Alezane's Diary Archive March 2004
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Monday 1st March 2004Have you guys seen Alli anywhere?
“Wicky?”

“Yes, Treg, my man?”

“I can’t help noticing. You’ve got such lovely legs.”

“You’re not being size-ist again, are ye laddie? ‘Cos if ye are, I’ll be forced to point out some of your own mis-conformations!”

“What a great big word Wick. Is that a lady who belongs to some sort of religion?”

“Let’s get back to my legs, Tregony. What was it you were saying?”

“Oh, yes. Well, it’s just that I can’t help noticing that lately, your legs and ankles have gone all soft and woolly. You look like a …. Well, like a four legged yeti.”

“And that’s good, is it Treg? Say it’s a good thing. I’d hate to have to nip an old friend – and I mean old.”

“Oh, it’s very good, Wick. In this freezing weather, I’m really very envious. My coat is really thick and long but yours is nothing short of a miracle.”

“It’s really no different from what it is most winter’s Treg. It’s just that lately we’ve had a combination of weather’s that show it off best. When did we last have rain? I bet you can’t tell me. Look at the stream. A month or so ago, HE was worried that Alli wouldn’t cross it because it was so deep and swollen. Now, if you look at it, there is just a very low flow and you could step across it in one stride.”

“I thought we was talking about your legs, Wick.”

“We are, lad. It’s the combination of the cold, which makes my coat grow thick and the lack of rain, which allows it to look all fluffy instead of forming a stiff shell to keep the rain off. Combined, the full glory of the Shetland coat shines through. It’s in my genes, old boy. I know I was never in the Shetlands myself but my ancestors evolved such a warm protective coat over the centuries. That’s why we do so well on the cold wastes of Dartmoor. And now you know. Anyway, how about you? Isn’t HE always saying that you are a great big teddy bear?”

“Yes, that’s true Wick. The bit I like best is when HE picks our feet out these days and moans because he can’t find the frog because of our feathers.”

“Do you know, Treg? If someone who doesn’t know horses reads that last sentence they will wonder what on earth you are talking about. Frogs live in ponds and feathers grow on birds, don’t they?”

“If someone who doesn’t know about horses is reading this, maybe they should get a bit worried, eh Wick?”

“Aye, laddie, you’re right there my man!”

Tuesday 2nd March 2004A Dartmoor mist
A breakthrough, I do believe. Last night, when we were walking home, Amber was in her big field that runs right up to the road. We were walking along when HE saw her and called out in that embarrassing way of his. And what a reaction! Amber answered him, twice as load and came cantering right up to the fence and hung her head over. Well, I walked up cautiously and put my head out and we just rubbed cheeks for quite a long time. I could see HE was nervous in case she did something which might make me jump out into the road, for there are quite a few vehicles passing at that time of night. I knew I wouldn’t but HE didn’t. I think to try and keep us friendly (we were anyway but HE didn’t know that) he got HIS packet of mints out and, being very careful to give me the first one, then gave her a treat too. I don’t think I told you but we had met Amber at her small field a few night6s ago and HE had given us both mints, so it’s possible that her enthusiasm might be sparked by memory rather than for any love of his horse imitations. Anyway, it passed a few moments and kept me out a little longer. Now that the evenings are getting lighter again it is such a shame to have to go in so early.

I’ve saved my best news to the last. Yesterday, Harriet seemed to be getting worse again. It looked like HER fears were becoming a reality. She didn’t eat and didn’t seem able to breathe again. They got her litter tray back in the kitchen where she sleeps on the radiator overnight and made sure that the heating stayed on all night for her. They even brought her water bowl in under the radiator as well. After they had gone to bed, SHE got up and came down and checked on her again. And then, this morning, she seemed to be no worse to THEIR great relief. SHE decided to give her the steroids crushed and mixed with water using a dropper which saved all the trauma of trying to pop a pill in her mouth. Harriet has always been a terror when it comes to taking pills and it has only been her weakness that has allowed THEM to get some down her. Anyway, a little later, SHE got this great idea of making a sort of hammock or sling with a scarf and walked about, doing her work with Harriet hung around her neck. I told you before; Harriet has always been a very intelligent and inquisitive cat. She really enjoyed being carried about like this and when it stopped, she decided to have something to eat. Then there was no stopping her. She went outside in the sun and went missing for a time. HE went out to look for her and found her sunning herself in my stable with her uncle, PC. I am really very pleased, for Harriet, for THEM and also, I must admit, for myself. You have no idea how boring HE can be, telling me all about the cat’s illness, as we walk up and down from Ninefields. Let’s hope we can find some more horse like topic tomorrow, I live in hope but not certainty.

Wednesday 3rd March 2004pic
“What’s Treg doing up there, Wicky?”

“Don’t ask, Alli, just don’t ask. I don’t know what’s got into him again. Yesterday he was shouting out to someone, I don’t know who. Today he was off up to the bridle path gates, as soon as HE went away this morning. He just charged off, as if he had a very urgent appointment. Then he stood and just hollered. I don’t know what, I don’t know who to and I don’t know why. I think it must be the beginning of the end. He’s been a bit soft for a year or two now but I think this is it. Tregile dummentia! He’s finally lost it.”

“Oh, don’t say that, Wick. Not old Treg. I know he’s, what did you call it? A bit soft, but he’s not over the hill yet.”

”I don’t know about over the hill, he’s over the field, that’s for sure.”

“Listen, there he goes again. Shouting away like mad. It’s almost as if he’s calling to someone. Has he got any other friends around here that you know of, Wick?”

“He’s no got any friends anywhere as I knows of, Alli. Just you and me.”

“Well, I can’t stand it any more. I’m going over to him to find out what it’s about. You coming, Wick?”

“Just got to finish off this mouthful …or…well, or two. I’ll be along in a minute.”

“O.K. Let’s go and see what all this yelling and shouting is all about. Hey, Treg. No, he’s not heard me. Try again. TREG! Ah, that’s better, he’s looking over.”

“Oh, hello Alli. You here already. I won’t be a minute.”

“What are you doing, Treg? What’s all the noise about?”

“Oh, it’s only St. Piran, Alli. Just getting ready, you know.”

“Er, I’m afraid I don’t know Treg. What do you mean, ‘only St. Piran’?”

“Oh, I forgot, you’re a foreigner, aren’t you Alli? All us Cornishmen knows about St Piran. He’s our patron saint, you know. I expect you Frenchies have one, as well, don’t you? Who is it, St Malo, or someone?”

“If I’ve told you once, Treg, I’ve told you a hundred times, I’m not French, I was just born there.”

“Well, whatever. Anyway. Us Cornishmen like to celebrate St. Piran’s day, it’s tomorrow, you know. And, because life is a bit hard there, a lot of us are spread out all over the place. So we have to keep in touch. Gettit?”

“Er, sort of, Treg. So this shouting is in case there is another Cornishman within earshot, is it?”

“Not ‘in case’ Alli.. Because. Do you know why that hill up there is called Cosdon Beacon?”

“After some long ago French person, as it happens, de Cosdonne.”

“Yeah, but why Beacon? Do you know that?”

“Yes, as it happens, They used to light a fire, a beacon on top and that would be seen by others , on other hills, and that way they could pass messages, warnings and the like, right across the country. You see, they didn't have mobile phones then.”

“Either that or they couldn’t get a good signal, same as now. Anyway. It’s the same with us Cornish. There’s a whole string of them, all over the country. I shout out here, the next in the chain hears me and he repeats the message and finally it gets all the way to Perranporth, in Cornwall. That way, all us Cornish horses can get linked up together to celebrate our day. Good, innit?”

“Hi, Wick. Treg was just telling me….”

“Ay, lassie, it’s good, isn’t it. Now, shall we go on up yon hill for a spot to eat? Coming, Treg?”

Thursday 4th March 2004Mossy wall
I forgot to tell you. A few days ago, when we came along to Ninefields, there were two pheasants, squaring up to each other, just like Phil and Phreddie did, last year. Although I’ve noticed the lady pheasant around, picking up the corn that HE throws down for the birds on cold days, but that was the first time I’d seen males, since last year. It must be that spring is on its way and all the birds are starting to pair up again. Anyway, as we walked into the field, they were startled by the sound of the gate banging and they forgot their little scrap and flew off. Later on in the day, when the old boys and I were standing in the field shelter, just having a mouthful or two of hay and deciding where the muddiest place to roll was, along came one of these two males, to look around to see if there was any corn left. Treggy called out to him, in his usual bluff manner – ‘Oi, who are you?’ and after he got over the surprise, we got into a bit of a conversation. It turn’s out that his name is Phrank and he’s been living over on the common, but under the shrubs and thick tree part of it, so as he’s not seen. He said that he noticed a girl pheasant over here quite a few times and he thought that he’s come over and get acquainted. Turns out she is called Phyona and she was quite taken with him (although we only have his word for it). Phrank said that they were just beginning to hit it off really well, when along came this (his words) get big lout of a cock called Phlynn, over from Ireland on a wife hunting expedition. When I told him that I thought it was a bit far for a pheasant to come, just to look for a wife, he said that he agreed, but that Phlynn had been brought over by some humans but that he had escaped. Apparently the humans thought that he might find it fun to have a bit of sport. You know, he said. We sit around, they come and phrighten us into phlying and then they shoot at us, that sort of fun. Well, I had to say that I didn’t blame Phlynn for escaping. Phrank said neither did he but he did blame him for trying to muscle in on his woman. And so, they had come to blows. All the time he was talking to us, he kept bobbing his head down to peck at a grain of corn and suddenly, without any warning or even goodbye, he was off. If what we saw last year is anything to go by, I expect we are due to see many more scenes of affray (or aphphray) between those two before the spring is over. I don’t think that they really hurt each other. It’s more just showing off in front of Phyona.

