Alezane's Diary Archive January 2007
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The day to day life of an ex-racehorse and her companions in Dartmoor UK and Mayenne France
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seeing in the new yearMonday 1st January 2007
A happy new year to everyone. Well, everyone except HIM. You should have seen HIM this morning. First the farmer James came along while HE was feeding us and wished HIM a happy new year. From the look of HIM, you would think it was the last thing HE was thinking about and HE only just managed a mumbled ‘and to you’ through gritted teeth. Then, as HE was going and putting our buckets in the car, Jo popped her head out of her window and shouted out brightly ‘happy new year’. It would appear that HE had to repeat his mumble in order to get away as quickly as possible in case it was infectious.
No, I’m being too harsh on HIM. HE was actually terribly worried about us and in particular about our Wicky and his foot. HE had again had to change Wick’s poultice in all the mud and, when HE looked up for a moment, there was the ram eating my breakfast and I had in turn moved over to eat Mims’ breakfast. What really was upsetting HIM was that HE knew that HE was wasting his time. There was no evidence of an abscess in Wick’s frog, no sensitivity or anything. All HE was able to see was what appeared to him to be a swelling around the ‘ankle’ but HE could feel no obvious swelling at all. Then, to see the ram doing what it wanted and HIM powerless to be in three places at once had brought HIM very nearly to tears. So, when people came along all cheerful, HE was in another world and was taken unawares. I’m sure that HE felt sorry later on.
One very nice thing that has happened to THEM is that Sophie has been coming along to THEM for some lessons on making her own website. She is such a lovely girl, very quiet and shy but at the same time very intelligent and a quick learner that she is a pleasure to teach and to have around. But, for me, the best thing about her is that she absolutely adores horses. Now anyone like that couldn’t fail to be nice could they?
Back to us. Jo has said that, if the vet that THEY are going to bring back tomorrow says that Wick should stay in, then she will make a place for him in a barn somewhere. On the other hand, if Wick can’t bear to be parted from us, we could, all three, be shut into our big barn as we were on the first day and all stay in together. I only wished I could have spoken to her to let her know that, as much as we love dear old Wick – yes we DO, Mims – we could just bear to stay outside and play in this lovely mud just a little bit longer. Let’s hope HE manages to tell her before SHE takes Jo up on her offer!

who are you looking at?Tuesday 2nd January 2007
HE had been poulticing Wicky’s foot for three days but it seemed to have no effect. In fact, if anything, Wick’s lameness seemed worse, So, this morning THEY decided it was time to get the vet back in. SHE phoned and made a pretty good job of talking in French and the vet said she would come at 3 pm.
As there was nothing else THEY could do for him until then, THEY went off shopping, the main aim was to get some of the chaff horse food that THEY couldn’t get on Saturday because the store was closed, presumably for the new year holidays although there as no sign anywhere other than the normal one which stated that the store should be open. Well, guess what? When THEY got there this morning, the store was still closed. All THEY could do was to assume that it was still part of the holidays and drive on into town. Since THEY have been here, THEY have shopped in two places, the big supermarket in Alencon (which is  much bigger place than THEY had thought) and a smaller shop in a nearby small town, Carrouges, which provides a very friendly service although with, obviously, a smaller range of goods.
So, they drove on into Carrouges and went to the friendly shop. HE started to buy us some carrots but then got the idea that the shopkeeper may have a full box in the back of the shop, rather than load up his bag from the open box on the shelf. HE tried out HIS French to ask but, not knowing the French for ‘box’ used the word ‘sac’ instead. The shopkeeper said ‘no, he was sorry, but he didn’t have a sac’. HE shrugged and went on to fill his shopping basket when the shopkeeper came up to him and said ‘oh, do you ant a box?’ HE nodded and thanked the man who came back with an empty box to load the carrots into. Then, seeing HE was less than delighted, the shopkeeper understood and gave him the whole box from the shelf. HE was very pleased but when THEY were paying, HE told the shopkeeper that the carrots were for us horses. The shopkeeper then said he would get a 10 kilo bag for THEM on a regular basis and it would work out much cheaper so everyone was happy.
The vet came in the afternoon and prescribed injections and bed rest for Wick. The worst thing, as far as he was concerned was that she said he could only have hay to eat.. She also said that Wick should have a farrier to make him special corrective shoes. However, after the vet had gone, SHE was sure that SHE could feel an erupting abscess at the top of his foot which was a quite different diagnosis from that of the vet. SHE decided that he could also have some of his chaff and sugar beet as well as his vegetables at normal feeding time and decided to get a second veterinary opinion. Jo was asked to phone some friends with horses and see which vet they would recommend. So Wick was left to eat hay all night long and to sleep in the dry on a nice soft straw bed. Tough for some, eh?

sunriseWednesday 3rd January 2007
THEY had planned on going house hunting all day today so all they could do for Wicky was to make sure he had enough hay and water and that his bedding was OK. HE was in a bit of a rush when HE brought breakfast as THEY had to drive to meet the agent some considerable distance away.
THEY got back in plenty of time to bring our supper and HE told us a tale of woe. THEY had driven for nearly two house in thick fog with some rather original signposting. At one town the sign for THEIR route led just to the town’s central car park. They eventually arrived over three quarters of an hour late. THEY then went off to visit one property but, when THEY got there, the agent couldn’t find the key to let them in. She lifted every flower pot but in vain. As it happens, although there were four horses in the fields, SHE decided that the pasture was too poor for us. Because THEY were late, the second visit was missed out and they went for a light lunch before driving off to the second property. This one turned out to be quite the opposite. The pasture was good and flat but the house needed complete renovation and when it would be finished, one would still be left with a property on a big, empty, windy plain with a good view of the local factory and on the corner of two roads.
THEY drove back disheartened but it did seem to her that Wicky’s abscess had burst and so HER diagnosis had been correct all along. It was too late to ask Jo what she had found out about alternative vets and, anyway, THEY now had a cat to worry about as Thomas seemed to be running a temperature.


architectureThursday 4th January 2007
OK, I know yesterday’s diary was a little short but really, HE was quite worn out by all the driving and standing around in the cold. This morning was worse. HE went to bed early but awoke about 3 am unable to sleep. He was worried about Tom, about not finding a property in time, about HER health, about … well, everything!
Then HE woke up feeling that HE had flu. HE did tell me later that the symptoms did eventually go away and that it may just have been the cumulative effects of all that driving and strain plus not falling asleep until it was nearly time to get up.
When HE came to feed us, HE was joined by Sophie who told HIM that Jo had some information about another vet for Wicky. Jo had taken advice from some friends who owned horses and they had recommended just one man and Jo had his phone number. When HE got home HE told HER and SHE phoned the man. HER French is really improving when it comes to equine problems. HE said that HE could come this morning and so, instead of going out shopping to buy horse food, THEY waited in until he came.
And he was a delight. A really professional animal doctor who specialised in horses and had a thoroughbred of his own so he had to be good, didn’t he? He took one look at Wick’s hoof and confirmed HER diagnosis. He said not to do any of the things that the first vet had prescribed but instead cleaned up the wound, said to leave it in the open air on Wicks clean bed of straw to heal and said that SHE should give him a daily antibiotic injection.
Not only that but he phoned a horse feed agent to come along and talk to THEM about what feed we were used to and, if necessary, import it from England. Wicks heart softened to him at once. Finally he found THEM the phone number of a good farrier for when our feet need trimming. All in all a very nice and highly professional man.
To celebrate, THEY went out to eat, only in the snack bar at the supermarket but the food was very good for the price. As usual THEY were too late to catch the shops that THEY wanted open as it was lunch time before THEY were free but as THEY didn’t need to buy horse food now, HE just bought some apples for our treats and a map book for THEIR house hunting. All in all, a good day today.

