Alezane's Diary Archive April 2008
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APRIL 2008

Alli & MimsTuesday 1st April 2008
I gather, in France, they pin paper fish on people’s backs as an April Fool’s day joke. We were prepared for HIM to do something silly for us but nothing happened. Maybe as England gets further away and he is not thrilled with paper fish, HE will forget the whole idea. Let us hope so, it never was that funny.

Guess what. HE waited until noon before going to Didier’s to get our food as HE has been told that deliveries are on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11.30 am. When HE got there, Didier told HIM that the delivery man had phoned him and the feed would be in this afternoon. I think that now makes five times HE has been there for the feed and has come away empty handed. Well, not quite empty handed as HIS red wine had run out and HE would not have been able to have his dejeuner without it. So, HE got HIS wine and stopped off for bread and came home in the knowledge that HE would have to go out in the afternoon again.

Actually, it was not too much of a chore as although normally HE likes to have a little doze in the afternoon after eating, Wally the builder was still there and Gladys was coming to clean the house in the afternoon so HE couldn’t have dozed anyway.

The good news is that Wally finished our fence and ‘coral (the square fenced off behind the stable to enable us to get to the drinker whichever field we are using), today. All that is left to be done for us is to get some gravel dumped between the end of our concrete apron and the other side of the two exits to the two fields. This will need about six tons so HE wants it dumped where it will be used to save HIM having to move it. The problem is that, at the moment, the ground is too muddy for a lorry to be able to drive up to the spot. It’s catch 22 really as the main reason for needing it is all the mud churned up in those entrances. HE will have to wait until the ground is dry enough for the lorry, by which time, we wont need it. However, I expect it will be good for subsequent years.

A further job HE will have to do is to separate the old fence posts from the old barbed wire and net fencing. Then the posts can be recycled to mend the fence round the poplars area which is falling down and HE will then take the metal down to re-cycling dump. However, now HE has the garden and fields back to HIMSELF, as long as the weather stays fine, HE will be happy to get outside and do some work again.

Yesterday SHE was allowed to take some gentle exercise. SHE went on a accompanied walk (the accompanying member of staff complete with a backpack of medical equipment) and then had a go on an exercise bike. SHE is determined to give the therapy a real try to get as fit as SHE can get. Today SHE will be seeing the cardiologist that SHE should have seen yesterday. The staff had changed HER medication again and SHE has been feeling nauseous as a result so SHE wants to ask him several questions about this. HE will learn tonight, when THEY talk on the phone, what the result was.

After a day of light drizzle and grey skies, this evening has turned glorious and sunny so we have all gone out to enjoy it until the sun goes down.

Clouds to the eastWednesday 2nd April 2008
A really lovely day today as far as the weather was concerned. It was a clear night with just a few clouds but mainly a starry one. Then, in the morning, the sun came up and stayed out. It did grey over for a while in the afternoon but by late afternoon the sun came back out again and stayed out until nightfall. And, this afternoon also, it was warm, up to 15 Celsius.

And so, given a day with no planned interruptions, the builder had gone, HE wasn’t expected anywhere and no one had arranged to call, HE decided to do some work in the garden and stable. The first thing HE had to do was to unload our six bags of feed that HE had bought yesterday. HE couldn’t do it yesterday as HE likes to drive the car onto our concrete apron to save having to carry the bags too far and we horses were all in the stable area when HE was available.

After unloading the bags, HE got distracted by the posts at the side of the stable which had supported strings of tape to keep us off a small grass slope down from the field to the concrete. Now that the new fence is erected, HE couldn’t see the point of this temporary fencing so he directed HIS energies to dismantling it. Just a few posts. It shouldn’t have taken HIM very long to do this but what HE found was that the posts were nailed to a strip of wood at the base, below the concrete line. By a series of wiggling, tugging and pushing, HE finally made it but also made HIMSELF short of breath. HE had already decided that HE will keep on with the medical inhaler that had been prescribed for HIM. HE had already stopped taking the pills that were prescribed for arthritis and the only problem HE had was that HE had become addicted to them and had to overcome withdrawal symptoms. So, HE thought HE would apply the same principles to the inhaler and this also worked for up to a week. But then HE found HE was becoming breathless more and more often so HE decided to get a repeat prescription after all.

When HE got HIS breath back, HE started hosing down the concrete in front of the stable and run into a problem with the soak away which consists of a shingle filled gully. The problem with this is that the top of the shingle gets covered with mud and hay etc. and then stops draining. So, before HE could continue washing down HE had to clear out the gully, making a mental note to replace the shingle with a pipe. Everything took much longer than it was supposed to but eventually HE got that done. The next job was to disentangle the posts from the old fence between the garden and field from the netting and barbed wire. Armed with strong gloves and a pair of heavy duty wire cutters, HE finally freed the posts and then carried then to outside the sous sol for final cleaning up. Then there was the task of compressing all the wire into manageable piles ready to take down the dump.

HE got a bit distracted while carrying the posts and passing the herb garden which is still recovering from the winter ravages. HE stopped off to tidy the garden up ready for a proper go at it later. Then, after all this work, HE went indoors and make HIMSELF a big dinner of sausage and mash followed by fruit salad. When HE was finished, fatigue and fullness (and probably some red wine) overcame HIM and HE went for a little lay down. HE was woken by a tapping on the window and got up to find a neighbour, Eliane, who had come to find out how SHE was. Unfortunately, sleep had stolen all HIS French language and HE had a tough time trying to communicate. HE has an invitation to go to their house for a coffee but HE will probably wait until SHE is back to help HIM out with the conversation.

And us horses? You would be surprised what we did. We grazed, dozed and rolled. Then we rolled, dozed and grazed. In between, we caught Him a few times as HE passed the fence and persuaded HIM to part with a few treats. It is a hard life being a horse.

Indy (Was 'Er Indoors)Thursday 3rd April 2008
C’est printemps aujourd’hui. Today it is spring. HE had to go to Villaines today for some shopping and on the way there HE had noticed previously that there were banks and banks of primroses. As HE had just paid about 40 euros to buy ten primrose plants (primula vulgaris) he was amazed at how there were thousands of them on the way to Villaines, on the way to Pre-en-Pail, on the way to Bouley les Ifs and probably many other places that HE has not been. HE was so proud of the primroses that HE had planted on the roadside banks at Ninefields in Devon and HE wanted to do the same here which is why HE ordered some. HE had also seen one cowslip plant last Saturday when HE went to get our feed from a shop that was shut. Now cowslips were very rare in Devon. HE had in mind that, if HE found somewhere with hundreds of primroses on the bank, HE might transplant one or two to Le Cerisier. HE was not sure what the legality of this might be here but then, HE was not selling them, only transplanting them from one part of Mayenne to another, making the whole Department more beautiful.

