Alezane's Diary Archive August 2006
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The day to day life of an ex-racehorse and her companions in Dartmoor UK and Mayenne France
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Mims thinking blond thouhtsTuesday 1st August 2006
Sometimes, when I am grazing and content, I find myself thinking of how it was before I came to live here with mum and Wick. It wasn’t a bad life. I was in a field with a lot of others and had one real good friend. And the good thing was that I could smell the sea which was only just over the hill. And yet, when I left them and came here, somehow I knew it was where I was meant to be. Not Dartmoor particularly, although there is nothing much wrong with it. No, I don’t so much mean the place as the whole feeling of the place. Mum, of course, is the foundation of this feeling but also, somehow, it felt good to be with Treggy and Wick. I was really very sorry when Treggy died, not so much for myself for I didn’t know him that well, but for the herd as a whole. It seems funny to call it a ‘herd’ when there were only four of us – now only three, but that is what we are. Even only two of us would be a herd, that is a group of equines that think and move as one entity, particularly if there is any hint of danger about.
Our herd drifts about our territory in pretty regular patterns, just as we would if we were in the wild. Wick has experience of this, having been born and living loose on Dartmoor as a youngster inside his much larger herd. And we know every inch of our territory, know where the best pasture is in any season, know where the shelter is and where the cool winds blow. Our movement pattern is governed by the weather and the time of day or night and we all move as one automatically. Humans have to make arrangements to meet or to travel together and rely on clocks and maps to coordinate their actions. We don’t. At least not in an external way. We have an in-built sense of time and location, a sort of equine sat-nav.
OK, I know you will often see mum directing me by a flattening of her ears or a snaking of her neck or even just by moving in such a way as to let me know to pass her on this side or that and to go on in front or to stand aside for her. But these are just little adjustments to detail. Almost a way of keeping in touch, so to speak. We already know that we are working our way up to the top field or we are moving over to stand beneath the big tree etc. at any given time. It is just how we get there, the fine adjustments, a sort of conversation on the journey, so to speak, that we make as we go along.
So, as I stand grazing, I sometimes cast  a sideways glance at mum and feel a warm glow of happiness that I am at home. If I look the other way and catch sight of Wick on the other side of the field, I feel a sense of gratitude that I have his company also, to keep me informed with the vast experience, to keep me amused at the little games we play and to make me grateful for accepting me into the herd. Which reminds me, one last thing. This morning, Wick and I had a really good game which, to any outsider looking on, would make them wonder what was going on. You know that mum always turns her bucket over when she is eating, primarily to separate the goodies (apple and carrot slices) out from the ordinary grain. Well, I have started to copy her. Since we have been having picnics on the grass, quite a lot of the grain gets left behind and Wicky loves this and always pushes in to eat it up. Well, this morning, every time he went to settle down to eat, I chased him away and turned to play buck at him, making sure that I was nowhere near him. And every time I chased, he just ran around the other way and started to eat again. We kept this up for quite a while but he won because it started to rain and I had to follow mum into the field shelter.
Just one fun example of how our herd works so well!

Rachel at riding schoolWednesday 2nd August 2006
Thank goodness for that, Mims has given me back my diary. That’s quite enough of her philosophy for this year, Now, where was I? Oh yes, I was going to tell you about HIS horsey (or should I say equine) day today.
As you know, the grandchildren are here for a short visit and, before they came, their mother suggested that they might like to go riding one day. So a ride was booked for today with the local Skaigh Stables and HE took them along in the morning before going on to the supermarket to stock up on carrots and apples (and probably things that humans like as well, I expect). First HE had to fill in some forms and then HE left them to sorting out hats and mounting up and so forth.
Then, as the children were getting ready, who should HE see but Mark, our farrier, working on the shoes of one of the riding school horses. HE was able to update him on how good my foot was mending now, since Mark has started that pus coming out of it. HE then left Mark to get on with his work and on HIS way back to the car, HE met a pony tied up to the fence waiting for a mount and he gave it a rub on the head. Now this pony was being bothered by flies, so he did what Mims quite often does and used his hand to have a real good scratch. He had to move away quite smartly as the pony was starting to copy Mims even more and use HIS whole body as a scratching post.
After HE had been to the supermarket, HE came home and with HER started to prepare our vegetables that are added to our feed. THEY had just started when Lily, the horse from the farm next to Ninefields brought her rider into the driveway so that she could get a carrot. Her human, Sue, said that Lily always tries to stop at THEIR house if she is passing. Then she told THEM about Lily loving to swim and how she used to have a pond at her previous home where she would take herself in to have fun in. Myself, I cant think of anything worse as I hate water (except to drink, of course). I will admit that I splash some on me from the stream if it is very hot but I don’t like getting out of my depth in it.
After a lengthy stop, Lily took her rider off and THEY finished the vegetable preparation. Then it was time for him to go and pick the grandchildren up from their ride. HE got there a bit early so HE went and found a couple of ponies and had a chat with them. One was very much like Wicky except that he was a bit taller. The other one was much thinner and of a different build but it did have one thing in common with Wick and that was having a trace clipped coat. Next HE walked a little along the road that the kids would come back on and a car stopped. HE thought it was someone wanting directions but actually it was Simsek’s human, asking HIM what HE was doing there. It was a co-incidence because Sue had mentioned Simsek earlier because, being a stallion, he used to get Lily all excited when she was asked to ride past him in his field near to Lily’s farm. Sue said that he had now been moved to another field.
Finally the kids came back from their ride and everyone had to wait right up to this evening before they could come to us with our supper and conclude a thoroughly equine day!

Alezane and MimsThursday 3rd August 2006
Funny weather day today. This morning was positively cold (I’m pleased to say). As usual, Mims and I were up the hill when HE came along. I could tell that HE was undecided as to what to do about our fly masks. HE didn’t bother with them at all right up until we had finished breakfast and were into our treats. Then HE spotted a single fly landing on a small tear drop near my eye and that decided HIM. I could have told HIM anyway as I could tell that the weather wasgoing to break later and become very hot again.
And that’s just what it did so that when SHE drove along after lunch to spy on us, we were all standing crammed in the field shelter just dozing. Really that is what is best to do until either the heat wears off or it is time to eat. (Wicky says it is always time to eat!)
I’ve just realised that I didn’t tell you yesterday that SHE had some news from the doctors. A while back SHE had some blood tests and, when SHE went back to the doctor yesterday, SHE was told that they revealed she had an under performing thyroid which explained a lot. SHE now has even more pills to take which hopefully will make her feel an awful lot better in a short time. That’s wonderful news because, as much as we enjoy having HIM all to ourselves to bully, we really do miss HER. The fact is that SHE is the one who knows about and understands equines. HE means well but we sometimes feel lucky that HE doesn’t forget what HE is doing and sponge off our hooves and pick our noses instead of the other way round. You would be amazed at the strange ideas that HE comes up with either when we are not well or, worse, when we are. So, hopefully we will be getting a bit of common sense around here again shortly. Oh yes, and SHE is a female, that’s another good thing!

Wicky and a wee somethingFriday 4th August 2006
I’m. sure it’s my turn to write the diary today. Those lassies seen to take turns amongst themselves and forget I’m here. So, I thought I should assert myself a wee bit. Just because they are a tiny bit higher than I am, it doesnae mean that they are more important. Far from it. OK, Alli is herd leader but that other little madam really needs to learn her place. Take tonight. My supper was put down pretty soon after crossing the stream. Mims was taking the time to make herself comfortable and then her bucket was put down as well. Alli, for some reason – probably the flies, decided to take herself off to the field shelter for her supper, even though it was in great need of a clean out by HIM. HE took her bucket and put it down in a clear place before getting HIS broom and fork to tidy up with. HE had not been going more than a few minutes when madame Mims came along to see what Alli had ot that she hadn’t.
personally, I don’t mind because she leaves more in her bucket for me to tidy up but it just goes to show what a flighty creature she is. She was quite happy to have her half an apple with her mother than to eat up all the supper that they have made for her. Mind you, she is not what you might call ‘wasting away’. A right chubby little lass she is and that’s for sure. Actually, it’s hard to tell with Mims what is fat and what is conformation because she has always had a bit of a funny shape. She gets it from her famous ancestor who they thought would be no good as he had a funny shape and who went on to be a great champion. Not that Mims will ever be a champion but, if she gets her wish, she may be the mother of one.
That is Mims secret wish. To become a mother. Because of her problems when she was young, she will never be a race horse herself. In fact, she has never been properly ridden at all up to now. But that is not important. What she is hoping is that, if she goes to France, she might find a handsome boy friend and produce the most wonderful colt in the equine world. Actually, it wouldn’t matter if he were complete rubbish, to her he would be he most wonderful etc.
I;ve just looked back at what I have written and see that the spell checker objects top the word ‘madame’. I suppose it is because it is HIS attempt to say it like a French word and the spell checker is testing for English words. It probably wants him to say ‘madam’. There, so it does. Oh well, farewell internationalism. Wow, it accepted that long word.
Well lassies and ladies, that’s about all from me. When I started oot. I was sure that I had a lot to say bit when you actually have to sir doon and compose five or six hundred words, it’s nae so easy. You should try it some time. In fact it is even harder if you have just sat down to a large, after Water World, dinner and a wee bittie o’ drink to wash it doon. Still, HE says, everything gets back to normal (whatever that is) tomorrow because the grandchildren are going home to spend some time with Andy, which should please them lots.