farmhouse for saleFriday 5th Janvier 2007
Us girls, I will admit, are a little bit muddy. I can remember a time when Mims was famous for having three white feet. Not any more. Rather like me, she now has four yellow mud coloured legs. Not only that but we have yellow mud coloured faces as well. Sophie, our groom, often stands breaking the mud out of Mims; mane just so she can find a place to kiss her. HE told me today that Sophie prefers Mims while HE loves me best so in some way it works out alright. You see, I’m not a bit jealous because I know that SHE also loves me best so it is only fair that Mims has someone to be extra special for. Apart from me, of course. Mims is always extra special to me, even when I scald her.
THEY had a very good day today. It started off with HIM determined to find a time when Agrial was open so that HE could get a hose pipe and a groundsheet for THEIR car. The hose is to be able to wash out our feed buckets after we have used them in the mud and also to hose down his boots after feeding us. The ground sheet for the car is because THEY carry lots of horse stuff in the boot and it is getting a bit muddy in there as well. Anyway, THEY started out early and for the first time found it open. HE found the hose and ground sheet and then THEY tried to find the high fibre, low protein chaff based feed that Wicky needs. HE told me it really is amazing how good HER French language is getting when SHE is talking about horses. However, the chap in the store (which is rather like a much smaller Mole Avon that THEY had in Dartmoor) eventually told them to go to another store in another town where there was a chap who spoke English.
THEY drove from Carrouges to Ferté Macé and managed to find the store which was a slightly larger smaller version etc etc and did find the chap who spoke (some) English. He was somewhat amused at the thought of the English getting this oat straw and cutting it into tiny pieces and covering it with molasses to feed to their horses. He did however come up with some Alfalfa equivalent which we tried tonight (the jury is still out on that one) as HE is saving what we had of the old stuff for Wicky. But, this nice man and HER got on very well and THEY left with some feed and most importantly some horse apple biscuits, as ours were running out.
This evening THEY had a visit from Veronica, the lady who found THEM this farm to rent and she brought along details of some houses for sale. THEY have lined up to visit some of them next Monday. This lady has two donkeys as well as a farm full of sheep so she knows what pasture land we need. Let us hope that THEY see something that will suit as all.
As I have not mentioned Wicky, I should just add that he is progressing very well and starting to put a bit of weight back on his foot. HE told me that I don’t seem to miss him but that is not true. It is just that I know that THEY are doing THEIR best for him and he will come back when he is better.

fire watchersSaturday 6th January 2007
Twelfth night, time for the Christmas decorations to come down. Or, in THEIR case, the sting of red wool with THEIR Xmas cards on and the wreath on the door. And that’s it. Not even anything on our barn. I always used to have my stable at home decorated, often with lights. Still, I forgive THEM this year but next Xmas had better be good, that’s all!
SHE is back to giving Wick injections of antibiotics, one a day. Now, you might think that Wick wouldn’t like this but actually, while SHE is doing it, he hardly even notices because HE is standing there giving Wick biscuits and sweets. It must have been a very bad abscess because Wick is still keeping the weight off that foot. On the other hand, his mane and tail are starting to look good again because he is in, out of the rain and mud. Unlike us. We get dirtier by the day.
We had our supper early today because THEY were invited out to the local village hall, where the mayor was giving a New Year’s speech and little reception. This was due to start at five, the time our supper normally is brought but today, HE came along at four fifteen. Just as HE got to us it started to rain so HE decided that HE would feed us in the barn. We weren’t very sure of this because we haven’t been in there for quite a while now and we do tend to feel a bit trapped in there, even though it is very big because there is only one entrance and exit. Still, HE insisted so eventually we were enticed in. The trouble was, the ram was in there as well. Every time the ram tried to get at our food, HE would run to chase him away and that made Mims run out of the barn to see what was going on. Then I would follow her to see what she was doing and it took HIM ages to get us both back again. As this happened a few times, feeding us took a lot longer than usual and THEY had to hurry to get to the hall in time.
Or so THEY thought. Although there were a lot of people there when THEY got there, they continued to come in for the next twenty five minutes, by which time the atmosphere inside was hot and airless. Then the mayor got up to speak and THEY had about half an hour of listening to a political speech of which THEY understood only about one word in five, and those ones not the important ones. So, after the speech was over, THEY made THEIR excuses and left.
One other thing THEY did today was to buy several magazines and local papers. This may not seem such a big deal but, to THEM, it is all part of the tactic to get better at the language. Yesterday, THEY went into a patisserie to buy a cake and when the lady asked THEM what they wanted, SHE prefaced HER reply by saying in French ‘We are English’. For some reason this had the nice lady bursting into laughter as she replied (of course, also in French) ‘Yes, I didn’t think you were Normans!’. This has given THEM the impression that THEIR language maybe needs a little improvement. But, why not. It is less than a month since we came here. I’ve even learned a bit of sheep but then, they do only seem to have one word – baa!

Wicky in sick baySunday 7th January 2007
HE couldn’t find us tonight. HE brought our supper along after stopping off to give Wicky his and the first thing HE found was that HE couldn’t get in the barn as it was locked from the inside. HE knew what must have happened as Sophie often goes in the door and locks it behind her but then goes out by crawling through the fence. HE did wonder if we were with Sophie when HE couldn’t see us at the hay feeder. I don’t know if I have told you about that but the sheep have this round metal container and James comes along with his tractor and a great big round cotton reel of hay which he drops in it. This makes a lovely height to feed from and we spend a lot of our day there.
However, we weren’t there tonight and HE had to carry the buckets right up to it to look for us. At first HE couldn’t find us but then, there we were, right up in the far field on the skyline. HE put the buckets down right on top of the hay and called out to us. I looked down at HIM with some interest but didn’t move a muscle. Then HE called for Mims and she said to me, ‘mum, HE’s calling, should we go down?’ I told her to be quiet and look the other way. ‘What do you want to go down there for?’, I asked. She couldn’t think of a good answer to that so she just put her head down and ignored him.
Just then Sophie appeared, clambering through the gate and HE waited for her to come up to where HE was standing. ‘They are right up there’, HE said to her. ‘Yes, I know’, she said. ‘We had the hunt go by here today’. Then, of course, HE knew what was the matter. We were excited. I always used to get excited when the hunt went by on Dartmoor. Here, I think, they were hunting wild boar, and with guns not dogs but they were still riding and the sound and smell of the horses galloping just stirred me up. Mims too, I should add. She hasn’t been hunting like me but the excitement is still in her blood.
So, HE did what HE had to do and that as to bring our suppers up the hill to us. HE and Sophie walked along together until they reached us and then put our buckets down. I couldn’t help it, after nearly every mouthful I just had to give a great big snort and look over the fields to see if they were coming back. I think Mims was even more excited than me and could hardly bother to eat. She just run up and down from her bucket looking out over the hill.
One very good thing came out of it all. HE told me that HE had seen a very different farm today. One with dry grassy fields and wonderful views over to the forest. It made HIM really pleased to know that this is where we spend most of our days and nights and that we are not just wading around in the mud at the entrance to the barn, as HE had thought.

THEIR cottageMonday 8th January 2007
We decided that we don’t do mud. We’ve done that and we don’t like it. So, when HE brought breakfast, of course, HE couldn’t find us. Where were we? Up the hill of course where the grass is dry and not muddy. There is one snag, for HIM not us you understand. HE has to walk all the way through the mud and tractor tracks to find us. We weren’t far away, just over the other side of the field from the hay feeder, just through the hedge and there we were.
HE was actually, very pleased that HE had to come and find us. From where we were, there was a wonderful view of the sunrise. From being a dull, grey morning, the sky opened up and first showed a glint of white light and then the bottom of the cloud started to change to pink and then red until the whole sky lit up with a wonderment of colour. While we ate our breakfast, HE just stood and watched as the world blossomed awake and then until the sky turned back to white again.
After a while, Jo turned up to tell HIM that they were feeding the sheep in the barn and were putting a tape across to stop us horses getting to the sheep’s feed which was sugar beet but undiluted. The sheep having different stomachs to us can eat the beet shreds dry as they are and feed on them over and over in their stomachs. We horses having only the one stomach and not being able to regurgitate and chew the cud would get extremely ill if we ate the beet shreds without them being already soaked in water for many hours. This is a great pity because we were enjoying eating with our friends the sheep but, like most things, if you enjoy it, it is not good for you.
THEY went out house hunting again today. THEY just looked at one farm, which was much, much too big for us and the property itself was in great need of much expensive renovation. To crown it all, it was pouring with rain, so much so that the whole trip became a bit of a joke. At least the agent got to look at it for the first time so she will know what to advise other clients about before taking them, there. Tomorrow, THEY are off to look at a very different property. It is a modern building with already a couple of horse boxes. O have to say that they are trying to find something that will suit us all.
When THEY got home it was time to feed us again and this time, just to confuse him, we were down in the mud again. It was because it was raining that we felt sorry for HIM and wanted to spare HIM the walk. Just as long as HE doesn’t take it for granted, of course.
By the way, Treg came for a visit today. Remind me to tell you about it tomorrow!

