Alezane's Diary Archive January 2008
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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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THEIR stableTuesday 1st January 2008
To start the new year, the weather was at first foggy and grey but that didn’t matter as no many people were about first thing. HE went down to the post office to post Lisa’s birthday card and was surprised to see that the baker’s shop in the village square was open. It appears that the two baker’s have a sort of agreement as the other one was open on Christmas day. HE had bought two loaves yesterday as it wasn’t expected that bread would be available today but HE went and bought another anyway as THEY prefer fresh bread. Now we horses prefer it a bit stale so we were in luck as HE came out and gave us some this afternoon.

Then, this afternoon, it turned into a lovely day with blue skies and warm sunshine. We spent most of the day grazing in the new field. In fact, I cant remember when we went into the first field last. It’s not just the quality of the grass, we also prefer the wide openness of the new field as we have a good all round view and can run away in any direction if we need to. In fact, we thought we were going to need to last night but then I realised that it was just fireworks which humans love to let off at new year (and any other time that they can find an excuse for).

While we were out, HE came along and cleaned out our stables. HE was only planning to just give it a bit of a sweep out but when HE looked this morning while we were having breakfast, HE decided that we had dropped (or thrown out) so much haylage and then trod on it or otherwise soiled it so that it all needed throwing away. Normally when HE sweeps, HE brings the barrow, fills it and then wheels it onto the pooh pile to empty it. However, today, there was so much old dirty haylage that HE went and pulled in the small remorque (trailer) and filled that. Then HE found that the floor was covered in mud and loads of dust stuff out of the haylage, so HE had to sweep all the floors of each box. This finally completely filled the remorque and HE had quite a lot of trouble pulling it through the mud to the pile.

Finally, when HE came back, HE just couldn’t leave it there but decided to hose each box down. To do this HE had to fix one of the leaks that remained on a tap as HE has had the mains water shut off until HE would get round to it after the holidays. There is still a little drip on a cross thread on one of his other repairs but not enough to be urgent. Having mended this, our boxes and forecourt were hosed. As HE was doing it, HE thought how pleased we would be not having to eat on a muddy floor. Then it occurred to him that that is what we do all and every day. He’s not stupid, just slow!

Pre-en-PailWednesday 2nd January 2008
M. Foret’s plumber came today. Not to mend the leaks however. I cant remember if I told you the problems we had been having with our drinkers and this was well before the freeze up. They have a floating ball which is meant to allow them to automatically fill up after we have drunk the water to below a certain level. The problem was that they just didn’t stop in time and water was always overflowing from the bowls. HE had them apart several times and did seem to manage to adjust one so that it worked properly. But then, after a period, they would start misbehaving again. After many attempts and having to replace one which broke, HE discovered that the mechanisms were planned for a certain water pressure and HE was sure that ours is much higher than that. So, when Monsieur Foret came last time with his most recent facture (bill), HE asked him if he would arrange for the fitting of a pressure reducing gadget so that the drinkers would work properly. The plumber came and fixed it this afternoon under Mims’ and Wicky’s supervision but the funny thing was that since the repairs after the freeze up, the drinkers had been working perfectly. Maybe now though they will continue to work perfectly.

The other thing that HE did today was to buy some pretty pink string. Why should that interest us horses? It is to do with the Big Man’s sense of humour. He simply loves doing things with his nose and mouth. If you read the review of the year on the December 31st page, you may have noticed an item about Big X breaking the shower hose. He just saw it dangling there and went to investigate with his nose. When he found that it swayed about if he nuzzled it, he did just that with great enthusiasm with the result that HE had to remake it. Because of this, THEY bought  Extreme a play ball which he completely ignores. Instead he has discovered how to swing the metal gates inside the stable. In particular he likes to swing the one that was meant to enclose Wicky in the end of the passageway to form a little box for him as it is right outside his wall. This is not much of a problem, just noisy and annoying. However, he has also taken to swinging the gate to my box with the result that I am often shut out. This is far less funny, particularly when it is cold and windy (like today) or when I fancy a bite of haylage. So, today, SHE asked HIM to tie the doors open with some baler twine but, when HE went to do this, there was none there. Since we stopped having hay bales and moved to haylage which is wrapped in plastic, we don’t get baler twine any more. So, when HE was shopping today, HE looked for something similar and the only colour they had was pink.

So what, I think it looks pretty!

Mims & I having a restThursday 3rd January 2008
The Big Man has been acting rather strangely today. I don’t think he would call it strangely because he has been remembering back to his stallion days. He has been arching his neck and following me about in a very, well, let’s call it ‘romantic’ fashion. I will admit that I have not exactly ignored or rebuffed his advances as it was rather fun for a while to lead him on. But later it did become a bit of a pain and also my daughter Mims was sort of feeling left out so we just walked out on him into the other field. He did try to be masterful this evening when it was bucket time by stopping us from coming in. However Mims soon put a stop to that and chased him quite a way along the fence so that HE had to come out and fetch him. Then, when HE tried to lead him past us, first Mims and then me had a bit of a lunge at him, enough to make him break into a run.

And that it really all the news about us horses today. However, HE did ask me to tell you what happened to them last night. In the afternoon, Andre and Eliane, the humans who look after Solide and his mum, Nougatine, drove up and invited THEM to what THEY thought was a drink to celebrate the new year. When THEY got there, THEY were sat down and given a whiskey and a big bowl of cocktail sausages was put in front of them from which THEY were encouraged to eat heartily. They all sat down and chatted and, surprisingly, HE didn’t do too bad a job of it. SHE is much better at French than HE is and they all passed a pleasant time. Then, when it was time to top up the glasses, instead of another scotch, white wine was brought together with a large platter of oysters. When this was finished, he wine was topped up and along came smoked salmon, foi gras and toast. By this time THEY were struggling a bit and THEY were not prepared for the arrival of the red wine to go with the steak and fries. The conversation speeded up while the eating slowed down until it was time for the large slice of chocolate gateau and the coffee. THEY declined the liqueurs  and staggered home bloated. THEY didn’t get a lot of sleep and have been very quiet today. SHE has invited Andre and Eliane back for HIS birthday this month to eat Chinese food, which they haven’t had before. Maybe THEY should invite Wicky along as well as he has the best appetite of all of us.

One last detail. THEY did discover that Solide has now had his awaited operation so Mims can give up all her hopes in that direction now!

Tree in townFriday 4th January 2008
It was actually warm this morning. Not hot you understand but the bite had gone out of the air. And replaced with …. Yes, that’s it – rain. But again, not heavy rain but rather the sort of misty wetness that soaks through you without you feeling it. We don’t care, of course. For a start we have our rugs on, although when SHE came to weigh tape us this morning, SHE found that the Big Man has managed to get a tear in his. To be fair, it is probably because of all the barbed wire around the place. It would appear that, in France, the normal kind of wire is barbed wire. I think I can remember saying something like this before when I said about the garden being surrounded by it. Our fields are quite large and THEY certainly cant afford to replace the fencing all round. In Dartmoor, our fields had barbed wire round them as they had been used for sheep and cattle but it was only a single strand along the top of a normal kind of wire fence. There THEY did have it removed as it didn’t mean that any replacement costs were involved. Here, if you took the barbed wire away, nothing would be left. Of course, there is always the possibility it was not barbed wire at all but the big spikes of the sloe bushes or the wild roses or even the brambles. Maybe it would be better if the Big Man were a little more careful after all.

HE came over to fix the final leak in the stable today. It was his own fault this one as it was on one of the repairs he had done previously and that he had cross threaded one of the nuts. However, when he turned the water on to check exactly where the leak was, HE got carried away and started washing down the concrete apron first. This was a bigger job than HE had expected because first HE discovered another leak in the curly hose on the swinging shower arm. He tried to fix it but in the end had to replace the hose with another that he fortunately had in the feed room. Then the concrete apron was an awful lot muddier than HE had realised and it took ages to wash down. HE did finally finish though and then took out HIS previous repair and replaced the nuts either end and added new copper olive rings, tightened the lot up and it all worked. We now have a leak proof stable – for now. Fortunately this warm wet weather is forecast to last for the next couple of weeks so that should give HIM enough time to lag the pipes so that they don’t burst with another freeze up.