The 'herd'Saturday 5th August 2006
They didn’t come and say goodbye this morning. But then, they were busy packing and we were busy standing very still in the field shelter. HE said HE wasn’t going to put our fly masks on today. Then, HE was doing Wicky’s sponges and HE noticed that Wick was covered with flies. Just because the sun was not shining and the sky was covered with grey cloud, didn’t mean that there were no flies. It is to do with the humidity and there was plenty of that this morning.
I don’t think I told you that we have our sheep back again. Mims and I keep out of their way although it is our field. There is plenty of room for everyone and we do enjoy watching them. The lambs are as big as their mothers now and they do look silly following them around. As usual, we have one pair that likes to keep itself apart from the others and generally go over the stream up into the road field. But then, when HE brings our buckets, they get all silly and scared and have to make a dash under the gate and over the stream to get away from HIM. As Wick is always and we are generally standing close to the stream, this always gives them another puzzle. How are they going to get past us? They usually hover about a bit and then make a quick dash for it.
It’s funny, as it’s only at the start of August but there is a sort of hint of autumn in the air. Nothing very defined, no massive leaf fall or anything like that but a subtle sort of ‘triste’ as we would say in France. Which reminds me. Now that the grandchildren have gone home, THEY are starting to turn their thoughts seriously to preparing for our move. The first step is to get an estate agent down to give THEM an estimate on how much THEY can expect to get for the house and the land. Then, THEY will know what kind of property THEY can afford in France, allowing for all sorts of expenses, not least of which will be moving two and a half horses there and getting us a ‘pension des chevaux’ until we can move into our new place. THEY have already found a firm that THEY would trust to do the moving. This firm apparently even take some of the water that we are used to, to ensure that we drink on the journey. I can just see them now, filling up tanks down at our stream. What we want to know is how they will then get further supplies to us once that is used up?
HE tells me that is enough for today as HE is tired from all the driving about in the last few days. Just as well really as nothing special has happened in Ninefields so I was running out of things to tell you.

A bite of haySunday 6th August 2006
‘Standing there, watching nothing in particular, McKenzie listened to the coming of the wind. He could her it from a long way off. Nothing was stirring where he stood but he knew it was coming and was coming fast. He thought of his options. Should he take off down the valley and seek shelter in the forest or would it be better to just place himself in the lee of the great rock and just wait out the storm? McKenzie was not afraid of a wee bit of weather. In fact he rather enjoyed the stimulus of a good storm. It made him feel good to be alive. Just himself and the elements. Many were the blows and thunderstorms that he had endured. No, not endured, enjoyed. If it were only his choice, he would stand out on the cliff top and dare the gods do what they will. But he had the herd to think of. They would watch and copy what he did and he dare not endanger them, especially with the new seasons foals on their way. While there was much to be said for being herd leader, McKenzie sometimes regretted his loss of freedom of action that it entailed.
Lifting his head and scenting once again, he broke into a canter and circled the herd. They had all been standing, watching him, alert to his every move, ready to obey. Now, as one, they lifted and fell in behind him as he headed down the valley. They neither questioned why they were moving nor where they were going, they trusted their leader implicitly. It was over five years now since McKenzie had ousted old Snowy from the leadership. It had not been a cruel battle, in fact for Snowy, it was a relief. He had led the herd for the last ten years and was now quite ready for his retirement. And, he couldn’t wish for a better successor than McKenzie. Already the herd had produced some fine foals which had grown into fast, strong ponies making their herd the most respected on mountain and plain.
McKenzie led them at a steady canter down the valley, choosing the safest and most comfortable paths through the heather and the bracken. Already the leaves on the stunted trees had started to flutter and the fresh scent of moisture was in the air. A few spots fell as they descended even lower and now the breeze had turned into quite a wind at their backs.
Then they heard it, the first low rumble of thunder. They had been too concentrated on their flight to notice the far off lightening but now the sky began to darken rapidly. McKenzie tried to estimate the time it would take them to reach shelter and the speed that the storm might overtake them. There was still time – just. The rain was starting to fall much heavier and this time they couldn’t miss the lightening flash as it threw shadows of their fleeing figures in front of them. Almost at once, their was a vast clap of thunder making the very ground under their hooves vibrate. A sense of fear now crept into their flight and the pace quickened as one. McKenzie circled to lead from the rear and comfort those who felt vulnerable from behind. The edge of the forest was in sight and the leading ponies started to relax a little whilst not slacking their pace.
And then they were safe. Under the protection of the wide spreading branches, the rain did not reach them and the lightening flashes were dimmed. The thunder, although no quieter, appeared to be further away. The herd stood there, steadying their breathing and feeling the safety of companionship as they looked around at each other. Good old McKenzie, leading us to safety again. Aren’t we lucky to have such a leader? Gazing around to catch an admiring sight of him, they were puzzled to know where he was standing. Those with taller necks looked over the backs of the others trying to spot his familiar mane. Gradually, puzzlement gave way to anxiety. Their leader was nowhere to be seen. He had been right behind them they were sure. Where had he gone to?’

“Wicky, bucket time.”
“Aw, Wicky. Will you finish it later?”
“Ay Mims. Did you like it?”
“As much as you will like your supper. That much!”

A yawn or a swear word?Monday 7th August 2006
“Oh come on, Wick, you promised.”
“I don’t remember that lassie. Promised?”
“When I said would you finish it later, you said you would, didn’t you?”
“Well alright, girl, where was I up to?”
“He had gone missing. McKenzie was lost in the storm.”
“Oh aye, that was it. Well now …..”

The rain fell in torrents, the wind howled and the sky was black as auld McPhee’s heart. Try as they might, no one could see anything outside of the forest where they were sheltered. The young mares looked to the elders for guidance and the elders looked to the senior geldings. Then, from the rear of the herd, young Sterling pushed his way to the front. He was a fine looking stallion, steel grey with a long flowing mane and tail and taller than most of the herd. His eyes glinted in the lightening flash and, as he reached the senior male, he lowered his eyes and stood deferentially before him.
‘Should I go and search for McKenzie?’ he asked, with no sign of arrogance, just a genuine desire to be of service. Old Clansman looked at him, weighing up what his chances might be. Sterling was young and he was strong and fleet. If anyone could brave the storm then he should be able to do it. Clansman just nodded his head and bent an ear in the direction that they had come from.
‘Away wi ye, youngster. Tak’ care now and do your best.’
Sterling needed no further permission. He was off in a fast canter, heading back along the train, his eyes flashing from side to side, blinking the rain away to peering into the gloom for any sign of McKenzie. First he ran in a straight line but then, when he felt he had gone far enough back to where he had last seen their leader, he started to swing round in large semi circles, covering great swathes of ground and always peering through the deluge for McKenzie’s dark muscular shape. While he surveyed the terrain he had to be careful to avoid the rocks and hollows that lay in his path. Often what looked to be safe ground turned out to be a danger covered by a bracken frond.
There was a vivid flash of lightening and Sterling caught a glimpse of what might have been McKenzie’s blaze, over to the left of where he was heading. Veering that way, he broke into a gallop, regardless of his own safety. And then, in a few strides he was there. Down of the ground was McKenzie, his legs out of sight in the murky bog that had caught him unawares while he led his herd to safety.
‘Careful boy’ he grunted to Sterling. The ground is treacherous here. Don’t get sucked into this mire like I am. ‘What can I do?’ asked Sterling, ever deferential to his leader. ‘Nothing you can do boy. Just go back and tell Clansman that he will have to take over the herd now. I’m finished. Just leave me.’
Sterling took this in unwillingly. McKenzie was his hero. He couldn’t end this way. It was just too silly. ‘Away with ye lad, don’t hang about here. Tell the others to get to safety. Off you go.’
Sterling was torn. He was being given an order by the clan chief but he just couldn’t leave him to die. What should he do? Maybe if he went back and brought Clansman and some of the others they could do something. But no, it would be too late. Something in him, his breeding, his background, came to the fore and he took control, all deference gone now.
‘Don’t give up, just like that, Mac’, he said. ‘we need you, the herd needs you. I need you.’ And saying that he lowered his head right down over McKenzie’s face. Bite onto my mane. Bite hard and don’t argue.’
McKenzie could tell there was nothing to do but obey and he clamped his teeth within an inch of Sterling’s neck, the fine strong mane held tightly in his bite.
Sterling started to reverse, taking the strain of McKenzie’s weight being tugged the other way by the bog. To try and assist him, McKenzie wriggled his body from side to side to loosen the grip of the muddy water. At first, Sterling could make no progress but then, slowly, very slowly, he managed to pull McKenzie a fraction towards the bank. He had to stop momentarily, every sinew in his body crying out with the effort but the, catching the look of hope in McKenzie’s eyes, he pulled with renewed vigour, regardless of the pain. Pulling, pulling, straining and then – pop – and they both fell exhausted on the firm ground beside the bog.
When Sterling finally found his breath, he opened his eyes to see McKenzie, mud drenched and slimy, laughing and spluttering and starting to pull himself upright. With one last mighty heave, Sterling managed to stagger to his feet and the two of them just leaned against each other, the silent laughter vibrating through their bodies.
Clansman was peering through the rain which was easing now. First nothing but then the sight of two ponies, side by side, came cantering into view. Without a word, sterling and McKenzie entered the herd and took up their positions. Standing slightly to the front of the herd, McKenzie turned and shouted. ‘Come on then, no time to stand around here all day. The storm’s as good as over. Let’s go find some grazing.’ And with that, he was off, the herd taking off as one with Sterling following up as rear guard. For now!

