Alezane's Diary Archive February 2004
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Sunday 1st February 2004
catkins
“Wicky?”

“Yes, Treg. What can I do for you now?”

“Wicky. Why does HE always say ‘It’s a lovely day’ when HE comes, in the morning, with our buckets?”

“You’ve noticed too, eh, Treg. Even when, like today, it’s bucketing down with rain., HE still said it, didn’t HE?”

“Do you think HE’s alright? You know, in the head, like? It’s very strange behaviour.”

“Well, maybe it’s because HE doesn’t have to stand out in it, like you do, Treg. So maybe it doesnae seem so bad, eh, laddie?”

“If you let me in the field shelter with you, Wick, I wouldn’t have to stand out in the rain, would I?”

“There’s no need for you to come in here, my son. You can hear me perfectly well where you are. I don’t have to raise my voice or suffer any discomfort when I need to tell you to do something, so that’s quite alright.”

“Well, I suppose if you put it like that, Wick, you’re quite right. It’s just that sometimes I wonder what it’s like being in the warm and dry and eating hay instead of standing here, up to my hocks in mud, trying to find a blade or two of last seasons grass, that the sheep have overlooked.”

“I think you do very well, Treg. I’m quite proud of you. And think how crowded you would be, if you tried to get in here with me. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be, this hay. Tough as old horseshoes most of it. You’re really lucky not to have to eat it, Treg.”

“I sometimes wonder where I’d be without you to look after me, Wick. You’re like a ..fath… no, no, like a brother to me. Always there to give me a nip in the right direction and look after my interests. Never without a friendly kick, if I am likely to get in your way or accidentally look at your food. Why, you even warned me to move over to a less deep mud pool, just this morning so that I wouldn’t make you too dirty when I walked alongside you. I really am a very lucky chap, aren’t I?”

“What, you still here Treg? It’s getting difficult to see you now that the rain is falling down so hard. Did you say something?”

“Oh look, here HE comes now. First the jeep pulls up, then HE gets out and unlocks the padlock and opens the gate, now HE goes round the back and opens up. Look, Wick, look, here come the buckets!”

“Right, laddie, ready now, all together, ready now – ‘Hello boys, isn’t it a lovely day? Hello Wick, Hello Treg., here comes breakfast!’”

“Well, maybe HE is not so bad, after all, eh Wick?”

Monday 2nd February 2004
passing tractor
“I suppose it’s the problem with living in Winkleigh. Too provincial! No idea of fashion and style. But you’d think that they would, at least, think twice, before putting it down on paper, wouldn’t you?”

“What are ye on about now, Treg, my auld friend. What’s put the horse fly in your eye now, my man?”

“It’s that Michelle and all that lot from Tare Riding School. Didn’t you see what they wrote in to Alli’s Web Magazine? All about us looking old and that!”

“They said what. Treg?”

“They sent HER an e-mail about seeing our photos and how we’re going grey. You’d think that they’ve never heard of blonde highlights, wouldn’t you. I was saying, maybe the style hasn’t reached them in Winkleigh yet.”

“Possibly, Treg. You never know with that Michelle, if she isn’t just trying to wind you up. She must know that we are just youngsters yet.”

“Yeah, that’s true, Wick. maybe they were bad photos HE sent her? You know HE hasn’t fully got to grips with his new digital camera yet. maybe there’s a fault which makes it look as if we are not really as young ass we are.”

“I suppose blond highlights could look like grey in some lights, Treg. She’s not to know that it is how us Dartmoor studs like to take care of our looks. It’s sort of debonair, isn’t it?”

“Er, well … if you say so, Wick. I didn’t think it had so much to do with the Devon air as to do with moorland fashion statements. We are what we are. Two, youn…er …mature moorland equines with an eye for the fillies, just keeping groomed so that we might be ready, if the chance came.”

“Sad, in a way, isn’t it, Treg. Don’t you feel wasted, sometimes? If only we were better known, we might be better appreciated. Although ….”

“Although, Wick? Not having second thoughts, are you? Do you think it might have been a mistake to have the highlights done, after all?”

“Well, Treg, I was thinking. What if we did attract a couple o’ wee lassies, like. And they came along and wanted to live here at Ninefields wi’ us. I was just wondering, Treg, what they might be eating? They might want to share our buckets, laddie. Or think. Just as the deer, sweet, new green grass comes through, they would move in and start eating it before we could get any.”

“And then, being younger and pushier than us, they might get to the minty, carroty treats before we did and then there would be none left for us.”

“You know what I’m thinking, Treg. Maybe Michelle was right, after all. Maybe we might be just a wee bit older than we look and the sweet young lassies should look elsewhere for a little nuptial grazing.”

“You know, Wick. I can’t remember having my streaks done, now you come to mention it. I suppose they could be natural. You know, just the first signs of grey just starting to make an appearance.”

“Ay. laddie. A great shame, but the puir wee lassies will have to forgo that particular pleasure, this time. Shall we get back to grazing, Treg?”

“Good idea, Wick. Good idea!”

Tuesday 3rd February 2004Riding in the rain
When will I learn to keep my big mouth shut? Was it only Friday that I was saying how SHE used to ride me but that SHE can’t now, because of her heart condition? And then, what does she go and do this evening? The car draws up, as normal. HE gets out and starts to walk down the field with the old boy’s buckets in his arms and then SHE comes up and puts my head collar on. All nice and normal. SHE then leads me out to the car, where the boot is open, so that I can have a little carrot and swede snack before HE comes back to lead me home. So far so good. But then, SHE goes up onto the mounting block, at the gate, and HE holds me while she gets up on my back. I didn’t even have time to finish all the veggies in the boot. Suddenly its ‘Walk on!’ and away we go down the hill, towards Dry Bridge. ‘I hope SHE remembers that I have to have a couple of carrots, as we walk along the road, before we get to our morning snowdrop stop.’ But, no. On we go. Right down the hill and under Dry Bridge, without a stop or chance to look around and up onto the common. HE drove the car back and kept a discreet distance behind us, I imagine so that I wouldn’t remember all the treat stops that I was missing. Then, just before Dry Bridge, HE drove on past us and on down the road. I should have known. As I came past the Y junction, before Anne’s cottage, I saw HIM standing at the bottom of the road, outside my stable, with HIS camera in his eye, as usual. No doubt HE wanted to record the event for my diary but HE would have been better off, as far as I was concerned, if HE had a whole pack of mints in HIS hand, ready to compensate me for my misfortune.

To be honest, although I am moaning, it was very nice to be ridden properly for a change. The only riding that I have been doing is to give the grandchildren lifts up and down from the field. It makes so much difference to have a proper rider on your back. It sort of ‘fits’ somehow. And it really was a pleasure, I hope for both of us. I will admit my muscles ached just a little bit, overnight, but it was a feeling that brought a lot of satisfaction. I am now looking forward to the nice, cool but bright, Spring days when we can all go out for a gentle wander along the bridle paths, with HIM up on old Treg, as well. That is the best time. The grass will be coming through and the hedgerows will start to become interesting again but the flies will not yet have commenced their torture. There is nothing better than a nice hack out in good company and fine weather. Wick will have to stay behind but, as long as the grass is getting tasty, he wont mind too much and we can tell him all about it, when we get back.

 

 

 

Wednesday 4th February 2004The team
Well, it wasn’t just a freak. Even though the day had turned out very windy, SHE still rode me home tonight. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to demand extra rations. I did think I had retired. Mind you, I can’t really complain. I probably get far more to eat than I ought to have. Not my min meals, of course. SHE works those out with some very scientific formula and then weighs them out to the milligram. No, it’s those little extras that I have learned to extract, just by looking at THEM. HE, particularly is a pushover, something to do with his upbringing, I think. I have only to look a wee bit sad and HE gets all guilty and tries to console me. The animal food manufacturers must make fortunes from people like HIM. I can’t remember if I have told you but I’ve now got HIM coming out with a carrot, first thing in the morning, even before HE has made HIS own coffee.