Clouds and tree lineSaturday 5th January 2008
Maybe it is because HE hasn’t needed to buy pipe lagging for many years now or maybe it is just here in France (or this part of Frence – HE often forgets how big France is) but, for whatever reason, HE has had no success in buying lagging for the pipes in our stable. At least, not for all the bits that need it. Everywhere HE has looked, you can buy the strips of round foam that fit snugly round whatever diameter pipe you have. This is fine for straight lengths of unbroken pipe. But what HE has searched for is the sort of fibre glass or other flexible stuff that you can wrap around joints, taps, right angle bends and other places where those strips are of no use. HE went out again today to a very big DIY type store and all HE could come back with was the sort of reflective panel that one sticks behind radiators to reflect the heat outwards. It is at least flexible and, at worst, HE may be able to cit it up and make some sort of job with it. HE tells me however that HE can’t get away from the idea that HE is somehow missing something which, if HE knew it, all the little mysteries like this would be solved.

I told you that HE has tied up my door and the door to Wicky’s enclosure to stop the Big Man opening and shutting them with his nose. HE has also taken away the hose outside that the Big Man used to like to play with. It seems therefore that, when, tonight, HE noticed that one of the big sliding doors to the whole barn was half closed, that there could only be one culprit. None of us knows anything for certain but it does seem to point that way, don’t you think. HE says that HE will keep an eye out in future and see what happens.

The weather is still warm and wet but last night we had a really bad time of it. The wind got up and the rain fell really heavily, so heavily that it woke THEM up when it beat on the windows. However, later it all passed over and the sky went clear as a bell and the stars shone brightly. SHE thinks that because the house is on the top of a hill. THEY get more of the weather than THEY are used to. HIS theory is that it is because THEY do not live like true French people and do not close the shutters, day or night, summer or winter. On the other hand, THEY have heard that the real reason for shutters is to repel intruders and has little or nothing to do with the weather.

Since Xmas, it would appear that THEY have given it with regards to the next door neighbours’ cat, Canabis. At first they would try to just throw him out every time he came in through the cat door. Of course, THEY could not just shut the cat door or Tom and Sunny would not have the use of it. What would happen though is that he would come in when THEY went to bed and be there in the morning to greet them. There are two attractions for him. Sunny is about the same age and they play together like brother and sister. The second, and probably the strongest motive appears to be the food. Tom and Sunny get fed small portions of cat meat or fish three times a day and, for the rest of the day, there is a bowl of dried food or them to help themselves. Canabis always arranges to arrive at feeding time and HE resorted to throwing him out and locking the cat door until the other two had finished. Then the door would be unlocked and Canabis would rush in to finish what, if anything, the others had left. He also pops in fairly regularly to top up on the dried food. Anyway, now THEY have given in and feed him with the others, as it is easier for them. THEY don’t officially have three cats but it sure feels like it.

St Pierre des Nids churchSunday 6th January 2008
Just to conclude that last piece, I forgot to tell you that Canabis talks. He has a baby sort of voice (so I am told, he never talks to me) and says hello whenever he comes into the house. SHE apparently, understands what he is saying and they have a conversation together. HE has no idea what either of them are saying but HE says that it certainly does appear that Canabis understands her perfectly well and seems to do what SHE suggests. As far as HE is concerned, the only thing that Canabis understands HIM as saying is either ‘dinner’ or ‘food’.

We had four chickens today with only seven legs. You might be excused at this holiday season in thinking that the other one had been eaten. However, that is not the case. SHE is more inclined to the theory that one of us horses (not mentioning any Wickys by name) may have trodden on one of them while they were helping us to finish up our buckets this morning. Anyway, the poor thing was hopping about on one leg this morning. THEY realised when, having seen all four hens together, HE took the opportunity of calling them all over for their tin of sweetcorn that they have most days as a treat. The way the hens run when called always makes THEM laugh but today the fourth one lagged behind and THEY could see she was in trouble. Closer inspection couldn’t find any discernible damage so THEY had to just let her get on with it, being aware that hens often stand on one leg anyway. And the good news is that, by this evening, she was walking normally, if a little tenderly. I would be willing to swear that none of us horses had trodden on her but she had just knocked herself somehow.

HE spent the morning taking the xmas decorations down. HE found to HIS discomfort that holly that has spent a couple of weeks indoors with heating turns very prickly and spiteful whereas mistletoe turns brittle and throws its dried up berries all over the floor when you touch it. The lights came down from the silver birch tree in the front garden quite easily and HE didn’t even have to get the steps out. After bundling it all up and taking it down to the sous sol for another year, he decided to have a bonfire of the holly branches and the mistletoe. It was also a good way to clear out a few of the unwanted boxes in the sous sol for, although these should really have been recycled, HE did need something to start the fire. And the dried up greenery went up a treat with lots of crackles and all flame not smoke.

All that remains now is to answer several of the xmas cards that required a reply. That will keep HIM busy!

Dark cloudsMonday 7th January 2008
There is a nasty rumour going about that I am having an attack of the ‘amours’ and that I am responsible for leading the Big Man to great expectations. Part of this rumour, I’m sure, comes from ones own kin out of pure jealousy. But the rest? Well, ever since we have been in the new field, I am afraid that there is very little privacy. You see, the field, apart from the last bit which is down the slope, is fully visible from THEIR French windows and I am sure that I am being spied upon for a great part of the day.

Now, I will admit that the recent sunny weather has made me feel a little, well, let’s say ‘girlish’. More light hearted, I would claim. And what with that and the nice muddy fields, there is nothing nicer than having a few rolls and even the odd laying down doze or two. It is a fact, however, that when one awakes and jumps to ones feet, for the first few minutes one is a bit disorientated and cant really be blamed if they happen to stagger towards the nearest horse for a bit of support. And all this incontinence in the stable box? Couldn’t that be caused by just a teeny infection caught by laying on wet ground? Anyway, I am above reproach and so shall ignore all the gossip. A lady of my standing has principles, you know.

Mims was seen wandering round to the old field today. I’m not sure if she was looking for some better grass but it was suggested by HER that it was just another example of her having lost the plot. If she hadn’t been such a bitch to me when I was just talking to my male friend, I would defend her. But I have to agree that she does give a sort of ‘blond’ impression quite often

We were expecting o see HIM today as HE is supposed to be lagging our water pipes before the next big freeze. However, HE found that we needed some more apples and carrots which meant that HE had to drive into town. And that meant that HE had to shave, an occupation that he is trying to get down to every other day if HE doesn’t have to be seen in public. I think by the time HE had done that and then driven to the town and back, HE thought that HE had done enough for us horses for one day. Of course, HE did have to come and bring our supper and help the Big Man to come in through all the mud, avoiding Mims who started to chase him and made HIM lose hold of the rope etc. etc. etc.

Lake under the poplarsTuesday 8th January 2008
The Big Man has been walking around as the odd one out for the last few days. We all got identical new winter rugs this year, the only difference being in size. Mine was three inches bigger than Mims’ and The Big Man’s was three inches bigger than mine. However, he managed to get a tear in his so THEY took it off him to first dry out and then to repair the tear. In the meantime, he had to make do with one of mine which, as you can see from the above, was three inches too small for him. That wasn’t so bad, actually, as all our rugs are a little on the comfortable side. No, what was more laughable was the fact that our new rugs have a really good, gusseted flap over the rear end, keeping us warm and dry but still allowing us to raise our tails when we have a ‘call of nature’. Now the old rug of mine has no flap at the back at all so, apart from being a different colour, which is hard to notice when all the rugs have been rolled in the mud, it is instantly recognisable from a distance as you can see Extreme’s tail waving about. Anyway, his embarrassment is over now as HE changed the rugs back for the repaired one tonight.

We keep THEM on THEIR toes at bucket times as we never behave the same way twice. This morning, only Wicky was in the stable, the rest of us were, for THEM, presumably out in the field. I say presumably because it was a very foggy morning and HE couldn’t see us anywhere. HE decided to carry on making up our buckets and then HE gave Wicky his and carried on topping up our haylage in the hope that we would come in on our own. Of course we didn’t. But we did come and line up at the fence so that HE knew that we were there. Then SHE came over and started calling to us but to no avail. So HE had to get the rope and come out and get us. Its always a puzzle to HIM as to which one to lead in in the hope that the rest of us will follow. HE decided on Mims today as I usually follow her. But, although the Big Man followed me for a while, he then turned and went back to the fence so that HE had then to go out again in the mud to retrieve him. However, this evening, when HE came along to the stable, I was in my box, the Big Man was in his box and, when HE shut my door, Mims went and walked into her box. It was all rather like saying to HIM “we can be very, very good – if we chose!”

