Alezane's Diary Archive September 2007
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Swallows on electric wiresSaturday 1st September 2007
Well, what a surprise! Our promising ferroniere let us down yet again. We had sort of expected it. Not only from his past performance which even outdid that of Lapeyre. No, it was because HE told us that SHE had got a funny phone call yesterday. SHE was in another room and by the time HE found HER phone, it had stopped ringing. So, she looked up missed calls and found M Goupil's number. She phoned him back but, although he kept saying hello and she kept identifying herself, he couldn’t hear HER, probably because of the noise of his radio in the background. Then he passed the phone to his assistant but still SHE was unable to make contact and had to put the phone down. Had he made an error and dialed the wrong number? Or had he phoned to tell THEM that he was going to have to cancel today’s appointment? Who knows. All THEY and we know is that, having waited in all morning, he failed to turn up and fix our grills. HER patience is wearing out but HE says that it might be better to wait yet again and get what THEY want than to go elsewhere and buy a compromise. We will have to see what develops.

A while back I told you that HE had rigged up a swinging contraption with a shower hose in it. I may not have told you that, in trying to make the arm and brace for the arm, HE tried to fix the plastic pipe with some glue and when that didn’t work, HE wrapped the joints all up with tape. Well, when Wally the builder saw it he said that it should have been done using Y angle joints. Of course, then HE saw the sense in this and went out and bought the necessary pieces. However, what with one thing and another, HE had never got round to remaking the swing arm.

Today Big X helped HIM to make a decision. X as coming into the stable when he stopped to scratch his nose on the arm. Somehow (he is not the most delicate of creatures) he got entangled in the hose. Then Mims went to welcome him in as she often does and he got even more wound up, enough to break a few pieces off. SHE noticed this and went over to help him extricate himself. SHE finally got him free but not before he had completely demolished the swing arm and hose and also had managed to stamp on HER foot. To make matters worse, in HER hurry to help him SHE was only wearing HER slippers. But, he is such a loveable old guy that everyone (except Mims) forgave him everything.

Tom and SunnySunday 2nd September 2007
A couple of days ago, SHE found that our tongues were black. As HE had been round to burn the ragwort that HE had pulled earlier and came back to say that it had all turned black, SHE was, at first, afraid that we had been eating that. Of course we hadn’t. We are not silly (not even Big X, in that respect). However, today HE went back out to do some more strimming of the nettles HE had previously sprayed and, this time, HE went to the part which was right up near the very tall hedge.

After HE had strimmed his way through, right up to the hedge, he was faced with a wonderful sight.  Thousands, if not millions, of ripe blackberries. HE felt HE had to take some back to HER to tell HER what HE had found, so HE picked twenty or so and put them in HIS glove to take back. When SHE saw them, HER first comment was that now SHE knows where we got our black mouths from. And, to test the idea, HE picked some more berries from the hedge near our stable and THEY brought them in to us. We were eating our supper at the time and just spared a few moments to turn our heads aside and gobble up the berries. Now SHE is sure!

It’s been one of those days when nothing much happens as far as us horses are concerned. We were locked in the stable after breakfast with some of the new haylage that THEY have bought while THEY went and had THEIR breakfast. Then HE came to let us out but we didn’t rush to leave as we had had a busy night and it was nice to just hang around. We did eventually go out and then HE came over and locked us out while HE tried to mend the shower arm thing that Big X broke. However, HE found, after working out some math about the square on the hippopotamus or something, that what HE needed was a right angled joint bracket which HE didn’t have. So, HE has put that project aside until HE can buy one. Next HE turned HIS attention to making a catch for our gate from the stable to the field, as the rough and ready spike into the ground that HE had been using had gone the same way as X’s other projects.

Of course, as soon as HE had finished and unlocked the gate again, we all came in to see what HE had been doing. HE left us like that and went away but later, when HE was passing the field and noticed we had gone out again, HE rushed off to get our fly masks as we were covered. Which reminds me. At supper tonight, Sunny the kitten came along as she always does and started crying to HIM so he picked her up and put her on Wicky’s back. Wick was eating so didn’t take any notice but Sunny had a great time trying to catch all the flies. Maybe she can get a full time job as our pet fly catcher!

The ferronier's vanMonday 3rd September 2007
Today was a day when we won all round. Let me explain.

First. We have grilles. Grilles de box, to be exact. Grills separating my box from Mims’ box and grills separating Mims’ box from Big X’s box. The phone rang this morning, just as THEY were finishing breakfast. Actually HER phone rang but by the time SHE found where it was, the ringing stopped. Then, as SHE was trying to fathom out how to find out who phoned, HIS mobile started ringing. This time HE was already prepared for it and answered right away. It was Monsieur Goupil (he later confirmed you do pronounce the l at the end – Goo-peel). He said he was coming to fix our grills at two o’clock this afternoon. To be honest HE said ‘vraiment?’ (really?) as you will have read how many times THEY had been let down in the past. But M. Goupil (Thierry) said that he really would be here as he had now finished making the grills. And, do you know what? At near enough two o’clock or thereabouts, Thierry’s van drove up and work began. By half past four, we had grills and the most beautiful grills that one could wish for. When Thierry was indoors, getting his bill paid, SHE started to say ‘I’ve waited a long time for these grills …’ and you could see his face drop, like a naughty boy who was going to be told off. Then she continued ‘ …. but now I have them, they are magnifique’ and his face lit up with pleasure. And they are. The tall parts give us all privacy while we are eating but allow Mims and I, particularly, to still put our heads over the shallow end for a mutual groom or a closeness.

The second triumph today was a simple one but a triumph nevertheless. She had phoned for the farrier about three weeks ago when Wick’s hoof had a great piece hanging off. Wick had been in trouble ever since we were in Livaie in Normandy, when he got that nasty abscess. Slowly, the bad piece of hoof had grown out and started to fall off. The vet had said that it was not as bad as it looked. And, slowly, his new hoof had grown with the bit of the old broken hoof still hanging on. By now, with the farrier still not replying to his phone messages, the bit of hoof had fallen off anyway. Still, SHE decided that enough was enough, even in France, and phoned the farrier’s answering service again this morning. Later in the morning, the farrier phoned back and she thought he said that he would come today at three o’clock. He said that he had not replied before because he had been on a  ‘petit vacance’. Well, it had been August so this was probably true. While M. Goupil was here, THEY got us ready for the farrier, with head c0llars etc. Three o’clock came, three fifteen, three thirty, four o’clock, four thirty and M. Goupil left and then, at five o’clock, with no word of apology, the farrier turned up. In retrospect, it is quite possible that SHE had misheard or misunderstood the time that he said he would arrive. Whatever, we all had our feet trimmed and, I have to report, that Mims was a good as gold. A credit to me, in fact.

The next triumph, not one at all really. It just feels like it. Sunny got her stitches removed today. In between the ferroniere and the marechal ferrant, HE took her down to the vets and in two seconds, she had her stitches removed. She is now as good as grown up, but in a kittenish way.

The most important triumph (at least as far as Wick is concerned) was to do with the horse vets. I have been having a bit of tooth problems lately which came to a head when SHE saw that I couldn’t at my haylage properly. SHE got on the phone to make an appointment for the vets to come and sort my teeth out and, while he was here, to look at everyone else’s as well. Then the vet’s secretary dropped a bombshell. She said the vet would be here at midday tomorrow and that we were not to have anything to eat after tonight until he had been. HE said that this had never happened before and SHER phoned the vets to ask ‘pourquoi?’ (why?). Later this evening, the vet phoned back and said we could eat as normal. This is cutting the story very short but the result was yet another triumph for us.

A good day, I hope you will agree!

A herd discussion over the new grillsTuesday 4th September 2007
After I had HIM write those words last night, disaster struck. Rather like every morning, HE goes and lets the hens out of their house, in the evening, as soon as it is dark, HE goes and shuts up the chicken house window and door and then lifts the roof and, with a torch, checks that all four are present and well. Last night when HE did this, there were only three and not four. This has happened once before and he found the missing hen in our stable. Last night however, although HE walked all round the garden, in our field and along the road, HE could find no trace. HE repeated this search again just before HE went to bed but still found nothing.

Neither of THEM slept very well, being to upset at the loss of a hen. Then, just as THEY were getting to sleep it was time to get up. THEY both felt like death. It was a very cold morning (although this led to a really nice day) and HE went down in the sous sol to prepare our apples and carrots feeling really ill. Then SHE opened the door and said that there was a chicken in next door’s garden. HE went out and climbed over the fence and there was a rather cold and wet, but other than that none the worse for wear, chicken. Suddenly the day felt much better. There are four chickens again.