Clearing upTuesday 8th August 2006
You’ve never seen such a performance as we had this morning. HE decided that Mims’ foot was bad enough to need a poultice again although how he could decide that when she didn’t take a step, is beyond me. Now my daughter is not the best balanced person in the world and HE is obviously not the best poulticer either. HE put her on a head collar and brought her into the shelter where the ground is more level than where she was standing, and then the performance began. First HE puts the wet poultice on the top of her foot where HE thinks the problem lies. Then HE gets this roll of bandage tape and starts to unwind it, only to find that it is only half its width at the beginning where it has obviously torn last time it was used. This means that HE has to stop to unwind it and Mims starts getting bored with the whole proceedings and shakes her leg so that the poultice falls off. Try number two. HE replaces the poultice having cut the bandage level at the start and proceeds to unwind it, only to find he is now undoing it the wrong way and so it will not stick to itself as it should. Mims gets bored again and starts to move sideways away. Try number three. HE replaces the poultice and makes a successful single wrap around the top of the foot. It now needs to wrap under the hoof to hold it secure. The problem is, Mims has two foot positions; firmly on the ground or raised up high underneath her tummy. HE asks her to lift her foot, she obliges and the poultice falls off. Attempt number four. I should add that by now, Mims has completely lost interest and wishes to have her head collar removed. HE replaces the poultice, wraps twice round the upper foot and asks Mims to raise her foot. She does so but with her toe pointing straight to the floor which means that HE can’t get the bandage to wrap properly. Mims loses balance and staggers over to the other side of the shelter, the poultice falls off and she stamps on it.
Now by this time, it is not just me in the shelter with them. Wicky has finished cleaning up all the food we have dropped and comes barging in to see what treats are going. It is now getting crowded in here, the knees of the jeans that HE put on clean this morning are getting rather soiled from groping around on the floor of our not so clean shelter. It is warm and humid. Passions are starting to rise. Attempt number five. HE regains the mashed poultice from the floor and attempts to hold Mims foot in the way that Mark the farrier does, between his knees. The limp bedraggled poultice goes on, the bandage twists into a thin rope like strand, HE tries to untwist it, Mims loses her balance again and staggers away with the bandage dangling. Final Attempt. Wick and I look on with great interest while HE mutters a few quiet things to himself, grasps Mims foot firmly with no attempt to raise it off the ground and wraps the bandage round the soggy poultice just round the top of the foot. HE grunts something like ‘that’ll have to do’ and does HIS best to straighten up, not daring to look down at HIS handiwork. To give HIM credit, HE puts HIS arms round Mims’ neck and gives her a big kiss before taking her head collar off and then gives us all one last carrot and trudging off down the field, for all the world a defeated man.

Mims posingWednesday 9th August 2006
Hi there, just a short one today as the weather is a bit cooler so we have to get some serious grazing in. I just wanted to say that for all mum was laughing at HIM and me yesterday, doing our poultice, we did alright and my foot is much better. I am still what HE calls ‘favouring it’ as I walk but at least I am walking now and not limping so that poultice must have done some good.
The other nice thing was Wicky’s story. I know him and me has our differences now and again but I do enjoy listening to his stories. It’s funny that when you see him nipping about in the fields or running around us to get at out food leavings and all that, he doesn’t seem very old at all. And yet he has a load of experience and is full of tales and the like and can keep you amused during the long nights as we are grazing. In fact, in everything other than food, he is really a sweety. It’s just that he has such a healthy appetite that he cant keep away from our buckets after he has emptied his own and that can irritate sometimes.
Mum keeps talking about going to France or ‘home’ as she calls it. She has even started to try and teach me some of that language but I think I am a great disappointment to her I can remember ‘mange’ alright because that is like manger. In fact I told mum that the French must have pinched the word from us, it is so similar. Strangely, Wicky can remember that one too. He says you never know when it might come in handy if THEY have to leave us while we make the journey there. He says that we might get driven by a French human and is desperately trying to get Alli to tell him the French for ‘treats’.
Then there’s my name. It turns out that I am named after a treat in French. When someone asks me my name, I have to say ‘gem apple Mims’. I think it means something like ‘I am an apple jewel Mims’ although I don’t quite know why. Still, when in Rome or rather when en France, as they say (I think). It still amazes me why a supposedly civilised country can’t say ‘in’ properly.
So, I’m off to do a bit of eating and a bit more language learning. What worries me is that mum told me that when we are there, they will call me Alezane as well. Now wont that be confusing?

Ben tacks upThursday 10th August 2006
Well OK, maybe mum was right after all. The problem is partly to do with the fact that HE types this diary in the afternoon, before HE comes along with our buckets. That means HE only knows what we tell HIM in the morning and things can change during the day. That’s what happened yesterday. HE left me in the morning feeling well on the mend but, after HE had typed up my piece in the afternoon, HE came along to be dismayed to find me limping again quite badly. To give HIM HIS due, HE did a fine job of the poultice this time. I think HE was very determined and just went for it. I jumped about a couple of times but then HE filled my mouth with carrot and took my mind off things long enough to bandage the poultice well. So well that it ws still perfectly in place this morning.
I tried to get HIM to bring me my breakfast where I stood, up above the field shelter but mum let me down by charging down to meet HIM and left me all alone. HE just gave mum and Wicky their buckets and then got on with feeding the birds (and, I have to split on HIM, the rats in the hole in the bank too) so, in the end, I was forced to come down to eat. I was not walking too badly, an obvious limp but covering the ground OK. HE felt my leg all over while I was eating and says HE cant find any obvious places for an abscess, no real heat or painful places when HE squeezes. HE is not at all sure about my leg a bit up above my foot. That HE thinks is looking a bit swollen. THEY both think it might be like mum’s was and is travelling about the lower leg until it finds a way out. Whatever, I wish it would hurry up, I am fed up with this now.
One good thing. We didn’t have to have our fly masks on today. The weather has made quite a change now being a bit breezy and even cool in the mornings. Enough to keep the flies at bay for a bit.
Now I’m going to have a bit of a  moan about my mother. You would think that she would have some sympathy for her daughter when she is in pain. But no, what does she do? She only comes along and starts to eat my food, that’s what. She slops hers all over the place and then, instead of going and picking it all up, she walks over and starts stealing from my bucket. And, of course, there’s nothing I can do about it, is there. Well, nothing except looking hurt at HIM so that HE takes my side. Which HE does, as soon as HE notices. The trouble is, what with cleaning out the shelter and the path, feeding the birds (and the rats) and doing Wicky’s sponges and all that, HE is often to busy to notice until mum has nearly finished. Still, if she is that desperate, I suppose I shouldn’t grumble. Poor old soul needs her food no she is getting on a bit, I dare say.

