Alezane's Diary Archive December 2003
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dog faceMonday 1st December 2003
“Alli?”

“Yes, Treg?”

“Do you know what Wicky did to me this morning, when the sun rose?”

“No, Treg. What did Wicky do to you? Wake you up?”

“Yes, he did that, Alli. He always does that. No, something as well as that, Al.”

“Don’t keep me in suspense, Treg. This is going to be really interesting, I can just feel it. What did Wicky do, after he woke you up?”

“He came over to me and he nipped me and then he butted me with his head. That’s what Wicky did to me, Alli.”

“And what had you done to upset him, Treg. You’ve not kept him awake all night again with your Carol Grunting, have you?”

“I didn’t do anything, Al. Really. I was just having a lovely dream about rounding up a load of missing humans and having to go to the royal stables to get The Order of the Sliced Swede. And then. Bang. ‘Wake up Treg’, he yelled and then bit and butted me.”

“That’s not very nice of him, is it Treg. Do you want me to have a word with him?”

“I’m not sure, Alli. It might make him worse, mightn’t it? What about when you’re not here, overnight? He might do it again, or worse.”

“Well, we can have Wicky upsetting you like this, can we Treg? Are you sure you didn’t do anything to make him so nasty? Did he say anything, when he did it?”

“Yeah, he did, Alli. But I didn’t know what he was on about and I thought if I asked, it might make things worse.”

“What did he say, Treg?”

“He said…er…, that’s it, he said ‘A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month.’ That was it. I thought, if he does that now, what’s it going to be like at the end of the month. Is he going to nip me twenty five times as a Xmas present?”

“Oh, Treg. You poor old lad. I see now. It was a joke. It’s just a saying, a sort of game that you play on the first of the month. You’re supposed to reply something like ‘A nip and a kick for being so quick’ and do it to him.”

“Well, I didn’t think it was funny, Alli. What if I did do it back and then he did it back again and so on. We’d have a nasty fight on our hooves, wouldn’t we?”

“Tell you what, Treg. I’ll get Wick to come and say sorry. So there’s no hard feelings. Eh? He really was just being playful.”

“Well, alright then. But tell him to be playful more gently, next time. And … and.. tell him to warn me first and … and.. tell him not to wake me up in the middle of a nice dream and … and …Oh, never mind!”

rosesTuesday 2nd December 2003
“Treg?”

“Yes, Wicky?”

“Do you know what HE heard on the radio, this morning?”

“Something about not being spiteful to your bestest friend?”

“He heard that there are over 200 humans go missing, without trace, each year. That’s over two a day, ye ken. What an opportunity for someone to make a name for himself? Eh, Treg?”

“Over 200? That’s a lot, isn’t it Wick? But how come it’s never anyone that I know? All the humans that I see each day, simply refuse to get lost. I watch out as they pass along the Throwleigh Road every morning, going to work or taking their kids to school. And in the evening, there they go again, back in the other direction. Never a one of them (or their kids) missing. Never a one. It’s soul destroying!”

“But there must be some from around here, Treg. They can’t all be from the big cities, like Sticklepath or Belstone.”

“It would be funny if they all came from the one place, wouldn’t it Wick? One day the road is full of humans and tractors and collies and things and the next it’s all empty. The milkman comes along and there’s no light in the windows and when the postie knocks on the door – nothing, a ghost town.”

“Yeah, Treg. And then there is the place where they all go. One day you’ve got your usual traffic jams, ten or twenty people hurtling along their equivalent of the Throwleigh Road and the next the whole place is jammed up with two hundred and twenty people all trying to move along the road.”

“That’s it, Wick. Crowds and crowds of people, all trying to go to the same work or the same school and that. And where would they get two hundred and twenty dinners from at lunch time? Or they’d all have to share the twenty dinners that there were and they’d all be very hungry, wouldn’t they?”

“You’d think, probably, someone would notice, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, Wick, you would. I agree. I don’t think HE could have heard right, do you? It doesn’t sound very likely to me. I mean, what when they are tired? Two hundred and twenty humans all trying to share twenty beds. That wouldn’t be right, now could it, Wick?”

“No, laddie. Now that you put it like that.”

“Oh, and Wick?”

“Yes Treg. Ouch!”

“A kick for old Wick for being so thick. So there – And … no returns!”

Alli eats from the car bootWednesday 3rd December 2003
Did you know we are famous? That’s me, Treg and Wicky. Yes, we are. We share a certain honour with the fist lady of our country. No, not Cherie, Her Majesty! Yes, that’s right. You wouldn’t believe it would you? It’s true.

HE got his Xmas stamps the other day, you know, the ones to post HIS Xmas cards with. And do you know what picture they have on them? Us! That’s right. It’s a picture of me, Wick and Treg larking about in the snow last year. HE has them done by the Royal Mail under a scheme called ‘Smilers’ where you can send in a picture and they will print it on your stamps, for a price. It does make your stamps about four times as expensive but you do have the pleasure of sending your favourite images to friends when you send cards or letters. This is the third lot HE has had done. The first one was just of me. It was the picture they got from my old trainer, Martin Pipe, when I was racing. But, I have to tell you. HE made a bit of a bloomer with that one. You see, when they print it, they actually print two parts of the stamp, perforated in the middle. There is a ‘your bit’ and a ‘their bit’. They put their design on their bit and the way they do it, they leave a tall, narrow part (portrait orientation) for your picture. Well HE sent them the picture of me jumping over a fence which was naturally wider than it was tall (landscape) so when they printed the stamps, HE had to stick them on sideways, so that my picture was the right way round. When those were used up, I told HIM that all three of us should be on the picture and so HE found some nice shots of us all separate and made a collage to fit a portrait style frame. And now, it was decided that it would be nice to have our pictures on the Xmas stamps. We all feel quite proud about it although I’m not sure that Treg really has grasped the finer points of ‘stamp’. It’s either that or it’s just his normal way of running up hills. Never mind, he’s proud anyway. It’s nice to have ones true worth recognised. I don’t wonder that the queen enjoys it so much. Wait ‘til she sees us, up there with her. That’ll bring back fond memories of the races, won’t it?

skyline Throwleigh roadThursday 4th December 2003
HE thought HE was going to surprise me tonight. But HE needn’t have bothered. HE does something and then thinks that I won’t know about it until I see it. There HE is, getting all excited at HIS silly little surprise and I can tell what HE has been up to, the moment I get a smell of him. Today’s surprise was supposed to be the Xmas tree, that HE has placed just outside my stable door. I don’t know what HE expected? Was I going to jump with fright or sniff it suspiciously or try to eat it or what. As soon as HE came along with the buckets for Wick and Treg tonight, I could smell the tree on him. HE may have washed his hands but not his hair or clothes. All were just oozing pine tree. So, HE was probably a bit disappointed when I just stood, ignoring it, while my rugs were changed outside the stable and then just walked straight in to my bucket, not giving his tree even the slightest glance.

It’s a similar story when we are walking up or down the Throwleigh Road. I often stop and look around, either back or forward on the road or up to the common or down to the fields. HE thinks I am just being silly or worse, that I am being awkward. HE has no idea of the smells that I have detected or the sounds that I can hear outside his aural range or even the things that my much superior all round vision has caught that HE is completely unaware of. Really, I’m sorry for HIM in a way. HE often says to me ‘Don’t you trust me to keep you safe? Don’t you know that I won’t let anything harm you?’ Well, to be perfectly honest, the answer is a great big resounding NO! I know HE means well, most humans do. But I’m afraid I just couldn’t put my faith in such an imperfect set of warning devices. Today, I heard and scented things that HE was completely unaware of. And when I stopped and turned and waited for Tarka and Robbie (canines) to run up ahead of Harry, you should have seen the look of surprise on HIS face. So then I decided to have a bit of fun with him. Harry was being led up to his field, just past ours, by his human, Roy. We had stopped so that HE could get HIS breath back after walking up the second hill, in our usual place which lays just off the road. While we were stopped, Roy, Harry and the dogs walked past us and |I gave no sign that I had seen them at all. I continued eating the treats HE gives me as an excuse for stopping and then, when I had finished and Harry was a good bit along the road, I stepped out very smartly and kept breaking into a glidey sort of trot. I just floated up the road with HIM puffing and panting trying to keep up. It was a lovely feeling as we gained on Harry but, of course, I couldn’t keep it up or it would have destroyed HIM. Poor old soul, he’s so broken winded, you wouldn’t believe. And HE is going to protect me? I don’t think so. I really don’t!