So what can I tell you about today? Not a lot, really. Oh, I don’t think I told you about the stream, on Sunday. It had been raining hard in the morning, when HE walked me up the road. I didn’t mind too much, because I knew Wicky would have saved me a place in the field shelter. For some reason, Treg doesn’t seem to like it much, in there. He seems to prefer standing just outside, in the rain. We still can all hold a conversation because he is not that far away while, at the same time, the shelter doesn’t get too crowded and you don’t have to keep telling Treg to leave that hay net alone, if you fancy it. His preference for standing outside seems to suit everyone.

So there we were, standing around eating (or in Treg’s case, dripping) while the stream that passes between the road field and the home field just got higher and higher. And it went from being a fairly gentle, babbling little stream into a loud, raging torrent. Really, it was quite interesting to watch. Until, that is, Treg poked his head in the shelter and asked ‘Do you think HE will be able to bring our buckets across that?’ Well, you should have seen Wicky’s face. It was a picture. You could see the thoughts passing by, one by one. ‘There HE is, buckets in hand. Buckets full of lovely, tasty short feed. Short feed mixed with cut up carrots, apples and swede. Delicious supper that makes you feel all warm and comfortable inside so that you can have a nice doze afterwards. But the river’s too high. HE tries to cross and the current trips HIM and the buckets plunge into the raging torrent and are lost for ……’ I won’t go on. I think you know what I mean. And what happens, in reality? Up HE comes, strides through the stream, puts the buckets down, puts my head collar on and leads me down, through those gushing waters and out before I had time to think. And to think that I used to be scared of rivers, when I first came to live here. Mind you, the thought of my own bucket, standing there in my stable may just have had a tiny bit to do with it.

Thursday 5th February 2004Passing Margaret's
HE did it again, tonight when we came down the hill towards the house. Three night in a row now, I’ve been ridden home. Last night, HE just drove past us and waited for us to get back. But tonight, there HE was, with HIS new, black camera in HIS eye. Now I am quite used to being photographed. Obviously by HIM but even before, in my racing days, there were always photographers around. So what made me nervous this evening, I’m really not sure. Probably it was that HE was standing there, clicking away, as I walked up and then, at the last second, before I turned in to the house, HE suddenly moved to the other side of the road. Now, if you are a prey animal and something does anything quick and unusual, you tend to at least get prepared for flight. And when that something is as grotesque as a black and shiny eyed creature that just might be a dragon – well! And there THEY go again with the ‘silly old girl, what’s the matter? aren’t you a dafty?’ etc. But I was cool. I didn’t say a word, just ignored THEM and when THEY un-tacked me, I just walked off, calm as you like, into my stable and straight to my bucket.

The, of course, your brain starts going, thinking up all the clever moves you could have made, to get even with them. And if they spoke horse language, then you’d tell them a thing or two. Make them sorry for their bad manners and condescending ways. Even make them walk home on their own, instead of on my back. It’s amazing how smart you can be, with hindsight. (That’s a funny word. It’s almost as if you could see out of your ….Oh well, never mind!)

After I had ranted and raved for an hour or more, I started to get a bit dozy and somehow none of it really mattered any more. After all, I only did what was natural for me and HE only did what was the usual stupid human thing and why can’t they grow up and start to worry about the really importa….. Oh dear, there I go again. What’s the point of going over and over it again. It only ruins a good sleep, as Wicky would say. And, as Wicky would say, again – none of it really matters, as long as the feed buckets keep coming. It must be delightful to have such a simple, one sided view of the world. Now Treggy – there’s a complicated individual. Remind me to tell you more about him, another day.

Friday 6th February 2004
“I see SHE didn’t ride Alli home tonight, Wick.”

“Mmmch, mmmmnch.”

“Oh sorry, Wick, you still eating. SHE does give you a bit extra at night, doesn’t SHE?”

“Mmmmmmh. Canna stop, laddie. Wi ye in a minnit mmmmmch.”

“Don’t you rush, Wick. Take your time and enjoy yourself. I can still remember my last bucket. It only seems like two minutes ago. Really tasty.”

Having a rest“Mmmmmmh It were only two minutes ago, you big lummox. Mmmmmmmmh.”

“That’s probably why I can remember it then, Wick. Aint memory a wunnerful thing? You know, if it wasn’t for memory, I wouldn’t know who I was talking to, eh, er.. wasyername. Only kidding, Wick. I knew it was you, all along. You see, no one else is that short. Well, except the rabbits of course and I can tell you aint a rabbit because your tail is too long.”

“Have you finished, you big baboon? I can talk now, my bucket’s empty. You didn’t leave any, did you, Treg?”

“If only I had known, Wick, I would have left you some, of course. Maybe next time?”

“I sometimes get the feeling that there’s more to you than you let on, old Treg. You’re not making fun of me and my appetite are you sonny?”

“There probably is more of me somewhere, Wick. There’s all those bit that the farrier cuts off my hooves. Where did they go, I wonder. And then, what happens to my nice warm, teddy bear coat when the spring comes. that goes somewhere too. I think there must be quite a lot more of me. How about when the vet came along and ….”

“All right, all right, Treg. Let’s not bring that subject up. Makes my eyes water just to think about it. And anyway, I’m sure you know what I meant. You often try and come over as a big simple chap so that people will dismiss you and let you get away with murder. It’s all an act, Treg, isn’t it?”

“I didn’t mean to do it, Wick. Honest. How was I to know that the mouse was standing there, right under my foot. It wasn’t murder, not even mouseslaughter just a plain simple old accident.”

“What are ye blathering about now, laddie. I tell you what. Why not come inside the field shelter tonight? Keep warm and dry. I don’t think this weather is ever going to ease up. It wouldn’t surprise me if we woke up one morning and found that the field shelter had floated away to the bottom of South Zeal village”

“I’m not coming in there if it’s going to float away, Wick. Not as if it were Noah’s Ark, least you get to go with a mare in that.”

“Ah! But what if that mare was Alli? Fancy being stuck in a boat with her for, what was it, forty days and forty nights, or was that something else? Whatever. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

“You know what, Wick? We don’t half talk a lot of rubbish, don’t we, when we’re stood in the shelter on a rainy night?”

“Aye, laddie. Maybe we do. But then, what else is there?”

Saturday 7th February 2004Mind the cars
We had another ride home tonight. I thought it went very well but SHE stated moaning, just because I don’t like walking through lakes (well puddles, really) that gush across the road and are very threatening. And then you’d think SHE hadn’t heard about the Devon big cats, that are roaming around the countryside. They reckon they are either escaped wild animals from private zoos or the progeny of them. Some say pumas others leopards. But I’ve seen them and they are enormous great, ferocious, ravening lions. Well, not actually seen them, as such but I seen the bushes parting where they track through the undergrowth and I’ve heard their loud roars from behind hedges. I’ve felt they breath and their great red eyes on me as I walk along and SHE has the effrontery to criticise me for not walking along the edge of the road. And who would SHE blame, if we were pounced upon? Who would she rely on to carry HER away to safety? Me, of course. There is just no pleasing humans. If you walk in the middle of the road to avoid attack and if you start, ready for flight at the first sign of danger, what do they do? Do they say ‘thank you, Alli’? No, all one gets is criticism and moaning. I’ve a good mind to just go and let them get caught. At least, I would, if it didn’t mean that I would get caught too!

Oh well, lets change the subject. I’m getting as bad as SHE is. I’ve noticed a funny independent streak in old Treg lately. He goes off on his own, up the field, sometimes and he stays where he is, when we both move off. There was a time, when I first came here, when I couldn’t move without nearly treading on him, he kept so close. And, he would never answer back. ‘Yes, Alli, no Alli’ he would say, whatever I wanted or didn’t want. ‘You lay down, Alli, I’ll look out for you’, he would say or ‘what shall we do next, Alli?’ That was another of his favourite sayings. Now it’s me who has to ask him what he’s doing today or invite him to join Wicky and me when we go off into another field. It started, in a small way, when he joined the Human Watch and got his log, round the back of the field shelter. I think having to enter something on that once or twice a day both made him think and gave him a sense of responsibility. He was on his own then with no one else to tell him what to do. When he had made a decision, he found that it was not so hard, after all and so he made a few more. Now, he’s doing it all the time. Maybe it’s a good thing, who knows? It does make you wonder though. I mean, where will it end? Will we be having Wicky going on a diet next? I shudder!