Alli spilt her foodFriday 11th August 2006
My dearest daughter had her breakfast on her own this morning. We were up above the field shelter when HE brought breakfast and as soon as I saw HIM, I went down the hill to greet HIM. She, however, stayed where she was and HE felt sorry for her and took her food up to her. HE says it was because she had some medication in her food and he wanted her to eat it all up, which is another way of saying that HE thought I would steal it myself if it was down here. Probably true.
She stood there waving her leg at HIM for sympathy but all HE could do was to cut off the poultice that HE left on yesterday. Then, because I was standing down the hill waiting for my treats, HE started to throw carrots down to me. And, do you know what happened? Wicky ran up and pinched the carrot from under my nose.
It wasn’t very long after HE went that Mims decided to take the weight off her bad foot and have a lay down. Of course, it was then that HE came back with John the vet. Because we were up the hill, John drove in and got to us before HE did, as HE had to go to the field shelter and get a head collar. Actually HE got two, one for Mims and one for me which he handed to Johns assistant/trainee/young girl. I say she was a trainee because she didn’t know how to put the head collar on me and when HE helped her, she might as well not have bothered because she let me stand where I would have (to get a good view) and then held me so loosely I could move about at will.
Anyway, enough of me. John swiftly got to the root of the problem and found the pus in Mims foot. He also said that there is a further cavity behind it which was getting filled with dirt and setting up an infection so the treatment is to poultice it for a week and then to get Mark to fill it like he did her other foot. Whatever, Mms was very relieved to have the pressure taken away and, although still limping, she was able to get about with less pain now.
Then, in the middle of the afternoon, we had a visit from both of THEM. THEY didn’t even bring any treats, just came to give us a cuddle and a scratch and also, as the sun had come out by then, to put on our fly masks. THEY stayed quite a long time and both went away with very dirty hands and fingers and SHE was muttering about us needing baths. If SHE only thought about it for a while SHE would know that we have mud or dust baths nearly every day which is why THEIR fingers got so dirty!

mum and daughterSaturday 12th August 2006
HE has discovered two things about my daughter that I could have told him, if HE had asked me. The first is that she is not so much silly than naughty. Mind you, both words imply a sort of feminine sweetness. HE never uses the words like crazy or brainless or bad and wicked (present company excepted old friend). No, silly sort of implies a loveable ness  and naughty is an excuse able childishness. But, however HE still wishes to see her, the fact remains that, when she doesn’t want to do anything, it is not that she doesn’t understand but rather that she is being wilful.
Now, the second thing that HE has learned is that, when she discovers that she cant get away with it, she just gives in. Take this morning. HE has to put on her poultice twice daily now until Mark comes along to fill the hole in her hoof. After giving us our buckets and feeding the birds (oh, alright Wick, and the rats) HE got all the medical stuff ready and came down to where Mims was eating and lifted her hoof. Then HE discovered that it is already filled with dirt and has to leave her and go back to the shelter to get the hoof pick. By the time HE returns, Mims has had a look at all the medical stuff and decided that it is not for her, probably remembering yesterday when John had to hurt her a bit to get at the abscess. So, HE lifts her foot and off she walks, in between Wicky and myself, so that HE should not do it.
He didn’t bother to fight her this time but just went straight back to the shelter again and this time brought Mims’ head collar. Once HE put this on her, Mims just folded. HE was able to do her poultice with no trouble at all while she just held her foot up like the good girl she can be if she wants to. The thing I noticed was that, although she had a head collar on, HE wasn’t holding it at all and she could still have walked away if she had known.
I think this probably proves that she is both naughty and silly!
Oh yes, I almost forgot. HE took our passports into the vets this morning so that they could check up on what is needed for us to be able to go to France. Both Mims and I are freeze marked but I think it will come as a shock to Wicky that he will probably need to be microchipped for identification purposes. It’s a good thing that they are micro chips, isn’t it? (I am finding a use for italics today, aren’t I?)

Yet another thought eludes MimsSunday 13th August 2006
OK, enough’s enough. This is Wicky and I am fed up with all this girl talk and the never ending saga of Mims’ foot or Alli’s foot. On and on, will it never end?
And another thing. Just because the sheep are white and I am white (well, grey officially) there is no need for ll those jokes when THEY ride by saying ‘I wonder which one is Wicky?’ It is obvious that I am vastly taller than any of those tail wagging creatures. And better looking, as well. So, lets just have a little respect, shall we. I am the most senior one in our herd and I should be treated as such, not made a laughing stock of.
Well, that’s got that off my chest. Now lets have a look at this moving to France thing. Just because Alli was born there and miss Mims is her blood relation that doesn’t mean that I have no French connections. It is very well known that the Scots and the French are very closely related. It goes back years and years to the time when the kings of England and the kings of France were pretty much the same and when they quarrelled amongst themselves the loser used to skate off to Scotland and if pursued there then they would take themselves off to France. And, of course, where they went, their horses had to go to. So you can be pretty sure that I have some French blood in my veins somewhere.
Oh, that reminds me. I’ve also had enough of all those jokes about the French eating horsemeat but me being safe because there wouldn’t be enough meat on me. I am a very well built specimen of my breed. We are really good at lots of things. How do you imagine old spindle legs Alli getting on down the mines for example. She would be forever knocking her head, wouldn’t she. And her daughter too, even though she is not so tall. She would probably get her fat sides stuck in the tunnels.
So, let’s just get things straight. I will be in the lead when it comes to taking our herd back to our native pastures and I will be one of the very first to start eating all that lush, Normandy grass and really I cant wait and I dream of it all the time and it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Oh, where was I? Sorry, got carried away there for a minute.
I’m not so sure about all this micro ship business. I had hoped we were going by plane but I suppose THEY are too mean for that. But, at least you would think that we could go on an ordinary ship. Such a small one might not have enough room for our hay and food and stuff. I wonder if they do an equine duty free shop? That would be good. We could stock up on cheap carrots and polo mints and have a really good crossing. I’ll have to get HIM to check that out.
Mind you, I am feeling a little homesick already. I mean, it does mean we will be leaving old Treg behind. Still, I expect he will catch up with us again. He doesn’t seem to have any trouble coming to visit us. He will probably find us in France and I could always leave him some messages telling him where to find us. But not yet as none of us, even THEM, knows where we are going yet. HE calls it a big adventure. Well, we will see!

Where was I going?Monday 14th August 2006
Our herd is apparently up to four again. While we were having breakfast this morning, one of the sheep sized lambs came along and looked at HIM and seemed to be asking for something to eat. Then, when HE wasn’t forthcoming, it just hung about until Mims and I had finished, and proceeded to do the job Wicky usually does and tidied up where we had spilled some of our feed. I guess it thinks that it is rather like Wick’s little brother and so is entitled to join in. At the moment, it is funny. If the whole lot of them decide to join him we are in danger of getting swamped.
Mims’ foot appears to be getting better. She is now walking normally. At least, normally for her. She has never been the most graceful of creatures I have to admit, even if she s my own daughter. She must get if from her father. And she is slow, particularly of late. As soon as I hear HIS car arriving in the morning, I start wending my way down to meet him. Mims, on the other hand, is a little dolly daydream. She just stands there, looking at the sheep, not even noticing that I am gone at first or even appearing to realise that breakfast has arrived. It seems to take HIM calling out to her several times to wake her up and then she starts ambling down the hill as if it doesn’t matter, it’s only food. Compare that to Wick who stands right up at the gate to greet HIM and follows HIM hard on HIS heels until his bucket gets put down.
Another day without our fly masks today. It started out quite cold and cloudy and there really wasn’t any point putting them on. This afternoon, the sun did come out a bit on and off and there were times when the masks would have been good but overall it was nice to be free of them.
HE told me tonight that the man from the estate agency phoned today apparently to talk about putting the house and field on the market and start the process of our going to France. One of the things he was talking about was selling the house and the field separately or together and he did say that if they sold the field they could do so with the proviso that we were allowed to stay in it for say six months, after which we could be put into livery. HE says that THEY discussed this and agreed that THEY could sell the house and land separately but only if the house was sold first and that THEY would not chance us having to go into livery. As there doesn’t seem to be any problem selling the field, THEY would be quite content for us to go to France with the field unsold and sell that later when we were all settled. So that’s a relief for our little herd!