So, HE was driving to Villaines when HIS courage ran out and HE drove past all the primroses. Then, a bit further on, it appeared as if there was another sort of primrose coloured flower by the hundreds in the roadside banks. HE stopped to look and they were cowslips. HE couldn’t resist this and has now transplanted one cowslip plant from Villaines to St Pierre des Nids. Please don’t tell anyone.

While at Villaines, after shopping for food, HE went to the DIY store to get some enamel paint for the grills in our stable. While HE was there, HIS fancy was taken by a wooden garden set of four chairs and a table being sold at a bargain price. It has been a dream of HIS to sit out on the terrace in the sun sipping wine and reading. Last year HE bought a sun parasol so now HE bought the table set. The main thing that sold it to him as well as the price was that it is small, a four seater only, and wont take up too much room on the terrace. HE arranged for delivery and it was set for this afternoon at four.

While HE was waiting, the sun came out, strong and warm and HE decided to give the grass around the house (not really smooth enough to be called a lawn) its first cut of the season. HE obviously couldn’t have been satisfied with the cropping we gave it the other day. It was the first time out for the sit on mower and HE had to remember where to fill it with petrol. After finishing that, HE got the strimmer, mixed some two stroke and gave that an airing cutting around the edges and also getting rid of some brambles that were under the new fence. By the time HE had finished the table and chairs were delivered so HE couldn’t help just sitting on the terrace with a new book HE had bought and a cup of tea. When that was finished, HE just sat in the sun until it was time to feed us.

HE has found one snag in HIS plan. While HE is sitting on the terrace, Wicky just stands on the stable apron staring at HIM and willing HIM to feed him.

Sunny in the fruit basketFriday 4th April 2008
I have decided to adopt Wicky’s methods and have spent a fair amount of time today just gazing at the big field that HE has so unkindly locked us out of. HE came over to the stable this morning while we were all just hanging about and started to work on the drainage system. When it was first done, Wally had filled the gully between the concrete hard standing and the building with gravel, the idea being that any water on the concrete would drain slowly away. The problem has been that not only water but hay, our hair and mud etc. (polite way of saying poohs) also gather on the concrete and when they are washed down the debris clogs up the gravel and tops the water draining.

HE was at first going to replace the gravel with a drainpipe but, in the end, decided on some open guttering instead so that HE can easily clean it out if it gets blocked up. So, there HE was, kneeling on the concrete digging out the gravel, so I decided to give HIM a good view of me, longing to go out into the field. The more HE tried to humour me the more I just stood and stared and sighed. I finally got HIM to apologise about shutting us out but I am afraid that it didn’t change HIS mind so we all just walked out and left HIM to HIS excavations. I say ‘all’. The Big Man did hang about a bit, putting his nose into everything (and knocking a few things over in the process). I think HE was just glad to find someone who was uncritical of HIM so HE rewarded the Big Man with a few mints. HE was just finishing the job when we came back to inspect. To be honest, we are just as inquisitive as Big X, just not so clumsy.

This afternoon, HE was having a doze in the sunshine when HER sister Norma phoned to see how SHE was. After the call, being now awake, HE decided to spread some weed killer on the grass in front of the house. HE had bought a big box which was quite expensive but when HE came to spread it, it only covered a small part of the garden. So, now HE was out, HE decided to drive the quad bike over the old field to check that the tape fencing was still intact. Of course, it wasn’t. Wicky and the Big Man between them had pulled down all the fence at the top end. So, HE got off the bike and decided to replace the fence to allow the area that we had been using anyway to be on our side legally. HE walked down the bit of a slope and inspected four rather large horizontal holes which appear to be a badger set. Then, as HE was coming back up the slope, HE discovered, guess what? You know I told you that HE ‘transplanted’ a cowslip yesterday. Well, right in the middle of the slope, there was a single big clump of cowslips. Just the one. HE has it in HIS mind to slip this into several plants when the flowers go off in the hope of encouraging a small colony to grow.

Our neighbour Jacques Chapron came along this morning. He lives two houses away and breeds pug dogs. When SHE was here several months ago, he got her to telephone a dog stud in England to get details of their service for one of his bitches. She is now ready to breed and he wants HIM to phone England again to make the arrangement. He is coming back this evening after HE has given us our supper. He also owns a small orchard next to our field and some of the fence posts are falling down. The ownership of fences is never very clear so I think HE is going to find out if it is his, ours or joint. As it happens it is not serious because Wicky doesn’t want to get in there!

Ali & MimsSaturday 5th April 2008
A very black day today! Not the weather although that has been grey and rainy. No, much worse. We have lost three of our four hens.

I finished yesterday saying that our neighbours were coming back after HE had fed us. Well they did and they all sat there while HE tried and tried to raise the lady in England to get some details for the dog mating. The trouble was that her telephone was always engaged so, in the end, it was agreed that they would go home and HE would keep trying during the evening until HE got through.  Then it was time to phone HER and talk through the days events. After this HE started ringing the lady again and finally she answered and he got some details for the neighbours. It being easier to talk face to face instead of the phone, HE drove down to them and told them what the lady had said. HE then came home and phoned the lady again with some more of their questions and then, this time, phoned the neighbours with the answers.

By this time it was quite late and HE had not had HIS evening meal yet so HE then made this and settled down to watch what was left of the evening’s TV quite forgetting to lock up the hen house. When HE came to feed us, HE saw a hen walking about in the stable and realised that HE had forgotten to lock them in. When HE couldn’t see the other three, HE looked over at the chicken house and there was a dreadful sight. The three hens lay dead,. partly dismembered, among a pile of feathers. Obviously they had been killed by a fox. There was nothing HE could do but to collect up the remains and sweep up the feathers and put them all in a bag which HE took down to the waste dump later in the morning.

What was a puzzle was that the one hen survived. Often they used to go about as three and one so possibly the survivor had gone out early to the stable while the fox caught the other three on their way out. We will never know. SHE had given the hens all names. There was blond, who had a white rear end. There was Little Hattie who had a small comb. There was Mrs Lopsided who was slightly malformed and sat in a box rather than on a perch. And finally there was and is the survivor ‘Er Indoors. HE is dreading telling HER tonight when HE phones HER, particularly as it was HIS fault for not shutting the chicken house. The whole day has been very low key. To punish HIMSELF he has moved sixty bales of haylage from out side the barn into the feed room. Then HE took all the waste barbed wire and wire netting down to the dump. As HE sits indoors HE can see the chicken house out of the window and, in the end, HE couldn’t stand it any longer and got up and went and cleaned out the chicken house and then did some gardening in the rain.

Nothing will bring them back but HE will get some more, maybe two, not three, if SHE agrees on the phone tonight.