Sunday 8th February 2004Off we go again
Things were going quite well, as usual, this morning. I’d had my breakfast and had avoided too much grooming by keeping my head just that little bit high and mobile. And then HE came back from seeing to the old boys and gave me a bit of carrot that he had left over from Treggy’s share. Now Treg may be a bit mature but he still likes to munch on a man size carrot. No little thin thing or cut up piece for him. So, I grabbed this left over, largish chunk and walked on with HER for a short walk while HE got ready to take me up the field. Now whether if was the size or the eating on the move, I don’t know. But something got lodged in my mouth and I spent the next ten minutes trying to dislodge it. Both HE and SHE were getting quite worried, and rightly so, I’ve seen the size of those vet’s bills. Then there was an almighty row started by the blackbirds in the hedge opposite which quite caught my attention. And, do you know what? When I came back to myself, the irritation had gone. Funny that!

We didn’t ride home tonight so HE had the honour of leading me home. At least HE understands about the dangers of walking too near the edges, although most motorists don’t seem to see HIS logic. I think I’ve told you how HE embarrasses me sometimes by calling out to Amber in his feeble attempt at neighing. I always look away and maybe she thinks I’m snooty. Either that or she thinks I’m as daft as HE is. Anyway, tonight, we were just walking up to Dry Bridge when Amber let out a very loud neigh to us. HE was delighted and walked me over to the gate where she was standing. HE was so pleased that she had answered HIM that HE said lots of nice things to her while we were rubbing faces and whispering to each other. It really made us laugh that HE thought she was being so nice, when, in fact, she said, she did it to ridicule his puny efforts at talking horse. She explained that she didn’t look at me for she didn’t want to embarrass me any further for she knew what pains humans can be. We were just saying good bye and winking at each other when he rewarded our ‘good’ behaviour by giving us both a couple of mints. I must admit then, that I felt a little bit guilty for laughing at HIM. But don’t worry. It didn’t last.

We were just walking up to the stable when I noticed that the sheep have gone from the strip of land opposite. They didn’t seem to have been there that long but they have eaten all the available grass and so must have gone off to better grazing. Just as I was contemplating a field with no edible grass when up came the owners of the field with their new dog, Dori. THEY used to look after their other dog, Hattie, who developed an illness and died. She was a perfect dog with not an ounce of spite or aggression in her. Even our cats liked her. A great, big, cuddly teddy bear of a Bernese, Hattie was so nice that they had to find another one, just like her. Dori is a big, bouncy Bernese puppy and, as this was my first meeting with her, I think she is going to be alright. One thing was for sure, she was in no way in awe of me.

Monday 9th February 2004James and Tanya
It was James’ birthday today. HE told me. Now, I remember James as he has been to visit me for a few years now. He has a thing about horses and the countryside and has come over Ninefields a few times to have picnics and, strangely, to drink the water from our stream. I say strangely, not because there is anything wrong with the water, it’s much nicer than the stuff they have to drink from their taps. I should know, they fill my water bowl in the stable from it. I do my best not to drink it unless I am desperate. It’s alright for dunking your hay in, if it is particularly dusty, but drinking, no thanks! No, I say strangely, for it does look a little odd, a human putting his head into the water like we do, to drink. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see James again, this summer. It will be interesting too, to see if he brings that same filly that he brought last year. She was alright, she was. She comes from a farm in Ireland and so is quite used to horses and farm animals. Not only that, she was quite happy driving HIS beaten up old jeep. She reckons it’s no noisier than her dad’s tractor. There was just one problem with her. She was nice and good with animals but you did need a translator with her to understand everything she said. Maybe it’s just a question of tuning in though for James didn’t seem to have any trouble understanding her. He did everything she told him to do. Good luck to them. And happy birthday to him.

What else? Not a lot, today. SHE is keeping up her riding, which is nice for both of us but it’s funny to get used to no saddle and even stranger to have a bridle but no bit. I expect it’s alright because we are not doing anything very exacting and even if she didn’t tell me where to go, I have done it , up and down, for a number of years now, so I reckon I know without having to be told. There are stories without number of horses who could easily find their way home from the inns and hostelries with a slumbering rider on their backs. And, I guess, all the stories are true. All we might need directions for, is if the human wants to do something different, abnormal or dangerous. And they do, don’t they? I don’t know where they get their strange ideas from. If they would just sit quietly and let us take them to the best grass and the safest spots, what a much happier life they could have!

Tuesday 10th February 2004
I had a funny old experience today. The day went by as normal. The weather was alright and we all went up to the top fields as there is a little bit of life coming back into the grass, these days. Oh, we’ve got a new lot of sheep in the fields now. I don’t think that they are what you might call ‘legal’ immigrants but, at the same time, I don’t think that they are the usual ‘moorland strays’. they look to me like .. for a walk ..some of Michael’s ones who have got separated from the rest of their flock by squeezing through a gap in the hedge or something. Anyway, they are no trouble, we just ignore them. What was I saying? Oh, yes. Well the day went by and I lost all track of time. We made our way, bit by bit, down to the road gate, in the afternoon, as we always do. And then, after all the grazing and munching of the day, I felt a little bit drowsy, so I lay down for a little nap.

I’d swear I’d not shut my eyes for two minutes, when up comes the scary green car with THEM and the tea time buckets. Somehow, in the back of mind, I had the thought that I must get up so that I could walk home and have my tea. Something made my muscles work and dragged me to my feet, and I started to walk over towards them. But the problem was, my mind was still not fully awake and after walking about ten metres, my legs just buckled under me and I flopped down again. I was just conscious of HIM walking off down the field with the tea time buckets and old Treg and Wicky strolling behind him and then I blacked out again. I don’t remember much, after that. I only know what HE told me happened. Apparently SHE spoke to me and put on my head collar and managed to get me to my feet, although shakily. SHE walked me out of the gate but I wouldn’t eat the treats SHE puts in the back of the car for me. SHE put a carrot into my mouth but it fell out again. I was looking so much in danger of collapsing in the road that SHE walked me round to the bridle path and up to Harry, who was looking over the wall at me. Apparently, Harry found me hilarious for he galloped up and down his field laughing his head off. His human, Faith came up and couldn’t do a thing with him for ages.

Then HE came back and started walking me back home but HE was very scared that I would drop at any moment and sleep by the roadside. For some reason that I have no idea about, when I approached Amber’s field I called out loudly to her and she replied, several times, equally loudly. HE eventually got me home without a carrot or mint passing my lips. This worried HIM most of all, I believe. HE was sure that I was ill, if I was refusing treats. As soon as I got into my stable, HE only just had time to get my head collar off, when I collapsed to the floor and fell asleep. HE dashed in to look up the vetinary encyclopaedia while SHE stood and watched over me, as I slept. SHE tells me that he had just read the part about ‘Narcolepsy’ when I opened my eyes, looked around and got up. I can remember wondering what I was doing here in my stable when the last thing I remembered was laying down for a nap in Ninefields.

It’s been a funny sort of day!

Wednesday 11th February 2004What's in the car?
“It was terrible, Alli, this morning. We had a real catastrophe, didn’t we Wick?”

“Aye, laddie. You never said a truer ward there.”

“Good morning, Alli. How are you today, Alli? Did you get over your sleeping problem alright, Alli? Nice of you to ask, Treg, it’s good to see you too!”

“I’m sorry, Alli. It’s just that I wanted you to know, before we got down to any serious eating.”

“What other kind of eating is there, laddie? You don’t really need the descriptive word.”

“Oh, all right, Wick, there’s no need to be so picky. Let him get it out and then we can all start the day’s eating.”

“You see, Alli. Things started out alright. He arrived and shouted to us what a nice day it was. Then he opened the gate and brought our buckets down the field.”

“Aye. And for once, he was right. It was a very nice morning. It was dry and not icy but not too hot either. So me and Treg looked forward to a nice breakfast, before you came along.”

“And then, he cleaned up the mess around the shelter like he always does and fed the birds, who were waiting and squawking in the hedge. That was all like normal.”