Looks like a fine dayTuesday 15th August 2006
I have to tell you about how the authorities are prejudiced. It’s about our going to France. HE has been trying to find out what documentation and possibly medication we need before we will be allowed in. HE tried phoning the French Embassy at first but only got someone speaking French very quickly (for HIM) who appeared to be saying that HE needed to phone another number. HE quickly wrote down this number and then phoned it, only to find that the French are just as good as the English on leading one round and round and getting nowhere. “If your question is this, press button 1, if it is that, press button 2 etc.” When HE finally got through on the correct button HE was told that what HE needed to do was to look on their web site, which was where he had looked in the first place and, finding no answers, decided to phone.
HE then was given the phone number of the French Chamber of Commerce who, after a few false starts, told him to try the British DEFRA department. When HE explained that HE had looked all over that website as well and that HE could only find details of either taking small pets to France or the wholesale trade of cows, sheep and the like, the lady on the other end said “well, that is what I am reading here”. HE tyold her that HE didn’t need to know what the British required to take horses out of the country but rather what the French required to let them into France, the lady replied “don’t ask me, we are an English company”. Remember, this is the French Chamber of Commerce!
Oh, before I go on, I must tell you something else. HIS French is not very good so when HE was faced with a page on the French Embassy web site, which was about moving to France and bringing animals, HE asked Google to translate it into English for him. Apart from discovering that the page was only concerned with taking small animals into France, he also discovered that “dogs, cats and pipe cleaners must have a passport”. HE tells me that HE can only guess that the word for pipe cleaner and the word for ferret is the same in French – at least, to Google.
To continue, eventually HE did phone DEFRA and the man there on the ‘Exporting PETS Scheme’ line, told him to hold on while he investigated because PETS meant dogs and cats and, presumably, pipe cleaners too. He came back after a while and said it wasn’t DEFRA HE needed to talk to but the National Veterinary Service and gave HIM the phone number of the branch in our area at Exeter.
And, at last, that information was correct. The very nice lady on the phone said that all HE needed was an Export Licence and she would send him a form. HE explained that he had three horses, two racehorses and a Dartmoor Hill Pony and then she said, “alright, I’ll send you two forms”. When HE said no three horses, she explained that it is to do with height. Mims and I will go on one licence but Wicky must go on a separate one because he is under 14 hands. As I said at the beginning, our government is sizist. However, Wicky thinks it is an honour to be having a licence all of his very own and it has made his day!

Ben's rideWednesday 16th August 2006
Sorry to keep on about France but HE told me tonight that they already have someone coming round the house on Friday to view the house and, also, there is someone very interested in the field and the field shelter to store wood in. It strikes me that THEY will not have enough time to learn the language before THEY have to be off looking for a new field for us (oh, and a house for them, of course). HE also said that there is a lady known as the West Normandy Granny who is going to phone HER tonight to talk about what THEIR requirements are. It would seem that these Grannies (there are a whole network of them, ladies who have made the move themselves ) are available, at a price, to hold their hand and help THEM find what THEY want in the area THEY are looking. I just hope this one knows about equestrian needs, that’s all.
It has been raining today. Not as hard as the weather people threatened, just nice pleasant soft gentle rain with a few harder showers. This is real good news for the field which has been turning browner and browner. If we are going to get our expected autumn flush of grass, we badly need the rain. Already, we three are finding that we look forward more and more to our buckets as the grass gets harder and harder to find. Our sheep have gone now which will help I suppose. I saw that HE was going to fill our hay nets this morning and then stopped as HE realised that they had been eaten by the sheep. Well, as the sheep have gone and as we are likely to have to hide from the rain in in the field shelter, HE had better change |HIS mind again and fill those nets up.
THEY came along after lunch again to spy on us. It was nice that SHE was in the car as well and SHE called out to us. It’s funny that, although the car is a long way away, we can hear and recognise her voice talking to us. It’s a long time since SHE has been able to come and be with us and we do miss HER. HE is fine for feeding us and that but it would be nice to have a few girlie moments again, especially as, with Mims, there would be three of us now. HE can stay and cuddle Wicky if HE likes.
When THEY came along after lunch, HE tells me that THEY had been taking all our rugs to be repaired and cleaned. Because of the move, they are having them all done, well, with the exception of two which had been hardly used this year anyway. HE said the car was loaded up to the roof with ten rugs in plastic bags and HE couldn’t see to reverse. THEY had to find where the lady who cleans the rugs lives now, for she had recently moved. She also needed a house with land as she needed to house her own horses. That’s what’s good about humans, they always put our needs first!

Wicky eating again? Gosh!Thursday 17th August 2006
Hi there. My turn today. Gotta give the old a rest now and then. We’ve had a bit of a drenching today. Not just rain but, on and off, real heavy downpour. At last we’ve got a good bit of water in the stream again although it’s not as nice as it usually is as its gone a funny brown colour. I don’t mind the rain myself but, as soon as it gets a bit heavy, mum runs for shelter. I think she will never forget that time when she was caught out in that field with the cows and got the shivers and shakes all over. Never seen anything like it myself but mum told me all about it. The good thing is, HE has filled all three hay nets up again so if we do have to stand in the shelter we have something to do. Anyway, the rain will make our grass grow and we will have a chance to fill up before the winter comes.
Funny, talking about winter already. That’s a long way off I hope. There’s autumn to come first and that’s usually nice. Often the weather turns pleasantly warm but without the flies. The only thing is that the days get shorter and we start to change our routine round. Oh, I wonder where we will be by winter. It looks as if our routine is going to be  turned around like anything, doesn’t it?
I was chatting with Wick about it (funny, it’s never Uncle Wick anymore, we’re more like mates now) and I was surprised how well he is taking it. You might have thought that, at his age (no disrespect) he would just want a quiet life. But no, he is really looking forward to it. Says he’s always wanted to go and see those French girls that he’s heard so much about. When I said that mum is a French girl, he said ‘no, silly, I mean young fillys. Alli’s old enough to be ‘. He never finished cos just then mum came along and he found that he had an urgent appointment with some grass. We had a bit of a discussion about how you spell ‘fillys’ – like that or like ‘fillies’. I decided that the first looked prettier so I went for that. Mum asked why I wanted to know and I had to make us some story so Wick didn’t get into trouble.
Tell you what HE remarked the other day. When we are surrounding HIM for treats, HE said that mum never gets nasty if I push in front of her. HE said that if Wick did it she would flatten her ears and snake her neck at him. HE’s right I suppose. I’d never thought about it. I’m not sure whether it is the mother daughter thing or the ‘all girls together’ thing. Whatever. Wick does alright anyway because while we are mobbing HIM, he gets to go around us both and mop up anything that we have spilt (and with mum, that’s most of it).
So, I’ve rattled on and said nothing really, haven’t I? I do tend to do that. Sometimes the other two sort of drift away out of earshot and I am left talking to myself. They say I am in a world of my own and I suppose that they are right. But then, we all are, in a world of our own I mean. That reminds me. We’ve not seen Treg lately to tell him of our move. I suppose his world must be keeping him busy these days. Let’s hope that he follows us wherever we end up, I’d hate to have to leave him behind, I still feel he is part of our family.

Does my bum look big ...?Friday 18th August 2006
Another vet day today. Another in both senses, both another day and another vet. This time it was a girl named Maria who seemed very nice. We didn’t know she was coming. We were in the road field as we tend to be in the afternoon when HE drove up and opened the gate and drove in. We managed to mug HIM for a few treats before HE drove on past us down to the field shelter. We followed HIM in case HE had decided to bring our supper early but when HE got out of the jeep it was only to take a sack of peanuts into the hay store for feeding the birds with. When HE came out of the store, we cornered HIM again and got a few more carrots out of HIM (it is amazing how many pockets he has) before HE got back into the jeep and drove off. WE were milling around wondering what to do next when HER came back again, this time with the new vet. HE told her what a nic bunch we all were and she very calmly and efficiently gave us all various injections and then entered them all up in our passports. She also gave us all the once over with her listening thing and decided that we were all fine, by which time HE had finally run out of carrots, apples, biscuits, mint sweets and so we let HIM go. It seemed quite a long while round to supper time after that but it did, after all, make quite a pleasant break in the afternoon.
This evening, HE told me about HIS latest worry. Apparently, ever since THEY decided to go to France, HE goes o bed each night and can’t sleep because HE keeps thinking of new problems involved in the project. SHE keeps mocking HIM and asking HIM how HE thinks other people ever get to go away but that doesn’t seem to stop HIM worrying. Last night, just as HE was about to go off, HE suddenly thought that THEY will have to see off our horse transporter then see off the cats transporter then see off the house removal men and then race to get to wherever we are going in France to get there in time to greet us at the other end. HE said HE hept have nightmares about us turning up in France with no one there to receive us and the cats likewise. SHE reckons that either we will drive more slowly than them or we will all go over on the same ferry. SHE thinks HE is just a natural worrier.
THEY have now contacted someone in the hope that THEY can rent a house with a field so that we can all go over there and then THEY can take their time in house (and field) hunting.
Ah well, I expect it will all sort itself out and by this time next year it will all be over.