Wick in painTuesday 9th January 2007
It’s been a while since my beloved Tregony came to visit us. I think he realised how confused we were and had been giving us time to settle in. Anyway, he came along yesterday while Mims and I were having a stroll along the top fields. Funny how we used to talk about the top fields back on Dartmoor. There the land was divided roughly into the bottom, middle and top and the top really was quite a bit higher than the bottom. Here there seems to be more two levels. At the moment with all the rain, the bottom level is pretty muddy churned up by the sheep, the tractor and, dare I say it, us horses as well. But the higher level is much nicer. Of course it is not dry but it is grassy not muddy and one can throw ones feed out of the bucket and still eat it up off the ground.
So, as I say, Mims and I were just having a late evening stroll when she said to me ‘what’s that shape in the distance, there over by the tree line?’ When I looked, I could just make out a shape against the trees which looked familiar. At least, it didn’t look threatening so we decided to move a little closer to try and find out what it was. We had not gone but a few paces when I heard,
“Ere, Alli”
and I knew who it was. I broke into a trot and Mims followed in that funny half walk, half run that she has. My darling old Treggy, looking no different from when we shared Ninefields together.
“Bonjoor, Alli. Say Vah?”
“What, Treg? Oh, I see, you are speaking French, oui, mon vieux?”
“Er, yeah, I think so Al. Dunno about ‘we’ though. Or that mountain. Still, good to see you again. And that young, er, your daughter, what’s ‘er name”
“Mims. Come on Treg. You must remember Mims.”
“Well, if I must, I suppose. Where’s my mate Wick? He didn’t turn up this side so I expect he’s still with you somewhere?”
“Wicky? Oh, he’s fine. At least, he’s a bit lame but HE tells me that Wick is getting better every day and will still be back in the fields with us soon. He’s staying in his own little barn being treated and spoilt until his foot gets better. Just an abscess you know.”
“Oh. Abscess? Yeah, I used to have them. Painful aint they. Tell you what, Al. if you don’t mind, I’ll go round and spend some time with him now. He’ll be lonely I suppose. I’ll come back and see you another day.”
And with that, he was gone. Mims wondered if I’d said something to offend him but when I explained she thought it was really nice of him to go and spend time with his old friend. ‘he can come back to be with again later, when we are all together’, she said, and I felt really proud of her.
Now to today’s bit of news. THEY went out to look at a property today. SHE didn’t really want to go as it was not at all the kind of place THERY have been looking for. Instead of being and old stone built farmhouse with barns and things it is a new house built nine years ago and, from the agents photographs, was a very ordinary looking sort of place.
However, when THERY got there, THEY slowly became more and more interested and excited. First the area is lovely with hills and forests and not at all like the flat, boring plain that they saw the other day. Then the nearby village has lots of amenities and is very much alive and interesting without being over busy and crowded. The land of about nine acres was not flat but has gentle hills and dips with a small pond in one corner. In addition there is a chance to buy a further 12 acres of flat land just behind the house. There is a large modern barn with a mezzanine floor currently housing a tractor and horse box and room for two loose boxes.
The house itself has a sous sol (basement) housing a laundry room, wine cellar and six cars, a ground floor with kitchen, dining/living room and bedroom with large en suite bathroom and the first floor has two further bedrooms, an office and a bathroom. And all light with lots of lovely views. They came away with the firm intention of making an offer if the agent can get a reasonable price on the additional land.
HE was really happy to tell us that THEY had found our new home. If only horses had fingers we could keep them crossed. Failing that, we will just have to have patience and see what happens.

prisonner or hiding?Wednesday 10th January 2007
After yesterday’s mammoth diary page, HE has asked me to try and keep this one short. Well, I’ll try. The good news is that Wicky should be coming back to join us tomorrow. He had his last antibiotic injection today and is putting quite a bit of weight on his foot now. He does still limp a bit but this has a tendency top go if he is heading for his feed bucket. Last night was a windy but clear night and we could hear him quite plainly calling out to us. We called back and had quite a bit of conversation, considering t is at the top of your voice. He said he had been very well looked after but now he was lonely and couldn’t wait to get back for Mims to nip him. Thinking about it, he must have been being satirical there, I think. Anyway, we do look forward to all meeting up again.
Sophie came out to be with us tonight while we had supper. We hadn’t seen her for a few days because she has had to go back to school. What we didn’t know is that they have a half day on Wednesday and that she had been to a riding lesson straight after school. Also she wasn’t able to stay too long as she had to go for a guitar lesson. What it is to be young. She has promised to go and play guitar for THEM one day before we move away.
Talking of which, HE went for a drive today to try and find the house that THEY liked so much and look a bit at the surrounding places. As usual for HIM in France, HE got lost and couldn’t find it. However, HE did stop in the village and bought a few things in various shops. HE also managed to get a few photos of the place so HE was able to bring HER back something to look at. Later this evening, the agent phoned and THEY talked about making an offer which she will do tomorrow so now THEY are even more excited. Let’s leave it at that and see what tomorrow brings!

Mick the collieThursday 11th January 2007
We had good news and bad news today. The good news was our old mate Wicky came back to us. Mims and I were over in the far field watching the sheep queuing up to be fed. All of a sudden we heard a great big shout. Once twice, and then over and over. There was no mistaking Wicky’s voice. I started running and Mims followed. And there, in the orchard was HIM leading Wick on the head collar. We met somewhere just the other side of the muddy entrance to the orchard and I couldn’t help bending over him and nudging him and sniffing him all over. And then, just as Mims went rushing over to greet him as well, his head dropped. Nothing wrong, of course. Wick had just spotted grass, something he has had to go without for a week. After that, Mims and I could have done what we wanted, gone anywhere, Wick wouldn’t have cared. He knew he was back with us again and so he devoted himself to making up lost time in the eating department.
However, a week in a straw covered barn had had some effect. Fifteen minutes before supper time , Wick headed back to our big barn, somewhere Mims and I have not been in for over a week now. We wondered what he was doing until we heard the car draw up outside and Wick, who has got very vocal since he has been away, started to shout out and put his nose through the crack in the doorframe. HE came in with three buckets and put Wick’s and mine down. Mims was nowhere to be seen. HE carried her bucker outside and there she was, standing where we do sometimes stand for our buckets. But her mind was not on it.
Because Wick and I were eating inside and also because it was raining quite hard, HE tried to entice her to follow her bucket into the barn with us by letting her take a mouthful and then moving a few metres on. This didn’t work though because as I said, Mims was away with the fairies again. The quite strong wind didn’t help. She ran inside the barn, did a circuit and then trot-floated out through the orchard. Then she cantered back and zoomed round the barn and then was off again. HE gave up and was just about to take her supper back to the car when I came over for my treats, having emptied my bucket. HE gave me a few and then I spotted that white syringe in his hand. Wormer! I hate wormers.
I went to run, HE grabbed my rug and we had a tug of war which HE couldn’t hope to win. I ran off and that left HIM with only Wicky who had had his wormer before he came out to us. All HE did was stand there in the barn and made me feel so rotten that I went back to him to make it up. But all HE did was ignore me. Finally HE told me I was a bad girl (but lovingly) and I let him put my head collar on so that HE could give me the wormer after all. And when HE did I gave HIM such a look of betrayal that HE went all funny inside and gave me a kiss. It didn’t stop HIM, however, taking the head collar outside and doing the same to Mims. As I said bad news as well as good. Oh well, that’s (a horse’s) life!