THEY next went shopping to but the part that HE still needed to repair the swing hose outside our stable and, when THEY got back, HE fixed it. Next HE went and did some more strimming of the nettles and bracken in our field, only stopping when HE ran out of fuel. THEY had lunch and then everything started to happen. Gladys came to clean up the house and, when she comes, THEY usually find jobs in the sous sol or field to keep out of her way. HE was just loading up the car with rubbish to take to the recycling bins when he saw Joel Suchard, our vet, standing outside. It was time for our teeth to be rasped and also to have our injections against tetanus, flu and whatever. I am used to having my teeth done, the only difference is that Joel uses an electric rasp. Mims, however, has only ever had hers done once and that was under sedation when we were in Normandy. This time Joel tried without sedation. Mims panicked and made a dash for it and Joel got shoved against the wall and now needs stitches in his arm. Big X also needed sedation and, it turns out, his teeth haven’t been looked after and he needed some work. Then it was Wicky’s turn. Now Wick looks a small pony but, when Joel tried to work without sedation, Wick reared right up on his back legs and became as tall as X. However, when Joel looked in his mouth, he said that Wick’s teeth were good. The only problem is that he only has two up and two down and they don’t meet in the middle which is no good for grinding food. In fact, Joel had to laugh and said Wick’s mouth was horrible (which we all knew) but that he was physically in great shape nevertheless.

Just as they started on Wick, SHE looked up and saw that Monsieur Foret had turned up with an artisan to measure up for sorting out the kitchen. That man is so reliable it is not true. So, all in all another good day, at least for THEM. We horses will see the benefits when our mouths stop vibrating from that rasp and we find we can eat even better than ever!

Nearly sunsetWednesday 5th September 2007
It’s been a funny day today. And, by funny, I mean ‘not very nice’. It’s OK. It got better by this evening but the morning was quite bad. First, the weather overnight turned quite  old, dropping down to 4 or 5 degrees (Celsius). So, when THEY brought our breakfast, SHE thought it was that which was making Mims shiver. While HE fed us, SHE went and got Mims’ raincoat and put it on her to warm her up.

However, THEY also noticed that I was in a very bad mood. I even flattened my ears to Mims and even HIM when they came near me. When THEY had gone indoors to have THEIR breakfast, THEY kept observing us through the window and then it came to THEM that we were reacting to one of the injections that we had yesterday. It was for pneumonia and we have never had that one. Big X may have had it a long while ago but I am afraid that all of his injections were way, way out of date and he has to have another lot in four or five weeks as this one for him was treated like the first all over again.

Anyway, THEY kept an eye on us and were able to see that we slowly improved as the day went on. We didn’t go out much, just standing around in the stable. However, when it got warm and sunny, we did go out on the apron and dozed in the sun. At about five in the afternoon we did go out for an hour until suppertime at six. One thing was nice, for me, while we were in though. HE came over to our stable and clean us all out to help get rid of the flies. Then, when HE had finished, HE came to me and sung to me. Normally, I hate it as he doesn’t have any voice to speak of. But today, when I felt the need for a bit of TLC, HE sang what HE used to sing to me as we walked up and down the Throwleigh Road. HE did it then for comfort and to distract me from anything that I might not like. Today, standing in the sun and listening to HIM, I felt secure again and just dozed off, my eyes shutting and my head dropping.

As I said, not a good day but we went out this evening and all ended on a good note.

Moon and morningThursday 6th September 2007
“So what do you think of the new stable boxes Mims?”
“You know I hate being inside anywhere. Always have.”
“Yes, I know. I remember you always used to stand outside the field shelter when we were on Dartmoor. The only way HE could get you in, when it was raining, was to place you with your face and bucket just outside. That way at least He could stay dry. Still, you do come inside this stable even when you are not on a head collar, so you must have some kind of opinion about it.”
“Well, alright, it’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good on the whole. Pity about the grills though. X thinks he is safe from us now, doesn’t he?”
“Maybe, just as long as he stays in his box. And that’s the way I like him. If he does what he is told it’s OK. But we can’t have him getting like Wicky. That little sh .. er .. rat just does what he likes and he doesn’t care what I or anyone say. Did you see him with the vet the other day? Reared right up and just wouldn’t have his teeth done.”
“Yeah, he’s alright though, aint he mum? I quite like to have him to push around like a little foal doll really.”
“It’s been quite a few years since Wick was a foal my girl. And I would have thought that you were old enough now not to think of such things.”
“Well, THEY wont let me have a foal of my own so Wick just has to be my substitute.”
“Except that foals have more teeth!”
“Yeah, that’s true. So, what shall we do tonight, mum. Go down the hill or round the corner by the blackberries again?”
“Let’s just wait and see what the flies are like when we go out. We can decide then.”

“So, big man. How do you like it here living wi’ us, laddie?”
“Un peu good and un peu not so good, Monsieur Vick. Those ladies are a little, er, a little ..”
“… bossy, spiteful, unpredictable. Yes, X, I know. I’ve been living with them a while now. Was nae so bad when my auld mate Treg was with us. He knew how to get round Alli. She was a bit soft on him, you know. I think part of the problem you’ve got with her is that you are so much like him.”
“But that should make ‘er like me, n’est pas? Not to be always the nasty one.”
“Ah yes but, you see laddie. You are like her Tregony but you are not him. That’s the problem.”
“Oh, I see. But ‘ow about ze other one, Mademoiselle  Mimbles. She doesn’t think I am the Treggy and yet she is also to me so bad.”
“Oh, Mims. That’s another story, old friend. ‘ormones, that’s what’s wrong wi’ that lassie. ‘Ormones! Ye see big fella, Miss Mims has never, well, you know, you should do. You were a stallion for seven years, weren’t you. ‘fact, thinking about it, you should be well used to women old lad.”
“Ah oui, but they were French womens. These deux Anglais. Well, I just don’t know.”
“Well, don’t let it get ye down laddie, the first ten years are the worst. I’ve quite got my slot wi the lassies now. Just do your own thing and keep out o’ their way. They’ll soon come to accept ye. Just a wee nip now and again. That’s bearable. Sop, what are we going o do now? Shall we go out? I quite like it here in your box. It was meant to be mine, you know.”
“Ah, oui, oui, oui. I know. I am very sorry for that Monsieur. Ce n’est pas my fault. THEY decided who goes where. I am ‘appy for you to be in ‘ere wiz me whenever you want.”
“You know Big X. I don’t care what those lassies say, I like you. Got any feed left on the floor? You go out now and I’ll just have a tidy up!”

On the webFriday 7th September 2007
It’s the time of the hirondelles or, as Big X would say l’hirondelles. Probably, to most of you they are swallows. In our case Rustic Swallows. We can remember them when we first arrived here, flying in and out of the barn, the sous sol and even the house. But, at that time, we were all very busy with settling in and so only became aware of them when they did fly in. It seems strange that we have been here so long because now they are all getting ready to fly away back to Africa.

THEY are pretty sure that we are a sort of staging post and that the birds we see every day are, in fact, a different lot each time. One lot arrive and then, after spending the day soaring and whizzing about catching insects, they are off and are replaced by the next group. We have electricity wires in the back field and telephone wires in front of the house. These all look like musical scores with scores of birds sitting on the wire. Then, as if someone has given a signal, they all start exploding into the sky and skimming the ground catching flying insects. THEY have particularly noticed them because twice birds have flown in the open French doors and then tried to fly out through closed windows, only to crash and fall to the floor. Both times, Sunny the cat was standing near, once catching one which had to be rescued and the other time only being restrained by her tail until the stunned bird could be picked up.

These events prompted HIM to do a bit of research and HE discovered something that HE didn’t know before. The swallows that visit the UK fly off to South Africa while the ones in France fly to the African west coast. Apparently the reason that they fly away in autumn is not particularly to avoid the cold but that, below 10 degrees Celsius the flying insects that they feed on disappear so they fly to Africa where the insects are still available. Why don’t they stay there then? Because of the competition for these insects there. We have already noticed that there seem to be a cycle for the different birds here. It will be a shame to see the swallows go but it will be interesting to see who appears next.

We have spent nearly al the day in our boxes. The weather was alright but after a rather busy night grazing, it is nice just to stand around and doze , protected from the flies. HE waited around until the afternoon to get a moment when HE could come into the stable and clean it out thoroughly. In the end, HE came along while we were still in there. First HE swept all around us and filled and emptied the wheelbarrow. Then HE though HE would move us by getting the hose out and washing the boxes down. Mims did a bit of a jump but then just moved outside onto the apron while HE washed her box. HE came into mine and started to hose down so I moved outside with Mims. When HE moved on to the big man’s, X just stood there and tried to mug HIM for mints. HE hosed all around him and even between his legs but X stayed where he was. Then, when HE moved out to wash down the apron, Mims and I decided to go out to the field but Big X just stayed and followed HIM around all the way.