A bite a day keeps the vet awaySaturday 19th August 2006
And after the vet – the farrier! HE came along with our supers last night and then, just as we had finished, there was a sound from down over the stream and long came Mark, carrying a box with some tools in it. It wasn’t for all of us though, just Mims. Where she has had a bad foot, Mark came along to fill the hole with some synthetic hard stuff. At least, it goes hard after he has pumped it out of a gun, into the whole. It wasn’t a long or painful operation but Mims dis stagger a bit while he was doing it. HE says that she just lost her balance but SHE says it is all part of an evasive action by Mims when she doesn’t want something done. Me, I’m staying out of it. It just happened, that’s all.
Yesterday HE took our masks off and the flies came along and started to drive us mad. Today, HE left them on and it has been a cold, fly-less day. As they say, you really cant win.
Nothing else happened today, just an ordinary, fill your tummy with grass day. Oh, one thing. HE went along after feeding us last night and told Sue at the farm that we would be leaving. She said that her horse lily would miss THEM as she often calls in at he house for a carrot when she is passing. In fact any horse or dog who passes usually gets a treat, so much so that their owners try to go the other way or to hurry by so as not to have to stop.
And one last thing. HE told me that HE has now got that deaf cat Mutton to accept being stroked and picked up. HE says that he is very, very thin and weighs very little indeed. They trouble is that THEY cannot take him to France as well so THEY can only hope to fatten him up before the new owners move into the house.

Masked MimsSunday 20th August 2006
I never thought I would see it but today Mims was actually grooming Wicky. OK, it wasn’t quite like the way it sounds but she was doing t nevertheless. We’ve had quite a busy day today one way or another. Let me tell you about the second happening first where the above grooming took place.
We were standing about down beside the stream, having a little bit of grass when THEIR green car drew up by the gate. But, instead of just watching us for a while and then driving off, THEY got out of the car and came into the road field. Mims looked up and greeted THEM as she always does. I kept my head own and pretended I hadn’t heard, just in case it was anything nasty (farriers, vets, etc.) that was going to happen. But no. Instead of that THEY both just sat down on the grass and SHE started to call out to me. Well, I couldn’t be rude and just ignore her so, after sizing up the situation, I looked up and then started slowly to make my way over the stream and up into the field towards HER. Just as well I did as SHE had some mint sweets for me. Not only me but also Mims and Wicky who had followed me over. Anyway, after we had exhausted the sweets both HER and HIM took to giving us a good old scratch and it wasn’t long before Wicky joined in and we sort of ended up in an equine triangle with Wicky’s bottom under Mims’ face. Well, when you are being scratched you do tend to reciprocate and that’s how Wick ended up being groomed. THEY left a bit later with black finger tips. I wonder why?
Before lunchtime this morning, the three of us were standing about in the field shelter dozing when HIS battered old white jeep drove into the field and came to a stop by the shelter. Inside HE had four bales of some very delicious hay which HE had just fetched from over near North Tawton. Mims grabbed a mouthful as HE was carrying the first bale into the hay store but I waited to see if HE had any treats first. And, of course HE had. Because we had been hanging about in the shelter, HE saw that it needed cleaning out so HE just dumped the bales over the gate while HE did it. Then, while I was waiting, I did manage a few bites of hay out of the top bale. When we were all clean and HE had filled all three hay nets, HE got back into the jeep but, instead of driving away, HE drove up to the top fields to make sure the gates were open for us. What he did find was that two of them were open because someone had knocked down the posts, presumably getting some machinery through the gaps. Then HE drove back down again but, before HE could get away, Wicky ambushed the jeep and made HIM stop and dish out another handful of mints.
Really quite a successful day for us equines, on the whole!

It was a swear word!Monday 21st August 2006
We had a visitor this lunchtime. Not HIM or HER either but someone far better dressed and more professional looking. He stopped outside the gate and then made his way down to the stream. Fortunately, the stream is quite shallow at the moment because he was wearing posh shoes not wellies. He crossed over and made his way up to the shelter carrying a little black box thing and a clipboard and then he started to point the box at parts of the shelter and make notes on his board.
HE told us later that the man was from the estate agency and the black box was a laser thing for making measurements and he was preparing a sales brochure for the house and land. Wicky thinks he was just a waste of space whoever he was as he didn’t have a single mint sweet on his person.
Funny old day today. Started off quite cool and cloudy and struggled to brighten up by suppertime. Being August, SHE has told him to put our masks on anyway, whatever the weather because it seems the flies work by the  a calendar rather than the climate. We have both got very used to our fly masks now. When we first had to wear them, we were first suspicious of anything round our ears but we have come to be very, very thankful for them keeping the nasty irritants out of our eyes during the day. I only wish they would cover our legs and bodies as well.
Do you ever think about worms? Go on, admit it, you are a secret worm fancier aren’t you? Oh well, maybe not. Maybe you would think about them more is you had to eat with your nose just millimetres from the ground. We see them all the time, popping their heads out of the ground to watch us eat. At least, that is one theory. When the grandchildren went home from this most recent visit, HE took them to the train station in Exeter. He took his little camera with him in his pocket and while they were on the platform, waiting for the train to arrive, HE started taking photos for the web site. One train was standing in the station on another platform and as HE was looking at it, HE decided that trains are not very interesting unless you can catch them coming along towards you. Then, as this train pulled out of the station, HE realised that trains today are built to go backwards or forwards rather than having to turn them round when they get to the end of the line. Therefore, if he took a photo of what was now the back of the train, as both ends look the same, people looking at the photo wouldn’t know if the train was going out or coming into the station. So there we are. I say that the worms are watching me eat but Mims swears that they are running away from us. Who knows?

DismountingTuesday 22nd August 2006
Where does the time go? More importantly, where has the summer gone? Only another week and it will be September, the children will be back at school and SHE will start thinking of bringing Mims and I home on alternate nights. Sometimes we get an Indian summer. I wonder why it is called that? I am sure it is much hotter in India than it ever is here. We use the term when talking about a late period of good, summer-like weather but what that has got to do with India beats me. But then, a lot of what humans talk about is a puzzle. You see, when I am talking to you like this, I am not using my natural language. No, I don’t mean I was brought up in Normandy so my real language is French. No, my real language is Equine and, I’m afraid, hat just doesn’t translate into any human language whatsoever. It’s not just a set of different grammar rules and a different vocabulary. No, Equine is a completely different concept of communicating altogether. Just think, you never see a group of horses or ponies standing together making noises at each other which is what human talking looks like to us. Yeah, OK, we do sometimes make a noise out lout but, as often as not, that is to please or to communicate with a human. A bit like when HE comes along with the buckets. Then Wicky stands behind the tree or against the stream gate and shouts out to HIM in greeting. Why? Because HE often makes some silly noise to greet Wicky when HE gets to the gate and HE is always talking to Mims and I as well when HE sees us. So, Wick is just being kind and making HIM feel welcome. Of course, sometimes, Wicky is taking the micky out of HIM and HIS silly noises but HE doesn’t know the difference.
This morning when HE drove along the Throwleigh Road, just before HE got to our field, there were five silly shorn sheep (isn’t that alliterative? Try saying it ten times quickly.) running long in front of HIS car. HE wasn’t sure whose sheep they were but there had been sheep in Clarence’s field next door to us so HE thought that they must have got out from there. HE tried to steer them into the little lane that runs down to Clarence’s field but, typical sheep, although one hovered at the entrance as if it would go down there, when it saw the others going past, it turned and followed them. Eventually, they turned in at the bridle path so, HE told me, they might have got up onto the moor by now.

Wait for meWednesday 23rd August 2006
It is around 2 am at night and our three herd members are in the middle field, sheltering from a sudden shower under the big oak tree. It is a fairly dark night with glimpses of the moonlight in between the rain clouds. All three have lapsed into a sort of drowsy half world, waiting or the rain to stop so that they can resume grazing.

“Bonjour”.

“What th…”
“Who’s that?”.
“Mum!”

“Ca va, mes amis?”

“Oh mum, what’s that funny smell?”
“That’s garlick, lassie. But what’s that thing?”
“Don’t worry dear. It’s French, that’s all. But …”

“C’est moi, Treg. Votre vieux ami (er, je pense.)”

“Treg, you old idiot. Great to see you.”
“Aye, laddie. Didn’t recognise you in that beret. What you all dressed up for?”