“And, lassie, after he had picked out our feet and washed our eyes and other bits, he went about refilling the hay nets, just like always.”

“And then, Wick, because he had given me a bit of a groom, yesterday, he went and got the brush and started on you, didn’t he?”

“He did, son. He didn’t wait for me to stop eating, he brushed my mane and forelock with my head stuck min my bucket.”

“So what’s all this about something terrible happening, then? Surely you can stand a bit of brushing, now and then?”

“It wasn’t that, Alli. Just when he started on Treg’s tail, after he finished with me, he heard a bit of a noise and he wandered off.”

“Wandered off?”

“Yes, Alli. He still had the brush in his hand, didn’t he Wick? And he wandered off, and didn’t come back.”

“So this disaster was ….”

“Yes, Alli. We didn’t get our carrot treats or our apple biscuits and especially….”

“We didnae get our minty treats or anything, lassie. A complete tragedy! It has been a terrible morning.”

“We wandered up to the gate but we still didn’t get any treats.”

“I thought he looked odd when he came back to my stable this morning. Are you sure you didn’t do anything to upset him?”

“No, Alli, nothing. Oh, there was just one other thing. Someone smashed into his car while it was parked up by the gate. Hope they don’t do that very often. The noise could put you off your breakfast”

Thursday 12th February 2004Tregony
“Wicky?”

“Aye, Treg?”

“When’s your birthday, Wick?”

“Spavined if I know, Treg, why’d you ask?”

“I just felt like doing something special for you, Wick. You’re always so good to me. I wanted to do something nice for you, for a change.”

“Well, laddie, that’s very nice o’ ye, I must say. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember being particularly good to you. But if you’re happy, I am.”

“Can I ask you something else, Wick?”

“Can I stop you?”

“No, it’s just, well, hearing you, you know, er, swearing just now, I wondered just how many swear words you know, Wick?”

“Why all the sudden interest, Tregony.? Are you planning on turning nasty or something?”

“No, Wick, nothing like that. I just admire you so much that I’m sure you know hundreds and hundreds of really bad words, Wick, and I could boast to my friends about you.”

“You have friends, Treg? Really?”

“Oh come on, Wick. You know what I mean. Go on, say another bad word. A really bad one.”

“What, you mean like hunger or diet? Ones like that?”

“No, Wick, you know what I mean. Like just now when you said spavkneed. Tell me more like that.”

“Oh that. Well, it’s east, Treg. You just have to listen when Phil or Andrew or Rodger come along. Or any of the other vets. They say all sorts of words that you can use as swear words.”

“Oh, you mean, like ‘fetlocks’. That sort of thing?”

“That’s it Treg. Only you have to say it with an exclamation mark, you ken? Like this – fetlocks! See?”

“That’s great, Wick. I understand now. Just wait till old Harry goes bye next. I’m going to just let him get past the gate so’s he can’t come back again and I’ll shout out in my loudest voice, er, er, that it. I’ll shout out – Poltice!!”

“That’ll do it, Treg. There’s no room for spelling in swear words laddie!”

Friday 13th February 2004Over the gate
We didn’t ride home last night, as it was too wet. Not that it was raining, you understand, it was just that my coat was wet and SHE would have got a wet bottom. I didn’t mind. It gave me a chance to walk home with HIM and tell HIM what to write in the diary. We have given up doing it every day now, as HE tells me HE is too busy to type it every day. The problem is that I sometimes forget what happened after a day or two so now I’ve taken to telling Treg, so that he can remind me. Talk about the blind leading the blind or in our case the daft leading the forgetful! Some nights, while we are waiting for THEM to come, I ask Treg to remind me what I have to tell him. His first reply is always something like ‘don’t forget our buckets’. I then have to go into a long and detailed explanation of what it is I am asking him. Usually, by the time Treg understands the question, I have remembered, anyway. It’s my own fault, I suppose, but it does make him feel important, so it’s worth all the hassle.

It’s Friday the 13th today. Supposed to be unlucky, so some say. I remember when I was racing there was an awful lot of superstition like that around. While some people studied form and placed their bets accordingly you had about twice as many who would base their choice on a series of superstitions and lucky charms. In fact, both methods were a waste of time because the result was usually what we horses decided upon, before the race. We’d have a bit of a chat in the ring and the ride up to the start and, depending on how we were feeling that day, you know – happy, grumpy etc., we’d agree how we would run the race and how we would position ourselves. Of course, sometimes it didn’t work out, if there was an arrogant or particularly nasty horse in the field. Then they would agree something but ignore it when the race was on. By and large though, it was a good system and it worked. We rarely let anything silly happen like an out and out favourite losing by miles. The trouble with that was always the aggravation afterwards, it just wasn’t worth it. But, it was a bit of fun and it was always good to get one over on the humans who really took it all far too seriously. A good day’s racing for us was a bit of a romp, play a few games and have a good old chat with old friends. Who came in what position at the end of race just didn’t come into it. Those were the days. we had some good times.

However, I’m starting to wonder if there might not be something in this unlucky Friday 13th after all. Yesterday SHE didn’t ride because my coat was too wet. Today, Friday 13th, SHE brings up my saddle and girth. How I hate that girth! Still, it did feel nice to be ridden properly again. I just mustn’t let HER know that’s what I think.

Saturday 14th February 2004A great day
Something nasty today, I’m afraid. Do you remember I told you about seeing what HE calls a ‘dear deer’, when we stopped for a bite along the Throwleigh road. Well this morning, HE found a dead deer, in almost the same spot. It had been knocked down by a car, probably some time in the night, and was lying there, in the Throwleigh road, in a pool of blood and tufts of hair. HE saw it as HE was driving up to Ninefields to give the old boys their morning feed and, as you are, HE was too shocked by it to do anything, at the time. It stayed in his mind while HE cared for the lads and HE decided that HE must move the body out of the road, on HIS way back. Apparently, though, when HE got back to the scene, it had gone. HE had seen a large horse box go by, while HE was in the field shelter, so HE supposes that the hunt had been called out to dispose of the carcase.

Of course, I didn’t see any of this, as HE walks me up after the old boys have eaten. HE told me all about it, as we walked along and then, when we got to the spot, I could see for my self, the blood and the hair tufts – all that remained of that poor, lovely creature. I spent a long time at that spot, looking and sniffing and I could sense the horror of what must have happened. I’ve seen it myself, before. They will just rush and jump across that road without any heed of what might be coming. Not like a horse, which is always wary and listening out, particularly for traffic. That poor animal must have run down the slope, from Ramsley Common, leapt the little hedge straight into the road and straight into the oncoming vehicles bonnet. The poor driver must have had a shock, as well. A sad and horrible accident. No ones fault but sad, never the less. It quite upset me all morning and I know it did HIM as well. I told Treg and Wick about it, when I got there. They said that they didn’t hear anything last night but I expect that it was too far down the road and, anyway, the night is full of strange noises, including cars and lorries, so they tend not to take any notice. I have a horrible feeling that the debris will remain on that stretch of road for quite a while yet and I will be remind every time I walk past. Let’s hope for a good downpour of rain to wash that piece of road clean.

Sunday 15th February 2004Treg thinking
“Treggy, come over here a moment, will you, Treg?”

“That’s funny, Wicky. I usually call out to you first. What do you want?”

“Tell me all you know about St Piran.”

“Do you mean the St Ledger. You know, what Alli is always going on about?”

“I thought you were supposed to be a Cornishman? St Piran, you poltice, you. The patron saint of Cornwall. That’s who I am taking about, dummy.”

“Oh! You know, I’ve been in Devon now for so long, I’d almost forgotten. St Piran. Oh, yes.”

“Well?”

“Well, what, Wick? I was listening, honest.”

“Listen very carefully, Tregony. Please tell me what you know about St Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall, where you allegedly grew up. Gottit?

“Oh? Right, Wick. Well, he was very tall.”

“You’re not trying to get at me because I am a bit vertically challenged, I hope?”

“No, it’s true. They dug up this very long skeleton and they were sure that it was him.”

“How did they know?”

“Well, you do. When it’s about saints and things. It’s to do with something called miffs and leg ends.”

