmed down. Later in the day, Mims and I had worked it so XT was in the box with no hay and we were all very hot and bothered by flies. HE had to come out to find out what was wrong when I lashed out again and big booby XT called out for help. This time HE sorted it by giving us all hay and puttying Mims in the box between us.

And then, this evening, we all had a misting down. SHE has a long wand attached to a curly hose and it has 9 settings including mist. HE tried it out on me first but I just run away. So did Mims but XT loved it. He just stood and got thoroughly soaked through so we had the head collar on and got the sam treatment. I have to admit that we were cooler but I also know that it is part of HER plan to give us all a bath before long!

Wicky has a conversationMonday 16th July 2007
There seems to be a bit of disagreement about whose stables they are anyway. We settled in for a nice rest this morning as last night we got neither sleep or grazing due to a night full of thunderstorms right overhead. Of course we headed for the stable then and were very grateful for the shelter but with all the bangs and flashes there was nothing for us to do but endure it. And this followed the previous night of July 14th when the village celebrated Bastille day with a firework display put on by the Pompiers (or firemen to you). Then it was all bangs and crashes but at least it only lasted half an hour. Last night the thunderstorms came and went most of the night.

So, as I said, we settled in for a morning’s doze when HE turned up and started putting up ladders right in our midst. Then, as if this wasn’t enough, HE started re-arranging us, locking us in and then moving us around as HE moved the ladder about and climber up and down and made drilling and banging noises. Obviously his got on my nerves and there were a few little spats, ears back, teeth grinding and wall kicking between Mims and I, Mims and XT and me and XT (somehow Wicky just lets thing like this just pass over his head). In the end, HE decided to make us all go out into the field and locked the gate behind us. That wasn’t too bad as it was not so appallingly hot as yesterday and we were able to get a few bites of grass while HE carried on putting up the lighting over our boxes.

However, then the weather turned and first it started raining and then the thunder and lightning came back. HE had little choice but to let us into the stable again. Fortunately it was virtually lunch time (THEIRS, of course) so HE went away and left us alone. We were just nodding off again when HE was back and out came the ladder again. However, by this time the storms had gone away and I led our herd out to graze again and let HIM just get on with it. When THEY came with our supper, I found out that HE has one more day to go to finish the lighting (if it all works) and then maybe HE will leave us in peace.

From our field at nightTuesday 17th July 2007
Oh dear, Wicky is in HIS bad books today, HE came over early this morning to finish off the lighting in our stable. We all wnt out and left HIM to it and, after about an hour, HE finished and switched on the lights and they all worked. Flushed with success, HE turned his attention to fixing a couple of straps that used to be on the side door of my stable in Devon onto the side door of our stable here. This door leads right into the feed room here and then there is an opening into the stable part proper. The idea of the straps is to allow the side door to be left opened and allow a cool breeze through whilst keeping us out of the feed room. In order to fix the straps HE had to drill four holes in the building blocks so that HE could fix some eyes for the straps to fix to. The building blocks are hollow inside but take a lot of hard work to drill into. After much effort HE managed to get them drilled and fixed with the straps baring the way into the feed room. At that moment when HE was standing back to admire HIS handiwork, we decided to come in and Wick was leading the way. When he got to the door with the straps across, Wick took one look, lowered his head and proceeded to barge his way through, pulling one of the screw rings out as he went. He didn’t bother to stop in the feed room but just used it as a short cut to the stable. Back to the drawing board for HIM..

I don’t remember if I told you HE has bought himself a petrol lawn mower. Everyone else locally has a ride-on one but HE decided that HE needed the exercise, rather like her doctor. When SHE goes to the doctor, SHE noticed that he entered all the details in his computer and then would go into the next room to get the prescription from his printer. One time when he did this SHE said “Pourquoi?”, why not have a printer in his consulting room? And he replied it is for “le sport” or the exercise. So, similarly HE decided to get a mower that he has to walk behind. Fine normally but the trouble is that when the lawn is too long, the machine keeps stopping and he has to pull a string to restart it over and over again. HIS aim has been to get all the lawn at a reasonable size at the same time and then to mow it more easily. Against this has been the weather which, when HE has managed to cut part of the lawn, rains for several days making the rest too long to cut easily. So, tonight, HE made the supreme effort and got it all cut. It remains to be seen if he now keeps it all at a level to cut easily without stopping all the time or if laziness or train wins out on the end.