“J’ aurai …. Oh, fetlocks, I give up. I heard that you lot were off to France so I thought I come along and give you a sort of taste, so to speak.”
“A smell more like it, Uncle Treg. And what’s those vegetables doing round your neck. They smell a bit funny too.”
“Oh, them, them’s onions. All the Frenchies wear onions round their necks. Stops the berets falling off, I think.”
“Anyway Treg, it really is lovely to see you. How did you hear about us moving?”
“Ha, Alli. We have our ways you know. There’s not much gets past us you know. We got ears all over the place.”
“Oh, you mean like Wicky, Uncle Treg?”
“Har, har young lady. I see you haven’t got any better than when I was here.”
“Worse old mate, if you count ‘er falling over and all. Still, you didn’t come all this way to talk about little chits of girls. Tell us, what’s new with you.”
“Oh, we’ve just finished the Heavenly Horse Festival. Great fun that is. All sorts of events, jumping under gates, reverse races, fence smashing. Young Mims here would be awfully good at some of them, I’m sure.”
“I see you’re not wet at all Treg. You must have found a way here to avoid the rain.”
“No Alli, I came directly. Down that is. But the rain doesn’t stick on us you see. Goes right through so it’s no problem. Tell me. How’s it feel to be going home to Normandy?”
“Oh, that was so long ago, I hardly remember it to tell the truth, Treg. It should be good though. HE tells us that the pastures there are nice and soft and flat and the whole area is known as horse country. HE said a fellow on he phone today told HIM that there were thousands and thousands of brood mares there.”
“And a lot of stallions, I hope mum. Maybe you could find out for me Uncle Treg. Maybe even have a word with one and see if he is looking for a girl friend.”
“Ha, lassie. Why do you want to go and make some poor horse’s life a misery, eh? Just ignore her, old mate.”
“Look everyone, the rain’s stopped. How about coming down to the field shelter with us, Treg. You could have a bite of ha…… Oh. I forgot. Can you eat hay now?”
“Well, I could bite it but it might fall through, sort of. Not a pretty sight for the young lady here, I fear.”
“Come down with us anyway Treg. Spend the night and let’s have a real good old chat, eh?”
“Yeah, alright Alli. That’d be very nice. Just let me take off these onions though. Don’t want to stink the shelter out, do we?”

Nice and tidy in hereThursday 24th August 2006
A quiet day again today for us. For HIM not so. Since people have heard that our field is to be sold the phone has not stopped ringing apparently. Not only that but whereas THEY were shocked at the price that the estate agents said that our field would fetch, the enquirers seem to accept that it is the going rate. HE told me to tell Mims and Wicky that we are sitting (I think I spelled that correctly) on a gold mine, so to speak.
One other bit of news that I think is good news, at least THEY think so, is that THEY have had agreement for THEM to take on the long let (October to March) of a property in Normandy so that, as soon as the house is sold here, we can all move over there and THEY can start looking seriously for a property o buy. I said I think it is good news because the property that THEY will be letting is on a farm and the farmer has agreed that we horses can go to. My only reservation is that instead of stables we will have a barn to live in overnight. However, we will also have a field and it is a flat one not on a hill as ours is. So, the only thing that is stopping us becoming French equines is having to wait for the sale of the house. Hopefully that will not take forever. The sale adverts went out in the newspapers today so THEY are hoping to start hearing from people soon. It will still take quite a time though as, even if someone came along and loved the place, there will be surveys to be done and then we may be waiting until the purchasers can sell their house and so on. THEY are expecting at least another two or three months yet and, practically, hoping that we may just make the move before xmas. Of course, the weather will have turned by then and goodness knows if we will have a rough sea crossing. I’d rather not think about that part of it. Let’s hope that we all survive the next few months with as few headaches as possible!

Waiting for a thrown carrotFriday 25th August 2006
Did I say yesterday was a busy day? That was before today. Not for us, you understand, but for THEM and that mans, ultimately, for us.
THEY had a phone call today that someone wanted to come and look at the house with a view to buying it. This is only the day after the advert went in the paper. Oh, I forgot to say that two friends also approached THEM yesterday, interested in buying our field. Anyway, as there was going to be a viewing, the vacuum cleaner had to come out and toilets etc needed giving a going over etc (HE tells me. If it was us horses, they must take us as they find us. I certainly wouldn’t be running around cleaning up the field). While this is going on, Abbie, THEIR daughter phones to say she wants to come down today with Rachel, the granddaughter and so HE has to go and pick them up at the station. No problems there as it is later in the evening but it does mean that HE has to bring our supper earlier in order to get to the station to meet the train.
Next, THEY are having their lunch when the phone rings and it s the estate agents who tell them that the couple who visited in the morning, have made an offer for the house. It is below the asking price but as THEY liked the look of the young couple and also as hey were halfway through a bottle of very nice red wine, THEY said they would take a price just a little below the offer but way below what they had asked.

Then, in the afternoon, HE was having a bit of a snooze before having to bring us our supper when the phone rings again. It is the estate agents who now want to bring another person to view tomorrow who wants both the house and the land and they feel will be willing to pay the asking price as they have horses and are, at the moment, renting in the village.
Having dealt with that, HE went back to try and get some work done before bringing our supper when the phone rang yet again. This time it was the lady from France who THEY had asked to find a long let in Normandy. And so it went today.
So, sorry that this is a short entry but life is pressing at the moment and I don’t dare ask him to do any more until he has a bit more time.

Rachel's rideSaturday 26th August 2006
You thought yesterday’s diary was short? Wait for today’s. It’s not that nothing happened. Rather the opposite. For HIM, anyway. I seem to remember yesterday that I said Abbie was coming with granddaughter Rachel. What I forgot to say as that the latest grandchild, Rhys, was also coming. Now, this is the first time that THEY have met Rhys so most of the evening was taken up in admiring him and so, not a lot got done. THEY were very conscious that THEY also had another person coming to look at the house at 11 this morning. HE had also arranged for someone to come and tidy up the garden at 9 o’clock and, as the guy comes along in a big pick up truck, HE needed to get his car out of the way before the truck blocked the way and stopped HIM from going shopping. So, the day started with feeding us our breakfast and then having HIS own breakfast, doing the dishes and getting the next two sets of our buckets ready. Then HE went out with Rachel to the local supermarket to buy our carrots and apples (and probably to get THEM some food as well). When HE got back, it was a question of checking on the gardening progress and then the lady arrived for her guided tour of the house. Then the lady wanted to see our field as well so the next thing we knew was that HIS jeep appeared in the road field and drove down to where I was standing in the field shelter.
They got out and looked in the hay store and fed us with a few mint sweets and then got back in the jeep and drove off up and around the field. They didn’t even stop and feed us again when they had looked around, just drove straight out of the gate again. HE told me that when they got back to the house the estate agent had gone so the lady went off on her own. Then THEY all went off down the local pub for lunch, as just HIM and HER do on a Saturday. When THEY got back it was more baby games before Abbie took Rhys out for a walk in his buggy and HE decided it was a good time to have a little doze. It was only a matter of minutes however when SHE (who had gone upstairs for a proper sleep) came down so HE gave up all idea of dozing and made some tea instead. Then a knock on the door and an old friend, who had left the village four years ago (in fact Pepsi’s human, for those of you who remember the time when HE used to look after Pepsi the pony) appeared on the doorstep with her lovely Labrador Sophie. This ended up with a general chat and tea session until, just as his friend was leaving, another friend phones with a computer problem.
Strangely, by the time everything got sorted out, it was nearly time to come and bring our supper. HE was just passing the phone, when HE noticed that the message light was flicking and found that the estate agents want to bring someone round on Monday (which happens to be a bank holiday). However, by this time it was too late to phone them back (although HE tried) because they had all gone home.
HE tells me that with such a busy day he really should sleep well tonight except for the fact that HE can’t sleep due to the anxiety and unsettlement over the coming move. Why can’t humans just relax?

That thing in your eye again?Sunday 27th August 2006
They brought that baby Rhys up to see us this morning. And, do you now what? He went to sleep and didn’t see us at all. That is a bit offensive, you know. To think anyone would be so bored that they just went to sleep when they could be giving us treats. Just let him try to come and see us again. We can play at that game as well. As soon as he tried to get our attention we could just doze off and not take any notice of him. Really, I suppose we can blame him. He is a little young. But his mother should know better. If that was Mims I would give her a good nip if she was expected to be polite, not just let her doze off.
The weather turned out quite pleasant this afternoon. After quite a grey and dull start, we ended up with some nice sunny spells without being the kind of humid hot day that brings the flies out. I don’t know what got into Mims last night but she acted all skittish and silly when HE turned up with the suppers. She first ran up to him and then, without waiting for a  sweet, she turned and danced back to me. I say danced because that was literally what she did. It was the kind of jumping about that she normally reserves for having a go at Wicky but this time she just left him alone.
HE didn’t have a lot of news when HE brought supper tonight. A pretty quiet day for him except for a spell down at Church House to take a few photos of the History Group’s Archive Exhibition. For him it will take on a dual roll. HE needs to have some more material for the Church House website News Page and, at the same time, HE has been too busy to take many photos for the village website so HE can use some of these for the Photo Album. The new month doesn’t start until next week (Thursday of Friday, I think) so HE will put some effort into producing the Photo Album after the family goes home tomorrow.
This does mean that Rhys only has one more day to come and see us when he is awake. Otherwise it will have to wait until he is a bit more grown up and then, with any luck, we’ll be in France!