Friday 5th March 2004Outside Ninefields
Doesn’t time fly, etc. etc. Farrier day today. It doesn’t seem so long ago since Mark was here before. And, do you know what? He was on time! This must be a first with Mark. Or any other farrier, come to that. The trouble in their work is that you can’t be sure what problems you are going to meet, either with feet or other things. So you can only ever say ‘I’ll be along round about …’ and cross your fingers and wait and see, Last time Mark came to us, if you remember, his van got stuck in the field and we had to get Michael the farmer to haul him out with his four wheel drive tractor. I bet that made him late for his next appointment. Mind you, I am usually first call of the day and so, he shouldn’t have any reason to be late. But that is reckoning without Mark’s young family. So, most farrier days, things get a bit tense, waiting to see when he will arrive. I am kept in, of course, if it is in the winter, and I am not full time out at Ninefields. THEY had the dilemma – should they start their breakfast or wait until Mark has been. It’s Tregony’s law that if THEY start cooking, Mark will turn up in the middle and things get left to go cold. If THEY don’t start, Mark will be hours late and they miss it altogether. But, today, he was on time. And anyway, it’s not as if we need THEM, Mark and I get along very well on our own. In the hour that it takes, while he is fitting my new shoes, THEY can be getting on with their breakfast, finish and wash up and still have time to look at the morning paper. The only real problem with that is that HE then has to walk me up to Ninefields with a full tummy. Wicky wouldn’t understand the problem but HE is broken winded and it does make things difficult for HIM. I do my best to walk slow for HIM but you have to realise that I have been kept in at least an hour longer than normal and there are things that I have to do. Like supervising Treg, while he has his shoes done, for a start.

 

 

Saturday 6th March 2004Big lorry
We were walking along, up the hill under Drybridge and along the Throwleigh Road when I heard a very strange noise. I had to stop and listen with my head held up very high but I couldn’t make it out. HE got a bit impatient and wanted to walk on so I changed to just being watchful and carried on to our next stopping place, which is a sort of grassy lay-by off the road. While I was eating my next treats, I could hear that the sound was getting closer and even HE heard it now for he took the precaution of moving me further into the lay-by, which means climbing up a rather muddy grass bank. And then it came into view. And, do you know what? It was only a boring old sweeper lorry. Well, I’ve seen those going past my stable often enough to know that they are quite harmless (today) and I just carried on nudging HIM for more treats. But HE was still obviously worried that I would jump or something, for HE kept watching it until it had gone by. Then, HE had obviously decided that we would follow it, for HE took me down into the road and was just about to walk off when the lorry stopped and the driver jumped out and started waving a stick about at the bank. The next thing that happened was that the lorry started to break open in the middle and start to rise up in the air. I could tell that HE was by now in quite a pickle, wondering what to do and trying to discover how long the lorry would be there. HE even shouted out to the driver but the man didn’t hear, over the sound of his engine. Well, I knew it was going to be up to me, so with no more ado, I stepped out sprightly and just walked round the lorry and off up the road. You should have seen the look on HIS face. It was a real picture. HE was full of praise for me all the way up to Ninefields gate. But then, I went and spoiled it for I stopped dead and drew myself up very, very tall for I spotted some rubbish that some idiot had thrown in the hedgerow. Now it was HIS turn to be brave. ‘Don’t be silly’, HE said to me, which did rather take the gloss off my former glory. Still! I really don’t like things changing. If they weren’t there yesterday, they shouldn’t be there today. I think HE took the hint though for I saw him climbing up the bank and retrieving the offending articles – a large blue plastic drum that had held anti freeze, an enormous lump of packing polystyrene (yes, I’ve heard the word) and an old metal jerry can. Last seen, HE was loading them into his old jeep to give to the ‘duppin men’ when they come on Tuesday.

 

 

 

Sunday 7th March 2004Treg and red
I was in big trouble this morning. Or SHE was. One of us was, anyway. I think I’ve told you one of my embarrassing secrets before. No, not that one, the fact that SHE takes me out on a dogs lead in the mornings, down the park. It really is terrible, the thought that I might be seen by Harry or Meadowsweet or Amber, while they are being properly ridden, up the lane. The reason SHE does it, is HER heart. I don’t mean because SHE loves me so much. No, I mean HER illness, which doesn’t allow HER to walk very far or fast. SHE found that, if I was on a lead rein, SHE couldn’t keep up with my long strides but, if SHE used one of those dog leads which extend to quite a distance, SHE could keep hold of me but not have to run to catch up. Well, over the months, SHE has grown to trust me more and more and, for the past couple of weeks, SHE has let me graze freely, over the park. We are always alone, apart from my friend the black and white cat, who always comes for a chat. I’ll have to tell you about him some day, he’s real nice. So, today we set about our business, SHE sat down on the bench, which is on the top of a small grass hillock and I stood grazing and chatting to the cat. Then the cat left me and went over to have a talk with HER and we all lost track of time. Suddenly I realised that I must be late for getting back to HIM so that we could walk up to Ninefields. So, not thinking, I started for home, forgetting that I was not on my lead. It was only when I got to the road that I realised my mistake and remembered HER. I stopped and SHE came puffing up, more upset than physically harmed. I got quite a telling off but I could tell that it was more the shock than a punishment. We both ended up feeing a bit foolish but, looking back, it makes quite a good story. It had Treggy and Wicky amused all day. However, coming home was another story. I’ll tell you that tomorrow.

Monday 8th March 2004
I thought it was funny when SHE didn’t come out to see me at what we call ‘late stables’ That’s when HE comes in and cleans out any mess while SHE stands and gives me treats and has a chat until HE is finished. Then it’s HIS turn to treat me. I like my late stables. But, last night, I was stuck with HIM only. Then, this morning, my routine was put out again, when it was only HIM coming in to bring my Cat's eyesbreakfast and clean me out again. And then, instead of spending several intimate moments scrubbing the mud off my face and belly, where I have rolled the day before, SHE went out with HIM in the car, to feed the old boys. He told me later that SHE had not been well, had gone to bed early and had woken up not so good, as well. I hope SHE gets better soon. I don’t like it when things are not to routine. SHE did drive up and pick HIM up after HE had walked me up and SHE did drive HIM up to get me tonight, so hopefully things are on the mend.

I was going to tell you about me getting into trouble walking home last night. It really was not my fault, at least, not truly. You see, now that the evenings are getting lighter and the days have lately been quite bright and sunny, here is a sort of promise of spring in the air. And when there’s spring in the air a young girl’s fancy and all that, if you know what I mean. That, coupled with my love of routine and my feeling of independence and confidence growing led me a little bit astray. It was like this. Just as when we walk up the Throwleigh Road, HE brings some carrots for me to eat, so that HE can stop and get HIS breath, so, when HE takes me home, it is taken for granted that I can’t walk the whole distance without a treat. (Have I got them trained or have I got them trained?) So, when we stride off homeward, in the evening, HE puts his hand in his pocket and gives me a carrot to bite. Now, lately I have not wanted to walk and eat but have wanted to stop and eat at my leisure, as I do in the morning. In addition, now that it is pleasant and light, I don’t want to go home so early anyway. So, every time I bite a carrot, I stop. For a few times, these last few days, this amused HIM. Then he started to tug. I ask you, tug? HE doesn’t get top marks for brightness, does HE? Of course, the more HE tugged, the more I dug my heels in. Then I would go on for a little way, take a bite and stop again. Last night, even when the carrots were gone, I was stopping to graze at the roadside grass, then, looking up at Ramsley Common hill to find imaginary threats. Well, I could see it well up in HIM and then it snapped. I can tell when HE is very angry because HE goes all quiet. HE never hits me and rarely shouts, unless surprised himself. HE goes all quiet and doesn’t talk to me. Doesn’t even acknowledge that I am there. Well, I knew that I had just taken it a bit too far and I put my head down and we walked home in silence. No mint treat, just past Harry’s house, as we usually have. But, HE never stays mad with me long – I’m too nice (HE tells me). By the time we got home, it was all over. Tonight, we both gave a little. I walked on properly while HE didn’t give me any carrot and then HE stopped so that I could have my treat standing still, and have a good look round. We were so nice to each other it was mushy. But, it’s nice to be loved!