“I’m starting to lose you, Treg. What has your leg end got to do with St Piran?”

“Can’t say that I rightly know, Wick. But that’s what they used to say, when I lived in Cornwall. Only they didn’t call it Cornwall. They used to say Kernow and then they would mutter away in the kegs of smuggled brandy that they had found and secreted about their persons.”

“And the leg ends?”

“Well, they used to say it was a leg end that the Irish chucked him into the sea, in Ireland, with a mill stone round his neck, and he came up in Kernow and built a chapel in the sands. But it got covered over by the sands and they cant find it now.”

“Who had had the brandy, the Irish, so that they couldn’t tie a decent knot or the Kernish (is that what they call themselves?) for believing that story in the first place?”

“Ah, Wick. That’s where the miffs come in. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, if it’s a miff. Whereas, if it’s a leg end ……”

“Do you know, Treg. I’m beginning to lose interest.”

“Then, why did you ask about St Piran, Wick?”

“Someone told me it was his saint’s day next month and I thought that, as you were from Kernwall, or wherever, you might like to celebrate.”

“What a lovely idea, Wick. Do let’s. And I’ll tell you some more about his miffs.”

“But not his leg ends, eh, Treg?”

Monday 16th February 2004Staying there
Well, I don’t know whether to be pleased or upset. We moved to trotting, this evening. SHE came up with the saddle and stuff again, in the evening and, on the way home, SHE surprised me by asking me to trot, when we were only a little way along the Throwleigh Road. Now, I’ll let you into a little secret. I’m no good at trotting. Not the kind you do along roads, anyway. You see, being a racehorse, you are not really required to trot. You either walk around the parade ring for the punters to watch you move so they can decide where to put their money or you canter up to the starting post. Once there it’s – one, two, gallop! So, when have you ever noticed a racehorse trotting? It’s just something that they don’t bother to teach you. Of course, it is a stride that comes naturally, if you are out in the fields with your mates but that is a very different thing to having to carry a human on the rising trot along a bridle path or road. But, that was what SHE wanted so that was what I did. And, do you know what? SHE had the cheek t0o tell HIM that there was something wrong with my trot! I could have mentioned that there was something wrong with her riding while standing in the stirrups, like all good jockeys do, but I was too refined.

And, not content with moaning about my trot, SHE asks me to do it three, or was it four, times, on the way home. Well, by the time I got to my stable, we were both a bit out of breath. You have no idea how unbalancing it is to have someone sitting on your back and bumping up and down, while you are doing your best to bob along, as if you were Wicky finding yourself late for tea. And, to crown it all, just as I got up to Margaret’s gate (she lives next door, you understand) her little Staffie hurled itself at the gate, shrieking and barking, as she does. Of course, it made me jump into defensive action and that unsettled HER as well, although, to give HER credit, SHE took it in my stride (so to speak).

The only other event worth mentioning today was passing the place where the deer was killed. Although it was a couple of days old now, I still couldn’t pass it without having a good old sniff around and a full inspection of the area. You may think it horrible, I know HE did, but I had to just give a little lick at the spot where the blood had been to take it all in. HE pulled me sharply away but I think HE did it for my own good. I do know that it made us both sad and silent as we walked the rest of the way to Ninefields. I expect the day will come pretty soon, when I will be able to pass that spot without remembering. I am not sure if that is good or bad. Life goes on, I know but it is a shame if no one remembers.

Tuesday 17th February 2004mud?
“Phhhhewww! Wicky, do you have to?”

“It’s no me, laddie, it’s coming from over there, those fields.”

“Is it? Right, I’ve heard about them. I’d better make a report, straightaway.”

“Whoa, laddie. What do you mean a report?”

“It’s them, what HQ has been warning about. And to think. It’s here! Right where we are living. I never thought that they would bother with us.”

“What are you on about, Treg. Is this something to do with your police duties? To do with Human Watch?”

“You’re so right it is, Wick. It’s those terrierists. They’ve come here to wreak their dastardly actions on us, in the country.”

“Is it something to do with dogs then, Treg?”

“No, not terriers, Wick. Terrierists. Them wot is trying to … well, er, trying to do…well, whatever it is that they are trying to do. It’s them.”

“You mean it’s them that are causing that terrible smell all over the fields?”

“That’s exactly right, Wick. They’ve got what they call ‘Weapons of Crass Corruption’ or WCC’s, as we call ‘em. They come down here, down the Throwleigh Road, with their WCC’s, trying to cause havoc. And stink!”

“Why don’t you do something about it then? Who are they?”

“Oh, we know who they are, oh yes. They’re probably operating out of the King’s Arms. They call themselves ‘Al’s Cider’ Cell’s of ‘em all over the world, as far as Winkleigh.”

“But what are they doing, making all these unpleasant smells. Treg?”

“Ah. That’s a small proportion of ‘em. Calls themselves ‘Slurrycide Bombers’. They go around all the farmyards near the pubs and collect all the slurry and then they get a lot of old beer barrels and fill them up and strap them to their waists and cover them up with their coats and ….”

“Wait a minute, Treg. How do they manage to conceal them under their coats?”

“Big coats, Wick. Frogging big coats. Goes right round the barrels and them too.”

“But even if you couldn’t see the barrels, you must be able to smell them, surely?”

“Ah, yes, well. That’s where they Slurryciders be very clever. You see, they don’t walk about, else they would get caught. They ride on tractors. Takes them right up to the fields where they want to cause their grief. And then. Whang, splat! They jump off and the barrels burst. And that’s it. Another terrierist mission accomplished.”

“You see to know a lot about it, Treg. When do you expect any arrests?”

“Just as soon as we can find someone with a very poor sense of smell, really”

“That wouldn’t be you then, Treg, by any chance?”

“Well, I have been practicing all day to say ‘Clarence and Roger - you’re nicked!”

Wednesday 18th February 2004leaves
In the mornings, we generally have a bit of a stand around and hay munch before we go out to the fields for the serious business of the day – grass eating. And standing there, as we exchange stories and groans and grumbles, we look at the birds. I’m sure I’ve told you before that HE feeds them, every morning. There is, of course, always the robin. Sometimes there is more than one, but not often. They are such nasty, aggressive little creatures, to their own kind, that I think each one must have its own territory and that is it. Then there are the sparrows – hedge sparrows, naturally. Not so many of them, either. Even I can remember when they were the most common bird that you saw. Not any more. The ones we do see appear to be quite healthy and energetic. I’ve heard HIM say that some humans blame the pet cats. While that could be true in the towns, we don’t have that many out in the fields. We have Annette’s tabby and white (I’m sure it was him who got our Swallows, last year. But normally he is full to the top with rats and mice and stuff and can’t be bothered to chase sparrows. Not much meat on them anyway, he tells us. Chaffinches we have, aplenty. Nice bumptious bobbing little creatures they are. Not as vivid as the robin but colourful all the same. The most colourful are the tits. All sorts, we get. And plenty of them. They and the others all seem to live together in harmony, perfectly well. Not like the blackbirds. I’ve never know such a species for arguing and squabbling and generally being grumpy and noisy. You get a blackbird up in a tree singing and it is one of the nicest sounds you could ever want to hear. Get more than one around some food and it doesn’t matter which sex they are they fight and chase each other off. They work so hard at it that they don’t have time to eat themselves and the other birds get a far greater share of the food. Stupid birds, the blackbirds. Then there’s the magpies. Always two but not often at the same time. Very cautious is the magpie. Two fly over from the line of tree on the other side of the Throwleigh Road. They circle and maybe one lands quite near the food. Then that one flies off without having anything and perches on a bush by the stream while the other comes down. Many’s the time when, if that one is scared of something, they both fly away again. Other times they will both settle for a few minutes and peck and move and peck and move. And, then they are off. While they are there, the rooks fly in. Not one, not two but at least half a dozen. They appear unafraid of anything but they have been watching and waiting in the tree for a long time before they sail down. The most peculiar thing about then is the way they eat. Peck – jump backwards, peck – jump backwards. SHE thinks it is because they are used to pulling worms from the ground when they need to jump backwards to get it out. When I first came here, we used to have quite a few wagtails. Now, they are a rarity. Rather like the pheasant. We still get one or maybe even two but they come after we have all gone away. I am afraid the bulk of the food is gone by that time but it seems to suit then best.