I will say, it was nice to come back to a clean stable for supper. Hosing down seems to freshen up the air and it certainly gets rid of some of the chicken mess!

Dozing in the sunSaturday 8th September 2007
“ici, Monsieur Veek”
“Och now, laddie. If you want to be like Treggy, you’ve got to learn to talk proper English. It’s ‘ere, not eecy. Gottit. ‘ere.”
“Oui, Monsieur Veek,. ear, n’est pas?”
“ Try again Big man. And leave out the nest pa bit.”
“Ear Monsieur Veek. ees zat OK?”
“look Big X. We are no’ so formal here. You don’t need to keep saying Monsewer. Just Wick, that’ll do it!”
“OK Monsieur Veek. I’ll try again. Ear, M .. er.. Veek? Ow’s zat. Better?”
“Well. It’s getting there, laddie. Then you have to think of something silly to ask me.”
“Zomethink zilly? Oh, zat ees hard for moi. I am zo serious.”
“Ere, tell you what Big X. I’ll lay off the fake Scots accents if you leave the z’s alone. OK?”
“Right, d’accord, little man. No more zee’s and no more ladies. OK. “
“I think you’ll find that’s laddies not ladies Big man.”
“Ah, oui, oui, oui. We can nevere forget ze .. er .. the .. ladies, can we?”
“Not living here with Alli and Mims we cant X. How you getting on with them, by the way?”
“I get on wiz .. er ..with zem verry good now. They bite me and I run. See, it’s easy when you think bout it.”
“You dinnae let them bite ye do ye, ye big oaf?”
“Non, bien sur non. I don’t let them, they just do it. But, just as long as they know I don’t let zem, zat’s OK.”
“No Big X. Zat’s not OK. Nor even That’s OK. You have to learn to let them know that you are the man and what you say goes.”
“Ah, oui. What I say marche. D’accord. But they don’t seem to understand me either. I think I must really improve my Eenglish. Will you teach me Monsieur Veek?”
“Listen Big man. You could talk  Anglais, French, Latin or Greek to those lassies an’ it wouldnae make a scrap o’ difference. Best just keep out o’ their way, ye ken?”
“Oui, Oui, Oui mon ami. Je ken. Et merci my ‘ol’ mate’, n’est pas?”

Celin's BarSunday 9th September 2007
I was sure that HE told me that if HE got Big X to speak, the big fellow wouldn’t have a phony French accent. And it wasn’t from consideration for XT either, it was because HE was sure that HE wouldn’t be able to do a French accent, phony or not. Well, it just goes to show what will happen if HE has wine with HIS evening meal. I notice that, since we came to France, THEY have become very French in THEIR eating habits but we horses still have to eat the same old stuff. I had expected that we would at least have had some garlic in our buckets. Mind you, I remember when someone told THEM in Devon that garlic was good for us, both for breathing problems and to keep the flies away. SHE did get some and put it in our food but very quickly stopped it as SHE liked to give us a kiss and cuddle but found SHE couldn’t get near us. Still, I wouldn’t mind trying a drop of vin ordinaire to wash things down. Oh well, that’s humans for you.

HE made a determined attack on the brambles and nettles around our post and rail along the road. Yesterday HE had strimmed up to just under the fence from the field side. Today, he first strimmed all the nettles, as they were in danger of seeding and scattering all over our field again. Then HE got some special spray that is designed to kill brambles, nettles, gorse and other tough weeds and sprayed all along the road side of the fence. If HE saw a bramble extending to the road, HE sprayed it but otherwise HE left the edge of the road as this gets cut but the local workmen. HE had just got about a third of the way along the fence, starting from the end of the road and coming towards the house, when HE felt that HIS leg was rather damp. HE carried on for a while but then, when HE looked down, HE found that the spray was leaking from the end of the hose. This meant that HE had to go back to the house and refill the spray again. It also meant that when HE had finished HE had to go in and have a shower. However, HE will not have brambles or nettles growing on his left leg.

You may have gathered that not much happened with us horses today. Or for the last few days. This is not a bad thing as we get into a delightful rhythm of grazing all night and coming in, in the morning, first for our breakfast and then for a doze.. One thing did change this morning however. SHE was watching us from the window indoors and saw that I was having trouble chewing the haylage that THEY leave in our hay racks when THEY shut us in while THEY have THEIR breakfast. This morning SHE decided to give me a bucket of lucerne the same as Wicky has while Mims and X have their haylage. I thought this was quite a good idea but Mims clocked t and she couldn’t wait to get out and try and lick the bucket.

Wick has a thoughtMonday 10th September 2007
It was cold this morning, cold and misty. Now, I often wonder why it gets so misty here as we are not near any large water and it hasn’t rained for quite a while. SHE thinks it is something to do with all the trees breathing. HE thinks, well no, that’s just it, HE doesn’t. To HIM it is just a mystery same as me. Anyway, Mims was showing signs of shivering this morning and that is a mystery to HER as Mims has got quite a covering of, well of condition if you know what I mean. Anyway, she just got on my nerves this morning and while we were waiting for breakfast it was hard to know who to snap at first, her or the big man. You really can’t blame me being a bit irritable over breakfast. I have to share my bucket, often with all four chickens. They even put their heads in my bucket at the same time as I do.

Which reminds me, the hens are in HIS bad books today. HE has not been feeling at HIS best today and was sitting in HIS chair looking out of the window when HE saw that one of the chickens was walking about in next door’s garden. HE had to jump up and dash outside and climb over a barbed wire fence to retrieve her. And that was after the even worse crime that they had committed. There was a ring of the front door bell and a man (who I will tell you all about in a minute) came to the door and THEY wandered off with him to the sous sol. When the man had gone, THEY were standing outside the kitchen window when they heard a tap, tap taping noise. When they looked in, all four hens were in the kitchen eating the cats food. Not only that but they had made several messes on the floor. It is fortunate that French houses have tiles rather than carpet but even so, it made HIM grumpy to have to clear it up.

The visitor that I mentioned above was the man who had come to clear out the fosse septique (septic tank). As we live out in the country, THEY do not have mains drainage and, as the previous owner had said that he had never had it emptied in the nine years that he lived here, SHE thought she would call the man in before the winter to be on the safe side. However, when he got here and THEY explained to the man that THEY didn’t exactly know where the tank covers were, THEY found that THEY have a bit of a problem. THEY were expecting the man to be an expert who would locate the covers for them. Instead, he, very nicely, said that THEY must find them and then call him back. The trouble is that the previous owner had covered the lids with grass and the plans that THEY were given were only proposals of where the tank and its covers would be sited. HE prodded around with a fork for a while but gave up the job as hopeless. HE did read on the news that a Viking ship had been found under a pub car park by the use of GPR (ground penetrating radar). However trawling the internet could not find anyone in France offering the service. THEY have decided to maybe ask at the geometre’s (the people who measured up the new field we are getting) but HE is not sure how it will sound to go and say ‘we have lost our septic tank’ even in French!

Big X views the worldTuesday 11th September 2007
SHE is worried that I am still not eating properly, even though I have had my teeth rasped. THEY went out today to look at some plants to grow up the side of our stable and possibly the house as well. As THEY drove to the garden centre,  THEY drove past our vets surgery so, on the way back, SHE called in and left a message for the vet to phone HER. He called this evening and, as a result, he is coming along to check me over tomorrow morning, As long as he doesn’t want to use that electric rasp again, that will be OK. The problem I am having is making me put my head on one side when I eat long carrots of apples and makes me quid when I eat haylage. As SHE has ordered five tons of haylage, SHE wants to be sure that I can eat it before such a large quantity arrives.

The other thing that THEY have been doing today is trying to sort out this septic tank problem, HE got the idea that the geometre that measured our new filed might be able to do it. On the way to the garden centre, HE stopped at their office and went in to try out HIS French. HE started off by saying that HE was English and his French was lousy and that HE had a problem. The lady behind the reception counter said – ‘don’t we all’. HE then explained that HE had lost the septic tank which brought a few frowns until the lady suddenly understood and said – ‘oh, you have one but you cant find it?’. From there it was a question of bringing the man out from his office and he told HIM that HE needed to contact a firm on the other side of Alencon. The lady gave HIM the address and HE left. After THEY had been to the garden centre, HE tried to get the address on THEIR GPS unit but it claimed not to have heard of it. So, THEY went home and HE looked it up on a map. It turns out that THEY were within a couple of streets of the place.