Tuesday 9th March 2004primrose
Had some news, this morning, Jenny over the road has finally had her baby. They thought it was going to be a leap year baby, born February 29th so it just proves how wrong humans can be. Jenny is the mother of the two little blonde girls that I watch, playing in their garden, from my stable. Their names are Beth and Elsa and now they have a little sister, Ruth, so I will soon have three of them to watch. I don’t know why but I am fascinated by human children. It must be the mother in me, I suppose. I just know that it won’t be long before I am giving them rides, up and down the road. You have no idea how many of the local children get to have a ride, like that. Nothing very much, just a walk up or down the road, being held so they don’t fall. If I was proud, I’d resent being treated like a seaside donkey, but actually, I love it. I see it as part of my job to make sure as many human children as possible grow up liking and not being afraid of horses. Sort of an investment, really. You never know when they may come up to you with a carrot or a mint.

Well, I have to admit, HE won the game. To be truthful, HE was going to cheat, as he had been out during the day with his camera and had found some ‘semi wild’ primroses, at least, that was what he called them. He explained to me later that they were probably real wild Devon primroses but because they grow in a bank opposite some houses along Ramsley Lane, HE couldn’t rule out the possibility that they may have been planted, at some time. Anyway, back to the story. When HE came to pick me up this evening, HE started to play with me, saying that HE had won the game, because HE had seen these couple of flowers, along the lane before I had. Just at the moment that we set off down the Throwleigh Road, HE looked and really did see the first wild primrose out, in front of the wall to Ninefields. All the time we had been looking at the verges of Ramsley Common, on our way in the morning, where we knew the plants were, and there, virtually without looking, was the first open flower, right at our own field. Now, I could argue that, in fact, this also is not a ‘wild flower’ in that instead of being self sown, that is by the birds, wild animals or the wind, this particular plant was sown by a human. By HIM, in fact. But, I will grant that the flower is strictly of the ‘wild’ variety. One of the first things HE did, when we got Ninefields was to buy a load of ‘wild’ primroses and Devon violets from a specialist wildflower nursery. This is the only way that you can get these plants now, as it is a criminal offence to remove them from the wild. He planted these all along the road side of Ninefields walls and it is only now that the plants have got established that it is starting to pay off. Mind you, the joke was on him as far as the violets are concerned for when the following springtime came, HE found that the whole of the inner sides of the wall are covered in Devon violets.

Wednesday 10th March 2004
“Well, did you have a good St. Piran’s day, Treg?”

“Proper job, Wick, proper job!”

“Just what does that mean, Treg? I’ve heard quite a lot of folk say that around here.”

HIM at work“Yeah, I don’t know why ‘around here’ Wick. Just copying us real Cornishmen, I suppose.”

“I expect so, Treg, if you say so. But, what does it mean?”

“I wish you hadn’t asked me that, Wick. You see, it means just that – proper job! The trouble with translating things is that you can only get a fraction of the meaning because, as soon as you translate them, you lose the flavour. I suppose you could say that ‘proper job’ means ‘satisfactory’, but as soon as you do, you are now tasting and smelling and feeling an English idea, not a Cornish one. See what I mean, Wick?”

“Aye, Treg, I do. It’s the same wi' translating from the Scots. I often find that the translation doesn’t feel right somehow.”

“We’re getting very serous today, aren’t we Wick? Let’s talk about something a bit less intellectual.”

“Food, laddie. Let’s talk about food. There’s grass and there’s hay and there’s bucketfuls and ther…..”

“Hold on, Wick, slow down. Anyway, you always talk about food.”

“I do not, Treggy, not always.”

“No. Sometimes your mouth is too full to talk, I’ll grant you that.”

“Oh, the good times. Life does have it’s nice moments, I’ll agree.”

“Listen, I do believe that’s Alli coming along the road. Maybe she’ll have some news for us. She often gets little interesting things that HE has told her, as they walk along.”

“It all depends on what you call interesting, Treg. Little, I’ll grant you but interesting? Maybe. Sometimes. I go without all HIS interesting little bits of news if HE’d only get my bucket’s right. You know what HE did today, don’t you. HE went and gave me your veggies. You know I like them cut up really small and instead of that, I got your great big chunks, this morning. I was so upset that I left them and HE had to empty my bucket on the floor before HE could take it away.”

“But you did go back and eat them all up when HE had left, didn’t you Wick?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to waste them. But that’s not the point. It just shows how little care and consideration HE gives to my well being, if HE can make a mistake like that.”

“Tell Alli then, Wick. Maybe she’ll have a word with HIM. Anyway, it will soon show, how badly you are being treated, it’s nearly time for the weigh tape again.”

“Oh, no, Treg. I hate that, don’t you? It’s really a nuisance having to hold one’s tummy in for so long, while he measure’s you. Don’t you hate it too?”

“You don’t hold your tummy in, do you Wick?”

“Aye, laddie. You’re not getting me to admit how fat I’m getting. Oh, no.”

“Well, that’s ‘strordinary. It really is. I thought I was the only one who did that!”

Thursday 11th March 2004snow fields
When HE came back this morning from feeding the lads, HE said it was freezing up Ninefields, which was funny because this was the first morning for a week that we haven’t had a frost. Looking out of my stable, I couldn’t see what HE was talking about but, as we walked up the hill and turned under Drybridge, it hit me. There was a biting cold wind, so cold that even I felt it. By the time we were walking along under Ramsley Common, the wind really sprung up and that got me right up on my toes. One minute, I was walking along docilely behind him and the next, I gave a sort of skitter and spent the rest of the walk, dragging him along. When we got to Ninefields’ gate, only Wicky had braved the weather to come and greet us. As well as the wind there were tiny little snowflakes in the air and Treggy had decided he was going to stay in today and eat hay.

As the day went on, the weather got worse and worse. I was surprised that THEY didn’t come to pick me up early as the snow was starting to thicken and the skies were very dark. THEY came at the same time, however, but as we started for home, I could tell that HE would not tolerate any nonsense. I do feel sorry for humans, they feel the cold so. HE’s changed our routine now, on the way back, so we have two carrot stops, just like coming here in the morning, instead of giving me my treats as we walk along. I do know the new routine now, but that doesn’t stop me from pushing my head round in from of HIM as we walk along and nudging HIM for treats.

By the time we got home it was rain-snowing quite hard and we walked straight in and changed my rugs in the dry. As the evening wore on, I could see that the snow, which had got much heavier, was starting to settle, even on the wet road. It looks very much to me that I will be staying in tomorrow. It’s what SHE calls ‘a duvet day’. Really, when the wind is like it was today, I really don’t mind. It’s nice to be with my two old friends but whether it is worth all the rugging up and road walking, I’m not so sure. One thing that will cheer HIM up, he’ll be able to take a lot of snowy pictures so that THEY can use them for next year’s Xmas editions of the web sites.

Friday 12th March 2004catkins
Well, did you ever? Comes the morning and all the snow was gone. All the roads are nice and shiny wet and so I can go out today. And so I did. When I got to Ninefields, the old boys were discussing which particular nice sloshy mud puddle to roll in. I don’t expect you humans realise that there is a whole range of quality in mud puddles. It’s not like they are all the same, you know, Of course, there is the size, for a start. This is probably more important to Treggy and me than to Wick, who can usually make do with a large hoof print (sorry Wick – joke!). Size has two dimensions, as well. There is the overall circumference of the thing but also the depth to consider. Here, Wicky has to be very careful, if he doesn’t want to drow…, oh, alright Wick. Can’t you take a joke? No, seriously, the depth does add to the quality of the experience and also the comfort of the roll. Then there is the liquidity (sloshiness, Treg!). Too hard and you might just as well be having a dust bath, too wet, and you don’t get the correct consistency of coating over your face and body. Then, there are the other factors like the number and size of stones in the mud, the proximity to good grazing, good visibility for predators, in case you need to get up in a hurry and, oh, many more subtle factors that humans just couldn’t begin to appreciate. And you thought we just knelt down and rolled when we felt like it, didn’t you. Given favourable conditions e.g. plenty to eat, we can stand around and discuss where we might roll, all morning. It is one of life’s little pleasures. What’s that Treg? Tell them about, oh yes, I was coming to that. You see, there is another factor that we have to consider, here in Ninefields. Treg was reminding of the time when he, very carelessly, decided to roll, when we were up in the top east field. The weather was just right, with a nice fine sprinkling of rain to spread the mud evenly when he got up. The texture looked good and he was in the middle of the field, within warning distance from Wicky if any dangerous plastic bags approached. There were no obvious granite lumps or even big stones in the way. So, old Treg went for it. And, yes, you’ve guessed it. He forgot about the slope. Well, when he finished rolling and rolling over and had hit the bottom wall with a great big thump, Wicky came strolling over and asked if he would mind doing it again as Wick had not seen the start, being busy with culinary delights, so to speak. Well, Treg was not very amused but he had to admit afterwards that at least Wick hadn’t laughed!