Mist before dawnSunday 6th April 2008
We had two kinds of snow showers today. The first was not as bad as they appear to have had in the UK where the snow actually settled and people were making snowmen and the like. Here we have had long spells of bright sunshine and then, suddenly, the sun went in and there were thick snowflakes falling (and melting) all over the place. Then again the sun came out and the skies were blue again.

The other kind of snowstorm was entirely different. HE decided, this morning, that HE would spray the fruit trees with their ‘end of winter’ insecticide. As the forecast was for cold weather, HE found various excuses like replying to outstanding emails until HE couldn’t put it off any longer. Having filled the back pack spray and loaded himself up HE went out to find that it was not bad at all outside. There was not too much of a breeze and it was not particularly cold in the sunshine. So HE managed to spray the trees in the garden and those in the field quite quickly and also found that HE had some spray left. HE therefore went looking around for other things to spray and, after dealing with the few fruit bushes in the herb garden, wandered out to spray along the front garden hedge (for absolutely no good reason whatsoever). At the end of the hedge, HE met the neighbour’s little girl Corralie who has just about learned to understand some of HIS simple French now. She asked if she could com and see us horses and, not thinking quickly enough to tell her to wait until SHE gets home, HE said HE had to make HIS lunch now but she could come after lunch.

What about the snowstorm? We’re coming to that. After HIS lunch, HE quite forgot about HIS promise and settled down for HIS usual doze when there was a ring of the doorbell. When HE answered it, it was Corralie and her big (and he is tall) brother Morgan. They came over to the stable where we were all just standing about and to cut a long story short, Corralie had a ride on all four of us, starting with me. I will admit Mims was a bit hard to catch as she was suspicious of the head collar but when caught she gave her ride as good as gold. After the rides, they showed no signs of going away and so, to amuse Corralie, HE showed her how you could just pull lumps of Wicky’s hair out. HE then got her to pull some and then discovered that it all came away quite easily.

I should explain that because of Wicks disease (Cushing’s syndrome) his hair grows quite extravagantly and has had to be clipped in recent summers. Last year it showed signs of shedding a bit for the first time and here was even some doubts about the state of his disease. So, HE was really interested to find that not just some hair but all the long hair came away with some gentle pulling and HE set about pulling in earnest. Wick didn’t seem to mind, even to be enjoying it. What with the breeze and the handfuls and handfuls of white hair floating about in it, we had, in effect, a quite dense snowstorm over the stable. HE even made Corralie laugh when they had swept it up and completely filled a 25 kilo feed bag with it by saying that we had another pony there.

Let us hope now that we don’t get a real snowstorm of Wick may feel the cold for the first time!

Wicky's winter coatMonday 7th April 2008
The big worry last night was that, when HE went to shut up the last remaining hen, she was not there. As she wasn’t in her chicken house but in the stable the previous night, HE went and checked there as well. But she was not there either. HE had checked while it was still twilight so, on the possibility that she would come back a bit later, HE waited and then went out again when it was dark. Again HE checked both places but she was not there. HE even checked upstairs in the stable just in case she had found her way up there. When HE couldn’t find her, all HE could do was to wait until the morning and hope hat she returned. She has been known to go away overnight before, twice spending the night in next doors garden. But, with the fox about, this is not a good idea. The hen’s name is ‘Er Indoors’ but as this is not very easy to use HE decided to abbreviate it to ‘Indy’. So, this morning HE came over to give us breakfast looking for Indy but couldn’t see her. Then, as HE was moving me from Mims’ box to my own, HE saw her. She was sitting in my hay rack! However, after being around all morning, she has disappeared again. Let us hope she goes to bed properly tonight.

Wicky’s hair is still coming out. This evening, HE managed to comb the under belly hair and some of his legs and there is now almost as much hair again laying on our hard standing. By the time HE was nearly finished, we had all finished our supper and HE was far too tired to sweep up. I expect HE will do it this morning if the wind has not blown it all away.

HE went out very early this morning to get our carrots and apples (and possibly a few things for THEM as well) because there was a man coming round at 11am to give HIM a quote for replacing THEIR front doors. The reason for wanting to do this is not that the current doors are worn out. Almost the opposite as they are so big and strong and with no glass in them that it makes the whole hallway dark and lets no light reach the glazed door into the living area. What they want is a set of doors that are all glazed to allow the house to be lighter.

After the problem with Indy, HE was worried this morning as HE hadn’t seen Sunny the cat last night and she still hadn’t appeared this morning by the time HE went out. However, she ran up to greet HIM when HE came home so that was a relief. While waiting for the door man, HE set about getting rid of the weeds growing round the anti hen fence around the house as these were choking out the plants and roses that have been planted to cover the fence. Then when the man had left HIM some estimates, HE set about making copies and sending to HER for a decision.

So, not much about us horses today but we did have a good day grazing in the sun because it is still not so warm as to bring out the flies. It wont be long now though!

The wheat fieldTuesday 8th April 2008
We had a frost last night. Not a very bad one, we didn’t end up getting frozen beards like we used to in the winter. Still, it made us come in a bit early for breakfast. When HE came over, HE found Indy (the hen) still sleeping in my hay rack. Except now, it isn’t my hay rack but Mims’. HE has finally given in to the fact that I have chosen the box nearest the feed room as my own. It has two advantages and one disadvantage as far as I can see. First, it is NOT next to the Big Man. A great plus as far as I am concerned. Secondly it is next to the area where HE makes up our buckets so I can enjoy the anticipation. The disadvantage is that I get fed last. I had always thought that HE fed me before Mims because of my head of herd position. It appears I was wrong. HE just works HIS way back from the end so now it is Wick first, then Big X, then Mims and last me. Oh well, I can live with that if it means I don’t have that great silly head hanging over my box at mealtimes.

Mims is not at all sure that the swap is a good idea. Something is going on between her and Big X as he keeps making the most horrendous snorting noises. Definitely not the kind of thing to endear him to her, if that is the reason. Still, she is a good girl even if she does say it is something to do with ‘age before beauty’!

I don’t know if it is my charisma or what but now that I have changed my box, she still comes and eats from my bucket and not from Mims’. The other thing is that today, not only did she sleep in my old hay rack last night, she laid her egg in my new hay rack.

HE went to get two more hens as company or her but the place was closed until tomorrow. It will be interesting if she will bully the new ones until they settle in. We will see.

HIS other jobs today were first to coat the new outdoor table and four chairs with teak oil. As the chairs are all close slats and the table needs to be covered top and bottom, it was quite an undertaking and HE is pleased that it only needs doing once a year. HE then had to plant out the primroses that arrived yesterday. HE only bought ten but HE slip them all up so there were twenty holes to dig and twenty plants to plant. As it was all along the fence in the old field running by the road, HE used the quad and remorque to carry the compost, plants and water, Then it was time to make HIS lunch before getting ready to go to the doctor’s. All HE wanted for HIM was a repeat prescription for HIS asthma puffer and he needed the doctor to sort out some hospital bills that HE had received for when SHE went to Urgences. The doctor, Stephanie, wrote him a note to take along to explain that she should get 100% rebate on her medical treatment for HER heart condition. HE is hoping that someone there will speak English.