So, this afternoon, HE set off again and managed to locate the firm. Water companies are privatized here and it turns out that this was the water company for Orne in Normandy and who HE wanted is the water company for St Pierre des Nids in Mayenne. A wasted journey but so as it not to be completely a waste, HE stopped off at the local Marie on the way home and tried again in HIS stilted French, asking if they knew of a company who could locate the tank for THEM. Either HE did not make HIMSELF clear or the lady thought she had a better idea but she sent a young man off to get a copy of the map that was used to get planning permission. HE didn’t like to say that HE already had a copy of this map but one extra thing was now added, the distances of the tank from the house.

When HE got home, HE got his tape measure and carefully plotted out the supposed location of the tank cover using the distances that the young msn had told him. He ended up cutting out and lifting three large squares of turf from different locations only top find nothing – no tank cover. The only good thing about the while exercise was that the hens came up and set about eating the worms that HE had disturbed while lifting the soil.

The swallows scatterWednesday 12th September 2007
SHE noticed that, although I had my teeth rasped over a week ago, I am still having trouble with my food. I am not getting along with haylage very well and when I have long carrots or even just mouthfuls of feed, I have to turn my head on a side to manage to eat it. SHE was worried that I might now have a mouth ulcer or that I still had a bit of jagged tooth left. So, SHE spoke to the vet on the phone and he said that he would be along this morning to see what the problem was. First he looked in my mouth at my teeth and said that they were all fine and level. Then he ruled out a mouth ulcer saying that one can usually smell that, He then ran his hand all along my jawbone. He said that everything seemed OK there. Next he put his thumb near the top of my face and pushed. I jumped about two metres in the air as a flash of pain went through me. Not content with that, he did it again, getting the same reaction. Then he declared that I have arthritis in my jawbone. Something that comes with o .. er .. age .. er maturity. He has given HER some granules to put in my feed and hopes, do you note that, ‘hopes’ that it will do the trick. He also said that they should give me softer food. SHE is now awaiting a return phone call from the guy SHE has bought the winter haylage from to make sure that it is soft enough for me.

HE started feeling nauseous after his morning coffee and didn’t feel good while HE was prepping our vegetables and feeding us. When it was HIS breakfast time, HE only had a few cornflakes and some coffee and then went to sit down to feel better. When HE felt no better, HE went out to dig another hole to look for the fosse septique. After thinking HE had found something but which turned out to be just a small piece of concrete, HE got a can full of water to put in the hole to soften the soil. However, this just proved that there was nothing there and HE covered the hole up again. Then HE was taken bad again and had to go indoors and rest. HE avoided lunch altogether but, after a good sleep this afternoon, managed a bit of soup for supper.

And that was the excitement of our day. Oh, HE managed to clean out and hose down our boxes this morning. There, doesn’t that excite you?

Mims in pursuitThursday 13th September 2007
HE was feeling better today. So, unfortunately for Big X, was Mims. Not that she had felt bad, that is in the sense of unwell. But, she had been feeling bad in the sense of evil. Somehow she regards it her duty as my second in command to keep all the geldings in order. As there are only two and Wicky doesn’t take any notice of her at all, this means that she has to concentrate all her corrective measures on poor old X. I say poor old X but I have to admit that I appear almost as bad. The difference is in the word ‘appear’. I make the most terrible faces at him and snap my teeth very near to him and wave my leg around and often kick my stable walls at him. But none of it actually touches him. I am afraid that yesterday, Mims did remove quite a large chunk of the big mans tail when it found itself between her teeth. Mostly though, she likes just to chase him. And, I am pretty sure that he quite enjoys it to. He has been trained all his life to trot fast and when Mims looms up at him, he just moves into a higher gear and he is off. Everyone knows the Big man by the sound of his trot.

He spent another happy hour or so strimming the rest of the ditch outside the house. It is a bit of a mystery to HIM, the ditch. It is so overgrown that it is hard to tell where it starts and where it ends. Also, after it has gone under the entrance to the house and comes out the other side, it appears to disappear, as if he water can just find its own way down to the stream at the bottom of the hill, once it has been helped to get round the corner of the flat bit. Anyway. Now HE has strimmed it, HE thinks the next thing to do is to have a bit of a bonfire to burn all the dry grass etc. that has accumulated. The trouble is that HE doesn’t know the French for paraffin. He could put petrol on the grass to light it but that may result in a big explosion. On the other hand, if HE puts nothing, it may just light for a while and then burn out without clearing the ditch. We will wait and see what HE does and then let you know.
SHE has been spending money again. As well as ordering the hay racks from England she has decided that everyone needs new winter rugs. HE is a bit puzzled at this ,as HE always seems to be throwing away horse rugs (the Livaie dechetterie) that seem quite OK for him. However, a new set of rugs have been ordered together with a stable rug for the Big man, who has never had one with us so far. No doubt, when this gets dirty, he will join the list of horses that need new rugs. C’est la vie!

Herb flowerFriday 14th September 2007
The first thing HE had to do this morning was to go out on the quad bike looking for Mims’ fly mask which she had managed to lose yesterday. This one was of the many mornings when the place is shrouded in mist at first and then the sun comes up over it and burns it all away. So, while HE was driving about looking for the mask, HE noticed how good the light was for photographs. Of course, HE hadn’t thought to take HIS camera out when HE left so after finding the mask (at nearly the end of a complete circuit of the field), HE parked the quad and went indoors to get the camera.

HE took some photos of us from long range and Mims looked up and wanted to gallop over to HIM so HE put the camera away and drove off. Next HE stopped to take some shots of the light on the blackberries. Strangely the close ups weren’t much good but some larger scenes were quite nice so HE tells me. Then HE thought HE would have a look at the couple of apple trees at the end of the field in case he could pick a couple to give to us. However, when HE got there, HE got entranced by the hundreds of spiders’ webs which were lit up beautifully by the low angled sun. HE spent quite a while on that even before HE reached the apple trees. Then HE found that the apples there are not quite ready. HE finally drove off to get shots of the hazelnuts that had shown such promise, together with the acorns, earlier in the year. But, when HE got there, HE could find hardly any nuts. At first HE suspected squirrels or birds but, on closer inspection, HE found many nuts laying on the ground. HE is still not sure if they have fallen naturally or if the trees have caught some kind of disease.

When HE got back, we all crowded into the stable to see what HE had for us so HE had to go out to the apple trees in the garden to get us some apples. These largely had worms inside but HE cut those pieces out and the chickens gobbled them up at HIS feet. We ate what was left and very nice they were too.

This afternoon, HE went back to the local shop to see if the sugar beet pulp that HE had ordered for us had arrived. HE as not at all surprised to find that it hadn’t but it would ’be in tomorrow’ So, for a trip down memory lane, HE drove off to the animal feed shop that THEY first visited when we arrived here. The man behind the counter had a problem with HIS pronunciation but some other men in the shop interpreted for HIM. It’s funny but THEY spent last night listening to some French language tuition disks but nowhere on the whole eight disk set does it tell you how to pronounce ‘pulpe de betterave’ – sugar beet..

Little and LargeSaturday 15th September 2007
HE came to do something interesting today. At least, it is interesting if you are standing around dozing in the stable with nothing better to do, as we were. All it was, actually, was the fitting of a wire grill on the inside of the gate that closes Wicky into the corridor between X’s stable and the outside wall – his ‘box’ for the want of a better term. What happens when Wick is shut in there, he starts putting his leg through the bars of the gate and he could well hurt himself if he were to stumble. You cant blame him trying to get out, it’s only a makeshift place for him as Big X took the box that was originally intended for him. On the other hand, THEY have to protect him from himself, hence the wire grill on the gate. From HIS point of view, HE was a sitting target, (well, a kneeling one anyway) for the Big Man to come up behind HIM while HE was working and start searching HIS pockets for mints. In the end, HE had top give way and that meant that we all got some, so for once, we all were backing the big fella.