breakfast at dawnFriday 12th January 2007
HE is very pleased that Wicky is back with us. This morning HE did not have to walk through hardly any mud to feed us as Wicky headed us all back for breakfast and we ate in the orchard where it is nice and mud free. I am not sure that Mick the collie is quite so please about Wicky’s return. Mick does tend to get a bit enthusiastic and mistake us for sheep and he is sometimes given to snapping at our heels as he tries to round us up. Yesterday as Wicky was being lead back to the field on his head collar, Mick would keep snapping as his heels and Wick just ignored it. Today while Wick was about his most important activity – eating – Mick got a nasty shock when Wicky tried vigorously to kick him. I noticed that after that, Mick kept his distance and just watched. I have seen before that although Mick is a collie of great enthusiasms (aren’t they all?), he is not the bravest of chins. I have watched him chase the ram until the ram just stopped and faced him down. I have a feeling that he will leave Wick alone from now on.
This evening, Wick did even better and insisted that we all eat in the straw covered barn. Being locked up in a similar, but smaller one, has given him a taste for the high life in eating. The problem for Mims and I is that we do love to turn our buckets out and on a straw floor we lose a lot of the contents through the gaps. On grass or mud we can tidy up later but no amount of pushing ones mouth to the straw will retrieve the lost particles. If Wick keeps this up (he never overturns his bucket), Mims and I will become slimmers of the year.
And really that’s about all that happened today. We are now a very contented, if small, herd once again and the weather has been kind, no rain or wind and just a nice mild temperature so we just roamed about and enjoyed each other’s company.
As far as the new house is concerned, THEY are in a bit of a quiet time. They have asked the agent to make an offer but the seller works in Paris a lot and has said that he will let the agent know his thoughts on Saturday morning. With regard the extra bit of land, the farmer who was said to want to sell is now having second thoughts as he is retired and thinks he wont know what to do with himself if he doesn’t have the land anymore. THEY have told the agent to tell him that THEY are quite happy to do a deal whereby he can manage the land for them, probably taking a proportion of the hay crop or something so that he will have both an occupation and remuneration if he sells. Again THEY must await the result of the agents negotiations. So, in the meantime, THEY are wishing and dreaming. Oh, and doing some shopping. The ‘soldes’ (sales) are on and THEY both bought a few clothes in the supermarket. I am pleased to say, our rugs are only the best and not cheap old sales stuff!

St Pierre des NidsSaturday 13th January 2007
This should be a day for celebration. The seller of the property that THEY wanted has agreed the sale with THEM and THEY are going to make another visit on Monday to look at all the things that THEY missed last time and also to see what will be taken and what left behind. We have, in effect, a new home.
However, all thoughts of happiness have vanished because Tom, the brown Burmese cat has gone missing. He was last seen this morning about 8am, just before HE came out to give us our breakfast. Then, because THEY were waiting for news of the house, HE went out shopping while SHE remained at home. It was when HE returned, just before lunch, that he noticed that Tom was not around. THEY had lunch and then just sat around this afternoon waiting for Tom to turn up but, so far, there is no sign of him. THEY have, of course, searched the house and HE has been out looking in all the farm out buildings. Now, an air of gloom and sadness has descended on the house. Let us hope there is better news by tomorrow.


Sunday 14th January 2007
Looking back to yesterday’s page, it nowhere near expressed the sorrow and grief and tears that were evident. THEY tried to blot out Tom’s disappearance by putting THEIR minds to lists of questions to ask when THEY visit our new home tomorrow but it didn’t work. THEY went to bed to try and bring on sleep after wandering about outside with a torch and calling and listening out for sounds of a cat in distress. Nothing. THEY couldn’t sleep for thoughts of Toms sad end. Had he been killed by one of the dogs or the wild boar that roam around these parts?calves Had he drowned in one of the very deep mud puddles that the cows make?Had a farmer shot him? Had he been run over on the distant road? Had he been badly injured in a fight with one of the farm’s four cats. Had …. And on and on until the tears made it impossible to sleep.
And then, at 3.30am, into the bedroom walked Tom. Not an injury, not a drop of water or mud, just a strong smell of wood smoke in his warm, brown coat. And, what a welcome he got! ‘You bastard’, HE yelled, ‘making us all so worried’. But then HE just took him inside the bed and hugged and hugged him. Tom allowed this for a while and then went over to HER to get praised for his brave exploit. Then the celebrations commenced. Maybe not riotous, but a cup of tea at 4.00 am and then book reading and thinking of our new home while Tom went around and made inspection of the house in every room. While THEY had THEIR tea, the cats had an extra meal; Tom in case he was hungry after being away for over eighteen hours, PC because he is on steroids and gets hungry and Cat Flap because he never stops eating. In fact, thinking about it, Cat Flap could be an honorary horse, definitely an honorary Wicky.
And us horses? We had to bear being fed this morning by a happy but very tired HIM. Mims impressed him though for whilst Wicky and I were waiting at the entrance to the orchard, Mims was right over on the far side. Yet HE had no sooner put Wick’s and my bucket down than Mims came cantering right up to HIM with a really good turn of foot. She has been a bit high spirited of late. When HE has told HER, SHE has said that HE must be giving her food with too high protein. Myself, as a proud mother, just think my dear daughter is having a load of fun. And that makes me very pleased. As HE told me. ‘We will all get to our new home, happy and in one piece’.

foretMonday 15th January 2007
Tom again, I’m afraid. THEY got up this morning, ready to visit our new home and then noticed that Tom didn’t get up with the other cats for his breakfast. At first this didn’t worry THEM too much as Tom is a lazy cat and THEY thought that he was sleeping off the exertions of his previous adventure. But then, when he did get off the bed, all he did was curl up on a cushion and lay very still. Eventually, PC, the oldest cat took up his duties as a nursemaid and lay with Tom and cuddled him. SHE got her stethoscope to listen o his breathing as Tom is know to have a form of asthma that killed his sister. That didn’t appear to be any worse than usual but Tom just wouldn’t show any sign of interest in the world so THEY decided that he had better go to the vets.
When THEY found the nearest vet (not our horse one but a practice for small animals), THEY phoned to make an appointment and found that the earliest Tom could be seen was four o’clock. Then THEY were faced with a decision that THEY would have to cancel the visit to the new home. Of course, Tom’s health came first so THEY made the appointment and cancelled the visit.
Taking Tom to the vet was actually quite a pleasant experience (except, maybe for tome, who had to have the usual thermometer up his bottom). THEY took along the veterinary dictionary and the nurse spoke some English, THEY spoke some French and the vet spoke some medicine. It was discovered that Tom had a throat infection and had an antibiotic and steroid injection. By this time, like all animals taken to the vets, Tom was exhibiting signs of great recovery and indignation.
THEY had arranged that Sophie would feed us today when THEY were visiting the new house but as THEY were back from the vets earlier, HE fed us instead. A pity really as I am sure we could have got plenty of treats out of her. I know it is not much about us horses again today but I have to tell you one more thing about THEM. Today was a particularly cold day with thick frost in the morning followed by fog all day. And, this was he day that the central heating boiler stopped working. THEY think it has only run out of oil and, as there is a delivery due tomorrow, there was not too much panic just a day for building up the log fire very high.