xmas cardFriday 5th December 2003
SHE is working hard to produce ‘home made’ Xmas cards from photos of us at Ninefields. SHE has been at it now for a few days and I can see that SHE is getting more and more frustrated. It’s HIS fault. Way back in the summer, when HE was ordering yet more printer ink cartridges (those manufacturers must be laughing all the way to the hay barn), HE also saw, in the catalogue, that they sold blank card sets on computer printer material. And, of course, like a sucker, HE bought a pack which has been laying about for months, minding it’s own business. And then, last week, HE gave HER a gentle reminder by asking ‘was she going to use those blank cards?’ Now, if there is one thing that SHE is a sucker for, it’s stationery. And colouring in! It goes back to HER early years, running playgroups and helping HER sister, who is a teacher. (Just don’t mention finger painting to HER!) So, the opportunity to play about with stationery and pictures together with invading the fantasy world of Santa and Elves and Xmas magic and all that kind of stuff, well, there was no holding HER back. But, like lots of humans with enthusiasms, SHE gets too involved. Too intense. And everything has to be perfect! I can understand that, I suppose, for that’s why she picked me. But still, it can lead to problems if you are dealing with unreliable, machine things, not horses. I think, so far, SHE is on her second or third design for her cards. For some reason or another, each so far has not reached the required height of perfection. And, in the end, what will SHE have? Just reproductions of images of us. Nothing like the real thing. I suppose it will have to do, to send to people, to make them realise what they are missing. It’s funny really. These home made cards are only going to the closest family and friends. The others just get the usual store bought variety. And yet, it will be the nearest and dearest who will be brought face to face with what their lives are lacking. I’ve said before how humans are a topsy turvy species and this is just another example. I’m only grateful that Wicky, Treg and I don’t have to bother with thing like Xmas cards. Mind you. Don’t think that we don’t celebrate Xmas, we do. We get up to all kinds of things to have fun. By the way, why is it that one is only ‘merry’ at Xmas. You never wish someone a ‘merry new year’ or a ‘merry Easter’ or a ‘merry birthday’. No, only a merry Xmas. Well, just you wait and see how ‘merry’ we’ll all be up at Ninefields.

Alezane comes indoorsSaturday 6th December 2003
He tells me that they are having a ‘Silent Auction’ for the school today. Sue, that’s Michael the farmer’s wife, works as school secretary and has been publicising this event for some time. I have to admit I don’t understand the concept of a silent auction. The only ones that I know, were like where I, along with a lot of other youngsters, were auctioned in a ring, by humans, and that entailed an awful lot of shouting. That was quite a frightening and unpleasant experience, I can tell you. Of course, if I knew then what I know now, it wouldn’t have been bad. But, to a filly, it was like a lot of things in life, you don’t know what is going to happen, so you get scared. The actual events themselves were not bad at all but the fear of the unknown was the terrible thing. Mind you, it’s what has kept us equines going as a species for an awful long while now. If you’re scared, you take precautions and if you take precautions, you generally survive. But, back to the school auction. The money they make is to support the school, to provide extras over and above what they get in their budget. It’s strange, but from what I can gather, no human endeavour ever receives enough funds. I don’t know if they do it on purpose or what. Now they really are a strange species, aren’t they. They have so many things going – schools, hospitals, transport, theatre and on and on. And none of them have enough money. Now if a horse organised something then they would provide the resources for it. But humans, no! It seems to be obligatory to try and do something which has no hope of succeeding because it’s under resourced and then to be really surprised when it fails to work properly. Of course, it does allow them to move on to the next stage which is to moan about it. If you are a regular reader of this diary, you may have got the impression that Tregony is a few mouthfuls short of a bucket but, compared to any human, he has to appear a genius. I expect it gives them an excuse to have things like ‘silent auctions’ where they are expected to pay far more that it’s worth for something they didn’t want in the first place so that they can make up for the funding that is missing because they didn’t want to pay the taxes that pay for it, in the first place. Does that make sense? The sentence, I mean. I know the idea doesn’t make sense. It’s human, isn’t it?

 

 

xmas treeSunday 7th December 2003
It’s turned a bit cold, today. We didn’t have frost but the wind has got a bite to it. We don’t like wind and this morning, when I got to Ninefields, I wasn’t surprised to find that Wick and Treg were not waiting at the gate for me. No, they were doing what all sensible equines do when the wind blows, they were in the field shelter, eating hay. I thought that this might be a good opportunity for us all to have a bit of a get together and discuss Christmas. I know we don’t have a lot of choice, in terms of movement – we can’t invite other horses over or go to their fields, unless our humans decide that for us. I won’t have the option of staying out with the lads on Xmas eve to watch out for the present carrier. I’ll still be carted off down the Throwleigh Road to my stable. Still, you get used to that, if you are a horse. But within our constraints, we still have a lot to arrange and discuss. We can organise watcher duties between us. I’ll do mine from my stable, which allows me to cover a different area and part of the sky to the old guys. And they will split up the areas watched. I expect Wick will opt to observe from the field shelter. He usually does – it’s next to the hay net. Treg will be allocated to go the highest part of the top field and watch the sky to the West and North and the land as far as North Tawton while Wick looks after the Throwleigh Road, Michael and Sue’s farm and the East and South skies. Strangely, Treg doesn’t mind a bit. He loves to be up there all alone, with the stars, whatever the weather. His favourite, of course, is a bright and slightly frosty night, when everything sparkles. Anyway, the idea is that we observe and note when the sleigh and reindeer turn up, how loaded they are and who they have got helping them in the various area that they have to deliver to. We also like to note where they don’t deliver to, this year. If we are really lucky, we might even get to exchange a few words, if they pass low enough. It’s always exciting to hear from such important ones and get news from distant places. The last couple of years I have managed to get news of my family and also find out how some of my old human friends are doing, as well. What happens is, when we all get together after breakfast on Xmas morning, we stand around the hay nets and exchange all our news. This can take up most of the morning, on a good year, and then we go out into the fields and do our Xmas things. This is one of the other things we will decide on today, what activities or games to get up to. Then there is the afternoon to organise. It certainly is a busy time. I’m afraid I can’t stop to talk anymore now as I’ve got to catch Treggy before he gets tangled up in his Human Watch business.

Monday 8th December 2003
When I was a young lad, out on the moor, there was an old Shetland stallion, who had actually been born up there, on the islands. When the winter evenings used to draw in very early, a group of us youngsters used to crowd round him and beg him to tell us stories about the old days. He had a proper Scots accent, not like the pretend one that I put on for Tregony, and sometimes we had to ask him to bird on a wirerepeat things or to explain what a particular word meant. He was a kind old fellow and never minded. I think, in fact, he sometimes made things more difficult on purpose, just to check that we were listening. I remember, once, he told us a story about what happened at Xmas when he was a colt.

‘It was a very cold night and it had been snowing solidly for a fortnight now. Things were very difficult for the herd as we wandered around trying to root around under the snow for anything that we could eat. It was not like now, on the moor, when we are thrown bales of hay, as extra food. In those days, you had to find your own food or starve. I was only a very young colt, at the time, and wasn’t very clever at finding food for myself. I kept close to my dam and she would show me where she had unearthed a nice piece of grass or some roots. Well, that night the weather had turned even worse and the fierce snow was whipped up by gale force winds. We had gone for many hours without finding a thing to eat and the ice had started gnawing into our very bones. I started to shiver and moan and found myself wandering around in circles and losing track of the rest of the herd. I knew I was getting lost and yet, somehow, the cold and blinding ice made it so that I could do nothing about it. Soon I was out of earshot of the others and was wandering about in a vicious, stinging snowstorm. I started to feel very afraid and called out for my dam. But my voice was just swallowed up by the night. I tried making myself tall and listening and sensing for the others but the only sound that came to me, on the blustering wind, was the distant swell of the ocean on the shoreline, somewhere below the cliffs where we had been grazing. I felt very alone and afraid and was nearly on the edge of panic when I saw a light, up in the sky, just before me. I screwed up my eyes and shook my head. The light was still there. And it was growing brighter. Somehow, I had a feeling of calm come over me. I not only lost my panic but my hunger started to melt away, as well. A few more moments and I was surrounded by the light on all sides and I started to hear the most wonderful sounds, a sort of mixture of comfort and companionship, a warm sunny day in lush green meadows, being licked and nuzzled by your dam – all rolled into one.

The next thing I remember, was being on a trailer, pulled by a tractor and being taken back to a barn in the farmyard and given lots of dry straw to lie on and some wonderful stuff in a bucket. I never did see my dam or the herd again and I overheard the farmers talking, saying it was a miracle that I had survived the blizzard. It was the worst weather that they could ever remember over Xmas. I don’t know, to this day, what saved me, but I can help wondering if Xmas had something to do with it.’

Treg's bucketTuesday 9th December 2003
“Is that the end, Wick?”

“Aye, Treg. That’s the story, just as he told it.”

“Well, it’s not very .. er .. satisfackry. What was the light and why did it stop him feeling hungry and that?”

“We’ll never know, Treg. It was a miracle. You know what a miracle is, don’t you?”

“’course I do. It’s what humans look into when they are going somewhere posh so that they aint got hay in their manes.”

“Er, yes, Treg. There is that sort. I was thinking about something wonderful happening that you can’t explain.”

“Oh! Like they other day when you left some of your supper in the bucket?”

“No, Treg. That was indigestion. Now laddie, it’s your turn. You’ve got to tell us a story. A Xmas story. You know, like something you remember from your young days.”

“Oh. Right. Well, let’s see … er… does it have to be about snow?”

“No Treg. It doesn’t have to be about snow. Just about Xmas.”