Town houseWednesday 9th January 2008
HE asked me if I minded if, instead of a normal diary entry today, HE quoted from a news story that was on the internet from the UK today. When HE told me what it was about, I of course gave permission straight away.

A huge animal rescue operation has taken place in Buckinghamshire after RSPCA officers found scores of neglected horses, ponies and donkeys.

BBC News          http://news.bbc.co.uk/

RSPCA inspectors and animal collection officers attended the site between Friday 4 and Sunday 6 January, together with officers from Thames Valley police and representatives from the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH).

Kirsty Hampton from the RSPCA said: "We've been here since Friday evening, we've found 32 dead horses, their bodies left where they fell, we've removed 14 suffering horses and 3 have been so badly neglected and were considered too ill to be moved or rehabilitated so they've had to be put to sleep

On Wednesday 9 January, the RSPCA, staff from Redwings Horse Sanctuary, the International League for the Protection of Horses, The Horse Trust and the Blue Cross worked with police to remove the remaining 84 horses from the field. A number of the horses will be cared for by Redwings and the others will be looked after at another location on behalf of the RSPCA.
RSPCA    http://www.rspca.org.uk/
A spokeswoman for the Norfolk-based Redwings Horse Sanctuary, which has been helping with the rescue, said it had rarely seen horses in such a poor condition. Redwings was called in to help with the operation on Tuesday morning and about 30 staff have been at the site with eight horse boxes.
Redwings            http://www.redwings.org.uk/

All organisations involved in this rescue are deeply concerned about the welfare of the remaining and surviving horses, ponies and donkeys.
International League for the Protection of Horses           http://www.ilph.org/
Blue Cross              http://www.bluecross.org.uk/
The Horse Trust       http://www.homeofrestforhorses.co.uk/
           
They could not carry out this welfare work without your support. Thank you.


“A man was arrested on separate police charges.”
The story is still unfolding and no doubt will have vanished from the headlines long before this diary is published at the end of January. Unfortunately it is not a lone case and I would ask anyone reading this to at least visit the above sites to find out the outcome for these poor animals and possibly give some support to those charities (or others) working to help equines in need.

His and her's chateauxThursday 10th January 2008
Today was a day for larking about. You will no doubt have heard me moaning about how we horses don’t mind the cold but hate the wind. Well, I need to qualify that. What we hate is the cold, biting wind that gets deep into your bones. Today we had an unseasonably warm day with fairly strong but warm and gusty winds which just somehow got the Big Man going. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason at all, he would be off with that characteristic long legged trot of his. Not for long and not going in any particular direction. Just going. Sometimes he would race into the stable. Next minute he would appear, haylage dripping from his mouth and he would be off out into the field again.
This kind of behaviour can be contagious and it wasn’t long before Mims was off chasing after him. And, the more she chased, the more he ran. It was lovely to watch the two having so much fun. I only got a bit worried when the two split up and I didn’t know which one to be with. If I went into the stable with Extreme, Mims would hang about outside against the fence. Then I would feel that I should be with her and move to go out but then I wouldn’t want to leave the Big Man behind if he didn’t follow. Often I would end up hanging about in th middle of the corridor, torn between the two.
Mind you, being between two others is often my role in the herd, if not in life. For example, I poked my head out of the stable box when I heard a commotion to find Mims being a bit of a pain to Wicky. Literally, as she would keep biting his bum. To be honest, Wick, with his very thick coat was not all that bothered but he did run a few steps to get away from her. And that was where I came in. Without telling anybody off or taking sides one against the other, I just moved forward and placed myself between the two of them. That way Wicky couldn’t taunt Mims and her teeth couldn’t reach him. And never a word said. That’s the way to keep order!
Just one last thing that I should confide to you. The sort of fling that I have been having with Big X appears to be over. Nothing against the poor chap, of course. It just somehow doesn’t seem such a good idea after all. So, instead of going about with him and leaving Mims to go about by herself, I am reunited with my daughter, much to her relief. I suppose this could be in some way connected with the Big Man’s behaviour. Maybe being in love was really too much for his brain and he feels free again now. Whatever, things are back to normal again until the next hormone strikes.

The watcher (horse in field)Friday 11th January 2008
Sorry to go on about the weather but today it has been the main feature of our lives. Nothing dramatic. Just dark, wet and windy. At times the rain has been very heavy and we have spent quite a lot of time indoors. We are all getting on very well with the haylage now and, to add to our comfort, HE came and cleaned out all our drinkers. Now, you may wonder why HE had to do that. Why would drinkers need cleaning out. In the case of Mims and I, we like to dip our haylage in it and unfortunately bits drop out of our mouths and stay in the water. In the case of the Big Man, he has a habit of filling his mouth with short feed and then standing next to the grill to ogle me. The place where he stands is also over his drinker and he is not the most careful of eaters so his water gets filled with short feed. All in all, it would appear it is a regular job for HIM now, at least until the spring when we probably wont come in very much.
HE found that our drinkers needed cleaning when HE was climbing about fixing the lagging on our pipes. This job is taking quite a long time to do, not because it is difficult but because of the problem of getting the materials. HE calculated the other day that he needed another 28 pieces of lagging tubing to finish the job. Knowing that the normal DIY shop in Alencon does not have what HE wants, HE went to another one that HE knows in Villaines. There he got distracted by finding a base unit, presumably for a kitchen, but one that fitted exactly what HE had been looking for to act as a table in the laundry part of the sous sol. The only problem was that it didn’t have a top but again HE was lucky to find a piece of laminated board that matched the unit exactly and only needed one cut to fit. Then HE found a lamp that HE had been looking for to brighten up HIS office and after that a security lamp to guide visitors on the front path at night. Having sorted that out, HE went to get the lagging only to find that they didn’t have it. So, with the furniture sticking out of the back of the little green car, HE had to set off to the other builders merchants in Villaines. He walked up to the plumbing section to find that they had only eight of the lagging tubes in stock. In order to finish the job HE has now to drive to the other side of Alencon in the hope that HE will be able to get the remaining twenty tubes.
And lastly, it looks like we might be getting an increase in the amount of stale French bread that HE brings us over to eat sometimes. SHE has now started to make HER own bread again. The first one was not a success as SHE later discovered that SHE needed to use two packets of the yeast that SHE bought and not the one packet that SHE was used to in Devon. However, SHE has made another effort and, if that is successful, it might only be HIM eating the French stick and half will be left for us. I know we shouldn’t eat too much of it but at least it should be coming on a more regular basis.

Sign on post boxSaturday 12th January 2008
Weather report: After the rotten day yesterday, we had a lovely clear night with stars as bright as bright. On advantage of living here is that the nearest light pollution is about 12 kilometers away. In fact, it is so dark that one can see almost too many stars so that the familiar constellations tend to get lost unless you know where to look. The day followed on in much the same fashion so we had almost wall to wall sun. The only thing that stopped it from being perfect was the rather strong and steady wind.
Because the weather was sunny, HE decided to get the fruit tree winter spraying done. HE was nearly pulled up short by the directions on the box which said not to spray in temperatures under 7 ° Celsius. As it is winter spray this seemed rather strange but HE decided that in the sun, at midday, it should be alright. HE has a plastic see through mask that HE uses when spraying and this and the wind combined to make HIS life difficult in as much when HE walked round the trees and had to spray in the direction of the oncoming wind, the visor became covered in spray so that HE couldn’t look out. Then HE would walk further round the tree and find that HE was looking directly into the sun. However, one thing did go just right. HE used the backpack spray that HE had bought to use on Ninefields in Dartmoor. There he was always running out of spray and had to keep returning to the stream to fill up with water and make some more. Today however, the amount that HE made up just sprayed all the fruit trees with virtually nothing to spare. HIS only other problem was that the chickens came up to him, sure that HE had something to eat and HE couldn’t spray until they had gone away.
HE also finally managed to get the remaining pipe lagging tubes today so HE has no excuse not to get the job finished. So, what does HE do? Instead HE goes and fixes a new strip light in the sous sol which kept HIM busy virtually until it was time to bring our supper. We were very good this evening. When HE turned up, only Wicky was waiying for HIM so HE just got on with making up our buckets. Then Big X turned up so HE shut him in his box and then I walked in followed by Mims so HE was saved having to come out through the mud in the field to bring us in. I think, in gratitude, HE went out and made our field entrance bigger so that we don’t have to wade through the thickest mud now. However, if it rains again, I expect we can make this bit of the entrance just as muddy with our big feet!