Saturday 13th March 2004The old main road
We have a game, every morning – at least, I do. When it is time to put my outdoor rug on, HE comes along from the front door to the stable carrying my rug and my head collar. This is my cue to turn from the door, walk to the back of my stable and wave my foot around, as if I would kick anyone who comes near me. I then wait until HE has come into the stable and shut the door again. Now I walk up to the door and start to gnash my teeth and bite the air and then to take bites at the door frame, while HE puts my rug over my back. When HE has done this, because I have acted so fierce, HE rewards me with a couple of mint sweets. HE then proceeds to do up the straps round the back of my hind legs and underneath my tummy. I carry on biting the wood of the door frame as if HE is causing me the most exquisite agony. Then I look round for my next ‘good girl’ sweets. After this, HE gets my head collar and puts it on, while I put my head down for him. As there are no more treats to be had, I don’t bother to play at biting for this bit, just wait patiently until SHE comes along to take me into the kitchen for my sugar lumps! This is our usual morning routine. Well, this morning, I thought it would be really good fun if I varied my routine a little bit and while HE was doing my rug up round the front, I took a little nip in the air at HIM. Well, unfortunately, my aim was a little bit faulty and I got a nip at HIS coat instead. Suddenly there was silence and the light hearted atmosphere changed to something a bit more charged. HE just gave a sharp bark of a command and then just stared at me. Oh, fetlocks, I thought. I’ve done it now! Swiftly, my mind searched to come up with a solution to my problem. I looked at HIM, HE glared at me and then …..I just lowered my head into the perfect submissive attitude that I could imagine and moved towards HIM slowly. Then I rubbed my muzzle very gently on HIS face, to show how abjectly sorry I was. I then held my breath and waited. It worked! HE just couldn’t help HIMSELF. He raised his hand and gave my muzzle a gentle pat of affection and said ‘It’s alright, I knew it was only a game’ and then everything reverted to normal. It was touch and go for a minute and I was very lucky that SHE wasn’t there at the time or I wouldn’t have got away with it so easily. But then, I always could get my own way with men. They are real softies.

Not like that mare, Amber. One minute she is all sweetness and light, another she can’t be bothered to recognise you. This evening, as we were walking home, she was in her small field by Drybridge. As soon as she saw us coming (or probably heard us, more likely) she rushed up to the gate, as if we were her long lost friends. We rubbed muzzles and sniffed each other and then HE came up with the mints. I’ll swear that’s all she comes for. As we walked up this morning, and she was too far away to come for a polo, she didn’t even raise her head, even when HE made that silly noise of HIS. Oh well, I wont let her worry me. If she wants to be friends that’s fine. If not, well, It wont worry me one way or t’other!

Sunday 14th March 2004Spring flowers
Let me introduce myselph. My name’s Phiona. We’ve not met bephore although I gather you have heard about me phrom Alli. And also you may remember my mum and dad, Phlorrie and Phreddy. They used to come her a lot when they were courting, last year. They said it was a nice quiet place, away phrom all the other pheasants and, at the same time, it was a good place to come phor a snack. The phood was plentiphul, iph a bit monotonous. Anyway (as Alli says a lot), my sister Phelicity and I decided to come and visit the place aphter hearing our parents talk about it. To be honest, it was not so much phor the phood, although that is nice, but also, we thought that we might just phind a boyphriend around here, as well. You see, the only other place where there are lots oph boys is also, unphortunately, the place where there are lots oph humans with guns and dogs. Now we live, well, I won’t tell you exactly where because you never know who might be reading this, but we live somewhere in the wild where there are lots oph trees and bushes to hide in and, where there are not lots oph men, guns and dogs, iph you see what I mean. Now, this can be a bit oph a problem iph you are a teenager on the look out phor a bit a phun and a serious social liphe. I’ve done the bit where you dance with your sister as a partner and honestly, it’s a bit lacking in excitement, to say the least. I was talking with Treg the other day and he told me that he had seen a couple oph lads about here, coming along phor the rolled oats. They say the way to a man’s heart is down his gullet so Phlic and I decided to give it a go. Not a lot to report at present I’m aphraid. Plenty oph blackbirds, sparrows and chaphphinches and even the odd couple oph magpies (and they don’t come much odder, I’ll tell you) but so phar, no sign oph Phrankie and his phriend. Maybe we should try a diphpherent perphume, something a bit stronger and phull oph promise. But phirst, we’ve got to get up wind oph them and that’s diphphicult iph you don’t know where they are. We are taking it in turns to phly around and try and phocus on anything brightly coloured. You should see those boys. Phine pheathers isn’t in it. They positively glow at this time oph year. As phar as Phelicity and I are concerned, they don’t need to be so highly coloured, just highly available. Well, I have to be ophph now. Phlic and I take turns to patrol the area and then report in every so ophten. I don’t know how mum phound dad but we should be lucky phairly soon now!

Monday 15th March 2004hut
“Why did you get that pheasant to write your diary, yesterday, Alli? You know HE has enough problems with HIS spelling at the best of times. They can’t even talk properly. HE’ll use that as an excuse not to check it out before he publishes it. If it’s wrong, HE’ll say ‘well, that is how pheasants speak!’”

“HE’s not that bad, Wick. Be fair. HE does get what I tell HIM right most of the time. And anyway (what was it Phiona said about me?), HE has got his spell checker to use, if HE has problems.”

“But it’s in English not Pheasance.”

“That’s a big word for you, Treg. I didn’t know that you were listening.”

“I always listen, Alli. It’s just that I don’t always say anything. ‘Listen and grow good’ my old dam used to say.”

“Wrong there then, Treg, laddie. It should be ‘listen and grow bored’ or ‘listen and grow warts’. That’s much more like it.”

“Lads, don’t squabble. I’m sure your dam was a wise old lady, Treg. It’s just that Wick comes from a different culture. That’s right, isn’t it Wick?”

“Grown from a different culture, you mean Alli. He’s so mean sometimes that he’s like some nasty microbe, only not so big!”

“Treg, really. I never knew you could be nasty like that. Say sorry to Wicky.”

“Shant! And don’t call him Wicky, all affectionate and that. His real name is Wicked, and he is.”

“You are in a bad mood today, laddie. I was only joking, you know. I’m sure your ma was a wonderful person (for a Cornishmare) and it’s not your fault if you come from such a backward sort of place. You laugh at the pheasants turning all ‘f’’s into ‘ph’’s. What about a place where every other word starts with ‘Tre’?”

“What about a place where, what they call ‘Dartmoor Hill Ponies’, all talk with Scottish accents, trip over the feathers on their legs and are not measured in hands but in fingers!”

“I think, boys, what we all need is a bit of healthy exercise. Standing around down her in the wind and rain is making us all a little grumpy today. How about a bit of a gallop up to the top field? Blow away all those cobwebs and nasty thoughts.”

“I thought I read in your diary the other day, that you couldn’t eat and walk along the road at the same time, lassie.”

“That’s right, Wick. I was saying how HE has now introduced ‘eating stops’ into our walk home.”

“And do you think that it’s a good idea, Alli?”

“Yes, I do, Wick. It’s because I used to stop when HE gave me a carrot, so that I could enjoy it properly.”

“So, you are saying that eating and exercise don’t go together. And you want us to go galloping up to the top field? What kind of idea is that?”

“Yeah, your right Wick. What a silly idea Alli. Why don’t we just stay here and eat? Jolly good idea Wick, I always knew you were a clever friend.”

“You go on up there, Alli. Me and my mate Treg’ll see you later!”

Tuesday 16th March 2004Going up the hill
“HE told us that it was much too warm to wear our coats, didn’t HE Treg, when HE brought our breakfast, this morning..”

“That’s right, Wick. Did you notice, HE had bought himself a brand new padded coat, as well, and HE had to keep undoing buttons and the zip, to try and get cool.”

“I thought there was something strange about HIM. I didn’t realise it was a new coat. Now you come to mention it, I didn’t see all the tears and sticky tape ‘repairs’ that HE usually has. Shame, I used to like that old coat. It sort of had a nice smell. Reminded me of Alli’s stable, somehow.”

“That’s because HE wears it to take the pooh out of the stable and bring it up to the field. HE collects it in that big white plastic feed sack and the reason that HIS coat smells of it is because it is so heavy, that HE has to balance it against HIS side when he carries it.”

“Ay, you’re right there, Treg. I’ve seen HIM walking all sideways when HE goes over to the pile, in the top field. Anyway, it was a nice old coat. A bit like yours, really, all old , tatty and smelly.”

“I hope you mean my field rug, Wick, not my natural coat?”

“I expect you do, Treg, I expect you do. Mind you, I have to be a bit careful what I say there. Have you seen my natural coat. No, of course you haven’t. Not lately, that is. You see, laddie, that is the problem. I get so hot wearing that field rug that my coat gets all matted and sticky under it. And, especially at this time of year, when my coat is just beginning to fall out.”

“I know what you mean, though, Wick. My coat is not as heavy as yours but it still is about ten times as thick as Alli’s. And when the weather is warm like this, I get all itchy inside my rug. I feel as if I would like a real good groom to get all the loose hair out.”

“Steady on, Treg. You don’t really want a thorough groom, do you now, laddie. What’s wrong with the good old fashioned mud bath. Can’t beat it for getting the loose hair out. And it’s cooling and refreshing, as well.”

“You’re right there, Wick. That and a nice gnarly tree to scratch against.”