“Ere, Mister Eggs?”
“Oh, what eez zat be’ind me?”
“S’only me, Mister Eggs, only ol’ Treg”
“Oh la, la, la-la, la-la. Un ghost.”
“Na, well sort of. But the others know it’s me. I said I’d come with them, see.”
“You are zee Treg what zey talk about? The man from zee corn wall?”
“Yeah. That’s me. Anyway, I thought it was about time I introduced myself, seeing as they all say that you are so much like me.”
“But I am here. I am not zee ghost. ‘ow can I be like you?”
“They are saying that we ‘ave the same sort of personality. You know, brainy and that. Did you know I was once an hossifer of the law?”
“The low? Did you say the low?”
“I was responsibible for all the law and order in Ninefields, you know.”
“But we don’t need any gendarmes ‘ere. Unless …. unless.. Ici, Monsieur Treg, what about assault, what you call Gher Beh Harsh. Could you arrest someone for me?”
“Well, yeah, I suppose I could although I ham retired now, even more than retired really. Dead retired you might say ha, ha.”
“But zis person iz very, very bad. She chases and bites and kicks and tout chose.”
“She, you say. Is this some lady down in the village?”
“Mais non. She ees ‘ere. ‘er name ees Meems. Meems le diable, I call ‘er.”
“Meems … Mee… Oh, Mims. Right, well, er sorry big boy. Can’t ‘elp you there I’m afraid. Er, got to be going now. Nice meeting you and all that. Tell you what. Maybe if you change your name from Eggs. I mean, might help you know mate. Anyway, see ya around, eh?”
“Ah oui. Au revoir Monsieur Tregs. Bon … er … bon éternité.”

FairylandSunday 16th September 2007
What a nice surprise today. We had a visit from Jo and James Romney and Holly, Sophie and Cameron. You must remember them. They are the folk that we stayed with when we first came to France. Sophie is the one who has the pony Arnie to look after. Arnie was the one that Mims used to chase and bite at, before Big X came along. They all came and first said hello to us all and then all had a go on the quad bike, riding around our field. Sophie was particularly good, riding the machine on her own.
When they came into the stable to see us, HE showed Cameron how to use the shower hose. It all ended up with Cams’ shirt getting soaked and HE said HE would put it into the tumble dryer. This showed up HIS complete ignorance as HE did not know which machine was the tumble dryer and which was the washing machine. In the end, it was decided that cam had another top in the car so HE gave up all pretence of knowing what was what,

THEY decided to sit outside today like the idea of France is, and just sit and drink wine in the sun. First HE found some chairs that THEY had bought when THEY were going to have lots o people round for a soiree. Then HE hunted for a table. The one that HE was thinking about, SHE used to have as a computer table. But or some reason it had gone missing so THEY just sat on the chairs in the sun. It wasn’t long before THEY decided that it was not such a good idea after all and went indoors. There seems to be quite a big gap between the dream life and reality. Or maybe THEY just have to learn how to live and have fun without trying too hard.

HE went out this morning to rake up all the grass and brambles and stuff that HE had strimmed and then to burn it. Whether HE had just had too big a breakfast or if it was really not a good idea to have a bonfire on a Sunday, we are not sure, But all HE did was to have a good look round and then come back indoors to escape the sun.

Horse on the skylineMonday 17th September 2007
There we were, having our usual morning alternate dozing and grazing when, all of a sudden – it rained! Back in Dartmoor, that wouldn’t have warranted an exclamation mark. But here, we have not had a drop of rain for weeks, it seems. And, we didn’t like it. There was one great thunderous rush back to the stable and there we stood most of the afternoon, looking miserably out at the falling wet stuff.

The first thing that happened was that HE came over and took off our fly masks. Not any need for them today and it was quite dark enough in the stable with the cloudy skies so we needed all the help we could get to brighten up the day. It did ease up a bit in the late afternoon and so we all trooped out for some more grass. I don’t know what has happened but the supply of either hay or haylage in our mangers seems to have dried up so it was back out again or die of starvation. However, we horses have a very good sense of timing, so we made our way back inside about half an hour before supper. Then, after supper, THEY put our raincoats on. Now, I would swear that, because they are raincoats and so are always getting wet, they have shrunk an awful lot since we last needed them. THEY, on the other hand, are accusing us of getting too fat for the coats. Well, whatever the reason, we went back out this evening in some very snug little blue numbers. Even I have to admit that the Big Man looks a bit of a sissy. Only Wick escaped having his rug on as he has such a think coat that he never gets wet deep inside and anyway, a rug would make him too hot.

The other bit of news today is that HE finally took THEIR redundant three piece suite and a rocking chair down to the recycling dump. These items had been sitting round in the sous sol for ages because, since HE smashed the glass in the rear light on the quad while trying to reverse with a remorque (trailer), HE was loath to hitch up the big remorque to the car and go to the dechetterie in case HE had to reverse. Anyway, HE was feeling on a high, as HE had just, finally, got the drinker in Mims’ box to stop overflowing, so HE decided to give it a go. And, it worked fine. HE was able to reverse the remorque down to the sous sol to load up and HE didn’t need to reverse at the dump. In fact, HE was so pleased with HIMSELF that HE tidied up the sous sol as well to get ready for the winter when THEY might want to put the cars away to keep them frost free. Brrrr! The thought makes me shiver. It won’t be long now.

Mother and daughterTuesday 18th September 2007
Having said that last bit, yesterday, we had a really cold day today. Not cold like winter cold but cold compared with what we have been having. It dropped down to 13 degrees Celsius but felt a lot colder due to the wind. We horses don’t mind it in the slightest as we have a higher body temperature than you humans but it does affect us because of he way it changes human (THEIR) behaviour. The other very annoying thing is that nobody seems to have told the flies that it is too cold for them. I fear French flies probably stick around all year, even in the snow. Hordes of them in wooly hats and mufflers will still be tormenting us on Xmas day.

One of HIS future projects is to grow climbing roses up the side of our barn and Boston Ivy up the bare North wall of the house. SHE has ordered the plants which will not arrive until October/November but, as the day was cold, HE decided that it was a good day for digging to keep warm so he made a start by preparing the planting holes for our roses. The ground around here, and particularly by the sheltered side of the barn, is as hard as concrete – literally. HE not only took his fork and spade but also a mattock and pick axe to tackle the job. This proved irresistible to our four hens who decided to join in and help HIM, risking life and limb as the tools flew. However, the soil is hard because it is dry and compacted so they were disappointed to find no worms or insect eggs in the debris that HE brought up. After HE got the hole to a suitable depth, he lined it with stones and rocks that HE had excavated and then filled the hole with water from the hose
pipe. That did it for the hens who wandered off into our stable for safer pickings. Then we horses played a part. Not directly you understand but as suppliers of the compost (they call it fumier here) that he next fetched from the dung heap to bury into the hole. Then when HE covered it all up again to await the arrival and planting of the roses, the hens returned to help with the filling in.

I saw HER drive off out of the gate on HER quad bike but little did I know the reason for her trip. HE told me later that, on the surface, SHE was going to deliver some eggs to their friends Andre and Eliane, the humans belonging to Solide and Nougatine the Percherons. However, there was also an ulterior motive. SHE went to search out suitable places to take Mims and I for rides! My goodness, I cant remember the last time that SHE rode me and Mims has never been ridden properly. She has had a young boy on her back walking her about a bit but not proper riding with a saddle and all that tack. However, it if does happen, I am quite looking forward to trying out the bitless bridle and treeless saddle that SHE has purchased for me. Knowing me, I will probably panic if SHE takes me out away from my herd. But there is no way that more than two of us can go out together and I would hate to see the Big Man move when THEY asked him to trot. He is very, very fast at that gate but it is a racing trot and not the kind that a human rider would be advised to attempt a gentle rising trot to.

Hedge fruitWednesday 19th September 2007
Things are moving a little nearer, bit by bit. HE was in the garden wrecking his lawn mower (more later) when a tractor came along the road. As it was about to pass by, HE waved to the driver as HE always does to passing traffic whoever it may be. Then, instead of passing by, he tractor swung into the drive. HE went along to see what HE could do for the driver when HE recognised the owner of the field that THEY are buying behind our stable. It turned out that the man had come along with a trailer of grass seed which he was about to sew in the field so that next spring it will have a covering of grass for us to eat. He said that the old stubble did not need cutting but would die back of its own accord. There may be a few areas of new growth here and there next year but in two or maybe three years the field will be good pasture land. He drove off then but a little while later, when he was working in the field, he stopped again for another explanation, saying that the ‘mauvais herbs’ (weeds) that were in the field now would die out in the winter. HE went in and told HER that the man was here and what h was saying and SHE came out, as he was driving away and had a longer conversation with him. THEY are both a bit skeptical that just scattering a few seeds will be enough to make it as good as THEY want it but at least THEY were reassured that something is at last happening. The man seemed to think that the sale might go ahead at the end of the month ‘peut-etre. Which is about as optimistic as a French farmer goes.

Back to the lawn mower. The other day HE changed the engine oil and, I think I told you, over filled it with new oil causing a great amount of smoke. Today HE bought some new oil and drained out the sump again and filled it with the right amount this time. But, when HE started it, the machine got very sluggish and went slower and slower until, after HE had gone round the garden a couple of times it just died. HE took the spark plug out and cleaned it but, on replacing it, the mower started briefly and died again. HE did this several times and then thought HE better check on the spark plug gap. HE went to the manual but it just refers HIM to the engine manual which HE doesn’t have. At the moment, the mower is standing discarded at the rear of the sous sol. I have to mention here that HE did look at some ride on mowers while HE was at the shops this morning so we will have to wait and see what the outcome is.