Rain on the windowWednesday 9th April 2008
 This morning Indy was so low in the hay that HE nearly missed her. And, just to be difficult, I moved back to my middle box so Indy chose the hay rack there to lay her egg today.

HIS main task today was to go along and buy two more chickens. As they will be new to the surroundings, they must first be kept in a pen to get to know where home is. While HE was in bed last night, HE started wondering about moving the chicken house before they came. For HIMSELF, HE cant get over the sight of the three dead and savaged hens laying amidst the pile of feathers in front of the chicken house. Also for Indy who had gone up and looked at her dead sisters and since that time has not gone near the place voluntarily. So, this morning, HE went and measured the house and the strip of earth along the concrete path out of our stable into the field. HE also measured the small remorque and found that it would just fit in there. So HE stripped it down, taking off the roof and emptying the contents and loaded it up on the remorque. HE had to did the ground level and had some trouble with stones that had been buried by Wally’s digger when he was converting the barn into the stable.

After HE had sited the house, HE then had to sink some posts and put wire up all around the area to keep the hens in until they were familiar enough to go out with Indy. HE had to keep an eye on the time as the chicken seller closed at one o’clock. HE finally finished about 12.15, went and changed and drove round to the farm. When HE got there and asked for two poule pondeuse (laying chickens) HE was told that they would not be ready until the 29th of this month. All that rush was for nothing. However, the job is done now so it is only a matter of picking up the birds when they are available.

We had been shut out all the time HE was working but when we were let in again, the Big Man had to go and smell and lick the chicken house to get to know it better (or something). HE went out this afternoon and bought a magnolia in a pot to place on the septic tank lid to pretty it up a bit. HE also bought a couple of clematis to replace two of the plants that didn’t make it round the house fence. While HE was there HE also got some strawberries to liven up the herb garden.

Clouds to the southThursday 10th April 2008
First the weather. This morning was a bit grey and somewhat cool. By this afternoon however, it turned sunny and warm, just like a spring day should be.

We have given up hoping that HE will give in and let us into the new field again. It must be something human that we don’t understand. I can remember last year looking over the field but it was full of wheat and we were mainly interested because that is where Solide and his mum came from. We didn’t expect to be allowed in there, particularly because we had run through there to escape on the first day we were here. I hope that they are not going to grow wheat in there this year though as it is such a pleasant field to roam in. The grass is a bit thin as yet as it only grew in between where the wheat stubble was. I know the farmer went round with his tractor scattering some grass seed but that wasn’t the same as sowing it properly. I am sure he didn’t do the same with his wheat seed and I am sure he sowed a whole lot more of it. Still, it will spread and in a few years time it will be a really lovely pasture,

HE was pleased with HIMSELF today. HE first went to the place where the doors come from and finalised the order for the new portes d’entrée (front doors). SHE had decided that SHE didn’t like the red for the outside (it is oak inside) and instead went for the dark green. HE signed the estimate and the next step is for a technician to come and measure up exactly and for HIM to put down a third deposit. The technician is due on the 22nd, in ten days time and installation should be in mid June.

Next HE steeled himself to go to the hospital with a letter from the doctor to argue that SHE should not pay for any medical treatment only for HER board and lodging and any personal extras. HE needed to do this because HE had received two bills for the medical treatment that she received in HER two visits to Urgences. At that time the doctors didn’t know the cause,( it was only later that it was shown to be due to her heart problem) so it is understandable that they should have billed HER. It is only for her heart disability that SHE gets cent pro cent (100% rebate). Anyway, after struggling with HIS poor French and their non existent English, it was agreed that the two bills would be scrapped and that THEY needn’t pay them. HE offered to pay for HER board then but they said the facture (bill) would come in the post.

After lunch and an after lunch nap, HE went out and cut the lawn. Last year when HE bought the ride on mower, HE was disappointed because it didn’t seem to be picking up the cuttings. Today HE was fed up because it was and HE had to keep stopping to empty he grass tray. However, it was a good job done as it cut the heads off all the dandelions (pissenlits in French – guess why) so they couldn’t seed and spread even further. HE has had one go at spreading lawn weed killer but needs to buy some more as there is an awful lot of grass to cover.

BlossomFriday 11th April 2008
We had a treat today, HE let us into the new field. OK, I’ve decided. Unless SHE comes up with some better names I am going to call the original field the ‘Daisy Field’ as that is what it was full of last year when we came here. And the new field I am going to call the ‘Wheat Field’ for the same reason of course. Not very imaginative but good enough to work with. So, where was I? Oh yes. HE let us into the wheat field during the day today although HE shut it up again tonight. I should have known that there was a reason for it. HE wasn’t just being kind.

When we finally got back into our stables for supper, there was a bit of a funny smell in the air. And, then we saw what HE had been up to. All the grills in front of and dividing our boxes have been painted black. They were quite pretty when the ferroniere first installed them but they had been slowly going rusty. Now they are bright, shining black. Strangely the smell was not from the paint which was hard dry already but from the pot of thinners with HIS brush in, which is still on the stairs in the feed room, in case the grills need another coat. I am hoping they do so that he shuts us in the wheat field again whereas HE is hoping they don’t as it was a much longer and harder job than HE had expected. HE came out straight after breakfast, as soon as we had gone out and only just finished at midday. Mind you, HE had first to clean off all the dust, hay and cobwebs and then to de-grease the rails with white spirit before HE could even start to paint. But, even so, HE is sure HE now has repetitive strain injury from all the repeated brush strokes. HE says that HE had to keep us out for at least an hour after HE had finished for the paint to dry. But even though HE came and opened the gate at two, we didn’t bother to come in until it was supper time.

This afternoon, HE tackled a job that HE has been meaning to do for ages. The electricity wire goes across our field and, at the base of one of the posts, there was a forest of very thick brambles which had never been cut as the harvester obviously had to go round the post. After HE had finished HIS afternoon nap, HE went and got the strimmer and came out into the field. First HE cut down some growth that had been left when the hedge was cut down for our gate and then HE came over and demolished the brambles round the post. Of course, we were all curious and came over to him to see what was going on. As HE had finished by the time we got to him, HE started handing out some mints but although the others took them, I was put off by the two metre machine that HE was carrying and so I missed out.

Another little job HE did was to cut back the honeysuckle which was overgrowing the patio from the herb garden. You may have seen it in the photos of the artificial ducks that SHE put there after bring them from Devon. That was a very easy job but the hardest part was washing down the tiles underneath which were covered with the dirt of years. Luckily there was a rain shower not long afterwards so it has now merged in quite well. Anyway, the sun is now back out and we are going out to spend the night in the daisy field. It’s not bad really.