morning moonTuesday 16th January 2007
For once, us equines first. This morning, Wicky, as usual, decided that he would eat in the barn, so as to be away from Mims and I in case we wanted to share his breakfast. That was OK as far as it went because both Mims and myself decided to eat in the orchard. The one thing that Wick hadn’t reckoned with was that the ram was back. Not only back but sleeping in the barn. However, Wicky being Wicky was not going to take any nonsense from a sheep of whatever gender so when the ram invited himself to share Wick’s breakfast he was very quickly shown the error of his ways. For the rest of the breakfast period, he was left standing a couple of feet to Wicky’s side, hoping that there might be a morsel or two left. Some hopes!
This evening, it was Mims’ turn to act clever. She all of a sudden decided that she would be a good girl and not ask him to walk through the mud to the orchard to give her supper. She would, instead, eat in the barn if it was more convenient. I still went and stood in the orchard in my usual place. This left HIM having to walk between me and Mims, each time through the mud, to give is our treats. Imagine Mims’ surprise when she found that she had finished her supper and was standing right next to Wicky who had not yet finished. It then occurred to her that the poor old chap might need some help. At that point, however, HE came along and gave her a big slap on the behind with her empty bucket so she decided that it was not such a good idea after all. All this time I was just steadily eating my supper and only then did I come over to watch Wick finishing his. In the end, HE gave in and gave both Mims and I a handful from Wick’s unfinished bucket before he went off himself to gloat over the days happening for THEM.
And what a day THEY had. THEY went for a look at our new home armed with a list of questions that had not occurred to them on the first visit. HE also took his camera to photograph the buildings and the land so that THEY could look over the place in leisure when they got home. And this visit as such a success that they thought even more of the place on the second viewing than THEY had on the first. And , to cap it all, the agent Veronica (who by this time was feeling more like a friend) phoned in the evening to say that the farmer who owned the second field was inclined to sell to THEM after all and she would be speaking to him further on Thursday. All in all, it was a very good day. Before they went out the chap had come and delivered more oil for the heating so that the house was warm again and THEY had had a chance to catch up on some shopping (mainly for us horses) so that the larder was full again once more.
As HE said to me tonight, it was one of those days when you were afraid to blink in case you woke up and it was only a dream. SHE is already well on the way to planning the changes to make our accommodation into an equine palace. Wicky said that he is not too bothered about that as long as the grass tastes good!

Mack and Cat FlapWednesday 17th January 2007
A very wet and windy day, but not cold. HE still looks at the weather forecast for England and it would appear that it was even worse there. However, with our coats on, we horses don’t really mind very much. If the wind is too much, we can hide in the lee of a hedge or even go in our barn if we like. Most of the time we just ignore it an carry on eating. Or sleeping. At least, lying down. Poor old Wicky is still limping from his big ulcer and he often takes the weight of for a while and who can blame him.
There is a bit of a war going on between Mims and I. She is starting to get a bit uppity of late. I know she can’t help it but it is just as well that I get her to know her place. It’s not a question of me being the parent and all that. It’s just to do with the good order and well being of the herd. Everyone has to know their place and position, in case we need to run. Who knows where we would be if both Mims and I started giving the orders. We would be bound to be caught by the predator in the ensuing confusion. The result has been though that, when HE brings our meals, Mims is always somewhere else. I don’t just mean in her head although she is often that too. No, she stands away from Wick and I and then HE has to keep moving in between us or get her to join Wick and I. This morning, HE needed to get her head collar to get her o come into the barn with us. In the evening, she was right away at the hay feeder while Wick was in the barn and I was just outside. However, as it was raining heavily, we took pity on him and came into the barn when HE called us. In fact, we all had a very pleasant supper tonight. Well, all except Mick the collie who very nearly got his head kicked off by Wick who didn’t appreciate having his heels sniffed while h was eating.
And THEIR day? THEY went off to Alencon to a little Chinese shop to get the ingredients for a celebration supper at the week end to mark HIS birthday. I would tell you which on, as well, but unfortunately, HE types this diary so 70 would never pass the censor!

Le CerisierThursday 18th January 2007
THEY think that THEY will never sleep again. The problem is this. When we moved here, the cats, PC, Tom and Cat Flap have become dis-oriented by moving first to the cattery and then brought on here. And , when they cam here, there were four resident cats who were also quite warlike so our cats got very insecure and THEY started letting them sleep in the bed with THEM. Now, if they would just sleep this wouldn’t be such a problem but it seems that the cats sleep all evening and then want to play and run around all night. THEY did try shutting the cats out of the bedroom but this just brought a load of scratching and shouting so THEY couldn’t sleep anyway.
Last night, THEY decided enough was enough. THEY had to get up at about 2.30am and have a drink of chocolate and then go back and try all over again. So, we will see what works tonight. SHE had decided to ignore all the crying and scratching to try and break the will of the cats, so that they have to make themselves comfortable in front of the fire instead.
So, HE was quite tired and grumpy when HE came along to feed us this morning. It may have been HIS birthday but HE was in far from a birthday mood. To make matters worse, the wind was very, very strong and it wasn’t much fun standing waiting for us to finish our buckets in the orchard. ‘Why couldn’t you eat in the barn?’ HE moaned. Silly really. Why would we want to be imprisoned in the barn when the wind was stirring us up so?
THEY went shopping again today for a change, mainly to get our carrots which the shop keeper is now getting for HIM regularly every week. HE also found out for the first time how to go into the bank and get some cash. SHE went to the butchers for meat for HIS birthday party this weekend. All in all, it was a successful morning. Then the agent came along to get them ready to sign the formal offer for our new home on Saturday. After that, the lady who owns the farm came along for some help with a website and then it was time to feed us again.
This time it was pouring with rain and Wick had his bucket in the barn. Mims and I however, decided to eat in the orchard again. HE got soaked and was less than thrilled. Let us hope that HIS night is cat free and HE is happier tomorrow!

holly in our new fieldFriday 19th 2007
And today ? Today the extra piece of land. Not cheap. At least, by French standards. The farmer who has agreed to sell the 4 hectares to them has said that he wants more than the ‘average’ selling price. He says that h has over a hundred hectares and he doesn’t care whether he sells or not. But, if he does, he wants to make something for himself, something over the top. And, who can blame him? THEY are in a funny position in that THEY don’t want to appear like ‘rich incomers’ who came be rooked for any old extravagant price. On the other hand, the price is about 9% of the price that THEY got for our old field in Dartmoor. But then, of course, that is why THEY moved here, because the property and land is within a range that THEY can afford. And us horses? We should care about money, that’s a human thing. The farmer has just planted the field with wheat. He will take that crop, when it is due and then put down a new lay of pasture grass. That is what we horses care about, the grass. Wicky is having dreams of having to work his way through nearly 20 acres of grass. All night with a smile on his face is a bit grotesque but even Mims and I can see his point.
We had a very pleasant surprise tonight. As well as HIM bringing our supper, SHE came along as well. And it was even better because when Wick headed for the barn, Mims decided to join him and I followed on so it was like the whole family (we don’t count the cats) all together again in the barn. Only one thing blighted the occasion a bit and that was because THEY had visited a new sports superstore which had equine things in it. Not feed, I’m afraid, but it did have apple biscuits which was nice as HE had run out of those. No, the bad thing was that HE found a special glove which is covered in rubber spiky things and is meant to get the mud and clay out of our coats. HE tried it on Mims tonight and she actually quite likes being groomed. But, I heard HIM tell HER that HE is going to groom me in the morning. I can only hope it rains all night so that I can get soaking wet and then HE wont be able to do it.
That reminds me, I’m sure HE saw that the weather forecast for next week had a possibility of a little snow. Of course, on the other hand, it could be HIS poor French and maybe it was a hurricane or a flood or something. Who knows?
I will say that SHE was pleased, if not amazed, to see that we didn’t have any mud fever. Back in Dartmoor, just the smallest amount of wet weather was enough to bring that on and we used to spend hours and hours having our feet treated. Here, we wade ankle deep in thick clay mud and our feet are fine. Speaking of which, HE noticed Wicky was walking (or in his case when the buckets appear – running) very much better now. Still with a slight limp but getting better and better every day. Poor old lad, he really did have a bad time. It seems a shame, now that he has got through it that Mims keeps trying to steal his supper. Still, at least she isn’t nipping him any more so he must be grateful for small mercies!

our stable to beSaturday 20th January 2007
Well, THEY did it today. THEY signed the official papers making the offer on our new home. THEY will now have a seven day ‘cooling off’ period during which THEY can change THEIR minds (just let THEM dare!).
HE tells me it was an interesting experience. The agent (now a friend) Veronica, was there, struggling with a new form and then they found THEMSELVES having to initial and sign in a thousand places on the new form and then write (copy) a paragraph or two in French so that THEY could sign it as a true and ‘bon’ agreement of what THEY had written. The seller, Michel, also had to go through nearly the same process so that, by the end, everyone was suffering from signature fatigue. THEY wre going to go back to the house for a celebration ‘aperatif’ but one of  Michel’s dogs had got it self cut and had to have the vet out so that was postponed. Howver, apart from the signing, it was a quite pleasant experience and they all wished each other well and departed to consider what they had done.
That evening, SHE had organised a celebration Chinese supper for HIS 70th birthday to be held at Jo and James’s house with the girls, Sophie and Holly helping to finalise the cooking. To be honest, the duck was undercooked (by the Chinese shop, not by THEM) and the beef in black bean sauce had got a bit thin on the sauce. But that didn’t matter a bit. The company was good and they added hoi sin sauce to the beef and put the duck in the cooker for a bit longer and everyone had a good time. The meal was meant to end with Chinese toffee apples but the girls didn’t get the cooker heat or the iced water cool just quite right so the toffee was a bit ‘pour on’ but who cared? HE got some very nice presents (including some mints – I wonder who for?), some nails (but no hammer0 and some scotch (I don’t wonder who for) and THEY went home quite content with the evening.