Fun for all the familyWednesday 18th July 2007
HE felt sick all morning. HE feels HE must have overdone it last night. After getting up and feeding us, HE managed one small slice of toast and a cup of coffee and slept for just over an hour. At least HE got his priorities right and fed us first. I also have to admit that while He was sleeping, so were we. There is really nothing better in the morning after a hard nights grazing to come in, doze before breakfast and then do some serious jaw dropping until mid morning, if not midday.

THEY went out shopping to the village as it is market day and the lady with the real farm milk, cream and butter is there. It is funny to think of it that while THEY were in England and went shopping in the supermarket, THEY used to buy some special margarine which claimed to reduce cholesterol and semi skimmed milk. No doubt THEY would have lived longer in the UK or, if not, it would have seemed like it.
The farm lady is the one whose horse has a foal and THEY have made another date to go and visit as the last time THEY arranged to go, things got too busy here. We have had a quiet day today, the weather being quite pleasant, maybe a bit too warm in the afternoon but still good enough to enjoy. HE found a problem with our fly masks though. One night THEY forgot to take our masks off (probably too much of the cheap French wine in the evening0. Since then, THEY are always careful to remember to do it before THEY go to bed at least. Tonight, HE thought HE would come over to the stable and take them off before we went out. However, when HE got there, we were nowhere in sight. He walked into the field and saw that we were right down in the dip of the filed near the road so HE decided to walk down to us and then take them off. When HE reached us, HE could see that our masks were covered in flies and HE didn’t have the heart to take them off so HE had to walk all the way back up to the house with the knowledge they HE will have to come out and find us again later on.

Coming back from a trip up the roadThursday 19th July 2007
Hot day follows hot day, nothing much happens, we doze indoorsand pop out for a short graze before coming back in again. In fact, the most exciting thing that happened today was a new salt block. OK, it was a little bit more special than that – but not much. Before when THEY have bought us a salt lick, THEY have just put it on the floor and let us get on with it. The trouble with this is that when it rains and gets wet, the salt tends to melt away. There are holders THEY can buy but up to now, THEY have been too mean. Well, today HE must have been in a generous mood because HE said ‘Oh well, it’s only once, let’s get it’. So THEY did and came home and put our new salt lick in a corner near the gate on the concrete apron in front of our stable. Mims found it almost at once and was fascinated by the way that the roll of salt goes round as she licks it. However, when XT came out and put his big nose down, he managed to knock it right off of the apron and behind the fence. HE now has to screw the holder down to stop our so called hgentle giant from destroying things.

So, apart from us, what? Well, Sunny brought in her third mouse into the house today. I say mouse but really it could be any fat furry rodent. I think they must fall asleep in front of her in the heat. The previous one HE rescued and put in a safe place although it did appear to be a bit battered. This one today was already an ex fat furry thing so whether Sunny caught it herself or whether Tom played a part in its demise, we will never know. Tom continues to play his role as Uncle/Nursing Mother and appears to be enjoying every bit of it. It is true that he does sneak off sometimes for a bit of time to himself but then Sunny is quite happy to be on her own, bouncing off the walls and catching moths and beetles. They both come with THEM in the morning when it is our breakfast time and often they both go up the stairs in the stables and look down and watch us eat.

The hens come in too, mainly because they follow THEM everywhere. We used to think Wicky was bad for cadging treats at every opportunity. These hens are even worse and when HE doesn’t give them anything they just start pecking HIS legs and feet. Sunny and Tom are not exactly scared of them but they do keep a respectful distance away from them.

THEY took a whole pile of eggs along with them today when they went for lunch in Celine’s Bar. She has made an arrangement with Celine to take all the spare eggs that THEY get. THEY don’t want money for them, THEY just want to avoid throwing them away. You see, THEY like keeping and watching chickens but four eggs a day is far too much for THEM to eat and THEY have run out of friends and neighbours to give them to. Giving them to the local restaurant seems to be an ideal solution as long as the menu doesn’t change to be just egg dishes!

XT - our million franc babyFriday 20th July 2007
HE went shopping this morning for some more stuff for the stable. We now have handles on the big hanging doors. However, HE caused a bit of a panic at first because we were all in while HE was fixing them and, after putting one handle on, HE wanted to make sure it was level with the other one so HE started to close the doors so that the two sides would be level. I ran quickly out of my box as soon as I saw the door closing. Mims stood in the middle so that the doors wouldn’t shut anyway and Wicky took the opportunity to get a sneak into the feed room. In the end, HE gave up trying to do it by eye and just counted the slats on each door and crossed HIS fingers.