This morning, when SHE came to put us in our boxes for breakfast, SHE noticed that I was shivering badly. Mims was also shivering a bit. THEY hadn’t realised how cold it got last night until HE found thick frost on his car’s windscreen. So, Mims and I had our raincoats put on and we got an extra bucket of lucerne to eat while we were locked in to get warm, SHE came and let us out after THEY had eaten THEIR breakfast. Once the sun got us it was a nice fairly warm day and when we had our fly masks on we had our raincoats off. I expect it will be the reverse tonight if the forecast is cold again. I do hope so. Both Mims and I have such thin natural coats.

ReflectionsThursday 20th September 2007
So the clouds came over and kept the warmth of the day in and we didn’t need our rugs anyway. Still, better safe than frozen.

I must tell you of HIS latest project. I can’t remember if I have mentioned this before but if I have it must only have been in passing. As you know, we share all our meals with four very pushy hens. They think nothing of standing on the rim of our buckets while we are trying to eat so that they can pick out the bits that they like. They also now know the time as well as we do and come crowding in the stable at meal times and rush into the feed room while HE is preparing our meals and eat out of our buckets there until HE throws them a handful of our food on the floor. There is also one other thing that they do both in the feed room and in our boxes – they make a mess. Now I know they cant help it, we do ourselves as well but there is a difference when it’s your own, if you know what I mean.

Now, not only do they come in our stable and make a mess but they also like to go on the terrace outside of THEIR house. They go on the terrace and they walk all over the path  around the house. One of their favourite games is to stand outside any of the three French windows and look into the house. And with all this walking about and looking in there comes a lot of chicken mess as well. It got so bad that HE had to install a hose pipe just outside the terrace so that he can go and hose it down at least twice a day. The path around the house has to be swept with a broom kept outside just for that purpose.

Another problem is that the French windows can only be locked from the inside so that, if THEY go out, the doors tend to blow open. Because of this the hens have discovered that there is cat food on the floor in the kitchen and they take every opportunity to go into the house and steal it. Also, when it is hot in the summer, THEY find it pleasant to open all the doors and windows to keep cool. However, if THEY do this, the hens are indoors in a flash. So, THEY had to resort to buying some expanding plastic trellis to fit into the doorways when the windows are open. It has got so bad that THEY feel like the ones living in a cage.

So, HIS project is to put up a fence around the terrace and then extend this with close netting attached to the post and rail fencing around the path so that THEY can have a hen free zone and have the French windows (porte fenetres) open when THEY want to. THEY will still feel a bit like being in a cage but at least a larger cage and THEY will get the house back to themselves.

Pony prisonFriday 21st September 2007
We’ve had horses (of course), chickens, birds, and cats to talk about but so far no dogs. So, for a change –

THEY went out today to buy the fence that I told you about yesterday. When THEY walked in the garden centre, THEY had to walk a long way round the shop part to get to the fencing area. On the way, THEY were brought to a halt by an area given over to lots of playpens full of puppies (and a cage of kittens). There were all sorts, mainly small dogs ranging from English spaniels to daschunds. However, the one that caught THEIR eyes was the first one containing just one puppy. It was brindle, fat with great big heavy paws which THEY immediately identified as a boxer. THEY both played with it and then HE had to go away with the man who was working on THEIR order for the fence. As he man took quite a while, HE came back over and noticed that all the other pens had prices on but this one didn’t. HE mentioned it to HER and SHE asked the lady on the display. When SHE said it was a boxer, the lady said no it was a Chien de Corse, which THEY took to mean a dog of Corsica.

You have no idea how close THEY came to buying that puppy. The only thing that stopped THEM was that it was a boy and, in dogs, HE prefers females. This evening, when THEY got home, HE looked up the Chien de Corse on the internet and was confronted with lots of photos of dogs that were nothing like the puppy they saw or like the boxer dog THEY thought that THEY had seen. SHE found the lady’s business card and it had a web address on it so THEY looked on that and found that THEY had misheard the name of the breed. It was not a Chien de Corse at all but a Cane Corso, an Italian breed. There on the site were photos of others of the breed, not brindle but beautiful all the same. THEY were told by the lady that even a female grows to about 40 kilos. With luck, that will put THEM off. We must wait and see.

Other news. The chap from the agency that sold them the house came along today to bring a note from the other agent who has not been available. While he was here THEY pointed out the problem of the missing septic tank cover location. He went away promising to get in touch with the previous owner and failing that to come and probe with a long pointy thing. Again, we await developments.

And lastly, THEY didn’t only buy the fencing at the garden centre, THEY bought a ride on mower as well. I think what HE doesn’t yet realize is that now HE will have no excuse for not having kept the lawn down!

Old boys chatSaturday 22nd September 2007
HE must have read the above for today HIS first act was to sort out the motor mower. It was, as HE suspected, a clogged air filter caused by over filling the oil. When HE took the air filter away, the machine started first time. So, after cleaning the filter and getting the mower going again, HE felt almost obliged to mow the lawn. As the new ride on machine is being delivered on Monday, HE only did the front half of the garden, leaving the side and back ready to be cut with that. In fact, being really clever, HE didn’t cut the lawn until after lunch when the sun was at its warmest so the real reason that HE didn’t finish all the grass was that HE collapsed to hot to do any more.

To be fair, HE had already had a busy morning. After sorting out the mower’s air filter, HE went down to the shops for bread, wine and a few other things and also bought some staples to use putting up the fence around the house path. Then HE got hot for the first time today erecting the chicken proof wire fencing. HE had just finished that and was about to plant some pansies (pensees here) when SHE came and reminded HIM that there were a couple of parcels waiting at the post office and it shut in five minute. HE raced to get there on time and then discovered that the lady couldn’t let him have them as the parcels were addressed to HER. SHE has to sign for them so they will now have to wait until Monday.

Oh, I forgot to say that the very first job HE did today was to get on the quad bike and scour the field for Mims’ fly mask. When HE came to call us in at dusk last night, Mims was the very first to canter up the hill to greet him. Now, the purpose of calling us is to remove our fly masks and HE noticed straight away that, although Mims got to him first, she wasn’t wearing hers. And this is not the first time, I might add. She has a way of rubbing her face on the ground when she rolls that manages to get it off over her ears.

After finding Mims mask, HE went to put it away in our stable and decided that while we were all out, HE would wash down all the apron at the front and side of the barn. Everything was so nice and clean when we came in for supper that we decided to make the place look and smell like home again. HE was ever so pleased with us! I think THEY were playing safe today. We have been out all day without our fly masks on. There were flies but not too many today so hopefully we are getting to the end of their season.

HE did get round to planting the pansies in some boxes, one each side of the gate and one on top of the post box. They look very nice at the moment but we must wait and see if HE remembers to water them or if they go the same way as the dahlias that preceded them and which died of thirst.

Le TrotteurSunday 23rd September 2007
“ere, Alli?”
“Oh, hello Tregs, what’re you doing here?”
“Just came to give you a bit of hadvice, girl.”
“Advice? What about?”
“Well, you know, your diary is getting very boring, girl. All ‘HE did this’ and ‘HE did that’. Who d’you think would want to read that?”
“Er, I don’t really know, Treg. HE would, I suppose. And maybe SHE? But really, what else am I supposed to write about?”
“What we horses do, of course. It is your diary, not HIS, aint it?”
“Yes, of course it is, Treg. But what do we do that is interesting?”
“Yes, we eat. Is that interesting?”
“You ask Wicky, he’ll tell you. And that new big foreign chap. He aint bad at eating either.”
“But they don’t read the diary Treg.”
“No, too busy eating I suppose. ‘Ere, do you know HE nearly typed too busty. Thinking about Mims, I expect.”
“So, what else do we do apart from eating? There must be something to write about.”
“We walks up and down. And in and out of the stable. That’s interesting, aint it?”
“No, Treg. Not a lot. And even if I wrote it today, I couldn’t write it tomorrow as well, could I?”
“Ah. Point taken old girl. Well how about telling how you and Mims are always picking on the Big Guy? That should be more interesting, all that violence an’ that.”
“Oh, come on Treg. You know we don’t really mean it. It’s just herd discipline, that’s all. He has to learn his place in the herd.”
“Which is?”
“Behind any mares. Oh, and behind any ponies.”
“Last, you mean?”
“Er, well, yes, I suppose so.”
“Like I was?”
“Oh no, Treg. You were never last. One time you were third and then another time you were fourth.”
“Oh, I was never last then Alli?”
“How could you be Treg? You were my sweetheart, weren’t you?”
“Were? Have you found someone else then?”
“Of course not, sweetie. It’s just that you are well, sort of with us but not with us, if you see what I mean.”
“But not last, anyway?”
“Never, Treg.”
“Oh, alright. What has HE been doing today?”
“I wouldn’t want to bore you Treg. Let’s go and eat!”