And in all this human activity, what about us horses? We (Mims and I) ate in the orchard while Wick went into the barn, as usual, to get away from us. Then we settled in for a quite cool but very dry, starlit and beautiful night of eating, dozing and just dreaming until HE came along in the morning with our breakfast again.

mother and daughterSunday 21st January 2007
Today started off as a beautiful day, a bit cold to start but bright and eventually sunny. I say eventually because our day starts at daybreak not just after the lazy humans get up. By that time we have had half a day already.
Anyway, we all decided to come into the barn with Wicky for our breakfast. After such a good start to the day, even my daughter was in a docile mood and just ate her food without running in an out of the barn to see what is happening. Unfortunately, HE took our good humour to mean that we wanted to be groomed. After taking all day to get a nice coat of mud on ones face, one doesn’t really enjoy having a spiked rubber glove rubbed all over it to get rid of the mud!
Still, that’s humans all over. After spoiling our morning, THEY were quite happy to get into that horrid green car and go driving round the countryside near our new home in the bight winter sunshine, exploring what the area was like. You might have expected THEM to do this before THEY signed away our future. But no. Sign first and check after, that’s them. Luckily, THEY found the area very pretty and think that it will be even nicer in the spring and summer. THEY had wondered why the area is called the ‘Alpes Mancelles’. Thy still do not have much of a clue to the ‘Mancelles’ but the area did look a bit like the Alpine area (but lower, much lower).
There is also the matter of the boiler. Now, to us equids, heat is not a problem. At least, lack of heat. But humans, well! They are poor creatures whose body temperatures are, at best, inadequate. For a few days now, the boiler in the cottage has been a bit unreliable. It started just before the oil, apparently, run out. As a delivery was scheduled for the next day, not much notice was taken. However, after the delivery, when all should have been sorted out, the boiler seemed to become worse – it would light and then turn itself off again. The problem is compounded by the fact that the wood for the log burning fire is a bit wet and doesn’t always provide a good alternative to the boiler.
Today THEY told THEIR hosts of the boiler problem and went out in the winter sun for THEIR ride. When THEY came back, the radiators still were not warm but there was evidence that James had looked into it as the cover was off the boiler and screwdrivers were dotted about. Maybe it is time for the boiler to get a service visit?

girls in the sunMonday 22nd January 2007
Winter came today. Not only was HIS car covered in thick frost this morning, when HE went to bring our breakfast but also the boiler (or lack of it). HE told me that THEY were alright last night because SHE put two duvets on the bed. The problem was, when HE got up, the house was freezing. Still, that’s THEIR problem. We horses were fine. Dry and warm and happy as usual.
When HE did come along, HE couldn’t find us at first. So, carrying our buckets, which were quite heavy because HE gives us a little extra when it is cold, HE had to walk right the way over through the orchard to find us. Wick saw him first and came running (or, I’m afraid to say, still limping but not so badly). Then we followed and were doing fine until we got to the bit of fence that we broke down on the first day we came here. After stopping and examining it for a moment, Mims got the idea and leaped over it and then cantered right up to Him in the orchard, bucking and kicking for joy when she got there. HE had just taken HIS eyes off her when I came cantering up and bucking as well. We really were pleased to see HIM, HE thought. Maybe HE should have thought we were really pleased to see our breakfast!
HE told us tonight that THEY passed a quite miserable and cold day. The plumber did arrive in the morning but, after looking at it, he declared that it needed a part and that he might have to order it. So, by the time HE brought us our supper, HE was pleased to be out and moving, just to get warm. Oh, one thing I forgot to tell you yesterday. Sophie is going to get a pony of her own. It will be on loan so if she doesn’t look after it properly, it will go back. I kep saying ‘it’. Actually, ‘it’ is a gelding named Arnold. Well, maybe that is a cute name in France or maybe he is named after that American film star, who knows? We will have to wait and see if he is going to join us in our fields or if they are going to wait until we go. If he comes early, they may well see quite a different side top us. At present they think we are such sweet, gentle, friendly creatures. And, so we are. But only to humans. If a gelding tries to join our herd, he may well have to face a fiercely protective Shetland as well as two quite dominant mares, poor thing!
To end on a good note. The plombier (plumber) did come back in the early evening and THEY do now have central heating again. In addition, I don’t know if I told you that SHE had banned the cats from the bedroom because they made such a fuss that THEY got no sleep. Well, for a couple of nights, THEY have tried to manage with Tom the cat shouting, usually at 3.30am, and waking THEM up anyway. So, it seems as if SHE has relented and THEY will let the cats back in tonight. Somehow, I don’t think we have heard the last of that story yet!

watching out for treatsTuesday 23rd January 2007
No frost this morning. Good? Afraid not. All last night there was a raging wind and this morning it was bitter cold and windy. Luckily for THEM, the boiler continued to work during the night so that the house was just cold and not freezing cold. As Jo(anna) said, having the back door to the shed and then the shed door open, so that the cats can go in and out, doesn’t help keep the warm in. And then with the wind blowing the doors wide open, the heating doesn’t stand much of a chance.
For us horses though, all that is immaterial (and it doesn’t matter; Mims). We can come into the barn to avoid the wind but we much prefer standing in the lee of a hedge or tree or wall, where we are not enclosed and can run at any time we like. Being warm bloods, the cold doesn’t worry us and Wicky is a Shetland with a coat that would make an Eskimo envious.
But, to please HIM, we came into the barn for breakfast so that HE could keep out of the wind. HE already looked frozen and unhappy so we set about making HIS life happier again. We can do that, us horses. We have a sort of magic quality that just gets through to humans and makes them alright with themselves and the world. So, by the time HE left us, HE was happy and singing (to us I’m afraid).
This evening, HE was back to frozen again and we had to start the process all over again. THEY had had an exciting day at the supermarket and then, after sitting in front of the log fire in the afternoon, the last thing HE wanted was to have to venture out into the cold again. This time, we came into the barn again but we were all on edge because the wind had set the burglar alarm on and it was emitting high pitched shrieks every minute or so. We were half way through supper by the time Jo came back from picking up the kids from school and turned it off.
I forgot one thing about this morning. I had thrown my bucket about as usual and, being a straw floor, a lot of my food had gone through the gaps. Jo came in to talk to HIM and so, as HE was not keeping a strict eye on me, I just moved over and started eating Mims food instead, which was still in it’s bucket. The sheep saw this even if HE didn’t so they came in and started eating my feed from the floor. In the end, we had quite a picnic gathering in the barn and Wicky had to share the last of his bucket with Mims.