HE also went to get some hooks to hang our head collars on. We did have some special tack hanging brackets in England and HE was sure that THEY brought them over but when THEY searched, they couldn’t be found. In the first shop HE went into, they had some screw in gate fixings which HE thought would do so HE bought these. However, in the next shop, they had some brackets in the shape of a persons head which HE thinks are used to hold open the shutters which all the houses have around here. However, HE liked the idea of a head collar holder in the shape of a head so HE bought these and they are what HE has fixed up.

The door to the feed room from the outside has been kept open recently to provide a through draught in the hot weather. The problem has been that the only way of fixing it was to prop it open with a big pole. HE has now fixed a latch affair so that it can just be hooked open which will avoid us bumping into the pole and accidentally closing the door. And finally, for today, HE has now screwed down the salt lick that XT knocked over yesterday. I have to say it is a great hit with the rest of us although XT still looks as if it is a bit of a puzzle to him.

Our best adventure came today around lunchtime. SHE had ordered some curtains and, to save on delivery charges, SHE had arranged to pick these up from a shop in Carrouges, the town where they used to buy our carrots and have a meal when we were living in Normandy. THEY thought that as THEY were there, THEY would go back to the restaurant THEY used to use and have a nice meal for old times sake. After the meal, THEY drove home quite happy with themselves until THEY rounded the corner at the bottom of our road and HE said “What is that horse doing at our front door?” SHE replied that it was an optical illusion like when SHE had thought we were running down the road, when in fact, we were in our field. However, as THEY rounded the corner THEY could see it was no illusion and that Mims, Wicked and I were indeed in the front garden and enjoying the nice lush grass there. You see, the lock on the gate in front of the table apron had not been secured well enough and we had found that a little push could open up the garden to us.

When THE got out of the car and started to round us up, THEY couldn’t find XT anywhere. Then, all of a sudden, he popped his head out of the stable. He had missed it all. Is he thick or what?

After the rainSaturday 21st July 2007
You would never know it was Saturday. Or any other day either. The problem is, so HE tells me, one day is much like another when you don’t have to go to work. To be honest, it’s quite a long while since I went to work. My proper job was racing as you know. But the lat real ‘job’ that I had was in a riding stables. That was pretty appalling. The problem was that, as a race horse, I had never been taught anything other than walk and gallop. Now when you are taking all levels of riders out for an hour’s ride, they may want to trot or canter as well and when I was asked to do something I didn’t know, I used to get all flustered and go to pieces. Then the rider, who was probably not very sure of their own abilities, would become rather unhappy and be pleased to put all the blame on me. Altogether a not very nice time, mu life at the riding school. Then I came to live with THEM. SHE was very kind but firm and would ask me to do things that either I didn’t like (like going through a river) or that were unfamiliar (like stopping when my reins were squeezed. I always thought that I had to go like the wind when that happened!). But slowly, we came to understand each other. SHE never asked more than I could give and I came to enjoy our walks out together. Then, slowly, as HER cardiac condition became more disabling we slowly started to do less and less together. We still used to go into the field for a ‘girlie moment’ as SHE called it, but my ‘work’ as a ridden horse became less and less. Occasionally HE would sit on my back (HE never called it riding) but most of the time HIS job was to walk me up and down to Ninefields and to feed us and clean out my stable and field shelter. So, rather like THEM, I now consider myself ‘retired’.

Today, we had visitors. They have been before, Valentina and Cedric and their two little girls Julia and Elisa. The two girls are mad about horses (sorry Wicky – Equines) and SHE invited them to come along to enjoy us. We both do alright from the deal as they get rides and we get carrots and sweets. This time however, we also gave Valentina a ride. She is very frightened because she had a riding accident when she was young but I made it as easy as possible for her. Then her husband Cedric had a turn and he amazed everyone by just jumping up on my back with no assistance at all. We all had a good afternoon and HE took some photos for them to remember their visit.

Just as hey were going the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain. For some reason, this just flipped XT and he started a game running, trotting and cantering with Mims chasing him. I have to admit that XT has a wonderful stride and today he just seemed to be gliding over the ground. He ran and ran and had Mims chasing after him and he outrun us all. Mims was puffed, I knew when I was beaten, poor old Wick came puffing up behind and XT just glided on and on. We all ended up in the stables to escape the rain but with a new respect for XT. For a male, he is not at all bad, an asset to our herd!