The Big Man & MimsSaturday 12th April 2008
Just an update on Indy (‘Er Indoors) the hen. She is still not sleeping in the chicken house, even though it has been moved next to the stable. When HE goes to check on her, she is always squatted down, very low, in one of the hay racks (usually mine). And then, she has breakfast with us and seems to have attached herself to Wicky, following him when he goes out into the field. At sometime in the late morning or early afternoon she returns and lays a egg in another hay rack, whichever one she has not slept in. For some reason she has not used the Big Man’s hay rack yet.

We have had a funny day with the weather. This morning, there was quite a wind and it was cold too. HE had planned to do a couple of jobs outside but when HE came out, HE changed HIS mind and did a couple of email replies instead. Eventually HE did go out and spent some time cleaning up the posts that came from the old wire fence that Wally replaced with post and rail. They all had staples and bits of barbed wire in them and needed cutting and extraction so that they can be reused on the fence down by the poplars. After that HE had warmed up a bit so that HE started to carry on with weeding the herb garden. However, this is quite a big job and HE wanted to go shopping to get us some stuff in the afternoon so HE stopped without completing the work and went in for lunch.

HE had gone out shopping first thing this morning to get some feed for us and some chicken feed as well as some apples for us. HE also tried to get some spray that is put on our manes and tails to detangle it when grooming. I say on our manes and tails but I think HE wants it particularly for Wicky who has the most profuse mane and tail of us all. HE also tried to get some salt blocks for us as we have worn our others out. However the shops (HE tried two) didn’t have either the spray or the salt blocks so HE went out to the other side of Alencon to get them. As HE drove back it started raining heavily.

When HE came with our supper, Mims was dry, I was soaking wet and the Big Man and Wicky had been rolling in the mud. Needles to say, HE didn’t use the detangle spray tonight.

By the way, HE has not taken any photos yet this month and has just realised, when typing this, that HE hasn’t taken any of the new fencing and gates. If the weather is bright tomorrow, that is one thing HE will do.

Sun sets westSunday 13th April 2008
Yet another day when we horses take the back seat. The best we can say for ourselves is that with some helpful rain we managed to have a really good muddy roll. There was also some news of an old friend which I will tell you of in a moment. But, other than that, we just drifted in and out of the stable and spent our time grazing and dozing as usual.

HE was invited out to lunch today with Veronica and Terry (Veronica was the lady who found this property for THEM. However, I think it can now be said that they are friends rather than business acquaintances). HE had planned to finish working on the herb garden this morning and then leave time to get bread and some flowers to take with him before showering and then driving over to Pre-en-pail. However, HE first started feeling a bit cold, even possibly unwell and definitely tired so HE sat down and turned on the TV. HE had wanted to watch the start of the London marathon as HIS son and grandson were running in it. However, HE turned it on before the start (we are an hour ahead of the UK) and just sat and cuddled the cat Tom until the program came on.
Then HE found out that the start was staggered so the fun runners didn’t start until 10.45 our time. By the time HE had watched this there was just time to get the bread and flowers and it was time to get ready.

At lunch, James was there too and at one time the conversation moved to our old friend Arnold. It appears that Arnie (as we knew him) has now got quite out of control and not only does he never get ridden, but he often chases the sheep and has got quite fat. James wouldn’t mind if Arnie went back to his old home but Joanna doesn’t want it. The possibility of getting another horse for Sophie was talked of but James thinks it would only end up with him having two horses to eat his cows’ grass. HE had a good lunch and then they talked for a long while so HE only just got home in time to give us our supper.

Then as HE was just getting ready to leave us, HIS neighbour Kevin came up to ask HIM to phone England for him as he and his father were going there to get their dog mated. Kevin enjoyed giving us some treats while HE shut up and then HE went in for a rest. Why HE should need a rest after doing nothing all day, I don’t really know except that perhaps HE is starting to get a bit like a horse.

The new fencingMonday 14th April 2008
Action stations this week. SHE is coming home on Wednesday. HE has a list of things that have to be done. Or, at least, HE had. Today has been a busy but productive day for him and HE has worked quite a way through the list already.

The first thing on HIS list was to finish clearing the herb garden. However, although it was bright, HE found it was still quite cold outside so HE decided to tackle an indoor job first. For some reason, the cooker hood, whether here or ion Devon, always gets coated with grease, even if you use the air extractor. So, armed with several sprays and sponges, HE applied some neat cleaner and then washed it down and dried it with kitchen roll. However, when HE checked, it still felt greasy to HIM so HE started all over again, this time using just washing up liquid. HE washed it again, rinsed and dried it and that seemed to do the trick so HE then decided it was time to tackle the herb garden and HE had to put on all HIS cold weather gear.

While HE was digging, a big white van turned up. It was the delivery of some food/cooking items that SHE had ordered before SHE went to the clinic. HE had to break off from the garden to unpack this in case it was anything that needed to go into the freezer. Then, once HE had started, HE decided that HE might as well put everything away. This was made more interesting by the fact that one of the packets of Chinese lemon sauce had broken and much of the packing was wet and sticky. Eventually, HE finished and went back to complete the garden.

HE then noticed that we had all gone out and one thing that HE wanted to do but wasn’t one HIS list was to give the grills a second coat. So, this was HIS next job. To be honest, HE didn’t paint over all the grills but only the parts that took the most wear. It still took quite a while and HE thought it must be lunch time when HE finished. Instead there was still an hour and a half to go so HE decided to tackle the next item on the list – cleaning the windows. HE has never been very successful cleaning windows. HE normally uses a normal window cleaning liquid but it always seems to leave smears. So today, HE decided to do the insides and outsides differently. HE used a cleaning liquid inside but outside HE employed water and a rubber glass scraper. With the exception of a few smudges which HE wiped off later, that seemed to work.

After lunch and a nap, HE turned his attention to the washing. HE had made a few items dirty since SHE was away but there was also a laundry basket of things that were there before SHE went. When HE sorted it out, it needed three washes. Not hard work but each took about 2 hours to wash and then needed drying so it became his job for the evening, taking one load out of the washed and feeding the dryer then putting the next wash on etc.
It may have had some advantages while SHE was away to be able to eat what HE liked but HE will be very happy when SHE returns. Tomorrow it is the turn of the stable to be cleaned out. I expect then we will have to keep it clean until SHE has seen it.