“Ooh, don’t, Treg, you’ll get me going. You know my favourite tree? It’s that one down by the stream. More of a bush, really, but just at the right height for me. There’s a couple of branches that just get to the right spot, both on my back and also on the side of my neck.”

“Well, you can have that one, Wick. It’s a bit low for me. Might trip over it! No, I prefer that big one in the middle of the field up along. It’s got some lovely bits that stick out round its trunk and when I reverse into that, I could just scratch and scratch all day.”

“Do you think spring is coming, Treg? “

“I’m not sure, Wick, but I know Alli is coming, I can hear her.”

“And that’s HER car, I can hear, as well. Yes, here SHE is. I hope SHE has remembered the Polo mints. She forgot them yesterday.”

“Well, how about that, Wick, SHE’s taking your rug off! Hey, now SHE’s coming over to me. Yes, mine is coming off as well. HE must have had a word with HER.”

“Here’s Alli. Now don’t laugh lassie, you’ve just forgotten how we look with no rugs on. There, see! SHE’s taking yours off, as well!”

“Right lads, now for a bit of fun. Wick, Treg, I’ll race you to the nearest mud puddle. Who’s for a bath?”

Wednesday 17th March 2004The black sheep
I should have expected it, I suppose. HE was ever so nice and apologetic last night when HE came to do late stables. And then, again, this morning, when HE came to clean me out before breakfast. He kept talking about ‘the dentist’, whatever that is. I thought maybe that HE was going out later today and that I may have a delay before being brought home for the evening. Well, I wouldn’t mind that at all, I thought. As far as I was concerned, it was high time I was left out all night with my friends. So, I was contemplating an extension to my day in the field, after finishing my bucket, and waiting for HIM to come back from feeding the old guys, so that HE would take me out, when HE comes home and just disappears into the house. Well, I waited and I waited but no sign of HIM. And there I was, just stuck in my stable waiting to go out. Such indecision always makes me nervous and I snatched at my hay while I tried to figure out what had gone wrong. Maybe I had miscalculated and it was time for Mark the farrier. I put my head down to look at my feet but they appeared alright to me and I was sure that mark had been only recently. What else causes THEM to keep me in instead of taking down to Ninefields? The only other thing I could think of was the ice on the road and I was sure that the weather had not been that bad. I looked at the piece of road I can see, in front of my stable and that was wet from a thin sprinkle of rain but no frost or ice. Then I thought, there was one other reason for keeping me in. The vet! But I didn’t feel bad. I sensed myself all over and the answer ‘fine’ came back from all parts. Now why would they want to call the vet in? Anyway, we had Andrew the vet, only the other week, when he came to check over my teeth. Now surely he would have found anything, if it was wrong.

I was musing away like that and snatching and grinding my hay impatiently when HE suddenly appears with my bridle (no coat now, hooray!). He proceeds to get me ready and then – off we go like it’s a normal morning. He did try an explanation, as we walked up the Throwleigh Road but I wasn’t really listening. I was too anxious to get to Ninefields and find out what the old boys had been doing without me for a couple of hours. I thought I heard old Treg call out as I got nearer. He often does that when he hears my hoof beats coming up the road. And when I got there, do you know what? They hadn’t even gone out of the field shelter! Wick says he was waiting for me but I wonder if he would have still been waiting there if there were not freshly filled hay nets hanging on the walls? I wasn’t able to give them any explanation for my lateness other than to tell them it was all HIS fault. Old Treg just nodded wisely and Wick said ‘it was just like humans’ and then we set off to try and catch up on our grazing for what was left of the day.

Thursday 18th March 2004Cloud
“Wicky?”

“Aye, laddie, you’re awake then?”

“Of course I’m awake, Wick. What makes you say that?”

“Well, you almost made me miss my tea, last night, don’t ye remember? When HE came with the buckets, you were having a lay down and Alli was standing guard over you, right up in the field over the field shelter. That meant that SHE couldn’t get Alli to come and get her head collar on and HE wouldn’t put my bucket down for me to start my tea.”

“That’s because HE knows that if you finish yours before me, you come and push me off my bucket and eat that one too!”

“Well, if you are so slow to eat yours, I naturally think that you don’t like it and being the kind hearted and friendly chap I am, I like to come along and help you out. Anyway, HE was forced to put the buckets down inside the hay store and close the gate to keep me out and then climb all the way up to the field where you were laying, to get you to wake up.”

“I wasn’t asleep, just resting. And when HE came and gave me a carrot, I soon jumped up and followed HIM down.”

“Followed Alli down, more like it. You knew that once you were up, she would have given you a good hard nip if you hadn’t come down. You know how she likes to please those humans. It was an embarrassment to her to disobey them and not come down when they called, she was torn between her loyalty to them and her duty to guard you.”

“Well, why weren’t you guarding me, then? If you hadn’t been so eager to fill your belly, you would have stayed with me instead of going up to the gate to meet them. Or, at least, to meet your bucket!”

“I was only being polite to the humans, ye ken. Not like you, going to sleep when they were coming. Now, that’s what I call ‘impolite’.!

“Always want the last word, don’t you? Now , be quiet and listen, I was going to ask you a question. Why is your coat, on your sides like one big solid lump that HE can’t get a comb through, let alone a brush?”

“It’s no my fault, laddie. It was that coat that they make me wear through the winter. They should know that my own natural coat is so thick that it keeps me warm and keeps out the wind and rain. When I have a rug on top of that, I sweat under it and also when I roll in the mud, a little bit sometimes works it way up the inside of the rug and then mixes with the natural oils in my coat to …..”

“Oh, alright Wick, don’t go on. I can’t bear to imagine it. The very thought of that steaming mixture working away under your rug! Ugh! So, what is HE going to do about it?”

“Well, you’ve seen him trying with his big hard tooth plastic thingy. And then again with that wire doggy brush that HE uses on you. All, a waste of time. Well, I think HE is about to use the most effective tool of all, now.”

“What’s that Wick?”

“Time, laddie. Time and nature. You can’t beat it!”

Friday 19th March 2004Village
It was just like Wednesday in reverse, only this time HE had to work for it! The day started normally enough, very normal if you take the Devon weather into account. We (HIM and I) both struggled up Ramsley lane and along the Throwleigh Road with our heads down against the gale and rainstorm. When we got to Ninefields, HE was panting so loudly I could hardly hear old Treg shouting out to me from the field shelter. Off HE went and we horses spent a happy enough morning filling our mouths and bellies with hay while we generally put the world to rights. By what humans call lunch time (a concept that has little meaning for horses and none whatsoever for Wicky), the rain had stopped, the wind abated and the sun came out. We decided it was time to take a little trip up to the middle west field, to find out if the new spring grass shows any signs of coming through yet. We had only been at our tasting work for about half an hour when I first heard and then saw that little green car of HERS appear down on the road. ‘Don’t look up’ I grunted to the others and, after a quick sideways look, they stuck their heads firmly down. The next thing was the shouting. ‘Alli, Alli, Alli. Come on girl. Down you come, Alli.’ ‘Don’t move’, I grunted again, ‘heads down and keep on eating. Whatever you do, no eye contact’. Well, by this time, HE was making HIS way, painfully up the hill, past the field shelter and on to the corner by the big tree. I’m sure HE would have called out as well but HE had no breath. It was all HE could do, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was almost as painful for me to watch HIM as it was for HIM to keep climbing but eventually HE got to the entrance to the small field and stopped. After several moments getting HIS breath, HE did call out. Of course, I ignored HIM and carried on eating. Unfortunately, the whole of Wicky’s previous life style, as a wandering Dartmoor pony, let him down. He just couldn’t resist running up to a human to see what he could beg. And of course, like a fool, I had to follow suit. A few carrots later, there I was with my head collar on, being lead down the field with Wick by my side. Then, I remembered Treggy, who was still ‘head and eyes down’ as per my instructions. I dug my heels in and turned my head until HE realised what the matter was and called on Treg to follow. To cut a long story short, Treg did eventually come down and was even seen to trot with the aid of HER waving a stick. Then I was taken out to the road and lead off with the sound of Treg calling out after me.

When we got home, I was put in my stable and before long, Andrew turned up with a stranger and SHE came out and joined them in my stable. Andrew got a syringe ready and gave me a little injection and then things got a bit hazy. I can remember feeling sort of drowsy and SHE was standing there propping up my head while this stranger was playing about with some metal things and some snakes. The next I remember was my stable was empty, except for HER and having a bite of hay. The trouble was I kept dribbling and the hay kept falling out of my mouth. Eventually, things became clearer, I was left alone and within half an hour, my supper arrived. Then, at late stables HE explained that I had had an x-ray of my teeth, whatever that is. They all feel the same, not even flatter, as they usually do when Andrew sees to them. Oh well, if it makes them happy, I suppose. But it was a waste of a perfectly good sunny afternoon!

Mum's tree

Saturday 20th March 2004
I could tell something was wrong, this morning, when after SHE had groomed me, SHE didn’t come back out again. I just waited in my stable and then HE came back from feeding the boys and HE vanished into the house and didn’t reappear for a while. Finally, HE did come out with my head collar and SHE nearly forgot to give me my sugar lumps, on the kitchen table, as SHE always does.