DaybreakMonday 24th September 2007
Actually, what HE did yesterday was to dig holes – two holes in anticipation of the arrival of the packages from the post office, one of which should contain plants and then five more holes for the start of the fence that arrived today. That should leave another three holes to dig for the fence which HE couldn’t do yesterday as HE doesn’t have the exact dimensions of the gate that is coming and so doesn’t know where the posts will go. The hens were most impressed with HIS efforts as, not only can HE dig bigger and deeper holes than they can but also HIS work provided a really good source of worms.

This morning started off as the most miserable autumn day we have seen so far. First it was just very dark and gloomy and then it came on to rain. HE told me that the forecast had said ‘light rain in the afternoon’. Well, what we got was heavy rain in the morning. Mind you, we horses don’t really mind the rain in small doses ads it does make the ground, where there is no grass, really good for rolling in. Once you get a nice thick coat of mud all over it does help to keep away the irritating flies. What was even better is that the sun came out in the afternoon so the mud baked on nice and hard. And it looks pretty. We think anyway. I do believe SHE has other ideas but then, what do humans know?

HE is beginning to have a lot of trouble telling us apart. Well, not Wicky, of course but us three horses. It could have a lot to do with HIS eyesight but, when we have fly masks on so HE cant see my star or the other two’s blazes and when we are covered in the same colour mud and if we are down a dip so HE cant see our feet (Mims has three white feet, I have one and the Big Man has none), then maybe there is some excuse for him. Lately HE has been saying to HER that I have been doing this or that or that the Big Man is going here or there and all the time HE has it wrong. Still, if SHE doesn’t mind then why should we worry.

So, back to what HE has been doing today. First THEY went out together to the post office and got the couple of packages. One was the Boston Ivy that THEY want for the side of the house and the other was a computer game for HER. Then THEY went to Alencon to get some ready mix concrete but the store THEY went to had none. So HE dropped HER back home and drove off to another town. HE was really surprised at how heavy the bags were (HE got three) and they made HIM puff getting them in and out of the car. When HE told HER, SHE said that SHE was not surprised as the bags weigh twice as much as a normal bag of horse feed. This made HIM feel a bit better and not so old and weak.

Later in the afternoon the fencing and the ride on mower were delivered so HE spent quite a lot of time playing before sitting down to read the manual (as most human men seem to do). HE put one fence panel together but will wait until tomorrow to assemble and erect the rest, if the weather holds out.

One white foot ...Tuesday 25th September 2007
“C’est pluie. Monsieur Wick.”
“Plooey? Why should I say plooey?”
“Non, Monsieur. Not say pluie, non. It is pluie.”
“Yeah, well that’s chickens for you. They plooey all over the place. Not much we can do about it.”
“Chickens? What ‘ave the chickens to do wiz ze rain?”
“Rain? What has rain got to do with chicken plooey?”
“I think Monsieur Wick, I must give you some French lessons. Now you are in my country you should learn the language.”
“Hmmm. Maybe? What’s the French for bucket? Or for food, or eating. That’s about all I need to know.”
“And the weather. ‘ow about pluie. You don’t even know that, do you?”
“We’re back where we started. How about let’s change the subject, this is getting boring.”
“OK, leetle man. Tell me about M’selle Mims. Why ees she so, so … like she is?”
“You mean nasty, don’t you?”
“Oh non, not nasty. Well not always. Not really. She is just a bit …”
“Bitey. Spiteful. Aggressive. Bullying?”
“Oh la la Monsieur. I wouldn’t say that.”
“I would. Until you came along she used to do all those things to me. And also before you, she used to do it to Arnie. She’s just an angry woman, that’s what.”
“I theenk maybe she ‘as, ow you say, the mare’s problems. Eet is ‘er ‘ormones, per’aps?”
“The problem is, she’s Alli’s daughter and so she thinks she must be second in command. And chaps like you an’ me threaten her so she feels the need to establish her position.”
“An’ why ‘as she not foals of ‘er own to chastise?”
“Ah, now you’ve hit the nail right on the head, laddie. If only THEY would let her have some foals. Then she’d be quite different.”
“Maybe I wouldn’t like ‘er to be quite different. You know Monsieur, since I ‘ave been ‘ere, I ‘ave been very ‘appy. You are all so very nice. I don’t mind when Alli licks the wall next to me and flattens ‘er ears and I don’t really mind when Mims chases me. It’s quite funny really and I can outrun ‘er easily so she never bites me now. I think it ees a game wiz ‘er too.”
“And me? How do you feel about me, Big Mon? You were supposed to be a companion for me, remember?”
“You, Monsieur Wick, are my very best friend. You must know that.”
“Then ‘ow about dropping the ‘Monsieur’. What not just say ‘Wick’ or ‘Wicky’?”
“But, it ees polite, n;est pas? It ees to show you my respects, Monsieur Wick, mate.”
“Oh. Alright then – mate. C’mon, tell me again. What’s this plooey all about?”

Handsome WickedWednesday 26th September 2007
Those two old boys seem to be getting on well, which is more than I can say for Mims and the Big Boy. She has seemed today to be particularly bad tempered, maybe not just with him but with the whole world. However, as she can’t get to the whole world but Big X is within striking distance …

HE thinks that God is really messing Him about. HE has been finishing the fence around the house that is designed to stop the chickens ‘plooeying’ on THEIR terrace. While HE was working, the sky turned black in all directions and it started raining quite heavily. HE stopped in the middle of HIS work to come and see us in the stable and to put our raincoats on. I have to say that even here, Mims showed her temper by walking way as HE tried to put her coat on and HE had to put her head collar on and tie her up to the ring on the wall of her box while HE finished the job.

Anyway, HE got all our raincoats on and then carried on with HIS work on the fence. Then, about an hour later, HE happened to be coming out of the sous sol with a tool HE needed when we were all up by the fence in bright hot sunshine. HE then regretted having put our rugs on and put HIS tools down and came and took all our raincoats off again. Then HE had to struggle to carry all three coats back into the stable before HE could get on with HIS work. It was within five minutes that the sky turned dark black and the heavens opened and we all had to run for the stable to keep dry. And the weather then stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon. Of course. This meant hat when THEY came to give us our supper, THEY had to put our raincoats back on gain.

You probably don’t remember that back in April or May, THEY called someone in to look at the bit of our field that has the hundred poplars in it so that it could be cleared of all the brambles and nettles etc. and then we horses could go down to the stream to drink. At that time, the man came with a colleague and looked at the job and said that it should be done in September and that he would send an estimate (devis). Well, unsurprisingly, no devis came. Today SHE phoned the man and asked what was happening and he made an appointment to come along and talk to THEM. When he came, he said that his colleague should have sent an estimate and that he would make sure that he did so by this week end and that he would start work next week. To be honest, this all sounds too good to be true. Either it wont happen or the estimate will be too wildly expensive so that THEY will have to re-think. Like so many things, here in France, we will just have to wait and see!

The anti-hen fenceThursday 27th September 2007
We have to talk about HIM today. Firstly, you would hardly recognize HIM and secondly, HE has been feeling rather cold this afternoon. When we moved here, to St Pierre des Nids, it took THEM a while to find THEIR way around the town. One of the things that HE had been needing to do was to get a haircut as HE hadn’t had it cut since they left England, three months before. After a week or two of settling in, HE plucked up courage and went to one of the three hairdressing shops in the village. Now HE never likes getting HIS hair cut very much because the hairdresser always seems to want to talk and HE is not much of a talker. Going to a French hairdresser was even worse as HE wasn’t able to converse in French. However, HE made it and it wasn’t the bad experience that HE had dreaded.

Now, that was April, three months since HIS previous haircut. It is now the end of September, nearly six months later. HIS excuse was that HE had been very busy but, if HE hadn’t gone soon, HE would have been tripping over HIS hair. So, first thing this morning, HE went along to the hairdressers and had to make an appointment for just after lunch as the owner was on holiday, one other girl was off sick and the lady was on her own. Today has been quite a cold day with the wind in a Northerly direction. Just in case it takes him as long again, HE has had it cut quite short and after the mass of hair HE had got used to HE is feeling the cold very much.