‘I grew up in a little town in Cornwall. Well, not in the town, but in a farm just outside of the town. It was not a very rich farm but it was not poor either and every year, at Xmas, the farmer’s daughter used to bring us some sort of special treat. We had to suffer for it, mind you. She used to think that it was fun to dress us up with silly red hats or pretend reindeer antlers, that had flashing lights on them. I say ‘we’. There were four of us. Me, my dam, and old gelding called Arthur and another young mare called Mabel. My dam was called Jewell and we all shared a big barn with some cats and a scattering of chickens. We never were locked up, just roamed about in the fields and made our way back to our barn, if the weather was windy or too wet. Or, of course, in the winter, when the hay was better than the grass. Anyway, as I was saying, we knew when it got nearer to Xmas because the farmer’s daughter used to want to dress us up, especially if she was taking one of us for a ride with her friends. The times I’ve had sprigs of holly tucked into my tack or a silly ornament pinned onto my mane or tail! Still, she was a kind hearted girl, really. Just a bit silly, sometimes. Well, one year, just before Xmas, she decided to take Mabel out for a ride with two of her friends. Off they went, with Mabel sporting a sprig of mistletoe in her head collar. We all just hung around, as we were used to do when one of us went out on a ride. We hadn’t been waiting long before Mabel came cantering round the bend in the lane, all alone with nobody on her back. Of course, we all gathered round her to find out what had happened. Apparently, they had got as far as the end of the lane, when there was a great swishing noise, accompanied by lots of jangling sounds when, out of the sky, came this great cart, with no wheels being pulled by a load of reindeer and in it, a great big fat human with a long white beard and wearing a bright red dressing gown. Mabel said she just freaked, reared up and run away, dumping the farmer’s daughter in the process. My dam said ‘there, there dear’ and tried to calm her down but Arthur had a funny look in his eye. ‘And did this human have a big sack about his person?’ he enquired. ‘I don’t know’ said Mabel, ‘I never stopped to look.’

That year, we never got any treats for Xmas. Arthur always blamed Mabel for her bad behaviour. I was too young to know what was going on but I’ve never really understood what that man was doing out in his dressing gown!

farrier dayWednesday 10th December 2003
Back in France we called it Noel. No, Treg, not a human, Xmas! And our humans used to get a great big fir tree and put it up in the centre of our yard. And they used to cover it with pretty coloured lights and hang little treats on it for us. It had to be a big tree for there were lots of us, maybe nearly forty, if you counted all the foals as well. It was a very well known stud and breeders came from all over the world as well as from France to bring their mares or to choose a youngster. This made Xmas a bit of an international one, for us. Not that it made a lot of difference, really, to our lives. But we were able to watch the various things the humans got up to and that gave us all endless amusement. To be honest, I was only there for one Xmas, but I expect it was much the same other years. Apart from the humans, I got a lot of pleasure from some mice that shared my stall with me. Quite often they would climb up onto the half door and join me in watching the world go by. I remember I had my head out of the door, watching the lights on the fir tree, when a little squeaky voice said ‘Pretty, aren’t they?’ It was the first time one of them had ever spoken. It never occurred to me to wonder how I understood what he was saying. Was he speaking horse or could I somehow understand mouse? I was so taken aback by him speaking at all, I never thought about it. I turned to look at him. He was a bit different from the other mice in my stall. He was wearing a red striped jumper and had a black beret on his head. ‘They are nice’ I said. ‘I wonder why they do it?’ ‘Oh, don’t you know?’, he squeaked. ‘It’s to help them remember when they were very first on the earth and all the stars were coloured, not just white, as they are now.’ ‘I didn’t know that’, I said. ‘Oh, yes. Once upon a time, all the stars were either red, blue, yellow, green or mauve. And the first humans thought that they must be really special to live in such a beautiful world. So they went about showing off and bullying all the other creatures saying that it was because of them that the world was so colourful.’ ‘What happened, then?’, I asked him. It was one Xmas’, he said. ‘The old guy, you know, the one with the beard and red coat that comes around at this time of year. Well, he had stopped for a pastis in a little café along the road, leaving the reindeer to talk among themselves outside. Then, along came a group of drunken humans who came up, spoiling for an argument, and told the reindeer to get out of their way. They said how important they were and came up with the usual old rubbish about the colourful stars, as proof. Well, they reindeer said nothing, just got out of the way and let the humans get on with it. It might have been coincidence, I don’t know, but when the humans looked up at the sky, the next night, all the stars were just white. And that’s the way they have stayed ever since.’

I looked up, away from the sparkling fir tree, at the stars in the sky and tried to imagine how they would look if they were all colours. ‘Where did you hear that story?', I asked the mouse. But he was not there. No one was there but me. And I never saw him again. It was just after that, that I came to England.

light and darkThursday 11th December 2003
Well, we’ve got sheep back again. Not many, this time, just a few that, for some reason, can’t go back on the moor. I recon they must be the lucky ones. As we were coming along the Throwleigh Road, the other day, we were passed by a great big lorry, full of sheep, two stories high, which I am sure were on their way to Hatherleigh Market. And, if that is where they were going and it so near Xmas as well, there can only be one explanation. I only hope that they thought that they were on an outing to somewhere nice so that they, at least, enjoyed the trip.

It’s getting very dark early, these days which means my day out with the old boys in the fields is shorter and shorter. I would have thought that I would hate having to come in so early but when it’s all grey, damp and miserable there’s a lot to be said for a nice dry stable with a full bucket. The little walk home is also quite pleasant, as long as HE doesn’t embarrass me too much by calling out to Amber or other horses in the fields with his attempt at a horse call. Sometimes we have a nice diversion if a big lorry or the school bus comes up behind us. When I first started to do this walk, I used to hate being passed by some great big vehicle, as it’s only a very narrow road – more a lane, really. I’ve got used to it now but, as a result of the fuss that I used to make, HE now looks for a lay by or path up to the common to go up until the lorry or bus has passed. It’s really quite interesting to have a look and a sniff at places I don’t usually go to. The only bit of a problem, sometimes, is finding somewhere to turn, to come back. Sometimes we need to walk even further up the lane until I find somewhere wide enough to turn round. It all makes for a nice diversion and, quite often, if I’ve been very relaxed and laid back about the lorry, HE gives me an extra treat. Really, it’s sometimes hard to work up an appetite for supper by the time we get home. It’s a good job we have to do a bit of walking. Then, a nice comforting bucket and a good old doze is really quite a nice way to end the day. I won’t be sorry though, when the evenings start getting lighter again.

TregonyFriday 12th December 2003
“Well, lads, what shall we do today? It’s really too wet to go out. Shall we just stay around and munch hay? Anyone want to tell another story?”

“Me, me, me. I will. Me, Alli, me!”

“Whoa there Treg! You’re very keen. Have you been working on this all week?”

“Go on, let him, Alli. It’s nice to see such enthusiasm.”

“You’re right, Wick. O.K. Treg, let’s have your story then.”

‘It’s all about one little girl, who used to come riding, at the place where I worked. Her name was June, I think, but everyone used to call her Twig, because she was so thin. She was a really nice, gentle and kind girl and she coughed a lot. I never heard her say a bad thing about anyone and she always used to go up to all the horses and talk to them, when she came to ride. I was her favourite, though. She would leave me to last but after she had gone and said hello to all the others, she would come to me and give me a cuddle and some treats before she went and got my saddle and bridle. I always used to look forward to her visits. Her day was Sunday, after lunch. She never came with anyone, just turned up on her bike, had her ride, hung about with us horses for a while and then got back on her bike and rode off. We always used to go out in a group, to ride up along the lane and then into a field and up onto the common. Most of the other kids were brought in cars, by a couple of their parent’s, in turn. The group all seemed to know each other outside of the riding school. I don’t know, maybe they all lived in the same street or went to the same school or something. But Twig was a loner. She didn’t dress as well as the others and, as I say, didn’t have anyone to drive her back and forth. Often the others might pick on her. Nothing very bad, just ignoring her when she spoke or commenting, if her dress was a bit dirty, that sort of thing. Somehow human kids know how to be hurtful, without trying. But Twig didn’t seem to mind. She never answered back and was always cheerful and bright. And, a good rider, as well. The best in the bunch of kids we had then. It was a pleasure to take her for a ride. She knew how to just lightly indicate what she wanted without all that kicking and shouting that most other kids do and she always praised or rewarded you when you had done something well.

One Sunday, after lunch, I was looking forward to my ride, when Twig turned up looking terribly unhappy. Instead of talking to the horses, I saw her go up to the owner and tell her something. Then, she turned and without a glance to where we were stabled, she trudged over to her bike, got on and rode off. I heard the other girls asking ‘What’s wrong with old Twig?’ and ‘Cant she afford to ride this week?’ and things like that. “Come along Treg” said the owner, “you wont be taking June any more, I’m afraid, she’s got to go into hospital. It doesn’t look good, old lad.” I didn’t work that afternoon and my Sundays after that were changed around, so that I would take one of the other kids for a ride. But I missed Twig, very much indeed. Coming up to Xmas, we got very busy and I forgot about her for a while. It had started to snow and a lot of folk wanted ride out in it to enjoy the scenery. Xmas was on a Monday that year and on the Sunday, Xmas eve, we were particularly busy. I wasn’t sorry to get my tack off and settle down for the evening with a nice hay net. As I was munching, I detected a presence outside my door and I looked up to see Twig standing there. She looked absolutely radiant and she smiled at me, opened the door and came and gave me the biggest hug ever. She whispered in my ear. ‘Will you take me out for a ride, Treg?’ Well, tired though I was, I was delighted and of course agreed. She didn’t bother with any tack, just leaped up onto my back, (she was as light as a feather) and gently grasped my mane. We went out, up onto the common and I had the most wonderful ride of my life. When we came back, she settled me in, gave me another big hug and a kiss and, silently, she was gone.