It wasn’t until HE walked me up the road that I found out what was the trouble. When SHE had gone indoors after grooming me, SHE had a phone call telling HER that HER mother had died. I don’t really know what that must feel like, as I have no idea what happened to my dam after I left her but I can imagine it. It’s strange, but to me it would be as if I lost HER. We horses do value our independence but at the same time we can and do form very strong and special bonds with our humans.

I can only give HER all my love and understanding and hope that time will work its healing power.

 

 

 

 

Sunday 21st March 2004
We are all in a bit of a quiet mood today. Not really sad, you understand, we didn’t know the lady for she never managed to come to see us, living many miles away. But still, it was a day for thinking about Wicky well groomedthings. Nothing special, rather simple, easy things that don’t require a lot of effort but which keep you occupied. Treg said he was glad that it didn’t require much effort and Wicky agreed. He said he didn’t want to take his mind of eating for too long except for the times that he was forced to concentrate on scratching. He is rather in a bit of a state with his coat. THEY thought that when his rug came off, his coat would start to soften up in the rain. I’m afraid that rather the opposite has happened and it seems to have set like stone. Curly stone at that, if you can imagine such a thing. And underneath, his skin is getting hot and itching and doing its best to get rid of a few layers. It is always a constant battle for Wick. Because of his genes, he has a fine, thick coat, designed to get a Shetland through the worst of highland weathers. Because of this, he really doesn’t need a rug. On the other hand (if I may whisper) he is rather advanced in years and has old joints that need protection. Also (if I may whisper even quieter) he is not really a pure bred Shetland – more Widecombe than Wick, if one is honest. So, SHE has to try and strike a balance in the amount of rug protection Wick gets and, with the very variable weather we tend to get, that is not too easy. I don’t know if it was ever just cold in the winter and warm in the summer or if we just remember it as such. But recently we have cold in spring and hot in autumn, sun in winter and rain in summer and nothing stays the same for very long. (Why does the 3 key always leap at my finger when I want the e? HIM)

Anyway (as I tend to say rather too much), I am drifting off the subject. And really, that is the kind of day it has been. No one got angry or excited or anything much. We put our heads down and grazed and wandered up the hill and down the hill, chatting and wandering off the subject. Really, a dithery sort of day in a very gentle way.

 

 

 

Monday 22nd March 2004Amber sharing a friend's field
Those sheep are back with a vengeance. I counted ten of them, all with big greeny blue splotches on their backs and eating our grass, as if they owned it. What is really funny is that farmer Michael’s sheep live in the field up above our top ones and never think of coming in unless SHE invites them, when the grass is growing fast, to try and eat up all the surplus. But these ones roam about as if walls and hedges have no meaning. I mean, it’s obvious. If there is a gap somewhere, where a sheep can get through, Mike’s sheep could go through just as easily as these travellers. It’s not as if they are particularly skinny and can get through very small holes. Rather the reverse. They are some of the best fed sheep around, for they just eat anything that gets in their way. Wicky secretly admires them, I think. Treg is very disapproving, being a member of the constabulary. ‘Braking and Entring’ he calls it, whatever that is. They need bringing to book, he says, although they don’t look the reading types to me. If they are it will be travel books, I expect. Treg says that he would do something about it but he is in the Human Watch branch, not the Sheep Watch, so it’s out of his ‘jurisdikshun’. I really don’t know where he gets all these big words from but it certainly does sound effective. Meanwhile our travellers get away with everything. I gather from HIM that the surrounding farmers know who they belong to but the owners do not appear to be very bothered. Treg says its something about the law of property, where it is the landowner’s responsibility to keep them out rather than the owner’s job to keep them in, if you see what I mean. The problem is that we are right on the edge of Dartmoor common land and various farmers have ancient rights to keep stock on this land. It’s not as if they were on their own farms, where the farmer could keep an eye on them and keep them penned in. They wander about at will, just like the Dartmoor ponies and cattle do. And, being free to roam, they become used to overcoming minor obstacles like walls and hedges. I’ve spoken to a few of them and they really don’t think that they are trespassing, just doing what comes naturally to them. You should hear some of the stories they tell, as well. Like most travellers, they live a hard but interesting life and meet up with all sorts of situations. I must remember to get Wicky talking to them, about the wandering ponies they meet. He might even get some news of his relatives!

Tuesday 23rd March 2004Treg watches for travellers
“Did you hear it again, Treg. Those two are at it again.”

“Yeah, ‘phighting’ they call it. A noisy pain is what I think it is!”

“Well, that’s love, laddie. They’re only doing what come naturally, after all.”

“It don’t come naturally to me, Wick. Come to think of it, it never did.”

“Ah! That’ll be due to your little operation, Treg. I expect that you must have had it at a rather tender age, laddie, if you don’t remember the stirrings of love.”

“I don’t know nothing about no hoperashun, Wick. But I do know I have seen some of the young colts making fools of themselves, round about this time of the year. For myself, I couldn’t see the sense of it. But then, it takes all sorts, I suppose.”

“That’s true, ma son. Now I was quite the opposite. Real devil for the ladies, I was. No filly safe for half the moor, when I was around. I can remember … er, well, perhaps not, you never know who reads this stuff. Not for tender ears, that story.”

“Have I got tender ears, Wick. They itch sometimes but then I scratch them on that tree down by the stream and that seems to sort it out.”

“Not quite what I was thinking about, son. But never mind. Have you got to know these two pheasants yet? I’ve only got so far as learning their names and where they are from and that’s all. They never seem to stay still for very log. Always running about with that very silly running action they’ve got.”

“Well, I got to know Phrankie a bit. Phlynn is still a bit of a mystery to me. Phrankie was born not far from here. A real Dartmoor chap by all accounts. He’s a youngster and he’s come round here looking for a wife so that he can start his own herd.”

“Er, Treg, I don’t think that you have a ‘herd’ of pheasants, in fact, I got HIM to look it up and the proper term, you won’t believe this, the proper term is a ‘bouquet of pheasants’. It is, it really is. It’s in a book of what they call ‘terms of venery’ which have come down from history. Most of them are derived from old hunting terms. There are others like a ’tidings of magpies’ or an ’unkindness of ravens’ and so on”

“How about a ‘daftness of humans’? I never heard such nonsense. The ravens I know, that fly over here to the high moors, are really quite nice. To call them an unkindness is just rubbish. And magpies, well! They are never here long enough to bring tidings, good or bad. They just fly in, peck a bit and fly off as if a cat was chasing them. But the silliest must be a ‘bowkay’. Just because the males are all a bit colourful this time of the year, to attract the girls, I wouldn’t think they was anything like a bunch of flowers.”

“Well, that’s humans for you, Treg. Of course, bouquet might mean that they have a pleasant fragrance, of course.”

“Well, I’ll leave that for you to find out, Wick. I’ve got better things to do with my life than to go around smelling pheasants.”

“Me too, Treg. Let’s eat!”

Wednesday 24th March 2004My coat is not quite that thick
By the time I got to Ninefields this morning, it had already happened. If I hadn’t seen him standing there with HER, I would have sworn that somebody or something had attacked Wicky and scattered his remains all over the field. Either that or it had been snowing very hard in just one or two particular spots. Except, that is, that there were also quite a lot of large browny patches as well. It wasn’t until I got through the gate, into the field with them that I could see it was the result of HER having a grooming session. That time of the year has come round again. No more mutual grooming with Treg unless I want to end up with mouthfuls of brown hair. No more nipping at Wicky’s bum unless I want to choke with a big ball of white hair.

Actually, even I have grown quite a thick winter coat this year. Thick, that is, for a thoroughbred. Normally I have this very fine sleek glossy coat and in winter (apart from the fact that you cant see it because I have a coat on) you cant really tell a lot of difference. But this year, I have to admit, I grown quite shaggy and teddy bear like. It does rather spoil the lean look and, I’m afraid, it probably makes THEM think that they are feeding me too much (can you have a three word oxymoron?) but it does keep the wind off your back, when you are high up the hill in Ninefields. I am rather proud of the fact that, this year, I have only missed going out, over there, for a day and a half, due to the weather. I may have had to stray in a few half days here and there but that was only for the farrier or the vet. That reminds me. I still not heard any more about my teeth, since I had that x ray. I hope its good news. THEY do say that ‘no news is good news’. Anyway (there, I’ve said it), I think that I will just forget about it and hope that it will just go away. Now, what was I talking about? Oh yes, my coat. You see, because I am not ridden much, I don’t have to have my coat clipped like the other horses that you see riding along the lanes. Their problem is that they get too hot, with a full winter coat, if they have a lot of work to do. It does mean, however, that they need to wear a rug for a lot longer than I do. It must be well over a week now that I’ve not bothered with a rug, day or night, while all of the working horses that I know are still wearing theirs.