THEIR second soireeSunday 22nd July 2007
It occurred o HIM today that most of the time, in the country, is taken up in cutting grass. All around us the farmers have been out making hay – first cutting the grass, then turning it and finally bailing it. Som have even taken the bales in although most have just left the giant cotton reels laying about in the fields. And then HE roused HIMSELF after lunch to go out and cut his grass (lawn would be too fine a name for it. It is the bit of the field that spans all around THEIR house consisting of grass, weeds and wildflowers. Previously HE has cut it in sections as it had been too long to be able to do all in on go. The problem with this is that, when it rains, the garss cant be cut and some sections grow too long again. So, today, HE made the effort of cutting it all so that HE will stand a chance of keeping it all at a decent level. In all, it took HIM just over two hours with the motor mower, which brought about HIS musing about the whole countryside being about grass cutting.

We had no visitors today but we did have to tolerate HIM drilling and banging above us in the upstairs of our stable while he fixed the last of the lighting there. Insise lighting that is. There are still two exterior lights that need seeing to as the previous owner had just hung bare bulbs out in all the rain and weather. These need changing to some outdoor bulkhead lamps but as they have lasted quite a few years like that, another little while wont matter much. Instead, when HE had finished the lighting HE swept all the upstairs to rid it from sawdust and builders debris that got left behind. While HE was doing that SHE washed our raincoats in the newly installed, old washing machine that THEY brought from the UK. As it discharges into the rainwater system, THEY cant use any detergent but that was OK as SHE didn’t want to wash the rainproofing out.

I got into a bit of trouble tonight or kicking when XT got on my nerves. I don’t know why HE objected. After all, THEY had kicking boards put all round the inside of our boxes. What a waste if we don’t use them. Then HE cleaned out my box before our supper and even hosed it down with me in it. I was so good and relaxed that I got back all the brownie points I had lost from kicking. I even got extra sugar lumps which lasted me all of the five minutes before our supper came along.

SHE talks to XTMonday 23rd July 2007
The weather forecast said simply ‘rain’ today. It didn’t say anything about us being in a great big grey cloud all day. Everywhere was miserable and the skies just teemed water. After breakfast, there didn’t seem to be any point in going anywhere. We usually have a little spell, digesting before going out but today it was much, much longer.

It was made even longer by the fact that SHE wanted us to get used to a new box arrangement. At present, XT is right down the end and he has to run the gauntlet of us mares to get into his box. SHE therefore came up with the idea of swapping Mims and XT so that Mims is in the far box and XT in the first one. SHE therefore made the arrangement and then shut us in for the rest of the day until supper time. By and large, it didn’t matter. Not to me anyway and XT seemed quite happy about it too. However, Mims, who is always a bit of a fidget, didn’t like the shut in bit. She didn’t object to being in the far box. As I am in the middle, she is next to me whichever box she is in. But she does like to be able to wander outside and look around. She never goes far. Sometimes she comes in my box with me. Other times she just stands in the corridor which is why XT gets shut out sometimes.

The biggest sufferer in all this was Wicky. First he was shut in next to Mims instead of his fellow gelding XT. Secondly, Wick has dental problems which mean that he cant do much with hay apart from gum it a bit and then spit it out. With his thick coat, he doesn’t give a fig about the rain and often takes himself out in all weathers to be able to munch the soft grass instead of hay. Of course, being shut in, for one whose prime activity in life is eating, was quite a dreadful shock. In fact, when supper came, he refused to eat it. He let the hens have it while he just stood and watched. And worse, he wouldn’t take any sweets or sugar. I don’t know if he was just trying to worry THEM to pay them back for shutting him in but, even if he wasn’t trying, it worked.

Straight after supper, we all rushed out and there was a spot of sunshine for a while. But then the skies opened again but we still were not going back to the stable in case we got shut in again. HE had to come out to look at Wick to see that he was all right and found him, in the rain, as happy as anything eating grass, just as he likes to.

She has been researching some haylage for us for the winter so hopefully that might be more manageable for Wick. But, if it isn’t, he will be quite alright being a normal Shetland/Dartmoor cross and just walking about in any old weather grazing and talking to Tregony in his head.

Daisy, field daisyTuesday 24th July 2007
HE had trouble sleeping last night. Every time HE lay down, HE felt HE couldn’t breath and wanted to get up and try sleeping in a chair. HE told me that HE finally seemed to drop off just before it was time to get up. And then, what was a stuffy nose turned into a full blown cold. HE had been going around today, snuffling, sneezing and wheezing. HE did HIS best to get to sleep after breakfast but only managed an hour so HE restricted HIS activities to fixing the guest room computer and finally putting up some pictures that have been hanging around.

This morning was overcast with some very slight showers but the afternoon and evening turned out to be warm and sunny. We spent a lot of time wandering in and out of our stable, either all together or in pairs. Wicky most times teams up with XT but sometimes he can be found with Mims. Whether this is his own choice or hers is now altogether clear.