River SartheSunday 13th January 2008
We were out in the field this morning when we saw THEM with some strangers going into our stable. It was a man and a woman we had never seen before. We all came and stood alongside the fence to get a better look but were not about to come in just in case. Just in case what? Well, in case of anything. We are having too much fun here to get whisked away to somewhere else again like THEY did to us on Dartmoor. After a while, we decided that they looked harmless enough and we got bored and went away.

This evening, HE told us who it was. You probably know that SHE built the website for DHAPS (The Devon Horse and Pony Sanctuary). At the time it was being run by the founder, a lovely lady named Sylvie. Well, Sylvie has now retired and the charity is now being run by her son and daughter in law, Roland and Alison and this is who came to visit today. Sylvie has not only retired but has come to live here in France but much further south than we are and, part of the Sanctuary is moving here as well. They have bought a place with land and are now in the process of doing what we had to do – putting up fences and sorting out the stables. Because the main part of the charity will still remain in the UK, Roland and Alison are spending quite a bit of time commuting between France and England and this morning, they stopped off on their way back from a visit to Devon. THEY have an open invitation to visit their new place but as it is a four and a half hours drive one way and THEY have to look after us, I don’t think THEY will be going. No doubt they will keep in touch on the internet.
What was a very grey morning turned into another lovely sunny afternoon and we were a bit loath to come in for supper this evening. Even Wicky, who is normally queuing up half an hour before time was staying out with us. That is, until he saw HIM coming from the house to the stable. This was the signal for some very high jinks (I must find out what a jink is) and Wicky started a canter to the stable which set us all off. Our favourite game is to head off the Big Man when he tries to get into the stables. Then Mims starts off chasing him, bucking and fly kicking. Mind you, she got her just deserts (I must also find out what these are) tonight as she has now gone and done something silly and is lame for the moment. I will let you know how she is by he morning.

Clouds & treeMonday 14th January 2008
And as Mims canters off down the field in pursuit of the Big Man, I think we can put that one to bed.
So, what did we do today? Well, the first thing we did was to disappear. Our new field (I really must think of a name for this field as it is not really new any more) has a gentle dip in it half way down so that if we are at the far end, we cannot be seen from the house. It also has a sort of extra bit added to the rectangle so that if we are in there we also cannot be seen. And then there is that small part that is behind the stable building. HE however always remembers the first day we were here when we got out and ran down the road to our neighbour’s area. So, when HE cant see us, although HIS common sense tells HIM that we are in one of the above places, HE is never really comfortable until we reappear.
Which we did when HE started to clean out the chicken house. One minute HE is on HIS own and the next minute we canter up and stand by the fence wire watching HIM. HE still hasn’t decided if it is because we are so interested in what HE was doing or if we just took the opportunity to get some mints out of HIM. Whatever reason, it was a good opportunity for HIM to take a break and come over and see us.
Then HIS anxiety started up all over again. Where was Wicky? Now Wicky, on account of his height deficiency is even easier to lose than us. And he was not with us. This time HE thought back to the time recently when Wick broke the wire on the new fence and vanished into the neighbour’s garden. HE couldn’t really concentrate on spoiling us until there was a neighing from the far side of the field and then Wick appeared cantering towards us. As if he was going to miss out on a mint break!
The day ended with some heavy rain and at supper time Mims and I enjoyed teasing HIM by not coming in for our supper but just standing along the wire fence and looking towards the house. HE tried calling as soon as HE arrived but we just ignored HIM. Then HE carried on making up our buckets and took the Big Man’s and Wick’s supper along o them. Then HE called us again and we looked the other way. HE went and got our buckets and waved them at us before putting them into our boxes but we still did not budge. Finally, when he had topped up our haylage and came to the door again, Mims caved in and started walking in. HE thought HE could relax now and just guide us in but after Mims had walked into her box HE looked outside and there I was still, standing by the fence. And then, at last, I felt sorry for HIM and I did finally come in but HE really couldn’t see why I preferred standing in the rain. Maybe HE will never understand an equine joke!

Disused water millTuesday 15th January 2008
Today was the worst weather day that we have had here so far. We have had very heavy rain and very strong wind, on and on and on. The only thing one can say is that it has not been cold. However, it was bad enough top confine us, voluntarily, to the stable for the bulk of the day. We did finally go out after supper although the weather had got no better. I think it was a case of now we had full tummies, we would have gone stir crazy if we stopped in any longer. As it was we had a few cases of temper tantrums during the day. It was alright while we were just dozing but when we were fully awake and wanting to be grazing, any little wrong move became an excuse to let ones feelings be known.
Poor old Wick however, did go out a few times in the pouring rain as he is not able to eat the haylage as we can on account of being dentally challenged. Mind you, I don’t think he minds the weather at all. The times when he was in was just to be company with us or more probably just to stop me worrying about him. He doesn’t seem to mind being on his own for most of the time although he does like to keep tabs on us, probably just to make sure we are not being fed and he is missing out. Still, at his age, what else is there except eating?

We did have a couple of interesting breaks during the day. First was when HE drove the car up and started to unload some sacks of food. Actually, HE only unloaded one sack and then got mugged by all of us, particularly Wicky, for some sugar lumps and mint treats. As the weather was pretty atrocious, HE gave up trying to unload the heavy bags as HE has to rest them on the top of the fence and crawl through, and pick them up on the other side before HE runs the gauntlet of four soaking wet horses, opens the gate, moves the chain and then loads them into the feed bin.
One other thing that stopped HIM was that the apple boxes that HE had placed in the bottom of the bin to raise the sacks up had all been shattered by the bags over time and HE decided to replace thm with something more substantial. HE was just about to go and do that when SHE called out to HIM that SHE wanted to lunch at Celin’s Bar today. HE just dropped everything and THEY went out.
Our next visit came in the afternoon after HE had sawn up some planks and brought those with some bricks to put in the feed bin. Then HE carried the rest of the feed bags in and loaded the bin and finally gave us HIS full attention again. It did break up the monotony a bit and it really is a wonder how HIS pockets never seem to run out of treats!

Pony on way to AlenconWednesday 16th January 2008
It’s unwelcome but, at last, we have some real news. The Big Man has made big news.
It started normally this evening after not such a bad day. We had all been out in the field un til, just before supper time, Wicky decided to go in. There is never anything wrong with the little man’s timing when it comes to food. I decided to go with him and when the Big Man noticed that Mims was hanging around by the fence, he saw his chance to get in as well, before she blocked his way. So when HE came over to make us our buckets, it was easy to put Big X in his box and amuse Wick with a handful of food while HE made the buckets up. Then HE took Wicky’s and put it outside as normal and to Extreme’s bucket into him, while calling to Mims. She did appear to take a few steps forward so HE went and got her bucket and mine and put them in our boxes. Then HE went out to call Mims and as she took a few steps towards us, I walked in my box and started eating. HE finally persuaded Mims to come in and was hiding in the feed room (so that we would eat up without coming to the gate for a treat) and playing with Canabis, when HE heard a coughing noise.
At first HE made a joke of it as HE came out and saw the Big Man apparently sneezing. Then X started wrinkling his nose with his head in the air. However, it didn’t stop then. He startyed really coughing, like choking and brought up froth from his nose and mouth. HE started to get worried and went and got HER. SHE stood with the Big Man for a while trying to calm him but, in the end, SHE got worried too and told HIM to call the vet. THEY then had a very anxious three quarters of an hour, waiting for Joel Souchard to arrive. Big X started steaming up and got so hot that THEY changed his rug for a lightweight raincoat. Then SHE noticed that the inside of his mouth was turning white as he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. All THEY could do was to try and calm and comfort him while THEY really did worry that the vet would be too late.
When he did turn up, Joel wanted to tube him (put a rubber tube up his nostril) and clear the airway with water. He didn’t want to sedate him at first as he was worried that it might not be good for him in that condition. So, he tried using a twitch (a noose on the nose, twisted to keep him still) but X was too strong for them and, in the end, he had to be sedated. THEY took turns in trying to hold the Big Man’s head up while Joel put the tube up his nostril and then funneled water down it. Don’t ever ask them how heavy the Big Man’s head is! After many, many times of pouring the water, Joel said that there was still a compacted lump of food in his chest but the Big Man should spend a night with no food, only water and he would return in the morning when the lump should have softened. HE had to turn off his automatic water drinker and give him a bucket of water. If the Big Man has drunk that by the morning, Joel may not need to come again.
And the last bit of indignity? Apparently this happened because Big X gulped his food. So, from now on, he has got to have stones put in his food so that he doesn’t gulp it but had to nibble round it. Maybe that is why he was so thin when he came to us?