Which brings me back to the two old boys. The field shelter is now full of thick white and brown hair where HE combs them every day. Notice I said ‘comb’ not brush. Particularly with Wicky but also, to a lesser extent with Treg, the brushes are pretty ineffective at this time of year. HE even has one of those dog’s brushes, you know, the ones with wire bristles. Even that doesn’t touch Wick’s coat, when he is moulting. It’s funny. In the winter, when the rain and wind are bad, HE has to spend quite a lot of time cleaning out the field shelter, as the old boys don’t bother to go out to empty their trousers. Now, when the weather is getting better, HE spends just as much time, cleaning out the discarded hair from their coats. Whatever would HE find to do with HIMSELF without us?

Thursday 25th March 2004Annettes
You know, this morning I started out feeling really relaxed. It was probably due to the fact that SHE took me down to the recreation ground for a bite of grass while HE was out giving the old boys their breakfast. It’s quite interesting over there these days. The new pavilion and snooker hall that they have been building is nearly complete and they are just tidying up the surrounds and paths now. I didn’t used to like the earth movers and other machines that they had over there and had to stand with my back to them and pretend that they didn’t exist. But now I have got used to them and just take no notice as they move about. And this morning, my friend Chas, the black and white cat, came rushing over to see me. We’ve not been over there for a while now and he loves to catch up on all the gossip and tell me stories as well. One day I will have to tell you about him and about his brother Dave. But we’ll leave that to another day.

So, as I was saying, when I came back to the house to meet up with HIM and have my sugar lumps before we go up to Ninefields, I was feeling very pleasantly relaxed. Once I had done my party trick of going half way into THEIR kitchen to eat my sugar lumps from the table, we were off at a nice slow rambling pace. We got to Drybridge when I heard it. I stopped and put my head very high and strained to listen. Yes. I was right. It was the sound of hoof beats coming up behind me. Once I had ascertained what it was, I allowed HIM to lead me further along to our regular stopping place across Annette’s (Amber’s human) driveway. And there we stood, HIM getting HIS breath back and me eating my carrots until, from under Drybridge, a pretty little chestnut filly came riding by. It wasn’t anyone I know and HE said good morning to the rider, although I am sure HE didn’t know her either. I pretended to ignore them but I couldn’t help seeing the sneaky challenge that the filly threw out at me. Cheek. As if I, an ex racehorse, couldn’t catch her! That did it. I snatched at my carrot and charged after her. I will admit for a minute that I forgot all about HIM and HIS shortness of breath. That is, until I felt HIM tug me back by my lead rein. I just don’t know how we finally got to Ninefields. He dragged me back, I charged forward. I charged forward and he made me go round in a circle. The annoying thing was that I could see her in front of me all the way, getting further and further away. And then, finally, I though ‘so what?’. I know that I could beat her in a fair race so what should I care if the little hussy should think that she had got one over me?

At least it wasn’t as bad as coming home. A great big lorry went to pass us and HE thinking that I was braver that I really am, waved it to come on. I was alright at first until, all of a sudden, a load of silly sheep put their ugly faces out of the sides. Just the sight of them did it. I stopped and reared back and forced the lorry to stop before HE could persuade me to, very carefully, walk on. Like I said, I started the day feeling really relaxed!

Friday 26th March 2004A wormy sort of day
“What’s the matter, Treg?”

“Ughhhh, ughhhhhh, ughhhhhhhhhhhh!!!”

“Sorry, I think I must have missed that. What was it you were saying?”

“Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ugh ugh ugh UGH!”

“You’re not making a lot of sense today, Treg. I mean, even more than usual.”

“Ohhhhhh, errr, ‘orrible, phtt, phtttt!”

“Come back, Treg. No need to run away from me. Tell me, come on. Spit it out!”

“Ughhhh, wish I could, phhtt, phht, ugh!”

“Are ye no’ well, laddie? Is that the matter?”

“Dying, Wick. Phtt. Dyin’.”

“Shall I get HIM to call the vet?”

“Ugh, don’t get HIM at all. Ugh. It’s all HIS fault. I hate HIM!”

“What on earth is it, Treg. This is not like you at all. Whatever has got you so upset?”

“Phtt! Don’t know how you can stand there so, ugh, calm. HE did it to you as well, didn’t HE? Phttt”

“HE didn’t do anything to me, Treg, except feed me. HE didn’t even groom me, this morning. Don’t know why not. I thought HE was going to, when HE put our head collars on, but after HE gave us that little extra snack, this morning, HE just took them off again and that was it.”

“Erererererer! You mean you didn’t get any, Wick. Ugh!”

“I still don’t know what you are talking about, Treg. Get any what, for goodness sake?”

“Oooh. I can’t even say the word. You know. Worrrr ugh. Worrrr phtt. Err. Ooooh!”

“You’re losing the power o’ speech, laddie. What’s a ‘worrr’, for goodness sake?”

“It’s not ‘goodness’ Wicky, far from it. Ooh, ooh, ooh. ‘orrible, nasty wickedness. That’s what it is. And I hate it. And I hate HIM. And I Hate….. everything! So there!”

“Didn’t you have any of that new snack then Treg? Is that what’s got you so upset? I tell you lad, it wasn’t much at all. Hardly touched my sides going down. If you didnae have that, you’ll not have missed a lot.”

“Now I don’t know what you are talking about, Wick. What snack? All I got was ughh, phht, I still feel sick just thinking about it. Maybe if I had had a snack….”

“But I thought you did, Treg. You had yours before me. You know, don’t you remember. In that little thin white tube. HE has to hold it in your mouth or you’ll miss it. Such a mean little amount. Not enough to keep one of those robins going for an hour.”

“That’s it, Wick. Thin white sticks. Thin white sticks full of worrrm….ugh pht .. full of …. OH excuse me, I’ve got to get a drink of water again. The very thought of it! Ugh!”

“There he goes, poor old Treg. Rushing down to the stream. Ah well, it comes to us all, in the end. Senility. Burbling nonsense. Let’s hope it’s just a passing bout and that he gets better soon. I’ve noticed that these attacks do seem to occur in some sort of pattern, every few months or so. I must tell Alli to be gentle with him today.”

Saturday 27th March 2004opposite my stable
It was gone! Would you believe it? I walked down the hill, along Ramsley Lane as usual, this evening and when I passed the Y junction and got to Pound Cottage, I could sense that there was something different but couldn’t make out what it was. As I walked up to our entranceway, I could smell some strange smell and when I walked in, there was a load of sawdust on the garden. As I looked at this I saw a stump and then, of course, I realised – the apple tree was gone. I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t much. It was such an old tree that vast parts of it were either dead or dying but it was the first thing I could see out of my stable half door (apart from HER car, of course) and it was sort of like, an old friend. Now, all that is left of it is a half metre stump and a lot of sawdust. After I had inspected this for a while, I realised that this wasn’t the only change. There used to be a black, conical composting bin next to the apple tree and that has gone as well. And, in its place, there was standing (not planted) a two meter high small tree in a pot. Obviously, something is going on here, I thought. And so, when HE came out to do late stables, I had a word with HIM and demanded to know what was going on. By this time, I had got used to the new view over my stable door and, I have to admit, it was a great improvement. Instead of seeing this dying old tree, which was festooned with a clematis, which in itself was a failure as it grew abundantly but didn’t flower well; instead of this sight, I now have a glorious view of the two flowering cherries in the garden over the road. I can also see right up to the end of the field opposite, where Mike’s chickens scratch about all day. I have got a soft spot for chickens. There used to be some in the stables of the riding school where I used to live and I can always remember the old rooster who used to fly about the rafters in the stables and shout out to his girls. Then again, I had a couple of Banties in my stable at Wood Home Farm where I first lived when I came to stay with HER and HIM. They were a couple of daft things though. They had very good lodgings with me, picking up all the scraps that dropped out of my feed and scratching around all day but as soon as they were allowed to wander, they moved out of my stable and into the gardens of Wood house, where they ultimately met with the fate of all living out fowls. I’m wandering, aren’t I? I was saying that I asked HIM what all the changes were all about and HE said that first of all the clematis which had virtually smothered the old tree, had suddenly died for no known reason. Secondly, the tree itself was very old and had stopped producing more than a handful of apples which, because of their very late ripening, were usually blown down before they could be picked, anyway. Year after year, attempts had been made to rescue the tree but it really had only one viable branch left. It would have remained for a little longer but THEY had decided to plant a tree as a memorial to HER mother and had chosen a flowering cherry as it would bloom each year at the anniversary of her death, and so be a nice reminder of her. They could have planted this anywhere in the garden, front or back, or even in Ninefields but, because of the state of the old tree, it was decided to take it down and replace it with ‘Mum’s Tree’. So now when I look out, over my stable door, I will be able to enjoy three flowering cherries, at the start of springtime.

Sunday 28th March 2004rather like Treg
“’Evening all!”

“Pardon, Treg?”

“I said ‘Evening all’. It’s a known fact that all policemen say that, when they see you.”

“Known by who, Treg? I didn’t know it.”

“Ah, yes, but then, you’re not in the force, are you?”

“Not the last time I looked, Treg. And Treg, what are you doing bobbing up and down like that? Stop it, you’re making my eyes ache.”