The chicken shed movedTuesday 15th April 2008
HE let us out in the wheat field again today. I should have known that there was a reason for it. After lunch, HE came out and locked us out while HE drove the quad bike and trailer round and round, in through the daisy field gate, into the stable area and then HE filled the trailer with our old haylage. Then off again, down the ramp and through the daisy field gate again and then over to the compost pile. HE unloaded the haylage there and repeated this for about four trips after which, HE set the haylage alight and made smelly white smoke (which is still smouldering now). It wasn’t just the haylage from our boxes that he moved, there was a pile under the stair in the feed room which the hens used to use for laying their eggs and another pile behind the feed bin. There was also a half used bales that had gone past its use by date as we have not been eating much haylage now the grass is through. It made quite a bonfire.

After this, HE set about hosing down our boxes and the concrete apron outside. The Big Man stood at the fence and watched for a while but there is only so much fun you can get from looking at a hose even if you are as dopey as he is so eventually he came back and joined us. By the time we came in for supper, HE was worn out and we were to full to eat much. While we were eating, HE went and changed the gate round again so we are back in the daisy field again for the night and probably the next few months as SHE is coming home tomorrow.

Of course, hat was what cleaning our stables was all about. HE has been working to a list of things to do before SHE gets home and that was the last item on it. HE had HIMSELF very worried yesterday as HE tackled the washing and when HE took the clothes out of the drier, HE was sure that six pairs of jeans had shrunk, they looked so small. HE then started thinking how HE would buy some new ones because HE had no idea how the sizes go here in France. HE left the pile next to the bed and didn’t dare look at them again until this morning when, before getting dressed, HE tried on a pair. And, there was nothing wrong with them other than the normal tightness that happens after a wash. Still, to be on the safe side, HE bought HIMSELF a cheap pair at a guessed size so that HE would know in future. And, it must be HIS lucky day because they fitted perfectly as well!

Mist after dawnWednesday 16th April 2008
This morning, when HE brought breakfast, I was stretching and the Big Man was hobbling. It had been a hard frost overnight and so HE didn’t think much of it except that we probably were a bit stiff, standing in the cold.

Then, during breakfast, HE came along to give us a lump of sugar and noticed that Mims’ nose was streaming blood. HE did HIS best to stem the flow and clean her up a little and then, when HE came to wash our buckets HE found that she had bled in that too. However, later in the morning when HE found Mims and I at the water feeder, her face had been washed clean again so there was no need to worry. HE had checked in the vet books and found that one of the treatments is to give the same water tablets that SHE is on so it wouldn’t have been much of a problem as SHE has loads.

HE had finished getting dinner and everything ready for HER return and there was still an hour left before SHE was due to arrive so HE went to get the lawn mower out to tidy up the lawn. HE had just got it out of the sous sol when the taxi drew up and SHE emerged. Straightaway SHE noticed that Big X was lame although this didn’t stop him and Mims having a lark about.

SHE came with HIM for supper tonight but I am afraid three weeks away has made her forget all the correct procedures for dealing with horses because although SHE remembered to check on the Big Mans lame foot SHE didn’t have a single treat in her pockets. I will have to educate HER all over again.

Bluebells in the poplarsThursday 17th April 2008
The Big Man was still limping this morning but that was no excuse for his behaviour. We were all waiting for our breakfasts except him. He was nowhere to be seen until HE was forced to walk out behind the stable to find him standing down by the gate to the daisy field. HE went back in to get a bucket to entice Big X in and so was followed by Wicky who must have thought it was a day for eating outside. And not only Wicky followed. Behind Wicky, Indy the hen followed as well. By the time they all got back I was in a right state. I always get upset when the herd gets split up as it is my responsibility to keep them all together.

After that, we all went out into the daisy field while THEY first worked on getting HER medication sorted out. SHE has a box with a section for each day in the week which is sub-divided into morning, midday, evening and night. THEY hen have a list of eleven different pills which have to be taken at various times in he day and one even on a every other day basis. What THEY have to do is to get the list and all the eleven boxes of pills and fill the weeks supply so that SHE can just pick up the box every morning, midday, evening and night and know that SHE has taken the right pills.

Then HE had to try and work out the bill that SHE had from the clinic. Because SHE has this permanent heart disability, she should get 100% rebate on all her medical costs. SHE has to pay for board and lodgings in hospital or clinic and phone, papers etc. but that is all. The bill SHE was given had not exempted HER for the full 100% and this meant a further 770 euros so he wrote a cheques for the amount less the 770 euros and posted that off with a letter of explanation.

THEY then went to the doctors to make an appointment and when SHE goes to it, SHE will get the doctor (who speaks English) to sort it out. After that THEY had to go to the pharmacy to order a part for HER new machine that measures blood oxygen, as the one she got broke on the first day of use. By this time it was lunchtime and THEY went home before going out in the afternoon for HER to get some new clothes, due to the weight that she has lost since going to the clinic.

This evening SHE came over to the stable at suppertime and made us all wait for our treats while she bandaged the Big Man’s leg. Why he should get special treatment, I don’t know but he will have to run faster now when Mims chases him!

Clouds over the poplarsFriday 18th April 2008
The Big Man is a bit better today, possibly because he managed to get rid of the bandage that SHE had taken so much trouble to put on him. It was not until HE was coming back from over the fields tonight that HE found it, quite by accident, just laying in the daisy field. This morning was uneventful except that Indy the hen didn’t show up for breakfast and so that got HIM very worried. Then, when we were half way through our buckets, she turned up.

THEY went out shopping again this morning as SHE had to change some of the clothes that SHE bought yesterday as they were the wrong size. A large part of the problem is that French sizes are different from English and often may measure a different part of the body e.g. Leg length not waist, etc. Anyway, as usual HE had just thrown away the receipt and before THEY went out, HE spent a pleasant 5 minutes looking through the waste bin. After HE had found nothing and had a good wash, THEY went out. We were in the middle of the daisy field but I clocked them as soon as the green car set out. When THEY came back, we all saw the car and made our way over to the fence. In this way. SHE could see the Big M<an was still lame but not as bad as before and it didn’t stop Mims chasing him away so she could get any treats going. We were all disappointed until HE went into the sous sol for an apple.

This afternoon, HE went out to put weed killer on the lawn but as soon as HE got the ride on out (to carry the heavy bag), it started to rain so HE drove straight back in again. SHE took the green car to the village to buy a ‘project’, that is something to do while SHE sits quiet. SHE came back with a small round embroidery of a Citroen 2CV.

As HE could not spread the weed killer, HE got the quad out to drive all round the boundaries of both field to make sure all the fences were OK. HE was very pleased when HE found that here are bluebells in the daisy field, something THEY had not noticed last year. Of course, we could have told HIM that but it is always more fun if one discovers things for oneself. I mean, what if someone had told Columbus that America was there?

Rain on the terraceSaturday 19th April 2008
The day started for us like any other day. (except it has turned warmer than it has been). We had breakfast as normal except that Mims and I decided to swap boxes again and HE couldn’t be bothered to make us change back again. After breakfast, we stood around for a while, as it was raining a bit but then, as it showed no sign of stopping, we went out again, for a while.