I have been a bit ratty today. I expect it is the heat but sometimes, usually at meal times, XT just does get on my nerves. SHE has now left us to sort ourselves out as to which box we choose. The trouble is that all of the boxes are mine, as herd leader and XT doesn’t always understand that. I have now resorted to kicking my box as a way to get him to understand. In some ways he is not the brightest (or he pretends not to be) so I hope the stable walls hold up to all the battering they are getting.

And that’s that for today. Any more, HE snuffled, and HE wont be able to cope. HE had better be fitter tomorrow or I may have to start kicking HIS stable as well!

Hay balesWednesday 25th July 2007
Well, we are sorted for the winter. SHE has managed to find and order a whole winter’s worth of haylage for us, to be delivered in September. For those of you who don’t know, haylage is a form of hay but with more protein and no dust. I used to have it when I was in my stable on Dartmoor. In fact, it has to be introduced gradually, mixed with hay or, as I know to my sorrow, one can pig out on it and get severe tummy pain which requires a vet to put his hand where neither of us would like it to be to clear a blockage so to speak. The very good side is that my eye trouble which was caused by hay dust completely cleared up.

Of course. THEY are not really sure how much we will need for the winter. A lot depends on the weather and the state of our own grass. Also, before it was just me eating it and THEY could always pop down the local store for another bale when it was needed. Now, with three and a half eating it and no local stockists SHE has had to make some calculations and estimates. We are going to get a delivery of five pallets, each holding 30 bales in September with the possibility of topping this up with another two pallets if needed. We should be able to get at least sixty bales stored in the feed room and the other ninety can be stored outside as they are wrapped in plastic. All they will need is a cover to keep away the birds and wildlife as holes in the plastic can spoil the haylage.

To quote HIM this evening “another hard-won failure!”. HE woke in the night, last night, with a feeling that the worst of his cold (rheum) had passed. When HE got up this morning, HE felt ready to tackle some of the outstanding jobs and so went out to the local DIY shop and bought a load of stuff. One job is to put drain covers in the corner of each box to enable HIM to hose the box down without washing hay down it as well. Another job is to put up a sort of swinging hose pipe bracket so that SHE can wash us down without the weight of the hose tiring HER out (remember she has heart failure). One job HE has not been looking forward to is putting up our rug rack as the building block walls are as hard as anything to drill and the rack needs eight holes to put it up. HE also needs to sort out the electrics in the visitors bedrooms before they arrive on the 10th August.

When HE go back, HE found that HE hadn’t enough piping for the shower bracket, the drain cover thing is too large to be used without smashing up some concrete and then, to cap it all, when HE spent an hour drilling holes for the rug rack with the special tough drills that HE had bought, HE found that HE had not put it high enough because the rugs don’t clear the floor. HE didn’t even get time to look at the electrics. Perhaps it is just as well as it really didn’t seem to be HIS day!

SunbathingThursday 26th July 2007
Oh boy, we now have a shower! HE worked on it all morning and some of the afternoon as well after oing back to the shop HE was at yesterday for more pipes and things. For some reason, it is just what SHE wanted to be able to bath us. What it is, is a raised bracket which swings from the side of the barn out to the centre of the concrete apron with a hose attached to which SHE can add the shower wand and then hose us down on all sides without the hose being too heavy for her. We keep being threatened with this bath but now it seems quite likely to happen pretty soon. Mims and XT will be first as they both need a medicated shampoo to attack the bacteria that have affected their skin. Then I expect it will be Wicky or me next. Still, it should not be too bad. I can remember when we had to be bathed in the stream at Ninefields or back at Ramsley Lane with the hose there. At least this will be organized to be at the proper height and, although the water will be cold, it should be a gentle bath. I’ll let you know when we have been ‘done’.

THEY had been happily looking at the pretty yellow flowers that have been appearing in our field. Then SHE took a bit more notice and inspected them more thoroughly  and then started to panic. They were not just pretty yellow flowers but ragweed, the plant that is poisonous, fatal, to us horses (and to cattle) if eaten  dry with our hay. Apparently here, in France, not much notice is taken of this plant that, in the UK, is a forbidden plant which musty be eradicated at all costs, He got on the quad bike tonight and drove around our field. He collected a full bag of the weed together with as much again strapped to the front of the quad. And that was only what was in our field. In the part of our land that has been taped off from us because of the badger sets and rabbit warrens and other dangers, the whole of the place is covered in ragwort. which, if not destroyed, will flower nd seed trhe whole rest of our field for next year,

HE cleared our fields but has now to go back and remove all the flowering plants that are about to seed all over our field for next year. If HE cannot manage it all THEY will get the lad from next door to help clear it instead of the usual pooh picking job that he does.