I’m running out of time now but I just thought I’d mention that we all had out coats off today. Or to be more precise, the two old boys had their coats taken off and I didn’t have mine put on. What a glorious feeling to be able to roll ones own coat in the mud again!

Treg jumpingThursday 19th February 2004
I was passing by the rear of the field shelter, yesterday, when I saw Treg was behind there, presumably doing something with his Human Watch log. So I walked a little closer and eavesdropped on him ……

‘Forelocking statistics, I hate em. Dunno why I should have to present an annual report every month, ‘specially when there aint been a lot happening. Just a lot of red tape if you ask me. Oh well, let’s make a start. Question one. Number of crimes in your area, subdivided into type of crime. 1a. Number of Abductions. Now, what did I put last month? Better keep it in line with that. let me see. Oh yes 398! Well, I’ll say 380 this month; make it look like I’m keeping crime down. Wonder what habductions are? Oh well, never mind. What’s next? 1b. Number of Assaults. Yeah, that’s an easy one. Just the one, really. And if Wicky keeps on licking it out of its holder, there won’t be any soon. Never did know why he likes them salt licks. Next, 1c. Theft of Equipment. Now, how am I supposed to know that? I can’t be everywhere so how ’m I to know if a human has had his equipment nicked? No one ever tells me of any. Still, I better put something down or they might close the Throwleigh Road Branch down. What shall we say, er….there’s here, there’s Michael’s farm, there’s Annette’s, oh let’s say 5 for each, that’s ….er….74! That’s it. Great. That’s page one done. No0w what? Oh no. Question 2. Clearance rates against targets. Now what in poltice is that meant to be? 2a. Conviction of Habducters – Target 95% Actual …..? Cor! I must of done better than that. Whoever filled this in didn’t put any in that ‘Actual’ space. So if I just put in 3 and a half that must be better than him, mustn’t it? Now what’s 2b? Target Assault clearance 80% Actual …..? Well, like I said, Wicky’s nearly cleared it. I expect he will if Alli helps him. Let’s put down a whole 1 for that. There! That looks good, don’t it? Now what’s this last one? 1c. Number of items recovered as a percentage of items stolen. Now, what did I put down for stolen? Let’s see. Oh yes, 74. Well if I say ‘most of them’, now how do you work that out as a presentable?’

Well, at that point, I quietly crept away. It was pretty painful, listening to the old man suffer. Rather him than me. Those statistics sound really difficult. You have to admire Treg for sticking to it, don’t you? I went and asked Wicky what he thought. I asked him if he admired Tregony for sticking at it. ‘Daft’, he answered, ‘daft as old sheep. Just think o’ the time he could be eating and there he is, wittering and twittering away his time behind that old shed, trying to do reports that no one reads. Daft!’ It serves me right, I suppose. Never ask Wicky anything that doesn’t have to do with eating!

 

 

Friday 20th February 2004pretty
It was coats back on this morning. And it was nothing to do with Harry’s human saying that it was too early to take them off. The reason they came off was that HE put his hands down inside old Wicks’ coat, the other night and it felt sticky. So the next morning, after feeding the boys and cleaning up, he took their coats off to give them a bit of a groom. Well, Treg's hair was standing up, on his back, where the coat had rubbed it and no amount of ‘coatshine’ spray and hard work would get it to lay down again. The rest of Treg was not so bad. His coat is just like a big woolly teddy bear (so I am told). Next it was Wicky’s turn. The top of his back and his legs were fine. But, his flanks were just a great, big sticky goo. HE tried to comb Wick’s coat with his wire brush. All it did was to skate over the surface and get clogged up. And when HE tried to take the sticky hair out of the brush, it stuck to HIS fingers and HE couldn’t get it off. Next, HE tried his very strong plastic prong brush, which normally is very good when Wick’s coat is falling out, in late spring. It didn’t tough it. He tried again with the coatshine spray but this barely touched it either. Eventually, it was decided, as the weather was dry and sunny, to chance leaving the coats off. But, after a couple of days, chance and the weather forecast, decided otherwise, so back on the coats went. None too soon either. It was a bitter wind today and by the time I was walked home (no riding today) there were little snowflakes falling. We will have to see what the morning brings.

Walking up this morning, HE invented the ‘primrose game’. HE says to me, ‘let’s see who’s the first to spot a primrose out. What kind of a game is that? For one thing, it’s boring and for another, what does he think I will do, if I do spot a flower? HE can’t lose, can he? I can’t very well jump up and down and shout out in human ‘I can see a primrose, saw if first before you did!’ can I? I think HE means well but HE just doesn’t think. I don’t need to be amused as I walk up to Ninefields. If HE’d only watch a couple of horses walking along, HE’d see that they don’t chatter all the while. We can be quite content, walking along, enjoying each other’s company without having to make up meaningless games.

And lastly, don’t the birds make a noise in the bushes and trees at this time of year? HE’d be better off asking them to play HIS silly games. The more noise involved the better, for them.

Saturday 21st February 2004tyre track
I’ve been thinking all night how I can get my own back on him for wanting to play silly games and I’ve come up with a really good idea. He wants to play games? Right, I’ve got a good one. It’s called ‘Have I got poos for you’. You see, every morning, when SHE brings my breakfast into the stable, HE comes first with a broom and shovel, to clear up the mess. This is fairly necessary as we have come to an arrangement now whereby THEY still put my meals in a bucket but, instead of hanging it half way up the wall, like they used to do, they now just place the bucket on the floor. I like this as I can use my nose to throw the bucket any way I choose and so turn the contents out and pick out the nice bits first. Anyway, as I was saying, HE come in and clears up and then SHE walks in with the bucket. Then HE goes off to feed the old guys up at Ninefields. Usually I wait until HE gets back and then make another mess for HIM to clear up before HE takes me up the field. But now I’ve got something even better. I wait until he has just cleared that mess up and put the broom and shovel away and then I give him another present. I can do the same last thing at night as well because, again HE clears up while SHE talks to me over the stable door and then HE has to go and wash out my bucket. Well, by the time HE comes back in, to give me my night time treat, I can make sure that he has another mess to clear up. I think I’ll keep it up for a few days and then have a word with HIM and make a deal. No more ‘see who’s first to find a primrose’ game and I’ll stop my ‘have I got poos for you’. That ought to do it!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 22nd February 2004
I got off to a good start this morning with my plan for revenge but, typical of HIM, he won’t say anything, just smiles and does the extra cleaning up. Well, we’ll see who can last out the longest. Nothing much happened at Ninefields today, a fairly normal day of roaming and eating and the weather was not too Helicopterbad, a bit cool but nice and bright. When we were getting ready to walk back, along came Margaret, who lives next door to THEIR house, who was out walking her dog, Jasmine. That dog could out eat Wicky! We’ve not found anything that she doesn’t eat which could be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that she eats my mint sweets. Anyway, as we were all going home the same way, we decided to walk along together. There is a problem with that though as when a car or lorry comes along, the Throwleigh Road being so narrow, we have to split up and walk in single file. In practical terms this means that HE and I go along in from and Margaret and Jaz (for short) follow on. Now Jaz is what you might call an excitable dog, she had a very troubled upbringing as she is a Staffordshire terrier and her original owners tried to teach her to fight. Jaz is also a very small Staffy and so probably got beat upon by the other dogs, so much in fact that she ended up being cast aside and Margaret found her in a dogs rescue home. She is really a lovely little thing but, on occasi9on, she forgets herself and jumps up and down yapping for all she is worth. It doesn’t worry me. I like all dogs and, knowing Jaz as I do, I take no notice of her silly ways. But, it does worry the humans who feel the need to try to stop her by telling her that she is silly and that she must stop. So, we had a funny old walk home tonight. Part of the time Margaret is walking beside us and talking with HIM (which gives me a rest from HIS constant chatter) and Jaz walks along beside us, behaving very well indeed. Then a car comes along and they have to drop back. When they catch up again, for some reason, Jaz feels it necessary to yap at me and then Margaret stops again to tell her to be good. This all takes time and HE just carries on walking. But I have been better brought up than that so I have to stop and very pointedly turn my neck behind me to tell him that we must wait. Of course then, just as we are making good progress again, I spied some friends coming out of Sue’s house and they call out to me so I go over and have a little bit of a graze on their lawn. Unfortunately, Sue has got two dogs. Now, I don’t think I told you but Jaz, due to her fighting training, doesn’t like other dogs a whole lot. More yapping, even more furious than before. In the end, I had to agree with him and give up trying to be nice. There is only so much a girl will do before the call of her evening feed bucket takes precedence.