The next morning, the owner brought us round a special Xmas treat of apples and carrots. When she came to me, she gave me an extra large portion and said “Here, Treg, I hope that makes up for it. I’ve some bad news for you, I’m afraid. Young June died in hospital, yesterday, so she won’t be coming any more. I know she was a special friend of yours. Never mind, have a good days rest today, you’ve earned it.”

Wicky and HIMSaturday 13th December 2003
Well, you can imagine the silence, when Treg finished his story, yesterday. For a start, we were all a bit emotional. On top of that, we had seen a side of Treg that we didn’t usually see. There was no way he could have just made it up, he hasn’t got that kind of mind. And, I afraid, we do rather get used to thinking of him as ‘old Treg, the silly old buffer’. Of course, like us all, he was young once. And handsome and very popular with the riders, that much I’ve heard confirmed by his previous human. Wicky just coughed and turned his head and I had to go up to Treg and give him a gentle nudge. I could see that he still felt for that little girl now. I wonder if any of us will really know what happened that time. It’s nice to think that Treg has got such lovely memories.

When Wick got over his coughing fit, I asked him to tell us a story. The rain had stopped by then but somehow it seemed a nice thing to do. Just hang around and reminisce. “Now, you see, lassie, it was like this”, he started……

‘It was Xmas eve and the mist was swirling around the islands. Young Donal, a coloured colt foal was running around his dam, giving her a little nip and dancing out of reach again. She pretended to be very angry but secretly she was as proud as could be. He was her pride and joy and really could do no wrong by her. His sire was of a different opinion and he grumpily kept out of Donal’s way. Ay, he was a fine, colt, right enough. But so he should be with such a father. Anyway, old Mac, for that was his name, had more things to worrit about, than a silly colt. He was responsible for the herd, for their feeding and well being. He had brought them to this field, down by the waters edge, as he remembered it as having good grazing in other years. But, this year, he had been wrong. It had been a dry year and the herd was short of food. Not only that, old Mac thought, now, he had to look out for their safety as well. He was a bit worried for he thought he had heard something. It was fairly far into the distance, but still, it was something that didn’t sound familiar. He stood a bit taller and cocked an ear. There it was again. And this time, definitely nearer than before. It wasn’t a quad bike or a tractor, those sounds old Mac knew and tolerated. This seemed to be coming from higher up although it was hard to tell in the mist, with the sound of the ocean behind him, as well. Looking up, Mac thought he caught a glimpse of something … hooves, not a set but several sets. And not equine either, more like deer or something … and a cart, but no wheels! He was craning his neck when ….whoosh! With a bang, young Donal collided with him, knocking him onto the ground and winding him as well. And then …. thump….rumble….thud! Bales of hay tumbled out of the sky. Forgetting to have it out with young Donal, Mac got to his feet and stared upwards but there was nothing to see, just the swirling mist. He thought his ears must still be ringing from the fall or no? Was there somewhere, in the distant night sky, the sound of bells? Whatever it was, thought Mac, the herd wouldn’t starve this Xmas.’

Alezane and HERSunday 14th December 2003
“You made that up”, said Treg, accusingly.

“What makes you say that?”, replied Wicked, with a grin. And if you’ve seen, Wicky grin, you might wonder, as Treg did, where the truth lay.

“You want us to believe it was Santa, don’t you?” Treg got almost aggressive, for Treg.

“I don’t want you to believe anything, old lad. I’m just telling you some folklore that we kept alive in our herd. I never knew if it was true or not. Never cared. It was a nice comforting story to tell and the herd passed it on from generation to generation. Not something you would know about, never being in a herd yourself, laddie.”

“Come on, you two, stop squabbling” I said, for Treg was starting to get that stubborn look on his face, like he gets when he doesn’t want to take a wormer. The next thing, hell be up and away to the far corner of the top field, I thought.

“You tell us a story, Alli”, Treg said. “And make it a true one. You’re like me. You’ve never been in a herd, either. All that folklore and fairy twaddle. tell us a true Xmas story, Alli.”

“Alright, Treg. How about I tell you what happened to me when I was racing, on Boxing Day. Is that alright Wick? Treg?” The pair nodded their heads. They really couldn’t say no, could they?

Well, as I was saying, it was Boxing Day. There was a string of us due to race at Newton Abbot that day and we had been looking forward to it for a few weeks. There is something nice about that track for us. A bit like our home ground, so to speak. So, we were up at dawn, and taken out for a final warm up exercise. Nothing energetic. Nothing to risk an injury for. Just a warm up to give us an appetite for our booster breakfast, to give us the bit extra to run with that afternoon. After breakfast we were given a thorough grooming, some twiddly bits put in our manes and tails and off we were packed, into our horse boxes. We started off, a convoy. Three boxes, two to a box. I was put in with old Windy – at least, that’s what we called him. He wasn’t broken winded. No such luck. His problem was a bit more fundamental than that. It wasn’t so bad for me, I suppose, at least he was my own species and I was used to the various odours of the stable. But the poor lad, driving with us, found things all a bit too much. In fact, I gather they had drawn lots to see who would travel in which box, and she had lost. She tried opening windows, but old Windy (his real name was Royal Wyndham, by the way) could far overpower any little drop of fresh air that found it’s way in. By the time we got to the track, even I was feeling a bit off colour and I hoped that the lad would explain any poor performance that I might put in that day. To cut a long tail (oh. You’ve heard that one) Well, I put in a fair second, Bright Star came first in the maiden and the rest watched the winners of their races romp home. But what happened to Windy. Do you know – he won! Apparently, word of his problem had got around and the story of my ride to the races had been spread around the stalls and the jockeys changing room. It wasn’t that the other horses didn’t want to go near him, it was much more that the other jockeys couldn’t concentrate. Every time they glanced over at him. our jockey had made a silly noise and the others just had to giggle, so much so, that they lost the race. Well, old Windy was so proud but I gave up my chance to ride with a winner, on the way home, and let one of our youngsters have that pleasure.

“And, if you think that I made that up, Treg ….”

“Oh, no, Alli. I’m sure you didn’t. But tell me. Why did the other jockeys giggle?”

“Never mind, Treg. Happy Xmas!”

cowsMonday 15th December 2003
“Did I ever tell you about the time that I won the jumping competition?”, said Treg.

“Now you come to mention it, no, you didn’t Treg. When was that then? Back in the olden days, I suppose?”

“Well, it was before I came here, but I wouldn’t say it was that long ago, really.”

“Don’t pick on him, Wick. Come on, Treg. You tell us. He’s only jealous. The only thing he’s ever jumped over is a very small worm. Tell us, Treg. How did you come to win a jumping competition?”

“Well, it was a Xmas show, not so long ago. The whole crowd of us, at the riding school were going along to do something for charity. It was the Winkleigh Xmas Gymkhana and all the riding schools around were sending their horses along to earn money for one of the horse rescue charities, I can’t remember which one. The idea was that you got sponsored for the event that you were going to compete in, either a race or a jumping competition or a grooming event. You know the kind of thing. Well, at the time (it was, as I said, not so long ago) I was what you might call a ‘senior equine’ and they didn’t expect me to run fast or jump high, any more. There was talk of me going in for the ‘handsomest horse’ but, as they found the odd grey hair here and there, they thought that that might not be my strongest point either. In the end, they found a category called ‘old faithful friend’, where you didn’t have to do much, just walk around with a human and look appealing. So, they decided that that was my best chance. Well, everyone at the school decided to sponsor me for a pound or two and off we went to the show. It was really very nice, meeting up with some old pals from the other schools. Some of them had been with us at one time or another, before moving on. Others had met up with some of our old friends who had left for other parts of the country. We all had a bit of a chat while the various events took place, maybe having to break off as one or other of us was called out for our event. I was just in the middle of a really interesting conversation with old Ginger from the Oaks riding School when I thought I heard my name called out. No one had come for me but, as I was anxious not to let our stable down, I thought that I would just go along anyway and let my humans meet up with me in the arena. I turned and headed down the path that led to the entrance and was looking around for my groom when out of the side from behind a Land Rover, hurtled this great big, vicious white dragon. Well, I didn’t stop to think, I just kicked my heels and flew. I was racing headlong to save my life when I was faced with the enormous fence so, without a second thought, over I went, round the corner and out into the paddock at the back of the arena. Of course, when I stopped to glance round, I had just left it standing. Whatever it was, just couldn’t keep up with me. It was then, I heard the crowd. Cheering, stamping and calling out. ‘Treg, Treg, Treg’, they roared. I thought they were cheering because I had saved my life. It wasn’t ‘til later that I found out I had won the jumping competition.