SiltThursday 17th January 2008
I must admit that the three of us, Mims, Wicky and myself just went out and left the Big Man locked in yesterday evening. After hanging about for quite a while we just couldn’t take his moaning about how hungry he was any more. HE went out once in the evening to check on him and found that the relaxing injection had worn off and Extreme was searching around in hi box fopr anything, however small, to eat. All HE could do was to give him a cuddle and try to be nice to him (in equine terms, the two things are definitely not the same) but, in the end, HE had to leave him to pass the night the best as he could.
HE told me that while THEY were in bed, THEY could hear the Big Man banging away at his gate and digging the floor but there was nothing THEY could do. THEY didn’t get a good night either. In the morning, HE found that Big X had broken the string that was holding the gate so that he couldn’t swing it shut. As it was strong nylon twine, that took some doing but I suppose if banging the gate is all that you can do then if you persist for long enough you can do it.. The vet had said that if he had drunk water in the night then he should not need to come out again. HE couldn’t tell if Extreme had drunk much water or not but it didn’t seem like it. However, SHE said that the vet was phoning at 9am and SHE would see what was to happen then.
I am afraid that we all had our breakfast as normal, right in front of the Big Man while all he had were a couple of cubes of sugar. After breakfast (THEIRS), HE set out to buy some large stones to put in the Big Man’s feed bucket and when HE got back, HE found that the vet had phoned and said that X could have half a scoop of food and then could go out and SHE was in the middle of sending us all into the field. After hanging about for a short while to eat some of our haylage, Big x joined us in the field and stuck to us like glue for the rest of the day. Tonight he had his bucket with three big stones sitting in it but THEY needn’t have bothered as he must still have a sore throat from when Joel put the tube down and we all had to help him finish his feed.
Let’s hope he has a better night tonight and is back to his old self by the morning. Then Mims and I can start picking on him again!

Disused wagonFriday 18th January 2008
HE told me that I must keep it short tonight, as it is HIS birthday. Not that HE wants any special treatment because of that but THEY have invited some neighbours round fo a meal and THEY will need to be ready. And, once they start, it is doubtful if HE will be able to type my diary later in the evening as it could be a three or four hour affair.
So, what has been happening today. Well, one thing. HE noticed that I have quite a nasty cut on my left cheekbone. It is too late for THEM to do anything about it now as it has dried up. In fact, HE wouldn’t have noticed it at all but HE had to take three full barrow-loads to the pooh pile and each time HE came back, I stood there and mugged HIM for a treat. It was at one of these times when HE was standing right next to me that HE spotted it. The reason why the muck had piled up so much was due to the bad weather. There was more dung than usual due to the weather as we have spent a lot of time in our boxes sheltering from the wind. And then, HE had not cleared it right away to the pile because the rain and our hooves had made that part of the field so muddy that HIS barrow kept getting stuck and HE couldn’t make it to the pile. But, today the weather was average. The wind and rain had turned to occasional showers but the sky was still grey and miserable.
HE got a surprise when HE went in the baker’s today because the lady wished HIM happy birthday (bon Anniversaire) and gave him a kiss. It turns out that, the other day, when SHE had been down to get the bread, SHE told her that it would be HIS birthday.
And just to finish, the Big man has now fully recovered and is even getting used to eating his food round the three big stones that are laid on top of it. It definitely slows him down but it no longer stops him finishing every drop!

Cows on sky lineSaturday 19th January 2008
Just a comment on the last paragraph. This morning, Big X managed to get one of the three stones out of his bucket. SHE didn’t see how he did it but just noticed it was on the floor next to the bucket. Judging from how well he uses his nose and mouth to rattle the gates I shouldn’t think it would be much trouble if he put his mind to it. But, of course, there’s the problem. Mind? He does remind me of my dear old sweet Treggy sometimes.
And then there is Mims. She seems to have perfected a stunt whereby she lays down and rolls, waving her legs in the air. Then, when she springs up, it seems to trigger in her a great desire and delight in chasing Extreme, all the while bucking and kicking, which obviously tells him that she doesn’t really mean it, it is all a bit of fun. Normally, this sets him off in one of his funny but fast trots, to leave her in hot pursuit. Today however, he just walked smartly away from her. How disappointing, especially for THEM who were watching out of the window.
And now I come to the shameful account of HIS behaviour today after THEIR evening with Andre and Eliane to celebrate HIS birthday. The evening went well, in as much as THEIR poor French didn’t inhibit the conversation. As SHE says, they are very pleasant and relaxing company. THEY have been restricting THEIR alcohol intake of late, partly for health and partly for weight loss reasons. Andre too is on a weight loss diet for health reasons and, since the last meal they had together, he has lost two kilos. However, as it was a special occasion, HE bought a 15 year single malt for an aperitif and opened three bottles of wine to accompany the Chinese meal that SHE had prepared.
Because there were many courses, using various bowls and plates, when the guests had left, there was a mountain of washing up. SHE had been preparing for days and cooking for most of the day so SHE was dead tired and went to bed. HE struggled through several mountains of pans, crockery and utensils and then joined HER.
This morning, when HE got up to come and feed us, HE noticed that some bowls, glasses etc had been put away in the sous sol. Also his present (wine and caviar) and several other things had been put away. Now, you might think that of course they should have been put away but the odd thing was that HE had no recollection of doing it. HE also found that HE had somehow injured HIS thumb but couldn’t remember how. When HE got downstairs to get our apples and carrots ready, HE started feeling really bad. HE managed to somehow get through feeding us but then just went back indoors and collapsed. HE couldn’t eat breakfast but tried to sleep in a chair. Finally, HE went back to bed with a couple of pain killers and only got up when first Sunny and then Tom jumped on him at one pm.
There is no nice way of putting this – HE had a hangover!

Chapel and farmsSunday 20th January 2008
“Ere Wick?”
“Treg? Is that you mate?”
“Yeah, who else could come up to you on the middle of the field without being seen?”
“Er, well, it might depend on like if I was busy eating actually.”
“Oh, ‘course, I forgot. But, other than that?”
“Whatever. Anyway, it’s really good to see through .. er I mean to see you again, Treg. How’s things with you?”
“Fine. Now, anyway. It got a bit he tic over xmas and the new year but it’s all quietened down now.”
“What do you mean, hectic?”
“Well, you don’t think it all works out on its own, do you?”
“Oh, come on Treg. You’re not going to say that old rubbish about Santa and all that. Everyone knows that its just a story for kids.”
“Of course not. Wouldn’t dream of it. But still, it does take an awful lot of work by us in the spirit world to make all the magic that there is around xmas and the other holidays.”
“Work? What sort of work? Everything is done by us in the physical world that makes things happen. We are responsible for things going right or going wrong.”
“That’s true Wick. No one says otherwise. But what about in your heads> Why is it that people and animals get all sentimental and go a bit silly at holiday times? Why do they put all that effort and money into making it so nice? We make you like it, that’s why.”
“Are you saying that it is the spirit world that gets everyone thinking about presents and being nice to each other and stuff?”
“Yeah, of course it is Wick. Mind you, it is harder with some folk than with others. You have no idea how I had to work to make Mims be nice to you and the Big Man for a couple of days. Didn’t you noptice that you never got bitten once?”
“I thought that was because I ran faster, that was all.”
“No, that was all part of my work. Anyway, enough about me. As I said, we are going to have a bit of an easy time for a while. Then there’s the Chinese New Year, Valentines Day and St Patrick’s to sort out not to mention the thousand and one fetes that you seem to have here in France. When is it? May, particularly if I remember. Oh well. And how about you, old friend. How’s it going or should I say Ca va?”
“Pretty good, really. We have all settled down to a nice little routine in the new field. All we are waiting for now is for Wally the builder to come and fix up our fencing.”
“Oh? I thought he said he was coming early in December?”
“Er, yeah. And before xmas. And early January. Etc, etc. I must admit though it’s more a problem for THEM than for us. We just go out into the field as and when we like. I think that THEY want to rest this field now and shut us out so that we use the old field. And THEY cant do that until the new fence is installed. We don’t mind in the slightest.”
“Ah, but, if it is worrying THEM, then maybe I should see if I cant do something about it. After all, THEY were good to me when I was down there with you.”
“You can do that can you Treg? Yeah OK, give it a go. No harm in trying.”
“Right, well, I’ll be off now then Wick. It’s nice to have a rest but it really is better when you’ve got something to do. Give my love to Alli and say hello to the other two for me.”
“OK Treg. Nice chatting with you, as always.”