 

 

Monday 23rd February 2004Daffs
You may have noticed that I have made no mention of HER riding me back in the evening. That is because the weather has been too inclement and SHE has not felt like it. Today, for the first time for a while, instead of being just cold or wet it has turned bitterly cold. We don’t mind that, the old boys and myself. The cold as such is not a problem. What we don’t like is wind or driving rain and, as THEY saw sense and put our coats back on and as we have plenty of shelter in Ninefields, it makes no difference to us what the weather does. With the one exception, as I have mentioned before. If the road ices up I can’t walk on it. So, back to what I was telling you about. SHE hasn’t ridden me but I did end up giving rides to two other humans today. The first was the little lad who lives diagonally across the road from us. Quite often, of a morning, while SHE is waiting for HIM to co9me home from feeding the old guys, SHE will take me out for a walk to get a mouthful of grass. Sometimes we go down the recreation ground and have a chat to my friend the cat who lives there. Other times, we just go over the road and walk up Brian and Selena’s driveway. Their house is halfway up the hill opposite us and they have a grassy lane that leads up to it. Well, I was grazing there this morning when Selena came down with her son Rubens (I think that’s how you spell it – he was named for a famous human motor racing driver). Now SHE has been offering for Rubens to have a ride for quite a while now and today Selena took HER up on it. It wasn’t far, just down the road for Rubens is just a little lad and he had to be held by his mum on one side and HER on the other. I felt him slip a little once and had to move to help him balance. Anyway, it all passed off well, everyone told me how wonderful I was (as if I didn’t know) and I also got a few extra treats. That’s why I like kids so much. THEY seem to think it is a good idea to teach all the human kids to give me mint sweet and, of course, I don’t mind in the slightest.

We were just getting ready to come home tonight when along the road came a lady who lives a little way up the road from us, Jenny with her grandson Jamie. They had been out for a little walk along the Throwleigh Road and were on their way home. Now I don’t know if Jamie was another that SHE had promised a ride to or if SHE just thought of it on the spur of the moment, but SHE offered and Jamie jumped at the chance. He got a much longer ride, the whole half a mile from Ninefields to his house. As we started out, SHE was busy giving instructions to him about his balance and seat and so on and once he was going she told him the old one about putting his hands on his head. I am sure he thought SHE was joking at first but once he discovered that SHE wasn’t he did as he was told and I think he felt quite proud of himself. Before we got home, he said he was worried about getting down. I must seem a bit high up for small kids, I expect. But SHE showed him how to dismount easily and his comment to his Nan, as he walked away was ‘isn’t she warm’. I told you we don’t feel the cold!

Tuesday 24th February 2004
“Are you going to tell HIM, Wick?”

“No, I thought it would be best to let HIM find out on his own.

“But what if HE doesn’t find it? What shall we do then? I don’t want the place starting to stink when it starts to go off.”

stream“If the place starts to stink when it goes off, HE’ll know about it the same as us.”

“But Wick, why did the cat bring it in here in the first place? Couldn’t he just have eaten it where he killed it?”

“Imagine you were a cat, Treg, and you had been stalking rabbits all morning in this bitter cold and you finally managed to catch one. Wouldn’t you want to go somewhere nice and warm and sheltered to eat it and then maybe have a bit of a nap afterwards? I know I would.”

“Oh, yeah, I see what you mean, Wick. But that was one of our bunnies. I like them. I often have some good conversations with them when I am going about my rounds. It seems such a shame to kill one.”

“Let’s face it, Treg, you often have quite good conversations with yourself when you are going about on your rounds. One rabbit more or less isn’t going to make much difference.”

“Still, I don’t like to see one killed, Wick. I hate that cat now. If I catch him trying to get in on our hay again for a sleep I’ll….I’ll …well, I will. I’m not a happy bu….Oh, that’s not in very good taste to say that, is it Wick?”

“Most of what you have to say, Treg, is of dubious taste, so why stop there. Still, I do know what you mean. How would the cat like it if we took our hay to eat into his house? He wouldn’t, I bet. Although, on second thoughts, cats are very contrary creatures. He might like it after all, just so that he could curl up and go to sleep on it.”

“Look, Wick, here HE comes. Let’s see what HE does. Listen there he goes, making that silly pretend horse noise again. Now…”

“Yes, laddie, now it’ll be the ‘what a nice day bit’. Just you see. Well, here HE is. Don’t look. Don’t say anything.”
”He’s opening the hay store gate, Wick. Now he’s turned towards it. Aha!”

“Oh, look boys. There’s a poor little rabbit here. Something’s killed it. Poor little thing. I’m afraid I’ll have to throw it out into the field, it can’t stay here.”

“Well, Treg, what did I tell you. Now watch, look, HE’s throwing it over the hedge, no, I got that wrong. HE’s thrown it on top of the hedge. What a loser!”

“That’ll make the old cat mad though, Wick, won’t it? Let’s watch out and see him try and get it down from there!”

Wednesday 25th February 2004ducks
Treg and Wick told me today about a dead rabbit that the cat brought into the field shelter and that HE threw up on top of the hedge. I thought the crows would get it but apparently they had a go and dropped it on the field and the cat came back and took it home to Annette’s (that’s Amber’s human). And that was about all the excitement that happened at Ninefields today. However, there has been some sad goings on at home for the past few days. Poor old Harriet, one of our cats, has not been feeling very well for quite a while now. She has always been a great washer and worrier and she is the one who often goes quite bald on her legs and tummy. She always has had a bit of a cough but this has been getting worse for a while now. THEY took her to the vets quite along time ago and spend oodles of money on various tests and treatments, none of which seemed to make much difference but which did have the effect of stopping THEM worrying about Harriet quite so much. THEY were told that Harriet has a permanent chronic virus that will never clear up and that will erupt from time to time. Then, a few weeks back, Harriet started to retch and cough so badly that THEY made an appointment with Deborah, Harriet’s favourite vet, who gave her some jabs and advice as to medication. To cut a long story short, Harriet seems to have got worse not better and THEY took her along on Saturday, when another new vet was on, and got further jabs and some tablets for what appeared to be some sort of throat infection. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have worked and my vet, Rodger, was called out last night to see her. Poor Harriet must be getting like a pin cushion by now and, to make matters worse, Rodger mentioned acupuncture. He seemed interested in THEM going ahead trying a medication to dry Harriet up instead of the powder she has been getting to loosen up the wetness in her throat. I think THEY are getting frustrated in the lack of progress and it must be very harrowing to have to listen to poor Harriet constantly choking and coughing and fighting for breath. I do hope she gets better soon. She is a lovely and intelligent little cat who often comes to visit me in my stable. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Thursday 26th February 2004Dartmoor stream
I spent a lot of the night, last night, watching the snow fall. It wasn’t like real snow, more like little balls of white plastic that rolled along the road and path outside my stable. By the morning, I knew it was going to be bad news – I wouldn’t be going out to Ninefields today. To be honest, part of me wasn’t sorry for I wasn’t feeling too great. It started last night, although I have felt it coming for some days now. I started choking on my evening treat of swede. SHE thought it was because I snatched it rather hastily but really, it was rather more like I had something stuck in my mouth and I needed to clear it.