a foggy dayWednesday 24th January 2007
And then there was snow! The human forecasters have been saying it would snow for a while now but it seemed silly, this late in the year. And then, we wake up in the morning and first a few light flakes and then some more and finally the heavens opened and the real heavy snow began. And the world turned into a wonderland, at least, to look at. All our water froze, which was bad news for Wicky who, with his illness, has a quite large thirst. I have said this several times before but it is worth repeating. We horses are not much affected by the cold. Not directly. How we are affected is if our humans cannot manage to bring us food, provide our water and so on.
What happened though, was a tribute to James the farmer who first of all brought in a new big bale of straw for our barn so that we had a completely new, dry and warm floor. But, as if this wasn’t enough, he then, as we were eating our supper, brought into the barn , one of those great big cotton reels of hay for us to eat in between meals.
HE was feeding us at the time and was sure that Mims would panic and run when the tractor came into the barn. But HE has got us wrong. Mims is very used to the tractor by now and knows that it is a machine that is dedicated to bringing us food. So, she just looked up from her bucket and carried on eating.
What HE cant get used to is the way we horses are with the sheep. With the tractor coming in the barn and Sophie moving the fence for her dad, HE took his eyes of us for a moment. In all the disturbance some sheep came into the barn as well and when HE looked back at us, first Mims and then me had lifted our heads from our buckets to watch the goings on and the sheep had taken their chance to put their heads down and steal our supper. HE had to rescue the buckets and HE held mine and Sopphie held Mims’ so we could eat with out the sheep stealing our supper.
Then HE looked at Wicky. There appeared to be a  two foot ‘cordon sanitaire’ around him. The sheep did not attempt to steal his food. They just stood, a way apart ,just looking. Then, after a while, it became apparent why. If one over eager sheep did get behind Wicky, it got kicked. HE saw one such incident where the sheep was thrown a good couple of feet away (pardon the pun). If however, the sheep went to look in Wick’s bowl, it got a very quick nip from Wick’s crooked but sharp teeth. They are quick learners, sheep, you have to , at least, give them that!

cross roadsThursday 25th January 2007
This morning we were all in the barn waiting for breakfast. We can’t pretend to be starving with that great big hay bale there but it is nice to get something different for a change. What we didn’t have was water. Our bucket was not frozen up but completely empty. Jo came along and noticed it and she went and told James who came along with two great big plastic containers of water. The trouble was that the hose pipe thast normally refills the water container was frozen so that was the only way to refill us.He was instantly repaid by Wicky running up to the container and taking a very long satisfying drink.
We had a bit of sadness with our breakfast as well. When James went to move the big black plastic water container to clean it out before filling it with water, he found, by the side of it, a small round feather ball. It was a little sparrow who had been overcome by the cold and had fluffed itself out to try and keep warm. Both HIM and Jo thought of taking it home in an attempt to warm it up but THEY have three cats and she has four so in the end it was left on the floor of the barn to its fate. This evening when HE looked for it, the feather ball had once more resumed the shape of a sparrow. A dead sparrow. We all hope it went into a deep sleep from which it never woke up.
Water again was the problem tonight. When HE arrived with out suppers, HE couldn’t find anyone. HE often asks the collie, Mick, to tell him where we are. This evening, Mick pointed in the right direction and Mims and I came round the corner and into the barn. But no Wicky! Now, whenever there is food, Wicky is always first. HE started getting worried as Wick is still limping and HE thought something must have happened to him. HE gave us our buckets and started off out through the snow and mud and into the big fields beyond. HE was just about to start calling as HE couldn’t see Wick anywhere, when Wick called out to HIM in his usual way. HE looked towards the sound and saw Wicky standing at the edge of the pond. He called him and waited until Wick could come to him and then they both walked back to the barn together. When HE looked, the water that James had brought this morning was all gone and the container was empty. So, after we had all finished our suppers, HE had to go back to the cottage and fill our two water containers to fill the bucket up again.
We didn’t mind because HE had to give us all some more mints before we let HIM go!

sheep in snowFriday 26th January 2007
Sophie came along this morning again. She couldn’t go to school because it was minus ten degrees Celcius and the roads were not passable for the school bus. Now, I don’t mind that Mims is her favourite, really I don’t because then it allows HIM to spoil me. And it is nice when we all get together in th morning, just like a little party. But, it was very, very cold this morning. Luckily we still had water from the night before but HE had to break it with his foot. Then Sophie got hold of the metal gate, fortunately with her glove on, because her glove just stuck to it with the cold.
Mims, actually, was not with us when HE turned up. HE had to go looking for her. HE had horrible visions of her being stuck in the snow and ice somewhere but, instead, HE found her sheltering in the other barn, the one the sheep use most. HE was sure that Wick and I had been nasty to her and chucked her out but really she is just like that. She wanders off with her head ion the clouds and ends up in all kinds of funny places. This evening she was not in the barn again and HE found her just round the corner, standing all alone in the dark. In the dark? Why? You might well ask.
Normally, we can rely on HIM to turn up like clockwork – 8.30 in the morning and 5.00 in the evening. This evening we gathered in the barn to wait for HIM. And we waited and we waited. It grew dim and then got dark and we still waited (although then Mims waited outside). HE finally turned up at nearly 6.30 pm. HIS excuse was that THEY had a doctor’s appointment near our new house at 4.30 and THEY had to wait for over an hour in his waiting room.. Now HE said that HE had read that French medical care is the best in the world so the only explanation is that THEY had got the time wrong and it really should have been 5.30. Whatever, HE said HE will wait until we have all moved before HE turns up there to register as HIS pills can be bought at the pharmacy if necessary.
I don’t know why THEY don’t just use my new vet. If you ask Wicky, he is excellent!

waiting for breakfastSaturday 27th January 2007
Mims! I don’t think I told you about her, the other day. It was the day when all the sheep rushed in and Wicky kicked one and warned another. Well, Mims had finished her bucket and decided that she would help Wicky finish his. But HE was too quick for her and stood in the way, shaking HIS finger at her and telling her not to be mean by stealing Wicks food. Now, you may have heard how I don’t like to be shouted at. I would like to say that Mims doesn’t like being told off. I’d like to but the fact is that Mims doesn’t mind in the slightest if you tell her off or even shout at her. She ust ignores it. What she really cant stand is being stopped from doing whatever bad thing she has decided to do. She just can’t bear being frustrated. So, when HE stopped her stealing Wick’s food, she just straightaway flattened her ears and looked around for something to vent her temper on. And then she bent down and – bit a sheep. Not hard, no blood or great pain or anything. Just an irritable little nip and a push out of the way. She may boil up quickly but she subsides just as soon and then acts as if nothing has happened.
Mims again. When HE came along this evening with our supper, the three of us were in the barn and so was Sophie with our grooming kits. She complained to HIM that Mims just would stand still to b groomed and when she went to put Mims’ head collar on, she just walked away. This is just another example of Mims not doing what she doesn’t want to do. However, when HE put Mims’ bucket down she was then a sitting target for Sophie to carry on grooming. HE carried on with the rest of us but the next minute HE turned and saw Mims had strutted off again. HE was not going to stand for such bad behaviour so HE got the head collar and went to put it on. Seeing this, mims turned to walk away again but HE is quite used to her naughty ways and just grabbed her by the coat. To give Mims her due, she knows when she is beaten and she just stood still for the head collar then. She was led back to her bucket and HE held her with HIS back to her while HE watched over the others. When HE turned round, Mims had lots and lots of lovely plaits. Sophie had got a horse book for Xmas and she had read how to plait manes. So, my beautiful, spoiled daughter will be strutting around all night now showing off. I think I will have to get her to have a bit of a roll in the mud to bring her down to size.
Not Mims. ps I have been asked by a lot of you why we haven’t heard anything from Treggy for a while. I have to tell you that he visits us quite often but HE has been so busy doing non equine (silly) things that HE has taken up all the space with that. Now things seem to be quieting down for THEM a bit, I will try to get HIM to give Treg a bit of space now and then.