“Oh! You have to do that, if you’re a copper. Flex at the knees, up and down, up and down. It’s a sort of requirement when you say ‘evening all’”

“Well, I don’t require it, Treg. Stop it! And why have you suddenly become very involved with the police again? I’ve not heard you mention them for some time now.”

“That’s because I’ve been under fodder… er, no, that’s not it… under cover! That’s it. I’ve been working underground.”

“What, like a Cornish miner? I can’t say I’ve noticed.”

“That’s the whole point, you’re not supposed to notice. That’s what working under cover means.”

“So how do you do it then, Treg?”

“You see that tree over there? That big one. Well, I sort of look around to see that no one is looking and if the coast is all clear, I sort of wander aimlessly along the field until I reaches it and then stand under the cover of its branches. See?”

“How can you see the coast from here? It must be at least fifty miles away. Even from the top of the Beacon you could only just see where the sea is on a very clear day.”

“Sorry, Wick, I seem to have lost you. I’m in the police force not the navy. Why are you talking about the sea?”

“Er, I think we should either start this conversation again, Treg, or completely change the subject.”

“Now you’re getting it, Wick. That’s what us undercover hossifers do. Never talk about what you are really interested in. Change the subject and talk about something else.”

“Then how do you learn what you are trying to find out, Treg?”

“Ah, we leave that to the uninformed branch to do that.”

“Don’t you mean ‘uniformed’, Treg?”

“Oh no, uninformed! That’s why they need to find out, see! ‘Evening all.”

Monday 29th March 2004Ramsley Common fire
Oh dear, I got in trouble today. Not just trouble, big TROUBLE! Well, you know how it is at this time of year. Things start going on inside one’s chemistry and one isn’t quite so relaxed as one might be. On top of that, it is one of those times when the weather has turned all nice and spring like, with lots of sunshine and longer days and, at the same time, there is still a lot of nice sloshy mud around, left over from when the weather was a bit more winter like. And, you can guess the result. That’s right, a girl has just got to go in for nice long dirty rolling. What I’m leading up to is this. I’ve already told you that I’ve grown a fine thick winter coat, this year. When a girl goes in for some nice long, enthusiastic rolling sessions, her nice thick coat tends to pick up a fair amount of mud, making her look really attractive but also, at the same time, tending to be rather more than a morning’s work, when it comes to grooming. Now, if we add all these factors together – HER grumpy because it is early morning (and SHE has lost an hour’s sleep due to putting the clocks forward for springtime), me edgy because of nature’s biorhythm changes and my coat very thick and muddy – we’ve got what you might call an ‘explosive situation’. And that’s exactly what happened – I exploded. SHE was working away, trying to get as much mud as SHE could reach, out of my coat and I was fed up with the whole process. Finally, I just snapped and , putting my ears as flat to my head as they would go, I swung round and made an almighty snap at HER, quite forgetting myself for the moment. As soon as I had done it, I knew I had done wrong. But then, it was too late. You should have seen her face! you should have heard her voice! I’ve been shouted at before, but on a scale of one carrot to ten, this came about twenty! My first immediate reaction was to cower in contrite sorrow. And, of course, it worked. SHE could see that it was an involuntary reaction rather than any deliberate nastiness so, apart from going on about it rather a bit longer than necessary, it was, as they say ‘all over bar the shouting’. If the truth be told, HER reaction was, in fact, very similar to mine.

The other interesting thing today was the fire, coming home. We had been waiting up by the gate for about half an hour (still can’t get used to the change in human ‘summer time’) and the wind had already alerted me to the smell of smoke, coming from the direction of Drybridge. But, up to then, the smoke had been on our side of the road, not the Ramsley Common side. As I was having my snack, waiting for HIM to come back from giving the old boys their evening buckets, I noticed that the smoke had changed direction and was now stronger, in fact, from the Common. I looked up and sure enough there was, not only smoke, but flames coming from the dry bracken on the hillside of the Common. HE got all excited, for HE had brought HIS camera, this evening and HE lost no time in walking me right up to the fire. We stopped in our usual place and HE gave me my carrot rather absent-mindedly, as HE got out HIS camera and started clicking away. When I put my head out for another treat HE just pushed me aside, saying I was getting in the way. You would have thought that HE had never heard how sensitive and highly strung we thoroughbred’s are. Has HE never watched the Bambi film when all the forest creatures flee from the fire? Obviously not. When I jumped as the flames caught the bottom green leaves of the little tree and made it crackle, all HE did was ask me if I wanted a mint. Of course, the answer was yes and I made the best of a bad job and sulked all the way home. In fact, it was rather exciting!

Tuesday 30th March 2004Clarence's calves
I’m feeling very jealous today. As we walked home, this evening, HE told me that HE had seen Clarence’s sheep being put out in the field opposite Olditch, with all their baby lambs and his cows, in the field on the other side of the road, walking about in the sunshine, with their calves! Oh I do love all young things, foals, lambs calves even human children. As Clarence has the fields next to Ninefields, I hope he moves some of his youngsters there, although I doubt it. He probably wants them where he can more easily keep an eye on them. We are a bit far away and also too near the moor, where the fox can come down and prey on them. Oh well, I expect I will have to make do with human kids.

I had a whole group of them, the other morning. I do have a regular fan club of children in the morning, as my time for getting ready to go to Ninefields often coincides with the time they are taken down Ramsley Lane on their way to school. They (nearly) all like giving me mints but it is funny how they always forget to bring any and HE has to hand them out so that they can feed me. The other thing that is funny is that it is always the same routine – ‘hold your hand out flat, no, don’t wrap your fingers round them, flat, like this, let me hold your hand … etc. etc.’ You’d think that they would learn after a couple of goes. Foals would pick it up in a flash but it appears that human children are, I hesitate to say it, a ‘little bit thick’! Just imagine a foal that learned how to take a mint from a human’s hand yesterday, coming along today and saying ‘er, what was it I have to do?’ But then, it is well known that humans are slow learners. With horses, some of us are racing at two years old and are in the top class by three or four. A human is just about ready to go to school by that age! Still, they have their uses, I suppose.

THEY planted the flowering cherry tree today. There it was, looking as if it had been growing there for a long time, right in the front garden, in front of my stable. I will look forward to that growing into a fine tree with flowers to welcome the spring time and a lovely leafy covering for the birds to sit and sing in. Not that they need somewhere before they start singing. I can hardly get a night’s peace before some idiot bird or other starts shouting ‘it’s dawn, it’s dawn’ at the top of its voice. And then another one joins in to contradict him, followed by a whole gang of them, all shouting at the tops of their voices. It’s hard to tell whether they are all singing for joy that a new day has started, singing to show off in front of their girl friends or singing to warn other birds from their territory. Whatever the reason, it’s loud! Mind you, Wicky tells me it is to let us know that the spring grass is rising. Now why doesn’t that surprise me?

Wednesday 31st March 2004Super Phrank
We have a winner! Super Phrank has come out victorious and I notice that poor old Phlynn is skulking about in the road field with a broken tail feather. He does look rather pathetic with one tail feather up in the air as it should be and the other with a right angle crack in it, pointing sharply to the ground. I really have no idea if he did it in an fight or what but it certainly wont help him to attract the ladies. Phrank, on the other hand, now has three girl phriends. The new one is Phrancine and she turned up today, quite out of the blue. Literally, she just flew down over the field shelter (or should that be phield?) and started strutting about and eating as if she had been here all along. I suppose she could have been with Phrank for longer than we know. I suppose it’s possible that he has scores of ladies in the various fields around and we only get to see a few of them. It’s no good asking him. For one thing he keeps everything very close to his chest and for another, I can’t understand a word he says with that funny accent of his. Treg has made some progress with the females as they tend to speak slower and quieter. That’s how we found out all their names.

Actually, although I called him ‘super Phrank’ he is really a bit of a coward. He rarely comes down to eat when HE is around. He just sits up on top of the field shelter and watches his women eating, I think on the premise that if there is any danger then the hens are expendable.

I didn’t tell you of my good idea yesterday, did I. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining right from the morning. It wasn’t too hot, just pleasantly warm, in fact the ideal kind of weather because the summer flies and midges are not around yet. Anyway I was feeling really good and comfortable by the end of the day and I wandered down to the stream for a drink. After my drink, I put my foot down a bit swiftly and made a bit of a splash. and that’s when my idea came. I had already managed to get my sides and back nice and muddy by rolling. What if I soaked myself in water? Wouldn’t that be good fun? Well, I was right in the middle of kicking and splashing and completely soaking myself, when THEY turned up. It was no good pleading a sudden sharp shower from over the moor. The game was up – THEY had caught me. Actually, THEY seemed to find it as funny as I did, so I had a very pleasant, if damp, walk home.

This evening was, in a way, disappointing for THEY didn’t come to fetch me home at the normal time and I thought ‘this is it, I can stay out all night again!’ No such luck, I’m afraid. HE came along on HIS own, and left HIS old jeep at the field while HE walked me home. Apparently HER car had gone in for service and had still not yet returned. That meant that, after walking me home, HE had to walk all the way back to pick up HIS car. He will get fit, won’t HE?


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