“Come on, Treg, own up. It was a plastic bag, not a dragon, wasn’t it?”

“Well ….er….well, it may have been. But it was a very vicious one, so there!”

Wicky and TregTuesday 16th December 2003
“I’ll have you know, Mrs. Alli Smarty Pants, that I can jump just as high as you – size for size.”

“I’m sure, size for size, there are a few grasshoppers that you can beat, as well, Wick. But we are talking the real world here. Could you, for instance, jump over that gate into the Throwleigh Road?”

“It would be a matter of incentive, lassie. A bit like old Treg, here, who thought he had a dragon chasing him. Now, if there were to be a lorry load of carrots coming down the road and it just happened to hit a bump and overturn, just outside the gate. Well….. You see what I mean!”

“If a lorry load of carrots overturned outside the gate, Wick, how would HE get in to bring our buckets? I do hope that doesn’t happen. Eh, Alli?”

“Quite right, Treg. Now, if it were a lorry load of sugar lumps ……”

“Don’ be daft, girrl. They don’t carry sugar lumps loose in a wagon.”

“How do they carry them, then Wick?”

“Don’t encourage him, Treg. He’s just being silly. Just because he got upset because I said he couldn’t jump very high.”

“I know what, Alli. For some of our Xmas activities, why don’t we have a jumping contest? We could get some of the sheep to let us jump over them.”

“What a good idea, son. And we could get them to stand in place to mark out the track and make a running circuit and get some to stand on each other’s shoulders to make it high enough to be a challenge for Alli. And after the races we coul ……”

“Stop right there, Wick. Can’t you see Treg believes every word you say? Take no notice Treg, old Wick’s still be silly.”

“Oh. Well I thought it was a good idea. Alright, well, whose turn is it for a story, then?”

“You told the last one about your jumping triumph and, before that, I told about the races, so, it must be Wicked’s turn. Right, Wick?”

“Do I have to? If I tell a true story, you all get upset and emotional. If I make something up, that’s no good either. There’s no pleasing you two.”

“How about telling us one of your folklore tales, you know, one of those stories passed down from generation to generation by the Shetlanders.”

“Oh yes, Wick, do. Go on, go on, tell us, please!”

“We –e-ll, al-right, if I can remember one. Now let me see … er …Oh, yes. I’ll tell ye the story of McWik ag’ Allop, the wild stallion king. Now, ye must be quiet for this, Treg, or I’ll be forgetting some of the wee tricky bits. O.K. here we go!”

Wicky not eatingWednesday 17th December 2003
‘Twas on the night o’ the eve of Christmas and the herd had been running hard to reach the safety of the valley before the snowstorm caught them. Snorting loudly, auld McWik pulled them into the lee of the crag and called a halt for the night. He then went all around the herd, checking that everyone was sound and all accounted for. Just as he was nearly finished, there was a loud roar from the woods to the seaward side of the valley and the herd froze, as a group, and looked to McWik to see what they should do. It wasnae a sound that he knew, and he had been around now for nearly five and twenty year. His ears pricked and his head erect, he slowly walked forward towards the wood, while the others waited, poised for flight. There was no further sound, but McWik could sense that something was lurking in the forest and he felt that it could not be something friendly. Against all his instincts but for the good of his herd, he edged forward, slowly and carefully. The night was a moonless one and it was almost impossible to detect anything in the pitch darkness. He was about to concede that whatever it was could not be found and that the herd had best move on, in the interest of caution, when he just detected a faint humming sound, somewhere to his left. He froze again and strained all his senses. He was rewarded with a slight movement below the branches and a warmer feeling to the air. A moment later, a giant flame shot out from the direction that the sound had come from and McWik, his coat slightly singed, leapt back, out of range. A long way behind him, he heard a shudder and tremble of feet ripple through his waiting herd. Before he had time to think, there was a crash of breaking trees before him and out of the forest loomed a large, green and red creature with, strangely, a babyish look about it. Although all the hairs on his coat were erect with alarm, something about the creature seemed to indicate that it posed no immediate threat. At that, another burst of flame erupted from its mouth but it appeared to avert the direction of the jet away from McWik, who jumped all the same.

“I’m sorry” the creature said, to McWik’s amazement. “I can’t help it, honest. It just sort of happens, when I’m upset.” McWik recovered his composure just enough to answer the creature. “Who are you? What are you? And what are you doing here, on my island?”

The creature looked as if it were going to cry. It’s lip trembled and it’s eyes screwed up. “I’m lost. I didn’t mean to be on your island. Really! I don’t know where my others are , everyone’s gone away and left me all alone. And I’m scared.” McWik couldn’t help feeling for the poor, wee creature for though he was three times as big as McWik, it was obvious he was a baby. A baby what though? McWik asked him again. “We’re Xmas Dragons”, he replied “and we go out all over the land, at this time of the year, to help deliver presents and decorations and stuff.” Now, McWik wasnae silly. He knew that that job was down to an auld guy with a beard an’ a red coat who was helped by reindeer and dwarves. But he’d never heered o’ dragons, let alone Xmas dragons doing the job. “Are ye sure, sonny? You’re nae mixing it up with damsels in distress and that sort o’ thing, are ye?” By this time, the rest of McWik’s herd, seeing that they appeared to be no danger and wondering what their leader was talking about, had edged back and were forming a semi circle behind him. “Yes, I am sure”, said the baby dragon and ….”

“Sorry, Wicky”, said Treg. “THEY’ve just turned up with our buckets. You’ll have to finish this story later.”

“Well, that was scrumptious, as usual. Will you continue the story, now, Wick?”

“Sorry, laddie. You’ll have to wait ‘til Alli get’s here after breakfast, tomorrow.”

“But that’s ages, Wick. And anyway, dragons was mine. You pinched that idea from me.”

“I think, Treg, if you remember, yours was a plastic bag! This is a true story, handed down over the generations, in my family.”

“Well. I said dragons first, so there!”

“Verry well, ma auld friend. Let’s leave it the noo. Come and have a wee nibble o’ the grass and we’ll continue the story the morrow.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………

HERThursday 18th December 2003
“Hello, Alli. Quick, Wick’s going to carry on with his story.”

“Give me time to catch my breath, Treg. You know how fast HE walks me up the hill.”

“I thought you said HE was a slowcoa…. Oh! A joke. Ha ha, Alli, you had me going there.”

“Now you two, do you want to hear the rest o’ this tale or no?”

“Coming, Wick, let’s walk up under the big tree. Then we can watch the road, at the same time.”

‘The wee dragon, his name was Nogard Gib fo Nos (Noggy for short), was explaining to McWik how the Xmas dragons got involved in helping to deliver the presents. “You see”, he said, “they used to do it without us, at one time, but they soon found that there was a bit of a problem going down those chimneys that had lighted fires under them. We dragons breathe fire, as you may have noticed, so it was no trouble for us to negotiate the little bits of fire, that the humans lit in their fireplaces. In fact, when we leave, sometimes, we give them a bit of a boost, just for fun. Of course, our other advantage is that we can fly. We don’t need to sit on the sleigh and weigh it down, we just fly alongside the reindeer. It really works out fine, for all of us.” “Well”, said McWik, “that’s all verra interesting, young fella. But what are we going to do about you?” “Could you get me back to the North Pole, do you think? I’m sure that there will still be someone in, to look after me.” Now, auld McWik had seen a few poles in his time, but he couldn’t for the life of him, remember which one was the North one. “Aye, sonny, mebbe I could”, he said, if you could just give me a few directions, you know, just to start us on our way.” “I’ll do better than that, sir”, said Noggy. “If you’ll come with me to make sure I’m safe, I’ll teach you to fly and we’ll both fly there together.” There was a big gasp from the herd, who were listening intently. To fly! No pony had ever flown before, in all their long history. They waited, scarcely daring to breathe, to hear McWik’s reply. There was a long silence and then, casual as you like, McWik said “O’ course, sonny. How else would I tak ye?” The herd filled with pride at their leader’s bravery. McWik was going to fly!