HE went out shopping on HIS own today but only for bread and whisky. HE told the chap in the grocery shop that it was for petit dejeuner (which is breakfast). This didn’t seem to worry the man but he was astonished that the English put dry ginger into it. Possibly due to a lack of language, he thought that HE meant root ginger. Before HE came home HE made the lady in the bakery go all girlie as she has had her hair coloured a light red and HE told her she was prettier each day.

THEY were sitting at the table while SHE sorted out the stationery for HER fine old oak box when we appeared and stood in the stable again as a rest from the rain. After a discussion, THEY decided that as there was so much grass in the wheat field, we should be allowed to go in there after all. HE came over and opened the gate and it didn’t take us long to go out. HE had to go and call Wick, as he was already out in the daisy field.

The consequence of this is that we were late coming in for supper and, when we did, only Wick had much of an appetite even though HE didn’t give us as much. I think this will be the pattern from now on. We will have smaller box meals but stuff ourselves on the grass of the wheat field.

Cant be bad!

Clouds in AprilSunday 20th April 2008
I hate being groomed. I hate even more being groomed when I am eating.

This evening, HE gave us all our buckets and, on leaving Mims’ box, HE ran HIS hand over her flank. It was then that HE noticed that her coat was shedding a lot and HE got the idea to give her a groom to get rid of the shedding winter coat. Mims is easy. She likes being handled by HIM so she just carried on eating while HE groomed her. While doing this, HE realised that, in concentrating on getting rid of Wicky’s winter coat, HE had been neglecting the rest of us. That was when HE decided to groom both me and the Big Man as well.

As soon as HE started, I stopped eating and put my ears back in the most threatening of manners and glared at HIM. Unfortunately, HE knows me too well and knows that I would never do anything really bad, so HE just made some soothing noises and carried on. In the end I just had to give in and went back to my dinner. It wasn’t a long grooming, just a once over with the plastic curry comb and I will admit that the scratch was quite pleasant. But, it is the principal of the thing and I just had to show my disapproval.

Then HE went into the Big Man’s box. Now he stopped eating as well, but not from anger but because he wanted to enjoy it to the full. I think in his racing career, he has got so used to being groomed that he really enjoys it. With him, as well, it was not just a matter of getting rid of his excess winter coat but also ridding him of several layers of mud as well, for, after being treated, groomed and petted, the Big Man likes best to roll in the mud.. Oh, and I forgot, he also likes to taste everything and often bite it. No nastily but just out of curiosity. The new fence around the drinker at the back of the stable has lost one or two layers of wood where the Big Man has wondered what it tasted like.

He also had some visitors just before supper today. THEY had been out to visit Veronica and when THEY got back, there was Big X standing at the fence with a crowd of neighbours from next door. There was Corralie and Ophelie and their cousin and their granddad who was taking some photos. He really should have waited until the big man had been groomed and was a trifle less muddy.

This morning, HE put some wire supports on the side of the stable for the two climbing roses to grow up. Hopefully the new wooden side that Wally erected will be covered in pretty lowers, if not this year, in future years. HE then found that the area below this where our surplus haylage had been stored had been denuded of grass so HE dug it up and planted some seeds. Finally, HE planted another couple of herbs in the herb garden. Ay least HE thinks that they are herbs. One definitely is – oregano – but the other, although it has a herby smell has a French name that is unknown to HIM. Probably when HE gets time HE can look it up although, if it takes it is very unlikely that HE would remove it, even if it wasn’t a herb!

Indy in the stableMonday 21 April 2008
We are nearly a week away from our five year anniversary and it is time for some serious thinking. Anyone who reads this regularly must know that it has changed from the early days and is now much more a factual day to day account of what THEY did than the lighter fun account of how us horses feel and interact. Five years is for some reason a significant number. Rather like xmas or Easter or birthdays, some numeric events seem to be significant to humans even if they have no foundation in reality. So, the thinking at this moment is that this diary should finish to conclude the last day of the five year span. What are the alternatives? To finish when HE is too old and feeble to see to type anymore? To finish when HE dies? To finish when I die? None of these are very attractive options, particularly if the diary is to continue in the same boring way that it has evolved into. It had become the only reason that HE has had to continue to try to get a few photographs. HE discontinued taking video footage when THEY left England. HE also virtually stopped using HIS good SLR camera in favour of the more convenient compact camera. If HE doesn’t publish the photos on the web, there wont be a lot of incentive to take them. We will see. There are a few more days before the final decision. Maybe the weather will change.

Talking of weather, it has been the most miserable wet and grey day today. HE sat there thinking how strange it is to think that the sun has not gone away but is still there shining and warm above the clouds of water vapour. And what a difference the sun’s presence or absence can make to the human heart.

Mims had no such thoughts or problems today. It was a day for courtship and squealing. The Big Man was quite taken aback and is desperately trying to remember what is his expected response. His first reaction is to try biting the gate or the fence but that didn’t seem to be quite right. He had a stage of going up to Mims and pretending to nip her but he was quite hurt when she bit him back and expected him to run after her. He resorted to his usual habit of running away from her in the end. I do feel sorry for Mims. I have had two foals and can feel complete in a way but the poor girl does not look like ever having the same satisfaction. And when I go, what will she have?

Oh dear, I think HIS black mood is catching!

Maron & GingerTuesday 22nd April 2008
HE is interested to see that we are all still not very hungry. Of course, it is all because of the spring grass in the big field. We spend all night filling our tummies and then HE comes along with the BIG breakfast. However, not any more. HE has started by cutting back our sugar been to next to nothing, just enough to dampen our meal. Before the end of the week HE is also going to cut back on our shot feed. The only problem is that, then we will not have much reason to come in at mealtimes except to quickly scoff our rations and then attack HIM for treats. However, don’t say anything to HIM or HE might consider cutting back on them as well.

There were no eggs today. Or, I suppose hat, as we only have the one hen now, I should there was no egg today. Indy is really very good and lays virtually every day so that when she doesn’t, it gets noticed. When there were four hens, THEY quite often had a day with only (only?) three eggs so someone must have been resting and it was a 25% chance it was Indy. She is fitting in very well with the herd. She sleeps in our mangers, lays eggs in them, eats with us from our buckets and comes out in the field with us. I think I will miss the routine if she goes back to sleeping in the chicken house when the two new hens arrive.

Big X is now very lame indeed. HE wants to see how he is by tomorrow and if he is no better then THEY will call the vet. Mind you, this doesn’t stop my slut of a daughter,
 Mims flirting, squealing and chasing and nipping him. The poor old soul does his best to get out the way but he is at quite a disadvantage. When I tell her to let the Big Man have some rest she just says that the exercise will be good for his leg.