Horse watchin HIM take photosMonday 21st January 2008
These days, it is dark when we come in for breakfast. We have outside round the stable and HE turns these on when HE goes down into the sous sol to prepare our apples and carrots. Just after we have finished and HE goes back to the house, HE turns the lights back on again and the sun just starts to rise. Some days it just gets lighter and lighter but on other days we have some spectacular sunrises, particularly with broken cloud to the east. If there is no cloud, it just get lighter and then sunny.
Today was a day of moderately good sunrise which very quickly turned into wall to wall sunshine. Often we will hang about dozing in the stable for ages but today it felt like the first day of spring, a taste of what, we hope, we will be getting in a month or two’s time. So, instead of dozing, we all went out and went into our sort of tidal grazing routine. When I say tidal, I mean that we tend to go from one end of the field to the other and then back again.
HE went off to the supermarket as HE discovered that HE didn’t have enough apples to make tomorrows feeds and the normal specialist vegetable shop was closed because it was Monday. When HE drove to and then went in to the supermarket it was gloriously sunny but, when HE came out again, it was as if someone had shut a door and locked the sun out. It was dark and grey. And it stayed that way for the rest of the day. HE told me that HE couldn’t complain as, for once, the weather forecast (meteo prevision) has got it spot on. By that HE meant that, not only had they said it would be sunny at first and then cloudy, but they also forecast high winds for the evening.
We felt them coming on in the afternoon and, as the breeze got up to about frisky, so did we. We had quite a number of games and it was so much fun, I joined in with the younger ones. Wicky didn’t. I think he regards it all a waste of good eating time. However, THEY saw me from the window, running, leaping with four feet and bucking along with Mims and Extreme. Then just Mims and I had another game and the Big man took that as an opportunity to get into the stable without having to run the gauntlet past us two ladies. To be honest, although I flatten my ears and bare my teeth and even snap at him as he runs by, I never would actually bite him. It’s just good fun frightening him!

St Pierre des NidsTuesday 22nd January 2008
Today was a nice ordinary day and we horses did what we horses do best. So, I wont bore you with that. Today I want to talk about the photos that go with this diary. There have always been photos, right from the first. The difference is that when we started our only internet access was via dial up which you may remember was painfully slow. In those days, the general advice was that one should aim for a page of little more than 80kb. This meant that only a few photos could be used and they should be no more than 20kb. So, to keep the photo file size small the photos themselves were kept small. Today they are half as big again and of a higher quality (technically not artistically) and we have settled on one per day. What else has changed is that the page, instead of fitting on the screen, is now as long as the month requires which, including the 30/31 photos is quite possible with broadband.
However, although there is one photo per day, it doesn’t mean that it is taken on that day or is even relevant to that day. That would be an ideal, possibly, but is not at all practical. Where possible, HE does try to put a relevant picture on a page but that assumes that some visually interesting occurrence has taken place and that HE has managed to photograph it. Now, if you take today. It is in the last third of the month and the weather has been so bad that HE had taken virtually no photos at all. HE was coming out to take some of us in the field grazing but SHE said you might as well use any of the ones you already have of them doing that, it will be no different. And it is true. But, in nine days time HE will still need 31 photographs to put on these pages so, as the sun was shining this morning, HE took HIS camera with HIM when HE went out to buy our apples and carrots. So, most of the pictures that you will see this month will have been taken today and I want to take the opportunity of telling you what they are.
We live, as you know, less than a kilometer outside the village centre of St Pierre des Nids. The villages lies on a fairly quiet road (busy at some times but not a main road or autoroute) between two towns – Pre-en-Pail to the north west and Alencon to the north east. Alencon is by far the bigger, about the size of Exeter in Devon where we came from. Pre-en-Pail has a supermarket, Alencon has many and many other large and small specialist shops as well. Alencon is in Orne, Normandy, we live in Mayenne, on the edge of the Pays de Loire together with Pre-en-Pail but THEY tend to go to Alencon for major shopping like our vegetables. Normally, HE drives straight there catching glimpses of interesting sights but being too busy to divert or stop. Today HE took the time and trouble to find and photograph a few places.
On HIS way out, HE stopped to take a picture of the rainwater that has accumulated under our poplars making it look like a lake. HE then drove to the main road round the back of the village and got a different view of the village church. The problem with the road to Alencon is probably the reason that it is not very busy. It is not very big and so is impossible to stop in. This means that it is not easy to get pictures from the road if there is someone behind you. HE drove past several promising sights because of this and was nearly at Alencon when HE turned of to a place called Condé sur Sarthe. This is a strange place as it appears to be situated (according to the signposts) on two sides of a roundabout and on the road to St Pierre and on a much bigger, busier road directly from Pre-en-Pail into Alencon. HE had never taken this turning before and was astonished to find a very pretty and well kept little village. There are several shots of this and also a long shot from the village to two very interesting chateaux, side by side. It would be interesting to know the history of them.
On the way back, HE wanted to get a photo of the River Sarthe which had burst its banks a couple of days ago. Just after Condé sur Sarthe, HE turned off the road and found himself at a ruined mill by the river. The river itself had returned toits normal course but the mill and its surrounds were another interesting bit of history. Finally, HE stopped to take a picture of a little pony that THEY usually see when THEY travel that road.
I expect in the next few days HE will manage to get shots of us. We must try to look interesting and not dozing and dopy as we often are!

MegalithWednesday 23rd January 2008
Yesterday, when SHE came out to see us at supper, SHE found that we were very hot in our rugs. It had been a nice day with sunshine and no wind and we had been larking about a bit. So SHE said that, if the forecast was the same for today, then we should have our rugs off during the day. So, this morning, HE took them off. Not without a struggle though. The front and the leg straps should be very easy, as they are only a clip. However, for some reason, when HE went to do it, they wouldn’t unclip. I don’t suppose we helped a lot, as we were trying to eat at the time and HE needed our heads up and we wanted them down in our buckets. But, even allowing for this, there must be something wrong with the clips. They appear to be too small for the bars that have to go in them but, this evening, when HE was putting our coats back on, HE found that the clips would work if HE gave them a tweak with his pocket knife. So, it would appear, that the clips are just sticking, probably clogged up with mud where we roll.
HE finally got round to getting rid of all the old netting and barbed wire that came from the old broken fence to the poplars field and also the part that HE has now cleared between our two fields. This latter place wont stay like that. When Wally comes, the old fence will be replaced with post and rail and a gate. But, for the moment, HE has found that it is better for us to have a very wide space to get out into the new (back) field rather than just a hole which got very muddy and churned up very quickly. After HE had collected all the wire, HE put it all in the large remorque and took it down to the dechetterie (the last time I translate this – the large trailer … to the rubbish dump). On the way, HE decided to go via a new build area which used to be an ancient monastery rather than HIS normal way, as it was market day and HE might get stuck driving through the market with the trailer. The new area has not got proper roads yet and HE noticed that the remorque sounded different after he had passed through the bumpy places. When he got to the tip, a man came along and pointed out that the small parking wheel had slid down and was rattling along the road.
The other thing HE did as to tidy up all the pallets, poles, buckets, electric fencing etc that had accumulated along the fence. Also, when HE came back with the remorque, He parked it round the back near the pooh pile. Not only is the old fence area now ready for Wally to work on when he comes but also THEY have a much nicer, uninterrupted view of us in the field.