“Don’t look now, Alli, but that’s THEIR car down there” said Wicked. “I’m afraid were going to have to finish this story tomorrow.” I’m afraid I can’t tell you what Tregony said!

poking my tongue outFriday 19th December 2003
‘After a few lessons, McWik, assisted by Noggy, managed to get himself airborne and flew a few practice circuits round the field. Finally, they decided that, if Noggy flew beneath him, to give him a boost now and then, they were ready to begin their journey to the North Pole. In between lessons, McWik had been having a few chats to some of the birds that flew over and had now got a fair understanding of where he had to go. He took one last tour around his herd and gave instructions to his deputy, Trog na Treg, on wha….’. “That’s me!” Said Tregony, proudly. “Was his deputy one of my ancestors, Wick? Was he? Really?” “Whisht now, Treg. Let me tell the story.” ‘Finally, they were off. Up they both rose, circled the field once and then, headed North. As they went on, the air started to get colder and colder. McWik didn’t mind as he was warm from the exertion of flying but it did make his eyes water a bit. He couldn’t tell how long they had been going but far below, the green fields had turned first to blue water and now to white ice and snow. Noggy flew up in front of him and shouted “Let’s go down and land for a bit of a break”. They skidded to a stop just in front of a hole in the ice. McWik was thirsty after all that work and bent his head for a drink. “Arrrgh”, shuddered a face that had popped out of the water, “a monster! Help, help!” Noggy bent over the hole and said “Come out, you big booby. It’s only a pony. You never seen a pony before?” A tentative nose come out of the water, then a white furry face and finally, a whole Polar Bear. “I’ve heard about them but never knew they were so ugly. That face. Ugh! And those teeth!” “Don’t be silly, Polly, this is McWik and he’s taking me home. He’s very kind and you are not to call him ugly. And anyway, he can’t help it!” “Lost again, Noggy. How do you do it? Every Xmas eve for the last 20 years. Always the same. I think you do it on purpose!” McWik, who had been listening, exploded. “Twenty years! I thought you were a baby!” “Oh, I am”, said Noggy. We Xmas Dragons only live for six weeks a year so we take a very long time, in your years, to grow up” “So why do you get lost every year? Don’t you have parents to take care of you?” Just at that moment, there was a tremendous blast of flame over their heads and with a gigantic Crruunncccchhhh, a giant green and white creature thudded to the ground. “NOG!!!”, it screeched, “come here at once!” McWik picked himself out from the pile of snow, that the creatures arrival had buried him under. “Are you Noggy’s parent?” he asked, rather lamely. “And who might you be, you tiny ugly creature?” Eventually, Nog’s mother, as it turned out to be, and McWik sorted out their stories, Her name was Gon fo Am, and she apologised and thanked McWik for bringing Noggy back and soon he was sent on his way back home, with the promise of a special, magic reward, as a Xmas present.

“And that is why”, Wicked continued, “ever since that Xmas, members of my family have been so handsome and have had such fine, winter coats.”

“They really were grateful, weren’t they, Wick?, said Treggy.

“Not so grateful, Treg”, said Alli. “You think that they would have done something about the legs! Race you down the hill” And she was off, with Wicky, snapping at her heels.

rainy daySaturday 20th December 2003
It’s about time this diary got back to being a proper diary. All this story telling and the like. It’s just not right.

“Alli?”

“Oh what is it Treg?”

“Well, you say that we’ve got to get back to a proper diary.”

“Yes, Treg, that’s right!”

“Well, has anything happened then?”

“Of course things have happened, Treg. There’s the …er….well, I walked up the Throwleigh Road and …er… well, it’s rained and …”

“You see, Alli. Nothing has happened, has it. It’s because it’s Xmas and we are supposed to go round telling stories and nice things like that. See!”

“Well, Treg, …oh, alright. You’re quite right, of course. It is much nicer telling stories, rather than telling all the boring things. Good, well done Treg. You’ve made me see sense. Well, whose turn is it? “

“I’ve got a story, but it’s a true one.”

“Oh, hello Wick. Didn’t hear you come up. Didn’t you tell the last very long, long story, if I remember.”

“And what if I did. It was a good story. And so is this one. I promise you, it’s all about a ghost!”

“Oh good, I like ghosts. That’s really good … er … isn’t it Alli? Alli, what are ghosts?”

“Well Treg, there like humans that can’t make up their minds where they whant you to go. They ghost here and they ghost there and ….”

“Oh, verra funny lassie, now, do you want to hear my story or no? Make up your minds, I could be doing a lot of eating while I’m here, waiting on you two.”

“What do you think, Treg? Shall we let him have another go?”

“Oh, yes please, Wick. I’d love to hear your story, I think.”

“Right. We all agreed? O.K. Well, it was like this …..”

he rat familySunday 21st December 2003
Screws and Marbles were two cart horses who worked in the middle of Plymouth, bringing barrels of wine from the port to the public houses of the town. They were both nasty pieces of work. If they could kick you they would. They wouldn’t give you a mouthful of hay, even if you was starving. They just used to hoard up all their oats, didn’t even enjoy them themselves. One year, old marbles got run over by a tram and within a week, he was dead. No one went to his funeral, not even Screws. He just carried on in his same old grumpy way, hating everyone and being hated back by nearly everyone. I say nearly everyone because he did have one relative, a nephew, who still liked him, even though he knew what an old grump bum old Screws was.

One night, when Screws was coming back to his stable after his day’s work, he stopped at the door and stared. The lucky horseshoe that had been nailed to his door, winked at him. Old Screws shook his head to clear his eyes but no, it was true, it happened again. And then, as if the mist was clearing over doorway, he saw old Marbles face in the horseshoe. Only for a moment, and then it was gone. Screws shook his head again and went into his stable. He made a scant meal of some old hay but while he was munching, the thought of old Marbles face kept coming back to him. He forced himself to think of something else, his day’s rounds, what he had to do tomorrow, anything. And eventually, he fell asleep.

He was in the middle of a dream involving an extra large wine barrel and a very samll wheeled cart, when suddenly he woke, shivering. And there, in front of him was old Marbles, covered in the most leather and chain harness you’ve ever seen. And he was rattling it, loudly and moaning. ‘Marbles, is that you?’ he shouted. ‘What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be dead.’ Marbles just shook some more and moaned. And then he said, in a very deep voice ‘Screws! Listen to me, Screws. I was a very old grump when I was alive, just like you. And see where it has got me. I am condemned to go all around the city of Plymouth pulling all this tack along as well as my wine barrels. And the same will happen to you, if you don’t change your ways. I wouldn’t mind betting that tonight you will be visited by three more ghosts and th ….

“Heard it. I thought you said this was a true story, Wick? This is not true. It’s not even new, is it? You heard this somewhere before. I thought I knew the names, Screws and Marbles!”

“Treggy, Treggy, Treggy. You’re never satisfied, are you. What’s the matter, don’t you like the story? It’s a real Xmas classic. I never get tired of it, do you?”

“But he did cheat, didn’t he Alli? He said he had a true story.”

“And what makes you think it’s not true, Treg. It sounds very real to me. And to Wicky, I’m sure.”

“It was nice, Alli. But it’s good he stopped before the scary bit, isn’t it?”

winter roseMonday 22nd December 2003
It’s HER birthday today, so I expect I’d better be good. No biting the air and gnashing my teeth when I have my rug put on, no wandering about in the middle of the road when HE walks me up the hill to Ninefields, no snatching my carrots and swede over the stable door as if it were electrified. In fact – boring! But, it is only one day a year, I suppose, then I can go back to being as I please. I’ll bet you didn’t know I did all those things, did you. That’s only the half of it. And, do you know, all THEY do is laugh at me. Especially when I have my rug on. I flatten my ears, I lash out at the back and often make a mark on the stable walls (although I do make sure there is no one in the way, first) – anyway, they are called ‘kick boards’ aren’t they? Often I try to nip HIM with my gums but then SHE does tell me off, although THEY both laugh at me and call me a silly old marey! I wouldn’t mind, but I look so fierce, as well. If anyone who didn’t know me came along at that point, they would think that I am the wild moorland horse that I pretend to be. But those two, they just ignore me and carry on doing whatever they want. I can’t remember when I first started doing it. It was during my racing career, that I’m sure of. Thinking back, it was probably part of the bracing yourself up for the race, you know – ‘I can beat anyone, I’m going to win’ etc. SHE thinks maybe some human hurt me, putting a saddle or girth on and that I’ve not liked anything on my back since. I honestly can’t remember. Funny, isn’t it. You’d think one would remember that kind of thing. But no. Once racing was my whole life, I lived and breathed it. All I can remember now, is that didn’t particularly care for it. I enjoyed the running and larking about but never did have that competitive instinct that you need to be successful at it. The few times I did win or get placed were more by accident than deliberate, on my part. My jockey’s did their best and, if I was the best horse, on the day, I won. It was a simple as that! Anyway, back to where I started. I’ve got to concentrate and be the best horse today, as it’s HER birthday. We sent HER a card, all of us. It’s got Treg talking, I’ll get HIM to put it up on this diary, to give you a laugh.

Tuesday 23rd December 2003
We saw a dear deer this morning. At least, that’s what HE calls them. I was only grateful that HE didn’t try to tell me it was a reindeer, considering both the season and his appalling sense of humour. The family over the road from my stable, with the two fillies, have put up a string of Xmas lights in the tree in front of their house and HE insists that it makes the shape of a reindeer. SHE tells him he’s misguided but he still insists. It’s one of those ‘if you look at it from this angle and squint your eyes like this, it is definitely a reindeer’ sort of scenarios. When HE was first told that he needed eyeglasses because he couldn’t read the test card, he said to the ophthalmologist that he could read the card fine if he squinted his eyes up. The guy said ‘good’ and did he want ‘ to spend the rest of his life looking like that?’ pink skyBack to the deer. We were having our second carrot/breathing stop along the Throwleigh Road and I sensed something to my left, up near the old copper mine workings. The next moment, a most exquisite animal appeared, silhouetted against the skyline, looking ready to run at the slightest noise. Both HE and I held our breaths and watched as it sensed the air and then, slowly and carefully, walked on and up to the common, out of our view. There is something about the freedom of wild creatures like that, that makes them so appealing. Unlike Treg, Wick and I, they exist on their own foraging and stay alive through their own wits and instincts. We have become very much human dependent and times like these bring it home to me. Mind, it is a two way process for HE and SHE (and probably a lot more humans as well) rely on animals for their well being, in a similar way.