girls in snowSunday 28th January 2006
“Ici, Wick?”
“What do you mean, ‘icky wicky’?”
“No, it’s French, you know, ici. It means ‘ere. I just thought you would have learn that much by now. You’ve been ici over a month now.”
“Look Treg. Just talk English, will you. At least, that way of talking you have that passes for English”
“But Wick, I’ve gone to the trouble of learning the language just for you.”
“English or French?”
“Don’t be like that Wick. French of course. ‘ere, d’you want to know what I learned to say for the human watch?”
“Oh Treg, that’s so long ago, people will have forgotten that you were once a hossifer of the watch. Still, if it pleases you. What did you learn to say in French?”
“’ello, ‘ello.”
“But that’s not French.”
“Yer, ‘tis. It means hello, hello, dunnit?”
“But you never used to say hello anyway. You always used to say ‘ello.”
“Yeah. I was cleverer that I thought, wasn’t I?”
“Why not say ‘bonjour, bonjour?”
“Yeah right. Or why not ‘bon weekend, bon weekend’, or bon nuit, bo……?”
“Alright Treg. Tell you what. Let’s change the subject, eh? What have you been doing since we saw you last?”
“Learning Francais.”
“Yes, but as well as that?”
“Oh, I couldn’t do anything as well as that. I’m pretty good at it, aint I?”
“Apart from that, blockhead.”
“Oh, I voir. Bien (that means well, Wick), I have been giving some lessons to some new members.”
“Lessons? In what?”
“In being dead, of course. It’s not something that most people have done before so they need a bit of heducating, so to speak.”
“But what do you teach them. There can’t be that much to know?”
“You’d be surprised, Wick. Takes a time to get to know all the ropes up here. I man, one minute you are down there knowing where the best grass is, which sheep to talk to and which to avoid, how to mke your best mate happy, stuff like that. And then – bang. It all goes dark and you have to start all over again. You see Wick, you wouldn’t have a clue what time’s bucket time up here. And that’s himportant to you, aint it? And that’s where Treg’s School for the Newly Dead comes in. I sort of hinduct people, innit?”
“Er, yes Treg, I see. You’ve not seen Alli or Mims on your travels, have you. I think they would be fascinated to hear all about it.”
“Would they? You think so? Do you mind if I skip off now Wick? I might just catch them up on the top field.”
“No, you go ahead son. Oh, and Treg?”
“Yes Wick?”
“Bon Journee, old mate. A bientot!”

our new streamMonday 29th January 2007
Wicky may have been having a laugh with Treg but actually he has been in quite a bit of pain. He never did stop limping from when he had the abscess and, yesterday, HE got worried that it was taking too long to heal. Wick always got right up into the top field with us girls but it was taking the poor old chap a long time to get back to the barn for meals. HE spoke to HER on Saturday and THEY decided to get the vet back, when THEY could phone him on Monday (today).
Then, something happened which made a change to THEIR plans. SHE had got in tough with a farrier on Friday and arranged for him to come along and trim our feet as they were now due since the last time Mark did them for us in England. The farrier had said he would phone back that night and arrange a time. THEY deliberately kept off the internet, waiting for his phone call (remember that THEY are now back on dial up until we move into our new home and so cant use the telephone and the internet at the same time). Of course, being France, the farrier did not ring back. They thought he might ring on Saturday but heard nothing.
Now HE had recently sent away to Amazon for a couple of books on ‘the French way of life’ and THEY had been reading about the French relaxed attitude to time. So, instead of worrying about the failure of the farrier to phone back, THEY decided to just wait. And, sure enough, this morning he rang and said he would be along at 12 noon. ‘After 12?’, SHE queried. ‘No, on 12’, he replied. SHE gave him instructions on how to find us and put down the phone. At 11.30 THEY decided to drive and see where we were to give HIM time to come and fetch us. Then, after seeing us in the top field (I always use the phrase ‘top field’ now to mean the one furthest away and not highest up the hill as in Dartmoor) THEY thought that maybe THEY should wait by the phone, in case he got lost. Then SHE decided that SHE had given him the wrong directions and THEY had just gone home when James knocked and said the farrier was here.
HE went to get us in while she met the farrier and asked where he wanted to work. I must say, we were very good (at first) and didn’t make HIM walk all the way to where we were. HE just crossed the muddy part to the other side of the orchard and called us and we came to meet HIM, Mims first, I might add. When we got to HIM, HE put Mims on a head collar and I followed with Wick limping along behind. All went well until Mims saw the new farriers van waiting at the barn. She stopped, very suspiciously, several times and needed coaxing to go on. Then Mick the collie saw she was being difficult and he decided to run up behind her and nip her heels. This panicked Mims and she reared and bucked and HE only just managed to hold on the lead rein. By the time we got back to the barn, Mims was very hot and wound up indeed and the farrier had nearly as difficult a time trimming her feet as he made out. To give him his due he didn’t know what a sweetie she really is and he may have been scared of being kicked.
Next it was my turn and the worst I did was to sniff him. but it was ok. He just smelled like a farrier. Then it was Wicky’s turn and the farrier inspected his poor old foot. And, again, guess what? Another abscess! He tried and tried to get to it and relieve the pressure but it was too deep down. He even tried to lance it with a sterilised pointy thing but still no good. He trimmed it and said the best treatment was no poultice and let Wick walk about in the fields as it should burst of its own accord soon.
So then we all got to walk back out to the far field again and four and a half hours later had to walk (or limp) all the way back for supper. This time tough, Mims and I ate in the barn but HE let Wick rest by not walking all the way and he ate his in the orchard. It did mean that we couldn’t ‘help’ him so he was doubly pleased!

Le Cerisier and poplarsTuesday 30th January 2007
Have you ever wondered what a hundred poplar trees look like? No? Well, neither had THEY until yesterday. THEY had a phone call from the agent who found the house for THEM saying she had found some forms for THEM and would bring then round in the evening. When she did come THEY got around to talking about THEIR purchase, particularly with reference to the planning of the fencing of our land and our stabling in the barn and the agent produced a plan view map of the property boundaries which THEY either hadn’t seen or had paid any attention to before. What THEY did have was a detailed aerial view of the area and by using the plans THEY were able to discover the exact boundary of part of the land that contains a stream (for our drinking water). THEY wanted to plan the fencing so that we could get down to the stream but, when HE had walked the field, HE hadn’t been able to see a stream only a fence between our field and some trees.
When the agent showed THEM that the field that THEY were buying had an extra piece making it into an L shape, THEY realised it was much larger than THEY had thought. THEY had heard the seller talk of some trees that he had planted but THEY had thought that these were the ones along the fence boundary that HE had seen and photographed. Anyway, today THEY went for a drive back to the property to investigate and discovered that this land with 100 very tall trees on would belong to them and that the reason that HE had not seen a stream was that it is currently covered in brambles but is, in fact, a very lively little watercourse. HE took some photos and THEY drove away even more pleased with THEMSELVES than before.
Oh, and one thing. THEIR one hundred poplars, like most of the trees around these parts, are covered with mistletoe. And, guess what? To celebrate THEIR good luck, HE kissed HER under THEIR very own (to be) mistletoe!

mistletoeWednesday 31st January 2007
The end of our first whole month in France. And a nice calm day for it. No fog, no ic and no snow. Not much sun either but pleasantly warm. So much so that we forgot it was breakfast time and were nowhere to be seen when HE came with our buckets. As usual, HE watched where Mick the collie was pointing and saw Wicky happily grazing just outside the orchard. So HE decided that we couldn’t be far away and started offinto the orchard with the buckets. Then, HE saw us and we saw HIM as we came round the corner from the other barn, the sheeps’ one. Now, the layout of the place meant that Mims and I were facing HIM but couldn’t go directly to HIM because of the wire fence round the orchard. I started to go out past the hay bale and round to the top entrance of the orchard but Mims, after walking a couple of steps, decided to go to the entrance by our barn. By this time Wicky had reached HIM and was happily eating his breakfast. Seeing this, Mims decided to canter her way through the orchard, weaving gracefully through the trees. I know I am biased as I am her mother but I couldn’t help thinking how good she looked and how she has improved since being here. However, I do have some dignity and so I just walked calmly round and everyone had to wait for me to finish my breakfast – as is only my right.
This evening we had a very pleasant surprise as SHE came along with HIM and our suppers. I think HE had aroused HER interest (if not her fears) by reporting a couple of marks that HE found beneath our rugs. I say marks. Mine were more like areas of greasy mud which just wouldn’t brush out. Mims’ I’m afraid were areas of bare skin, rather like rain scald but they had no reason to be as they were right under her rug. None of the marks, mine or Mims’ are giving us any problems but SHE said that HE should ut some skin cream in Mims for safety sake. Other than that, she managed to find some real English Polo mints in her pocket. It’s ages since we have had any of those and it was a real treat. Although SHE can be a bit strict now and then, having the two of THEM there did mean that we had opportunity for double treats tonight.
What a good way to end the month!

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