SHE came out and groomed us all this afternoon. I stood for it this time but I hope SHE doesn’t plan on doing it every day. I mean, it was one thing for a closeted race horse but quite another for a ‘sauvage’ on the wilds of Mayenne!

View over the hedgeVendredi 27th Juillet 2007
“’ere Wick?”
“Treg, how nice, I was just thinking about you.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m here.”
“You mean that you just come here when we think about you?”
“What else? You think I’m just going to stand around here all day watching you lot and being ignored? There are better places than The Cherry Tree you know.”
“That’s just it, Treg. I don’t know. Neither does anyone else. A lot of us hope so and them what hope so a lot say that they believe there is. But really, they don’t know.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Only those like me know what it’s like and we are not allowed to tell you. It would sort of spoil the fun of living, wouldn’t it?”
“Sometimes I wonder about that, Treg. The fun of living, I mean. Do you know something. That Wally is scared of me. That’s a laugh. He came along this evening to pick up his ladder and to cover up his table.”
“You mean put a table cloth on?”
“No, stupid. You know he has put some furniture up in the loft in our stable over XT’s box, for safe keeping until he has finished his own place. Well, he had a thought. You see, the birds come into our stable a lot and it occurred to him that they might leave little presents all over his table.”
“I would have thought he would like that. Everyone likes presents.”
“Er, not the kind I mean. You know, that’s the problem with being polite. If you say things like ‘little presents’ it doesn’t offend anyone but some simple folk might misunderstand. But if you go and just say straight out ‘bird sh….”
“Oh, OK Wick. I understand now. Right so Wally wanted to put the cover on the table to hide the presents so no-one would steal them. Right. I see.”
“Well, oh, alright Treg. If you like. Anyway. He had to put a ladder up to get the cover up there and I had to be shut in my pen before he felt comfortable. At least Sandrine came and gave me a couple of mints. She wasn’t scared I would bite her.”
“Anyone who looks at your teeth, Wick, would know that. I expect THEY are thinking about feeding you on soup soon, aren’t THEY?”
“Treg, if thinking about you makes ou come here, will you go away if I stop thinking of you?”
“It was a joke, old mate, that’s all.”
“You never did know a joke from a used wormer did you Treg? Anyway, what did you want to ask me?”
“I heard that THEY went along to the place where XT came from today and got hold of his papers. I just wondered what more THEY found out about him?”
“Well, his proper name is Extreme, just that, not Extreme Something as a lot of other horses are called. He was born in 1992 but not gelded until he was seven years old.”
“Quite right, ouch indeed, Treg. I suppose his humans decided that they wouldn’t make any money from him out at stud. Oh, that reminds me, he didn’t have a father.”
“Oh, come on Wick. I’m not that silly. Everyone has a father.”
“Well X didn’t, unless you count a bottle as a sire.”
“A bottle? A bott… Oh, I see. You mean hartyficial semintshun. Oh, the poor lad.”
“It may have been something to do with his mother. She was called Jezabel. Maybe all the stallions were afraid to go near her.”
“Oh, like Mims, you mean?”
“And listen to this, Treg, only keep it to yourself. I wouldn’t want Alli to get to know about it. He started racing as a three year old and he won eleven races in his career. Alli only won a couple, didn’t she?”
“Wow. No wonder he can outrun Mims. Cor, he’s gone up in my hestimation now, even if his father was a bottle. Right Wick, must run now. Wont tell a soul OK mate. See ya!”

Sunset on our fieldSaturday 28th July 2007
We have been wondering what it was that has made Solide shout out lately. Wicky does answer him when he calls but it doesn’t seem to do any good. Then today, SHE went down to see Andre and Eliane to ask them about ragwort. I’ll tell you about that later. While she was there, she asked why Solide was calling out so much and it turns out that he has been separated from Nougatine, his mother. From one point of view this is very sad and one cant help feeling sorry for him. On the other hand he is nearly two. I was racing at that age so he is a bit of a wimp. Anyway, the reason he has been moved is one of necessity. As you know, Solide is an entire stallion and, unfortunately, he has been having amorous designs on his mother of late, and of course, whilst mother love is admirable, this is taking things a bit too far!