There was once an old human man called Michael. He lived all alone in an old stone farmhouse, up a lonely lane, in the middle of Dartmoor. He had once been married but his wife had been dead for over fifteen years and their one daughter now lived in Australia and he rarely heard from her anymore. He had only himself to blame as, since his wife died, he had become more and more solitary and never bothered to reply to any letters that he received. But the old man was not alone. He had made a friend of a rat that he had found, eating in one of his barns. He no longer kept beasts but the barns still contained old cattle and sheep feed that was no longer required and one day, when Michael was wandering, looking around the barn, he saw the rat, eating next to a bag of feed which had a hole gnawed into it. His first impulse had been to frighten it away, hurl a stick at it or something. Then, somehow, watching the creature’s little delicate movements, had fascinated him and soundlessly, he sat down and observed. He came back at the same time the next day and the day after that and it wasn’t long before he realised that the rat was well aware of his presence and was comfortable with it. Soon, he gave the rat a name – Raymond, and he found himself taking him scraps of food and spending more and more time with him. And he talked to Raymond. Yes, talked to him. Of course, the rat didn’t reply but no matter. Often Michael would make up the rat’s reply himself. By the winter, the relationship had grown such that when, one day, Raymond failed to show up, Michael went frantic with worry. What had befallen his friend? Where could he be? Each day, Michael would hang around the barn, calling to his friend but to no avail. He lost interest in eating and looking after himself. Michael lost interest in life. And when his daughter turned up on a surprise visit with her teenage son, they found Michaels body laying in the barn, next to a half eaten bag of animal food.

PC the catWednesday 24th December 2003
Xmas Eve, and what does old Treg do? Only gets his feet all caught up in the so called stock proof wire fencing, up above the field shelter. When HE turned up this morning with the buckets, HE couldn’t understand why Treg was not in his usual place, by the stream, with Wicky. Then HE spotted Treg, just standing next to the fence, up the hill. HE didn’t want to put Wicky’s bucket down so that Wick could start breakfast before Tregony because that would mean that Wick would finish first and bully Treg off his bucket, as he always does. So HE walked up the hill to Treg, carrying the buckets and the first thing he saw, was that Treg had one leg over the fence with the rest of him on the other side. HE thought that this was the problem so he put the buckets down and got Treg to lift his leg and then pulled the wire so that Treg could put his leg back on the correct side. It was a bit of a tight squeeze, as he put his foot down nearly on top of the other one and HE was afraid that Treg would move his leg back over on the wrong side of the fence again. So he started to try to push old Treg away from the fence, but he just wouldn’t go. Then HE saw what the problem was. Treg had got the wire at the bottom of the fence caught up between his foot and his iron shoe and he was well and truly fixed where he was. After a bit of pushing and shoving, HE decided that there was nothing for it but to cut Treg free. As Treg couldn’t move, HE gave him his breakfast bucket where he stood, took Wicky his bucket down in the field shelter, as usual, and then went off, back to his car, for the wire cutters. HE told HER afterwards, that the hardest part was when HE was kneeling down next to Treg’s feet, trying to cut the wire and Treg bent down to stick his head in his bucket. HE said it was like being squashed to death by a great big hairy bear. Finally HE got Treg free but Treg didn’t move until his bucket was empty. Got his priorities right, has Treggy. He wouldn’t tell me how long he had been caught up like that but Wicky says he can’t remember him coming down for his hay net last night. I wouldn’t mind but this is the second time HE has had to cut Tregony free from that particular fence. SHE says to take the fence down but, I think, HE favours taking Treggy down or words to that effect.

 

 

flowersThursday 25th December 2003
Well, Santa did come today. When we went over the recreation ground, this morning, for our graze under the trees, SHE let me off. Completely! SHE just sat there and watched while she let me graze, completely free! I was so astounded, that I was actually a bit nervous. I mean, what if something had sprung out on me, I might have reared or run or whatever. The very thought put me on edge. To be honest, I’m not sure who was the most nervous, me or HER. She sat and I stood, watching each other, terrified something should happen. Eventually, we both calmed down and I grabbed a few mouthfuls before it was time to go. We were both tremendously relieved when she put my lead rein on again, so that we could walk back, up the hill. I was really quite proud of myself. I didn’t snort – not even once! And then back to the house to tell HIM. HE just said HE expects HE could just tell me to walk myself up the Throwleigh Road to Ninefields and I would do it but SHE just grunted and looked worried. I think SHE was afraid he might do it, HE’s silly enough. So that was the start to my Xmas Day. (I think it’s a capital D? Oh, well, who cares!) Then we walked up the road, under Dry Bridge and stopped for HIM to get HIS breath, as usual. We were just on to the second carrot when up drove two of Treggy’s fellow hossifers in their blue and white striped mote mote. They would down their window to speak but he got in first with a jovial ‘Happy Xmas’. This sort of stopped them in their tracks for a moment. Well, they were only young and it took them a time to adjust. Finally they replied ‘Happy Xmas’ and then went on to ask directions to Ramsley Farm. Now, I might be getting old but aren’t we supposed to ask the policemen for directions, not the other way around? Still it was nice to do them a favour and I knew it would make Treggy very happy. For two reasons really. He would be pleased that we were helpful to his colleagues and secondly he would be very happy to know that it is not just him who doesn’t know things, all the time. After that, we made our way along to Ninefields without further incident and I looked forward to a nice time doing all our planned Xmas activities and then having an extra special Xmas hay net dinner. I’ll let you know tomorrow about all the fun and games we had. I expect you will all be to busy with your presents to bother to read this until after Xmas anyway.

RachelFriday 26th December 2003
After Xmas dinner, Wicky, Treg and I made our way to the top of the top field.

………….

“You go first, Wick!”

“It was your idea, Treggy, so you ought to go first.”

“Oh, come on, you two. Let’s all do it together. It’s a silly idea, anyway, running down the hill backwards, but, it is Xmas Day, so who cares!”

“Right you are, Alli. Ready Treg? On three, no, I’ll make it easy for you Treg, on two. Ready. One, two, wheeeeeeee!’

……….

“Oh …oh….oh, let me get my breath. Wow, that was fun, Wick, what next?”

“I think we better go up and get Treg, Alli. We should never have made it so mathematically challenging for him. He’s still waiting for the start.”

“Oh no, silly old buffer. O.K. Let’s go and get him.”

“Treg, we’ve finished. We’ve been waiting for you at the bottom.”
”You cheated, you started before we got to two. You should have picked a smaller number, if you wanted to get away quickly.”

“Er…He’s right, Wicky, let’s play another game. You pick Treg. What shall we do next.”

“How about that one Wick suggested. You know, who can eat their way through half a hay net the fastest.”

“No point, Treg. You know Wicky would win. I thought we were going to do proper activities. How about a race?”

“Oh, come on, lassie. That’s no fair. You know we wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s not fair, is it Treg.”

“Well, alright. How about that one Treg thought of, walking around the field lame, on three legs?. He would stand a good chance with that, he’s had lots of practice.”

“Yeah. I thought of that one, didn’t I, Alli?”

“Alright lassie. You’re on. Where shall we start?”

“I know, Wick. I know, I can do that one. Let’s start at the beginning.”

“Treg, you idiot. Everything starts at the beginning. The thing is, where is the beginning?”

“Oh, sorry Alli. I can’t do the difficult questions. Maybe Wick knows.”

“Here.”

What, Wick?.

“We’ll start here. Now. Ready. Right. Ready, steady, go!”

And that’s about all I can remember about our Xmas activities. We did our three legged race, chatted a lot, munched a lot, had a little doze. In fact, Xmas was an extremely pleasant time, surrounded by extremely pleasant company. I hope yours was too.

xmas bearSaturday 27th December 2003
A quieter, more restful day today. I was afraid we may have forgotten how to graze but it’s amazing how soon it comes back to you. The weather remains as changeable as ever. This morning there was a bitterly cold wind and yet by this evening everything was too warm again. One bit of news. I was taken by surprise when THEY came to fetch me home half an hour earlier than usual. Wicky and I were up in the road field but Treg was still munching away on his hay net. The weather, as I said, was fine so it couldn’t be because of that. And then, as HE walked me home, HE told me that HE had to drive to Exeter station to pick up Abbie with Ben and Rachel who are paying us a visit. That’s really nice, as I get to give Ben & Rachel, each in turn, a ride as I walk up and back from Ninefields. I shouldn’t say this, as well, but it does have a tendency to result in the odd extra treat or two. I expect I shall see them when they get back from the station. Which reminds me. SHE has taken to going for a walk after late stables, to ease her legs when SHE goes to bed, otherwise she gets pains which keep her awake. Of course, I am busy eating hay, when THEY go out but, I have discovered, that if I suddenly whirl around, when THEY get back from THEIR walk, and pop my head over the stable door, I can usually notch up at least another couple of mints. It’s really amazing what tricks one can learn, being in a field with Wicky for a few months. What that pony doesn’t know about training humans to cough up with the treats, isn’t worth knowing.