So, when they brought my breakfast and told me that I was staying in, I was ready for it and didn’t mind so much, although I didn’t let them know that. I tried to behave a bit put out to see what the ‘sympathy’ angle might bring me. Well, I’m not at all sure that it worked because it brought me the vet. Not until late afternoon though. I expect that they didn’t consider me an urgent case. It was Andrew – the vet – and he is rather one of my favourites because I have known him a long while, from when I was at the riding school, in fact. And he is always nice about me by saying how well I am doing now. He doesn’t know the half of it. When he says I am doing well, he means my personal fitness. I rather like to think of the way I can wrap these two, especially HIM round my little, what? My little eyelash! It’s a silly saying, anyway.

Well, my friend Andrew proceeds to put the iron gag on me, grab my tongue and pull it this way and that and poke and prod about in my mouth. When he finally comes out he says that he would like to do an x ray as several teeth look a bit damaged and might involve an extraction at some point. Well, you can go off people, you know, even if you have known them a long time. I think I’ll do all I can to go out tomorrow, staying in wasn’t such a fun thing after all.

Friday 27th February 2004sky
The snow had stopped this morning but the cold remains and the deciding factor, whether I go out or not, is how icy the roads are. HE came back from feeding the old guys, saying that it would be alright. to go out a bit later, as it was fine along the Throwleigh Road but, as soon as you come down gloomy old Ramsley Lane, the frost was still holding on. It’s funny that. Our little bit of heaven is always the last to get the sun. Not only do we face in the wrong direction but we also lie under a gert hill (as they used to say around here) so that, for most of the day, even if the sun is out, it is hidden by the hill. Now, this isn’t so bad in the summer when there is plenty of light around and, if it is very hot, you are grateful for a bit of shade. But, in the winter, it is very galling that when other parts of the village are basking in the sunshine, we are still in the depths of the ice age. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, going out later. The other reason was that THEY had to take Harriet back to the vets, as THEY are very worried about her. The way she is just laying around, fighting for breath is really scaring. So, while I waited for the frost to clear, they took Harriet to the vets and left her there for an x-ray, the same as Andrew wants to do to my teeth. When THEY came back, I was walked up to Ninefields although I still had to step around some slidy bits. And, do you know what? Late as I was, the old boys still hadn’t gone out yet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There they were, hay dripping out of their mouths, standing, munching and chatting, as if they had all day. Well, you can imagine. I soon went and got them moving up the hill. It wasn’t as if the fields were frozen over. One thing you can rely on is that the top fields, which always catch the early morning sun, will be perfectly edible. Those old men are just plain lazy. I had to run behind them all the way, threatening to give them a good nip if they didn’t get along.

And after a very short day out, due to my late start, they had the cheek to go and bring me in early. I was not a happy mary, I can tell you. Although, as we walked along down the hill, HE explained it was because THEY had to go back to the vets to fetch Harriet and that they hadn’t found anything terrible in the x-ray. So, I stopped making a fuss and went home calmly so that THEY could bring her home. I’ll let you know later how she is getting on.

Saturday 28th February 2004snow?
“I expect Alli will be late again, don’t you, Wick?”

“I had a look at the road, Treg, and I think it’s a bit slippery again, so you never know. I’m sure she’ll come along as soon as she can.”

“But it’s not worth waiting around for her, eh, Wick?”

“What’s your hurry, Treg? Are you off about Human Watch duties again or what?”

“No. It’s just that the sun is out on the top fields and I thought that I might go up and have a bit of a munch. I’ll be able to see her when she comes. You don’t think she’ll mind, do you Wick?”

“What, Alli? Mind? You know her as well as I do, Treg. You must make up your own mind. I’m sure she will be pleased that you have shown a bit of initiative, that’s what I think.”

“Yeah, Wick. That’s it! Initiative! She’ll be really pleased that I have thought for myself (with your help, of course) and decided to do my own thing, won’t she, Wick? Will she Wick?”

“By the time you have made up your mind, she’ll be here anyway, Treg. Go on. Be a ma.. er.. horse! Do it. Go up and surprise her. I’m surer she’ll be … er… surprised.”

“Right, Wick. I’m off. I’ll see you later. I suppose you are going to stop down here and have a little bite of hay. Eh, Wick?”

“You know me, laddie. There’s an old Shetland saying. A gobful of hay is worth a year’sful of thinking about it or anything else except carrots … and apples …. and mint sweets…. and …”

“That’s a pretty long old saying, Wick”

“Well, they had a lot more time, in those days. So they just hung about making up sayings to be passed down to newer generations.”

“Right then, Wick, I’ll … er… I’ve forgotten what we were talking about. What was I going to do, Wick?”

“You great big golumph, Treg, you were just going up the hill, above the field shelter, to get a bite to eat, before Alli comes along.”

“Oh yes. Do you think that’s a good idea, Wick?”

“Get out of here and let a guy get some serious eating going.”

“OK Wick, I’ll be off then?”

“So what’s the question mark for, laddie?”

“It’s a sort of insurance policy, Wick. In case I am not saying the correct thing. If I am wrong, I can always say I was just asking about it. D’you see?”

“Bye, Treg. Have a nice life. See you later, when Alli turns up.”

………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Oh look, there’s Alli, coming along the road. I better shout out to her, so she sees where I am. ALLI! ALLI! UP HERE, ALLI! Oh good, I think she has seen me. She’s looking up and HE’s shouting back in that fake horse voice, HE puts on.”

………………………………………………………………………………………….

“If that Treg thinks I’m going up there to him, at his beck and call, he’s got another think coming. And where’s that Shetland midget? Oh, of course. In the field shelter, feeding his face. I can see this is going to be a difficult start to the day. I’ll just hang about here and have a bite of grass until they see that I am not amused. You’d think that by now they would know where they have to be, when I come along. So what if I am a bit late? They should be waiting at the gate for me. Right!. This is where they learn a bit of respect. Head down, munch…munch…munch…”

Sunday 29th February 2004heep having a rest
A bit of good news today. Harriet had something to eat. I’ve seen her myself, when he has carried her outside, the poor little thing has just wasted away. I’ll swear she hadn’t eaten a thing for a week. Her spine and ribs are poking through her coat and she looks dreadful. When they took her to the vets, Andrew did the x-ray and found that, although there was no tumour, which was what THEY were suspecting, she did have a very nasty lung infection. Andrew prescribed a course of steroid pills and said to make an appointment to go back and see him next Friday. Well, that was a bit silly because when THEY tried to make the next appointment before bringing Harriet home, they were told by the receptionist that Andrew wouldn’t be there on Friday. And why not, do you think. Because he’s getting married! And, he forgot! Well, I hope his fiancée doesn’t read this diary or he will be in big trouble, before he is even married. Sorry, I’m wandering again. I find I am doing that more and more these days. What I was about to tell you was that, because of the steroids, Harriet actually had a little something to eat today. It wasn’t much but you would have thought it was a great event to see the smiles on HIS and HER faces. SHE is more cautious than HIM though. Probably because SHE used to be a nurse and SHE has seen cases where an apparent recovery went into reverse. HE is sure it is all going to be alright because the steroids Harriet is on are the same ones as HE has taken, in the past, for his Asthma.

It was a very pleasant day today. It was a little cold, early morning and late evening but during the day the sun shone and there was a great deal of light. I always think that the worst thing about the winter is not the cold, it’s the lack of light. Today was like coming out from a prolonged shadow and it made you feel as if everything was going to be alright, after all. Mind you, there is a down side to it. Well, of course, when THEY came to fetch me, I didn’t want to go home. In fact, I was rather naughty. When he brought the buckets, I was standing at the stream with the two old boys and when I do this, HE comes and gives me my bit of carrot and then smacks me playfully on the rump and tells me to ‘walk on’. Then I scramble up the slope to where she is standing with the head collar and we get ready to go home. Not today! When he gave me my carrot and my slap, I ran off down the field, away from HER. He carried on to give the lads their buckets and I came back to have a bucket as well. So, of course, HE couldn’t put the buckets down, could he? He shouted at me to go to HER but I took no notice. HE then got a stick and waved about but the more he waved it the more I ran away. In the end, I knew I was in trouble because SHE came down to me. SHE took the stick from him but, instead of waving me on, SHE used reverse psychology and waved me away. Of course, I didn’t want to go and soon gave myself up. But, it was a bit of fun while it lasted!


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