Back to the ragwort. Any readers who have been with us right back to the early Dartmoor days will know the horror with which ragwort is viewed in the UK. If eaten by horses, sheep or cattle, it can result in death and so the UK authorities have made it a prohibited plant and the onus is on all landowners to eradicate it from their land. Devon County Council used to employ teams of people to work all along motorway verges pulling up the stuff and burning it and they don’t spend money lightly.

So, it was with great horror that THEY discovered that the innocent looking, colourful yellow weed that they see all around them in the fields here is, in fact, ragwort. There were some yellow flowering plants in our field so HE got on the quad to go and examine. To his horror, there were many ragwort plants actually in our filed and, in the wild part of the field that is electric fenced off, the land is just a sea of yellow. HE drove around our field and pulled out every single plant HE could find and then brought them back to dry off before burning them. THEY decided that THEY would ask Morgan, the lad next door, to pull the ones out in the fenced off part instead of his usual job of cleaning up our mess in the field tomorrow. Just to check that HE was asking too much, HE climbed over the fence today and cleared armfuls of the weed. It is not difficult as the wet weather has made the plants pull up easily but it is hot work and probably better suited to someone younger than a seventy year old asthmatic.

Andre told HER that, while it is not prohibited here, they do know of the dangers and pull it from their own fields and take it to the local dump. The other interesting thing was that since Andre’s chickens were got by the fox (all thirteen of them) they decided not to replace them so SHE was able to give them some of THEIR eggs. THEY did have an arrangement where THEY gave them to the local café but it is shut for a couple of weeks holiday at present. The hens are still laying four eggs nearly every day and you would be surprised how quickly they mount up.

Alli and MimsSunday 29th July 2007
Let me tell you a little secret. As well as typing my diary for me, HE has another web site. Well, so does SHE, several, in fact, but I want to tell you about HIS particular one. When we were living on Dartmoor, HE had a site for the local villages in the district. There were bits of news and other stuff but mainly HE would pad it out with HIS photos of the locality. When we moved here to France, HE had to give up that web site and handed it over to some other locals. HE left all the photos which illustrated the various towns and villages in the area but took with HIM, HIS photos in the monthly photo album to put on HIS new web site Dartmoor-Photos. HE had bought the name some time ago but had not used it and HE thought that it was a good name for a general photo site, not just of places in Dartmoor but also of any other, particularly in France where we are now.

HE put the original photos from Dartmoor on the site for starters and kept promising that when HE was settled, HE would update the site with other photos that HE had taken in France. Last month, HE published the first set of these for the month of December 2006 and January 2007 with a note saying that he intended to publish one month a week fter that so that he would be “up to date by the end of June”. HE can remember looking at that statement and thinking that he would be up to date far sooner than that. Take a moment o look at the date at the start of this diary entry. July 29th, right?  This person who often can be found moaning about the French not keeping their promises on delivery times, this person has added nothing further to HIS own site since that statement, about a month later than promised (so far). OK, HE will come up with all kinds of excuses but really they are not good enough – either do what you promise, don’t promise what you cant do or just stop moaning about others who are no worse than YOURSELF!

(I am surprised that HE typed that. It just goes to show what power I have over him.)

Let us be honest and up front about it. Today’s entry is nothing about us horses at all. But then, there is nothing to say. The day started damp with a misty rain and developed into a real downpour which lasted until after supper. We stayed in. What can one write about that?

After lunch, SHE said, ‘wasn’t it today that the potters’ exhibition finished?’ HE couldn’t remember but SHE found the details that THEY had seen on a poster and decided that THEY should go. HE did remember looking up where it was and thinking it was quite a way to go. But, the day bing so miserable, there was nothing better to do so off THEY went. THEY put the details into the GPS thingy that THEY have and it said that it would take just over an hour’s drive to get there. THEY set off and were soon driving along a major highway and thinking how nice it was to go somewhere different for a change. Then THEY got to the village where the event was being held. On the drive in, the verges were packed with cars. In the village/town itself, THEY could hardly drive for the cars parked in every little corner and the cars moving in the other direction.

THEY saw an entrance but couldn’t stop and had to drive all the way out of town and back in again. This time THEY couldn’t stop either but had an annoying person in a car behind keep using his horn because THEY were proceeding cautiously. Eventually, what with no parking spaces and the rain coming down in buckets, THEY decided just to leave it and come home. THEY drove home through a cloudburst and found us horses nice and dry in the stable and the hens under a remorque.

Humans do put themselves to a lot of trouble for nothing, don’t they?