 

 

Sunday 28th December 2003
The kids came down to the playing field with us, this morning so I introduced them to my black and white cat friend and they got a laugh out of his antics trying to keep clear of my feet. Then, when we got back to the stable, it was Ben’s turn to come for a ride up to Ninefields. I could tell it was a long while since he had had a ride by the way he mounted. I say ‘mounted’ very loosely. ‘Clambered’ would be a much more suitable word. Still, I shouldn’t speak about him behind his back. He still hasn’t lost his seat. He rides very comfortably and easily, without a care or tense bone in his body. It makes it so much more pleasant for me too. I bush on skylinereally enjoyed being ridden again. Treg was impressed. I saw that he clocked it as soon as I came along with Ben on my back. He told me it brought back lots of pleasant memories of when he used to work in a riding school. It’s strange, isn’t it how we only remember the good bits. I’m sure, like with me at racing stables, Treg must have had quite a few unpleasant times in the riding school, with different riders, several times a day, some of whom may not have been in the best of moods. But you forget all that, when you retire and only remember the good times. Wicky just looked at us both, talking about being ridden and muttered that we were both mad. He doesn’t think that the purpose of horses and ponies is to be ridden by humans or to be used by humans in any way. Humans are only good for one thing, he says, food. Feed and treats and more feed. That’s his motto. Still, I won’t change, neither will Treg. We enjoyed our riding careers. And then, what did the day bring? Nothing much else, out of the ordinary. Going home it was Rachel’s turn to ride and Ben walked along beside, so I gave them a lesson on how to curl your neck round HIM for treats, while you are walking along and not loose your pace or rhythm for a moment. Then, when we got just before Dry Bridge we met that cow, Amber. I never have liked her very much. I usually try to be pleasant when I pass by her stable but she usually just looks away. AND I’ve heard that she has a tendency to kick if she takes against you. The last straw was that when we stopped to speak to her tonight I caught Ben giving her Polos and not me. Well, I was furious. If I hadn’t been compensated on the way down the hill I would have gone in to supper a very unhappy girl. As it was …..

 

 

 

gate on bridgeMonday 29th December 2003
“Alli said you’re not to bully me, Wick. Go away, leave me alone.”

“Whist, laddie, I’m only trying to help you. You know you can’t eat all that. You just need a wee bit o’ help, that’s all.”

“No, Wick. Leave me. I’ll tell!”

“Ya big booby. I’ll get your knees, big as ye are. C’mon, move over and let a man eat.”

“Right. I’ll, I’ll……I’ll go behind the field shelter and put it on the log. Then we’ll see who id laughing loudest.”

“Aw, get awa’ wi ye. Go and hide behind your log, ya lummox. I dinna care who or what ye tell. I’ll just finish your bucket for you an’ then we’ll go up and wait for your friend Alli. See if ‘n I care.”

………….

“Hello, you two. What have you been up to, last night, eh?”

“Alli, Wick’s bullying me again. I told him I’d tell you, Alli. Make him stop, please Alli.”

“What’s all this, Wick. You’ve not been harassing him again, have you?”

“Ach, no lassie. A wee misunderstanding is all. I thought he had finished his bucket an’ I just went over to check to see if it was empty for him, that’s all.”

“You sure, Wicked? You didn’t get your name for nothing, did you?”

“He did bully me, Alli. And he harvested me, like you said. I can’t get any peace and he harvests all my dinners and everything. I hate him. I really do. I hate him for everything.”

“Now, come on Treg. You don’t mean that. Wicky’s your best mate. Who looks after you when I’m not here? Who keeps you company and plays with you and listens to all you human watch stories and all that? You don’t hate Wicky. Really? Do you Treg?”

“Well, I don’t like him to finish my bucket for me. You know I enjoy my breakfasts and suppers. At least I do when he lets me. The only time I get to finish one is when HE is here to guard me in the mornings. I never get to finish my evening ones. He always goes away and leaves us alone. As soon as HE drives away, Wicky is on me like a mad collie, and you know how bad that can be.”

“I do not, lassie, honest. He’s just a wee bit sensitive. He never understands how you have to make certain checks, every now and again, when you’re in charge. Oh, the problems of authority, Alli, you must know it all too well!”

“Don’t you try and get round me, you little pooh, I know what you’re like, remember. Just you keep yourself in hand. If I hear you’ve been …… And you, Treg. Don’t be such a big baby. I can’t be hear to watch over you all the time. Just grow up and look after yourself. You’re twice as big as him.”

Really, the pair of them, want their heads rattled together. Just wait ‘til I get out here full time, again, in the spring. Then they’re in for a spot of discipline!

Tuesday 30th December 2003Tregony
I’ve just remembered something that I meant to tell you, but what with all the festivities and the family coming down and everything, it completely slipped my mind. Treggy has threatened to resign from the Human Watch. Yes, really! A responsibility he loves and which gives him such kudos. It must be something outstanding that has brought him to this, you might think? Well….yes.. and no. To me or Wick it’s something unpleasant but part of life and you have to get on with it. Come to think of it, Wicky doesn’t even find it very unpleasant. Oh well, I’ll tell you about that presently, back to Treg. Do you know what it was that has brought about such a decision? No? I’ll tell you – wormers! That’s right. Plain old, squirt in your gob, wormers! You see, this morning SHE decided that it was time. We’ve been lucky these past few months. SHE has been giving us our wormer dose in powder form, in our feed. SHE thinks we can’t taste it that way but, of course, we can. But, somehow, that one is not so bad and, if you want your dinner, you gulp it down and put on a brave face. But SHE says that worms build up an immunity to one type of wormer so you have to keep changing the type and it was just our festive and jolly Xmas luck that this month’s dose had to be the kind that leaves your tongue coated with a green paste like paint. I was the first to be done, over my stable door, after breakfast, just as I was looking forward to my treat filled walk up the Throwleigh Road to Ninefields. SHE sidles up, turns with her back to me and when I put an expectant, mint seeking mouth forward, SHE jams the syringe in and squirts the stuff down my throat. Well, I tell you, I was not amused. HE tried to placate me with sweets, carrots and even sugar lumps but I wasn’t to be bought off that easily. When we walked up the hill and we stopped for his asthma break, I just took HIS carrots in my mouth and spat them out again. When we got to the gate, SHE drove up and thought she would trick Treggy as she had me. Some hope. He could, of course, smell the thing on my breath (even if I hadn’t warned him anyway). He just started to walk away when HE took my head collar off and put it on Treg. Well, Treg always knows when he is beaten (not like certain little Scots x Dartmoor I could mention) so he stands there and lets HER do it. Then, when she released him, that was it. He stormed off up the field and didn’t stop until he came upon Clarence’s ladies who were standing looking over the hedge. Well, they might only be cows but to Treggy they were an audience, judge and jury all mixed into one. He poured his hearty out to them for at least three hours, so long, in fact, that one of them showed signs of understanding what he was going on about. And that was when he came up with the phrase ‘a resigning matter’. Apparently he couldn’t see the justice of being in an organisation to help humans when they ‘can do this to you!’. I’ll let you know how it works out. Oh yes, Wicky had his too. He said it was not a bad wee snack but could he have carrot flavour next time!

hattie the BerneseWednesday 31st December 2003
Treg has decided to keep his job but to work to rule for a while to make a point. I asked him what point was that and he looked a bit flustered. ‘Well it’s like something you just do, Alli’ he told me and I decided not to pursue it as I have been thinking about my New Year’s Resolution and have decided that I will stop being nasty to Treg and laughing at him and his silly old ways. I mean, it’s not as if he was nasty or anything. He is a lovely big old cuddle and he can’t help being a bit …er… how can I put this nicely?.... a bit elemental, yes, that’s a good word. It doesn’t mean silly or simple or even mentally challenged, just elemental, from a first base sort of approach. So that’s my New Year’s Resolution towards Treggy. I resolve, in 2004, not to call Treggy silly. And Wicky? How about him? In 2004, I resolve to be nice t….er… to try to be nice to Wicky and not flatten my ears or bare my teeth or try to bite lumps out of his bu…….No. That one is too hard to keep. Maybe I won’t bother to include Wick in my resolutions. Now, what else? Oh yes. What they call ‘marish’ behaviour. Should I try to do something about that? Nah! It’s the only bit of fun they get, poor souls, wouldn’t want to spoil it for them. Anyway, it’s overrated, this resolution thing. I bet it’s not even reciprocated. I’d be willing to bet that Wicky is not standing in his shelter right now deciding to be nicer to me and never to cheek me or kick at me again. Is he hell! He’s probably far too busy chasing old Treg about to even think about. And Treg’s just as bad. he lets him do it! Daft as lights the silly ol…….Oh! I can see this resolution is not going to be an easy one to keep. Oh well, we’ll do our best. Now, let me see……Wicky…….I could….no …..

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