Moon on frosty morningThursday 24th January 2008
Rugs back off today even though the weather was a bit grey. Even rain was promised for the afternoon but it didn’t arrive. Instead we got about ten minutes of wind instead. We did our usual grazing and tidal flowing. The only difference has been since we have had our rugs off is that we do not hang about very long after meals. Often Mims will go back to the stable for a bite of haylage because she has missed her morning munch.
About mid morning, HE came out to work in the old field. We all came along to the entrance to watch and saw that HE appeared to be feeding the chickens in a very laborious way. What HE was doing was to dig a circle round all the fruit trees (eleven or twelve, I believe although HE fears one is dead but wont know until the spring) while the hens darted in and out behind HIS spade picking up small worms and insects. As HE couldn’t get rid of them, HE decided to try and help them by picking out all the worms and offering them to the girls but, for some reason, they didn’t go for the big worms at all. So HE gave that up and just soldiered on digging.
And then it happened. I don’t know what started it, just something in the air, the devil in Mims or the Big Man’s idea of a joke. Whatever, we three horses (Wick didn’t join in, he may have already drifted off to graze) just took off like the wind. For quite a while, I was in the lead but I have to admit that I don’t have the staying power of the youngsters when it comes to running. Most of the time it was the Big Man in front. Now, whether this was because he is actually faster than Mims, who has a rather rubinesque figure these days, of if it was just because she was chasing him, is hard to tell. I think the nicest thing is that he was both trotting (his learned gait) and catering (natural) both as easily as could be. I think he actually broke into a gallop now and then when Mims was in danger of catching him. And what was remarkable about this bit of fun and games is that it went on for about five minutes (for those two. I stopped after a minute). It did appear as if the Big Man would never stop but, in the end, it just wound down.
The other good thing about today was noticed by HIM when HE brought our supper. As we didn’t have our rugs on we had all been rolling in as much mud as we could find. The Big Man was the muddiest. I was next and Mims even had some clean patches (relatively). SHE thinks it is because Mims doesn’t roll over properly because of her rounded bum! Again Wicky doesn’t count in this because he doesn’t wear a rug and he is always grubby anyway.

frosty grassFriday 25th January 2008

It was cold last night. Below freezing in fact so that we had to come in as the grass was covered in frost. Still, we have plenty of haylage so that is alright. What it did mean though was that we kept our rugs on all day. Funny really because it was wall to wall sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky. But, being winter, if looking like spring, it did mean that the temperatures were struggling to get above 5° C. Anyway, there was no larking about today. Somehow it’s not the same when you are all wrapped up.
HE went off shopping in the village and, as the weather was so sunny, HE decided to go back to a place HE discovered a couple of days ago, where HE could get some good shots of both the village church and a little roadside chapel just outside the village, both in the same shot. As HE was turning the car round, HE happened to see this rather woolly pony in the field next to the road. HE stopped the car and got out to take some photos but the sun was directly into the camera so they are more like outline cameos than anything.
After taking the pictures, HE decided to try and find the large menhir (standing stone) that has been here since the stone age and which is known locally as the Pierre du Diable (Devil’s Stone). When HE was looking this up last night, HE found that there are quite a few Devil’s Stones in France. I expect it is because they are so big for something not occurring naturally that people with no knowledge of history must have assumed that the only way they could have got there was as an act of the Devil. (I must tell you that Mims denies it categorically). The other interesting (to HIM) thing that HE found out is that the word ‘menhir’ comes from the Breton language (‘maen’ = stone, ‘hir’ = standing). However, the people of Brittany use another word altogether!
When HE did find the stone, HE found that it is on private land and is quite a long way from the road so can only be seen through trees. I expect if HIS spoken French was better, HE could have asked permission to walk up to it. But HE didn’t so you will have to make do with a distant photo for now.

Carrefour at AlenconSaturday 26th January 2008
A very hard frost last night again. And in the morning, bright blue skies and pure white grass. Also, for the last few days, a big, bright round moon, although it is now starting to have its right side nibbled away, little by little. We got through most of our haylage in the night and then just stood around in the moonlight. There was no point going out as grazing on ice lollies if for humans not horses.
HE went shopping this morning and brought us back a couple of the swedes that they have here. In England we were used to the very large ones about 15cm across. And HE would buy them in a net of about 20kg, normally at a petrol station or a farmers’ shop. Here they only seem to sell small round or oval ones maybe 8 cm across from the vegetable shops or supermarkets. In England they were used as animal feed (you could also buy swedes for human consumption in shops) so I don’t know what French farm animals eat instead. Anyway, HE cut one up for us, as a treat, this evening and I think HE was a bit disappointed that we showed no reaction but just just ate it like we would any other treat. I mean, big deal, it was only turnip!
Coming back to the weather, this afternoon was a real mixture. The sun was so bright and warm as felt and seen from indoors that HE was worried about us, still in our rugs. And then a neighbour came to invite them for a galette, a sort of marzipan cake that is traditionally eaten in January. When HE opened the door, she was dressed in a thick coat and scarf and HE could feel that it was, indeed, very cold outside. As it was nearly our supper time , we all came along to stand by the fence and, so she could really admire me from the window, I had a really good roll in the mud.

Bonfire at farmSunday 27th January 2008
It’s all very well THEM being invited out for something to eat but what it meant, in reality, was that we had to wait over an hour for our supper. I have to admit that I wasn’t in the best of moods and did manage, this time, to bite the Big Man’s bum as he rushed past me to get into his box. And a lot of good it did me too. As soon as he was in, he puts his great big head over the grill and threatens to bite me too. Then my daughter starts playing up as well. It wasn’t nastiness with her (for a change). She was far too interested in something (or someone) away over the fields. She didn’t even bother to eat her supper for a long while. Then, when she did, she left all the vegetables. That wasn’t to do with whatever was interesting her over the fields. I told you yesterday that HE bought a couple of swedes as a treat for us. Well, today he cut some up and added them to our feed, quite forgetting that in England, Mims wasn’t partial to them. Now, she has had so long withut them that she doesn’t see the need to start eating them again. And, as they were mixed in with the apples and carrots, the swedes must have tainted them as well for she left the lot. The Big fella and myself were not complaining however as HE passed them over to us.
HE (re) discovered, today, a web site that has kept copies of all the sites on the internet for many years now. You may be interested, it is Wayback Machine on:

http://www.archive.org/web/web.php

Out of interest, HE entered the address of this website and took a look at the first diary page that it found. And there I was, in October 2003, moaning about how little had happened that day. In fact, HE managed to spread it out so thinly that saying that there was nothing to say, filled that day’s diary entry.
What a shame that I have done that already otherwise I could have used that ruse to fill today’s page. It’s funny but, from our point of view, a day when nothing out of the ordinary occurs is a really good day. We equines are creatures of habit and when something disrupts that it is not at all good, even when it is for our benefit. We may come to like it at some later date but, at the time, it always makes us disturbed and uneasy. I told you that THEY went to neighbours today. SHE was trying to explain to them about how we are very large, strong animals and yet, being prey animals, we can be frightened by a sudden noise, a leaf, a piece of paper or anything that is different. It is how we survive. To be ready to run at any time we need to.
However, SHE was never able to get that idea across because THEY didn’t know the word for ‘prey’ in French. However, THEY have learned that it is a word that THEY must get to know to be able to talk about us to any depth.

Andre's etang (lake)Monday 28th January 2008
HE just looked the word up. It is proie. Un animal de proie (prey animal). I bet you are glad that I told you that. Maybe you can learn French alongside THEM?