Chicken bathMonday 30th July 2007
One of those days, ‘least said soonest mended’. SHE woke up with a very heavy cold and so wasn’t very happy to start with. We needed our carrots and apples and, as the normal vegetable supplier ha now closed for the annual month of August holidays, there was a need to visit the supermarket in town instead. While going there, the rest of the family shopping might as well be done at the same time and, as SHE was not well, HE said that HE would do the drive into town on his own.

Just before HE went, HE needed to shave and then found out that HE was out of shaving gel. This meant using ordinary soap which can tend to get painful and scratchy. Just as HE was finishing, HE heard HER shouting at someone. It turned out that the cat, Sunny, had wet on the shower rug in the bath room. This resulted in HIM having to bring back the cat litter tray that had been moved out into the garden. (Another hard fought failure?)

When HE came back from the supermarket, HE discovered that the hens had made a mass attack on the trellis barrier that SHE uses in the French windows to keep them out and they had managed to get indoors. Not only that but Sunny, not content with her toileting disgrace had now caught a sparrow and brought it indoors. Fortunately it escaped from her jaws and SHE managed to open the doors so that the bitd could fly away.

HE spent the remainder of the morning hosing down the chicken mess from the terrace.

The afternoon started fairly peacefully. It being a nice sunny and warm day, all the doors and windows were left open. Then just as THEY were beginning a nice afternoon siesta, the neighbour got out his sit on lawnmower and started on his two hour attack on his grass. SHE retired to bed and HE went upstairs in the guest room.

SHE must of got up first because HE heard HER shouting very loudly. I am ashamed to say that SHE was shouting at me. What had happened was that XT had really got me angry and, around mealtimes, that is a very silly thing to do. I got him cornered in the stable and bit his bottom and then we got into quite a serious fight. SHE came screaming out and locked me in the end box. Unfortunately, to close this door allows entry into the feed room and HE had, just today, changed the routine so that our feeds were prepared there in the morning and the evening buckets are left laying on the floor. Wicky had noted this new routine and saw his chance with the door left open. He had half finished Mims’ bucket by the time SHE caught HIM.

By this time HE arrived in the stable to find Mims, I and XT all in our boxes and Wicky tied to the open gate tat would normally close him in. HE went to close the gate and found it stuck. When HE looked, HE found the worst thing of all today’s disasters. Our fight had resulted in the front wall of XT’s and my box being pushed out and only being held up by that gate. We were all put out into the field and the stable is now out of bounds until we can get the wall repaired.

As I said at the beginning, not a good day!

Wet snapdragonsTuesday 31st July 2007
The end of the month. The first thing to say is that HE has let us down. Usually, HE has lots and lots of photos and has to sort through them all to pick thirty or thirty one to illustrate my diary This month, HE has taken very few photos and those that HE has taken are all a bit samey – the cats, the chickens, a few sunrises and us horses. .Nothing much to be very interesting. But worse, HE has not selected and edited the photos for my diary for July and today is the day that it should be published. I am afraid that he will probably publish the words without the photos until HE gets round to it.

I had a word with HIM about it when HE was busy having a word about my behaviour tonight. Well, it sort of took the edge of HIS criticism – tell you in a minute. HIS excuse was that HE has been a bit busy of late. HE says that HE spent all morning today, in the heat of the sun, cutting the grass round the house. It’s his own fault, of course. Pride wouldn’t let him buy a ride on mower and yet the amount of grass to cut is about two football pitches and this morning he lowered the cut so that, as it was still full of dew, the motor kept cutting out every few yards. When HE finally finished, HE was ready to collapse, 0nly to discover that HE had to go down to the village to get some bread before lunch.

This afternoon, HE fitted a chain barrier across the entry to the feed room to stop Wicky taking advantage and going in to eat the bucket contents. After that, HE rigged up the auto retraction hose thing on the fence in the honeysuckle bush so that THEY can wash down the terrace fairly frequently after the hens have left their presents there. Fionally, HE raked over the stones outside the terrace so that HE could shovel some up to cover the area behind the olive tree that got missed out when David was doing it. Then HE collapsed until it was time to give us our evening buckets.

We (well I) have been in THEIR bad books since we have turned against XT. THEY are trying to figure out what went wrong as we appeared to be getting on so well. XT wants to be part of us Alezane coloured horses but Mims and I think he should be part of the gelding set. XT is not        quite sure that he belongs with a pint sized Shetland/Dartmoor cross who has never raced. He thinks that he should at least get recognition as a racer together with me. And this is where the problem lies. A trotter is not the same  as a  cheval de course whatever he says. He may have won more races than me but what kind of race is it with someone sitting in a cart behind you? And they never even get to a canter let alone a gallop. If you can win a race just trotting, then what kind of race is that? I rest my case.