When HE got back from the hairdressers, SHE told HIM to look at Tom the cat’s tail. He was definitely walking strangely with his tail just hanging limply behind him. HE had noticed yesterday that, when Tom came in soaking wet from the rain and HE had dried him off with paper towels, Tom had cried when HE had dried his tail. SHE thought that Tom may have had a knock from a car or maybe he had fallen when trying to jump over the new fence round the house. One thing that THEY hadn’t considered was that the fence built to keep the chickens out would also mean that the cats would have to jump over it. Sunny was no problem as she is young and very athletic but Tom is quite an old cat now and since Sunny came, he has got very fat eating her kitten food.

So SHE phoned the vets and they said to come along right away. The practice in the village is only open some days in the week and the main practice is eleven kilometers away in the town of Pre-en-Pail (pronounced ‘pray on pie’). So off they went in the car. Tom is usually very good at traveling in the car. He never needs to go in a box and just sits on a lap or roams around, looking out of the windows. Today he stayed on HER lap but kept moving about as if he couldn’t get comfortable. The vet who examined him thought that his injuries weren’t bad but she gave him an X-ray to make sure. In five minutes, THEY were able to look at the X-rays and see that he had no broken bones or bruising, just strained ligaments, probably from a fall. The vet gave him a pain killer injection and Tom started taking note of his surroundings and wanted to jump on the table where the vet was putting his record on the computer. The journey home was quite different with Tom his old self, roaming all over the car.

And us, we equines? Last night we had our raincoats on and, of course, it didn’t rain at all. But, as I said above, it as a cold North wind so we were grateful for the protection. It was also a very bright moonlit night, nearly as bright as day. THEY hesitated to leave our rugs on after breakfast but the weather forecast had said showers all day so THEY left them on. And then, for most of the day, the sun shone brightly. However, it did rain a couple of times and by supper time it was cold, dark and miserable, so we kept them on.

Finally, I am sorry to report that Big X is now answering back. I always have to discipline him at meal times. He will hang his great big head over my box. So, tonight, when he did that I flattened my ears and snapped my teeth at him. And, instead of retreating into his box, he had the cheek to snap his teeth back at me. I am sorry to say I had to bit him. Not that sorry though!

Local ponyFriday 28th September 2007
Again the spotlight is away from us horses. THEY are having chicken problems. I may have told you before that the chickens roam all over the place. Quite often one can be found in a neighbour’s garden and HE has to clamber over the very spikey wire fence to rescue her. They roam in the road as they can get through the holes in THEIR wire fence at the front. The answer would appear simple – just block up that fence. But, unfortunately that wouldn’t do it as the front gates are open. And even if they shut the front gates (as THEY tried a while back for a couple of days( the hens just get into our field and from there, under the post and rail and into the road. We have about 200 metres or more of post and rail so it would be impossibly expensive to wire fence that lot.

However, most of the neighbours seem to find the chickens wandering in the road quite amusing. That is not really the problem. They have also been seen wandering in the field on the other side of the road. That is not a problem either. No, it is when they get into the next door neighbour’s garden and then can’t find a way out except by HIM clambering over the fence, that and the possible mess they make in the neighbour’s garden, that is the problem. Today HE was upstairs working on his computer when SHE called HIM down. All four hens were walking up and down on the wrong side of the dividing fence. HE climbed over and gave them all a flying lesson back into our garden. Then HE decided to make a determined effort to find out how they are getting into the neighbour’s garden. HE walked along the road past their house and, as well as having their front garden well blocked in, they also have two dogs in the front garden. The chickens were obviously not getting in there. Then he walked past and found that the neighbours also have another stretch of garden of about a hundred metres along the road past their house. And this strip of garden is fenced with wire netting full of holes which would allow the hens to enter.

THEY now have a dilemma. There appears to be no way of stopping the chickens trespass other than to pen them in. And if they pen them in then THEY would lose the enjoyment of having them. THEY certainly don’t need the eggs. So, THEY are faced with the choice of just letting things go on as they are or getting rid of the hens. So far THEY have decided to have a word with the neighbours and see how they feel about things.

The other problem mentioned yesterday was that the chicken protection fence has given Tom the cat problems. THEY decided to go out this morning and buy another cat door to put in the fence so that aging Tom does not have to attempt to scale the fence. However, the local ‘Animalerie’ as they are called (the pet place in the local garden center) only had a very expensive cat door. THEY tried the big supermarket but that had none at all. So now HE has ordered one on the internet. It will be interesting how long this takes to arrive.

So, as I said, little to say about the equine world. So what, we had a good day without our rugs and without our fly masks – just grazing and dozing. What more could a horse want?

In the pondSaturday 29th September 2007
In a way, we got Morgan, the lad next door, into trouble today. I say ‘we’ meaning we horses but I think the fault lies also in the language barrier. When we first arrived here, Morgan asked if THEY wanted the lawn mowed and THEY came to an arrangement with him to do it until HE got HIS own mower. In this way THEY got to know him and he naturally was interested in us too. He was told that he could come and see us when he liked but, because of the problem of THEM speaking in French, he probably didn’t understand that it meant he should knock and ask when he wanted to come. Obviously he didn’t need to ask if he or his sisters just wanted top watch us or pet us through the fence but somehow he must have understood that he could just come and go around us anywhere, even in the stable.

So, today, SHE came out to the stable and found him there with his little sister and SHE was not pleased. It is not being precious or anything but THEY know how dangerous we horses can be, even when we are not trying. You humans are very fragile things and a knock or kick that would just bounce off another horse could be very dangerous indeed. SHE was kicked by Wicky not so long ago and he wasn’t even trying to kick her just making a reflex action and SHE couldn’t walk properly for three months. Lately SHE has seen me lunging out at Big X and the Big Man now answering back. If the little sister got in the way of that, she could be in serious trouble. So, in her very best French, SHE had words with poor Morgan who was just either not thinking or ignorant of the consequences. Let us hope it doesn’t stop them coming to see us but does make them a lot more careful.

HE is very aware that “Thirty days hath September etc.” and HE desperately needed more photos for my September diary so, after following us about for a bit, HE went down to the Village to get bread and took HIS camera along as well. Not only did HE get some nice shots of the local lake but HE also found another four ponies, three in one field and one in the back garden of a house. HE was just chatting to this last one over the fence and was having such a good time that HE didn’t notice that it was electrified until it spat at him. HE jumped and this made the pony jump and move away fast. Still, HE did get a few photos to end the month with.

Big XSunday 30th September 2007
I’ve been thinking. You have to hand it to the humans. They do learn, not quickly but they do learn eventually. As HE walked away from yet another session of THEM shouting at us for doing what is quite natural and acceptable in the life of the herd, it suddenly came to HIM. HE realised that when THEY try to admonish us or let us know that THEY disapprove of what we are doing, they are (and I use lower case to include all humans in this) only doing exactly what we are doing. If I flatten my ears and lunge at Big X or if Mims runs at Wick and bites his neck, it is only to exert our authority and re-establish the natural order of things, what you humans call the ‘pecking order’ (as if we equines were as simple as chickens). And, when a human steps in and shouts at us or pushes as back or leads us away on a head collar, this is exactly the same action for the same reason. And, because of this, we do not understand that the human action is meant to stop us doing whatever upset them in the future. No, all we understand is that, in the pecking order, humans have top place in certain things and that they are just trying to assert themselves.

Maybe now HE understands this, HE will learn to modify HIS reactions to our behaviour and prove that HE really does learn.

It was a bitingly cold morning but, as here was no wind, it really was not a problem for us. The sun came out a bit later and, even later, it rained so, as Wicky would say, it was a real nice day for grazing and dozing, a perfect way to end the month. HE had noticed that the parish mowers had been out and cut all the verges along our road. This had made the little strip of ground in between the metre that the parish mowed and under the post and rail fence that HE had cut look like a bit of a jungle. So HE spent a happy hour before lunch strimming to make our field edge neat and tidy.

Then, in the afternoon, it was time to prepare the photos for the September diary publication. This is always a bit of a problem as HE always thinks that HE doesn’t have enough photos and then ends up having to make difficult decisions about what to include and what to discard. There is also the problem of what photo to go on what day. Ideally, HE would take one photo a day to illustrate the events (or non events) of that day. Then that would be the one published. However, life isn’t like that and HE ends up with no photos some days, many on others and a few for the rest. Some are applicable to a particular date like this months’ installation of our stable grills. Others, like sunsets or scenery, can be placed anywhere. Another consideration is the mix – not a straight run of scenery or horses, hens, cats etc. but a more varied approach.

Still, enough of HIS problems or we will never get the September issue out. Don’t the months fly past. Soon be Xmas!

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