HE decided it might be fun to look up what was in the diary on this day last year and maybe compare the weather then with how it is now. However, it was one of those days when Treg came back to have a chat with Wicky so it was just full of a lot of nonsense and no mention of events during the day. The photos are of us in the snow but that just means that there was snow in January but not necessarily on any particular day. HE thern looked on the days before and after and remembered that it was the time that Wick had his very bad foot. Now, the other day THEY got caught out by saying, in the morning hat we had been so well lately that we hadn’t needed the vet. That evening was when the Big man chocked and the vet was called straight away. I mention this because I was tempted to say how well we have been here, as far as feet are concerned., but I wont. Just in case, you know.
HE finally got round to getting all the paperwork ready to apply for registration of the green car here in France. One of the most important documents that one must have is a European Certificate of Conformity (abbreviated name). HE was advised to apply to the makers here in France (Volkswagen) but when HE wrote to them, they said that as the car was purchased in England HE must get the Certificate from there. So HE contacted them and they sent HIM a form to apply for the Certificate. When it finally arrived, HE found that it was in German. Now, HE had to fill in a French form and needed the dictionary to find out what they wanted. But then the answers were in the document written in German so HE needed a German dictionary to see what the answer was. But worse. The units required by the French document didn’t appear to be the same as those used in the German document and anyway, neither dictionaries contained the technical terms used. In the end HE has just filled in what HE can and hoped that it will suffice.
When HE had finally finished and made photocopies of the seven documents required, the morning was nearly gone and then SHE reminded HIM that HE needed to go out and buy our apples and carrots. As it was Monday, the local village shops would be closed so HE had to drive to the nearer of the two supermarket towns to get them. HE decided to drop all the application forms off at the Marie on the way as the nice lady there had kindly said she would forward them on to the Prefecture at the Departmental capital town. HE drove to the Marie car park and walked through the gardens and up to the door. It was locked. After all, this is Monday in France!

The four of usTuesday 29th January 2008
Just to finish off the bit yesterday about the car registration, HE took all the documents to the Mairie today. The nice lady checked them all over and decided that she also needed photocopies of THEIR passports for personal identification, as well as the proof of residence that HE had provided. Then HE got his cheque book out as the form that she had given him a couple of days ago mentioned payment of something like 87€. This was the form that had HIM delving into the depths of the car’s engine for some data on various load bearing qualities and had got HIM scouring through the French and German dictionaries to complete. However, she told HIM that, as HE had provided a European Certificate of Conformity, she didn’t need the form and the payment was to provide one, if HE hadn’t got it. I think that goes under the heading of ‘good news, bad news’.
HE is determined to try and improve his French this year and now goes about making up (and translating in HIS head) phrases to say to the various poor French people that HE meets. HE now has a question a day for the lady in the bakers and he went into the post office just to chat with the lady there on the pretext of buying some stamps. Sometimes, when HE is alone, HE will practice on us horses, talking to us in HIS pidgin Francaise. It’s alright for me because I have known HIM so long that I know what HE is on about without listening to the words. But the poor Big Man, who only understands French has to struggle and struggle to find out if he is being praised or blamed for something. Mims just ignores him and Wicky isn’t even aware of anything that is not directly concerned with food. If it is, he fully understands it, even if it were in Japanese.
We had the weirdest weather today. The day broke with fog which just hung on and on and the sun didn’t make an appearance at all. It must have been there somewhere because the grass did eventually thaw at about two o’clock in the afternoon. Mims and I took a turn in our old field this afternoon but the grass hasn’t grown much there as yet. Still, it was interesting to be there for a change and it passed the time until supper.

Sunset behind the back fieldWednesday 30th January 2008
It’s just one mad social whirl for THEM. Last week, out for a galette with neighbours Fabrice and Danny, then this Saturday, THEY are going for supper with Johanna and James, the farmers in Livaie where we first stayed when we came to France. And then, today, there was a knock on the door from another neighbour, Jacques, who came to invite THEM to dinner on Saturday night. When THEY explained that THEY were already going out, he quickly changed it to the following Saturday. And these are the people who didn’t want any near neighbours. Well, it should all help to improve THEIR French. I suppose.
We decided that, as it had been such a lovely afternoon (and a lovely morning for Wicky, who likes rain) that we would be on our best behaviour this evening at supper time. When HE got to the stable, the Big Man was already in his box, eating haylage. Of course, as soon as he heard the gate clang, Wicky was in ready to eat and I followed him but stood around on the concrete apron waiting for Mims. HE took the opportunity to just clear out a pooh from my stable and, as HE came out to empty it into the wheelbarrow, Mims came round the corner and we both just walked into our boxes like little angels. I didn’t even kick the walls or flatten my ears at Extreme. And it worked like a charm. We all got an extra couple of mints to chew while HE was making up the buckets.
Nearly at the end of another month. Actually, HE was quite pleased that there was a little  light rain this morning as HE has put in some grass seed on the few patches that were left after HE had dug all those holes in search of the septic tank. Also there are a few patches near the front hedge where there were a lot of weeds and HE got a bit enthusiastic with the weed killer last autumn. HE also has a problem in the herb garden, as the kind of weeds that were there when he started the garden were the kind with very pervasive root systems. So, although HE tried to dig them all out, there were broken bits of root left underground which just keep growing more weeds. HE did try the weed killer on these but they grow too close to the herbs to be able to spray effectively. HE has now bought himself one of those butane gas guns to try and burn them out although the way that Didier in the shop stressed that HE should take his time doing it, HE has not got a great deal of hope of success for this method either. We shall see in the spring.
Today and tomorrow are the days that HE has to select the month’s photos for the diary. Although HE has not gone out to take many again this month, HE ended up with a great many shots, maybe ten or so of the same thing from different angles or of different exposures. The first job is to delete the disasters (out of focus or missed moving shots mainly). Then a quick run though to select the chosen shot from a set of the same subject. This way HE ends up with two piles – discard and possible. Usually the possible come to approximately double the number HE needs, so now it is a question of viewing them as slide shows several times and slowly eliminating the weaker ones of a type (eg sky shots, horses, buildings, etc.) until HE finally has the right number. It is then necessary to take the sequence into account. Where possible they are kept in date taken order but HE does try to vary the sequence so you don’t get, for example, several building shots, one after the other. It now remains to rename them with the date of the diary day that they are going to illustrate and finally to edit them (crop, level, adjust lightness and darkness etc.) and then reduce the size and condense them to fit comfortably on a website page.
Hopefully, this will all be finished by tomorrow night when the month’s diary is published.

SunnyThursday 31st January 2008
HE went down to the baker’s this morning and Sylvie, who takes a delight in using his first name since she learnt it recently and, who wishes to encourage him to speak French, said something like ‘vous avez besoin de skis a le week-end’ meaning it is going to snow. As THEY had been told that earlier in the morning by Wally (more in a moment), it certainly looks like it is a possibility. What a good way to begin February. This morning here was a mixed bag with cold grey skies and then sunshine. But, this afternoon really turned into winter with light rain and cold, strong winds. While it was changing and just windy, we horses ‘got the wind under our tails’ as the expression goes and had some good larks chasing about the field. But as the wind continued and it appeared to get colder and greyer, we went back to the stable to shelter until suppertime.
As I said above, there was a sound of car types on the gravel outside the stable and, when we looked up from grazing, Wally’s old blue van turned up. HE had phoned him a few days ago to try and find out when the work on our fence would commence. It appears that Wally hadn’t been well although he said that was not an excuse. It was just that the weather had been so bad that it was not good for working outside. Anyway, he says that he will be here to start work next Tuesday, that’s the fifth of February. I tell you that so you will be able to judge from next month’s diary if it actually happened. It was funny because this morning, before HE got up, HE had been laying and thinking about the fence and had come to the conclusion that there was absolutely no hurry at all. It was just that THEY wanted to have the job over and done with. HE thought that, if THEY wanted to keep us out of the back field, all HE had to do was to put some electric tape across the entrance. It is that simple. SHE is torn because SHE wants to rest the back field but she enjoys being able to watch us larking about in it. Probably if Wally does come next week, we may well get shut out from it about the middle to the end of April.
HE finished editing the photos by lunchtime so let me just give you a quick briefing. There are few pictures of us horses this month. This is due to the weather and (HE says) the fact that if it is OK and HE brings the camera out to the field, we all rush round HIM for treats and HE cant get a good shot. So, there are photos of a couple of horses that HE has seen in the fields roundabout, some views of the back of the village church and shots of an old disused water mill that HE found and of the River Sarthe. A small village on the way to Alencon caught HIS eye and a couple of views in Pre-en-Pail, the other largish town near here. All a bit ‘townie’ but, I suppose it makes a change.


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