Setting him loose in the fieldMonday 28th August 2006
I have to tell you, he didn’t bother! So  much for the human love of horses and all that. Maybe they only love what they can get from us. OK, no, I’m just being grumpy. And I don’t know why. HE told me that SHE has sanctioned extra rations for me because HE brought the weigh tape along the other day and found that I now weigh less than my normal. I was going to say what my normal weight is but then I realised I can’t. This is not any female shyness or anything. It’s just that as, THEY cannot really weigh me, they have to measure round my tummy instead and use that as an approximate indication of my weight. So, I can tell you that my normal ‘weight’ is 192 (although 192 what I would have to just guess at) but when HE weighed me the other day, I was down to 188. Funnily enough, Mims was 188 as well and she is nearly a hand shorter than I am, so either I am thin or she is fat and I wouldn’t like to tell you what would happen if you called her that. Like any horse with any dignity, she would just claim that she was in good ‘condition’. Anyway, whether I have lost weight (probably down to my poor feet a little while ago) or whether it is just that HE doesn’t know what HE is doing when HE puts the tape round us, doesn’t really matter. For whatever reason I m getting extra rations and that is pretty good.
HE is also moaning that we have been eating up all the hay that HE bought for us. What did HE expect us to do with it? HE says it is only a short while since HE went and bought four bales and now we have nearly finished number four. The problem is due to the non arrival of what is called ‘the autumn flush’ when we are supposed to have a second good growth of grass. SHE thinks it came and went and was very poor. Someone else ‘horsey’ that THEY were talking to (not being coy, it’s just that HIS memory is shot – it could be anyone) said that it has not come yet. Whatever. The extra nice bit of grass has not found it’s way into our tummies this year. My own theory is that ot came but all Michael’s greedy sheep ate it. That is a theory that is strongly supported by Wicky as well but then he is always against sharing hois food with anyone - even us. Strange really as he doesn’t mind in the least him sharing our food!
I’ve just sort of rambled on today, haven’t I? I suppose it’s because nothing earth shattering has happened today. Oh, I must tell you what HIS latest worry is. Did I tell you that when HE goes to bed these days that it is very rare that HE can sleep. One of the world’s worriers, HE is. Last night it came to him that HE may not be able to buy our Polo brand mint sweets in France. HE lay in bed planning how many packets HE would need to take with us , so that we could acclimatise before HE was able to get us used to the French equivalent. And then, as soon as HE had worked that one out, HE was on to the next problem. I will have to get Mims and Wick to join me in working out a plan to get HIM over to France in one piece, without having a breakdown.

Head to headTuesday 29th Aout (Whoops, August) 2006
Another day without our fly masks. There have been flies but I suppose HE thought that it was so cool and overcast this morning that it was a shame to make us wear them. The sun did come out later but then HE must have been too busy to come over. I gather that there are some more people to look at the house today and after that THEY will have to make a decision. THEY have already got a firm offer for the house but THEY would prefer to sell the house and the field together to get everything going at the same time. So, we will have to wait and see what happens after today.
THEY are also waiting for the details of the place we are going to lease in France while THEY look around for he place to buy. Once people say they will do something, it is very annoying when nothing happens and one is left waiting. In particular, THEY need the phone contact for the farmer whose field we will be using so that a price and details can be worked out. HE would like it all sorted out so that THEY can pay the full amount in advance now and so feel secure to make any decision and know we all have somewhere to go. I expect it will all come right in the end but waiting can be really trying.
Mims was very pushy this morning. I think HE was a bit slow in giving her he bite of apple that we usually get first after we have eaten our short feed (or, in Mims’ case, when she has had enough of it). HE moaned that HE was too busy refilling our hy nets because we had given them a ight old bashing the day before and they were as good as empty. When HE had finished, Mims came and demanded her treats, even before HE had time to do her sponge cleaning. Then HE had to rush over to me and do my sponges while I ate my half of the apple. Even Wick was finished before HE could finish with him. Still, it worked out all OK in the end with lots of carrots throwing games. Mims has really taken to that now and gets to the side of the stream even before I do. Maybe I am slowing down now or maybe it is just her hormones?

That to you Mims!Wednesday 30th August 2006
HE tells me that HE has been feeling guilty for the last couple of weeks inasmuch as my diary if getting full of what is happening to THEM and going to France and so on. I told HIM not to worry though because what happens to THEM happens to us as well as we are all one big family. Mims and me and Wicky are all in agreement that we will not be in much of a mood to tell stories or anything until our future is sorted out again. In a way, it is quite exciting, or it would be if HE didn’t keep worrying so much.
So what has been happening today them? Well, first HE made an appointment to take the cat PC to the vets for another steroid injection. These are a series every six weeks or so which are to build him up and try to keep the decline of old age at bay. It was not how PC had planned his morning, being plucked off THEIR bed in the middle of a nap with Tom, so he shouted all the way there and all the way back.
Next HE loaded up the jeep with all the bags of stuff that THEY have been clearing out and drove them down to the recycling centre (what used to be called the rubbish dump). On the way back, HE made a detour to the place where HE gets our hay from and loaded up another four bales. HE was moaning only yesterday how quickly we were eating it but then I asked HIM what we were supposed to do with it and that shut HIM up.
On the way back HE stopped off a few times to take some photographs as the deadline for this months website Photo Album is tomorrow. HE then drove on to our field to drop off the hay and found us all having a quiet morning’s rest in the field shelter. We had absolutely no trouble at all in relieving HIM of the contents of two packets of Polo mints before we let HIM go. Mims remarked and we all agreed what an easy touch HE is.
Going back a little, HE told me that HE had shown another person round the house last night and was hopeful that he would like it as he was in a hurry to move. However, while HE was out, SHE got a phone call from the estate agents saying that last nights viewer was not interested. SHE therefore made a quick decision to agree to sell to a nice young couple who had already made an offer. So, as long as they do not drop out for any reason (losing their own buyer, mortgage, etc.), we are go fro France. HE then contacted a friend who was interested in buying our field, telling them that as long as the house sale went along OK that they could buy it.
Later that afternoon, there was a phone call from someone else in the estate agents who wanted to send someone round to view the house. HE had a moan about them no talking to one another and the decision was made to take the house off the market. Next HE spoke to a solicitor with regard to acting for them and is now waiting for a letter with pricing details etc.
And finally, this morning, HE spoke to the agent in France who is organising the let of the property there. HE explained that for peace of mind, THEY wanted to pay for and secure that agreement and she promised paperwork was in the post. We shall see. But at least things are moving now. The estate agent estimates that mid to end of November could be when we are of to Normandy. Xmas in France?

going homeThursday 31st August 2006
“Last day of the month, Wicky. We wont ever see August 2006 any more.”
“Shouldn’t think you or your mum saw much of it anyway with those silly masks on.”
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, see. These are very good masks. Not everyone has a face full of hair like you, you know. I shouldn’t think you saw a great deal of the last forty years or however long it is you’ve been alive. Not with a mane like that mate.”
“Mims, I can understand you being jealous, not having even half a mane and no tail to speak of either, but you really should be more polite to your elders and betters, you know.”
“Well. When I find one I will, silly old s… Shetland.”
“And you should watch your language, my girl. That’s no way for a young lady to behave. No wonder THEY’ve never found a stallion for you. If you carry on being so rude and disagreeable, you’ll end up an old maid, you know.”
“Better an old maid than an old grump-bum. Why don’t you go and play with the other sheep, mr short legs?”
“Mims, Wick. Give it a rest, will you. I’m trying to have a quiet graze here and all I can hear is the two of you bickering. It’s worse than having a couple of children, you know. Now make it up and just get on with what you were doing.”
“But mum, what we were doing was having a little social intercourse. A ort of generational discourse on the finer points of life. That’s right aint it Wick?”
“I don’t think you would recognise a finer point of anything if you sat on it and it went up your ….”
“Wick. Really. You could be a better example, you know. You really are old enough to know better.”
“He’s old enough to know everything – but he doesn’t. Just thinks he does.”
“Now, enough. Both of you off to opposite side of the field, right now. If you cant be good I will have to treat you like the naughty people you are.”
“Come on lassie. We were only having a bit o’ fun, the noo.”
“And you can leave oput that phoney Scots accent too. I doubt whether you’ve ever been further north than Hatherleigh. Now, listen both of you. I heard yesterday that we are most likely to be in France before Xmas. Even earlier. The middle to the end of November is being quoted at the moment. It’s going to be a very long drive and we will be stuck together in the removal van so we’ve got to start learning to get on.”
“It’s OK mum. Really. Don’t worry. Wick and I are only playing. We’ll all be alright and the herd is going to have a smashing time when we get there, aren’t we Wick?”
“Aye, girle, that we are. Tell you what Alli. I promise not to have another argument with Mims here until we get to France. How’s that suit you?”
“And I won’t say anything nasty to the old idio ….gentleman before the move either. OK?”
“And when we get there?”
“Ah bien. Attendez et voir maman. Nous verrons, (je crois).”

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