SHE went off to the doctor’s this morning to sort out her various medicines. SHE wanted to know what each of the eleven pills that have been prescribed at the clinic do for her and which, if any, SHE can discontinue. SHE also had some forms from the clinic that SHE didn’t know what to do with. It turns out that they are prescriptions for more blood and a urine test. THEIR doctor is very helpful and because she speaks English, SHE came away much more settled with HER questions answered.

HE spent the morning on a job that HE was dreading, a reply to the bureaucracy at the French medical assurance who keep asking for details already sent, probably several times. It meant going back over (and locating) all the correspondence  on the subject since THEY came to France and preparing a medical history. Things are more complicated as the state assurance is operated on a Departmental basis and, since THEY first lived in one Department (Normandy) and then move to another (Mayenne) they find that one Department doesn’t forward the relevant paperwork to the other. In the end, HE sent them a big, fat letter with many attachments. HE awaits developments.

The man came this afternoon to measure up for the new front doors and take a deposit. He was only here for not much longer than it took for HIM to write the cheque. The day had started off very misty but by the afternoon it turned very warm and sunny. So much so that we didn’t come in and HE didn’t come out for supper till two hours past our normal time, and even then we weren’t very hungry.

Tom & SunnyWednesday 23rd April 2008
This morning while we were having breakfast, SHE came and felt Big Mans foot as his lameness didn’t appear to be getting any better. SHE could feel heat in the foot and THEY decided to call vet.

After breakfast, THEY went shopping for a lot of household stuff including towels, an  ironing board and cushions, as SHE has started getting organised, now that SHE is feeling a bit better. Don’t get worried though. The ironing board is not for HER, SHE will never get that better! No, it is for Gladys who comes once a week to help with the cleaning and who can do ironing as well. Not that there will be much anyway as most of THEIR clothes are casual (scruffy). You see, I feel I can speak my mind now that it is decided that I will end my diary after 5 years next Monday.

The weather turned out quite glorious so HE decided to cut the grass around the house. HE had scattered weed killer the other day but it had rained overnight and HE was not sure how effective it would be. HE wanted to wait so that it could soak into the leaves and so be most effective but the dandelions (we call the ‘pissenlits’ here, if you know the myth) had grown and flowered to such an alarming extent that HE was afraid that they would seed and scatter and cause the same problem next year. HE got the ride on mower out and had just started when Wally and David turned up to retrieve Wally’s furniture which had bee stored in the other side of the upstairs in our stable.

After getting them a ladder and making us go out into the field, HE watched them for a moment and then went back to his mowing. HE stopped again to say good bye as they went and then went back to finish the mowing.

It wasn’t long before Joel the vet turned up in his big four wheeled drive. HE came out to the field to bring the Big Man in but after watching him limp along, Joel said to wait there and he would come to Big X. HE felt around the foot with his sort of pinchers implement and said the Big man had an abscess. He cut right down to it until it started to drain and then inserted an antiseptic plug and bound it up with a white bandage. He then gave him an anti-biotic injection. We now have two of us in the herd with one white foot.

It was a hot sunny evening so THEY sat outside on terrace and HE tried to set up a sunshade that HE had bought but not used at the end of season last year. However, it is so big that the breeze lifted it and threatened to topple it so it went back in the sous sol. It will probably be given away and THEY will but a smaller one. Because of the summer -like feeling, we all had supper an hour later than usual. The Big Man didn’t bother to come in so HE put his supper aside for him and when he did eventually come in, after we had all gone out, the Big Man had a late supper.

And, just to finish. I have decided, from now until Monday, to let each herd member have a day’s diary page to say good bye. And, because it seems appropriate somehow, we are going to do it on a ‘last in – first out’ basis. I will have the final say on Monday.

Extreme (The Big Man - Big X)Thursday 24th April 2008
Alli has asked me to write this page and, being the last to join the herd (on Fri June 1st 2007) to be the first of all of us to say good bye. My real name is Extreme but they all call me ‘the Big Man’ or ‘Big X’.

I came at a time when THEY were still very busy getting the property in order and trying to learn the language etc. so HE never really got round to filling out my character and developing my personality (or giving me a proper fake French accent). So, I will not try to use such an accent today, just talk to you from the heart.

I already had a life when I came here or, to more precise, I had had a life. I was bred specifically to race as a trotter and that was what I became with quite a fair degree of success, having won over a million Francs for my owners. However, as Alezane can tell you, the racing world is hard. While you are still winning you are treated like a star. Well housed, well fed and well groomed. But, once your days at the top are over, you are just disposed of like any other piece of property. You will see from the photo on the day that I arrived here that I had been neglected to become just a gaunt old has been. It was not the fault of Xavier who brought me here. He rescued me and found me this home.

The day I arrived, Alli, Mims and Wicky came up to inspect m over the fence. I don’t think at that time that they realised I was here to join them. Then I was lead into the daisy field and they first came up and sensed me and then we were off. I ran and they followed me all round the field so that we could all get to know each other. Due to my neglect, I couldn’t run as fast as I could before or can now. But it was enough.

The next phase was for Wicky to keep me at bay. I have since gathered that this is the role he adopts as guardian of the herd (no-one has disillusioned him). And over the next ten months, I came to learn my place in the herd. It wasn’t, as I was used to, all playing about with the lads. This is a herd with two very dominant mares with a very close blood tie. I used to be a stallion and things get pretty interesting when either of them is in season, largely, I am, afraid, because they are disappointed in me. It only lasts a few days when I am teased and played with by one or other of them, then things go back to normal. Normal is that Mims has taken over the role of guardian from Wicky and feels it necessary to chase me all over the field.

But, it is all in good (but serious in terms of pecking order discipline) fun. Now I have my strength back I can generally out run all of them, and that is just trotting. One glorious thing is that I have learned that I can canter and gallop as well and do not have to always adopt the unnatural step that I learned racing. However, I often fall back to it because it is what I am good at.

To conclude, I consider myself to be really lucky to have joined this herd, not just for the good food and freedom but to be with two kind and loving humans and to belong with such wonderful friends. Just to go out on a good note, my foot is getting better too!

MimsFriday 25th April 2008
This is Mims. It’s funny that, although I am second in command, I was the last but one to join the herd on Tues 25 October 2005, two and a half years ago.

It was rather lucky how I came to be here. I was Alezane’s second foal and I lived with her and our human (another Carol) until mum had to go away. I was a very accident prone youngster and ended up with a rather funny way of standing so I never really been properly trained or ridden. However, Carol was a caring human and I was treated well and fed well. I was living with a bunch of other horses and ponies on a livery farm when SHE started to look for mum’s previous human and left a message with the freeze mark people to contact HER if they were interested. Carol then got in touch with HER and SHE found out that I was still here. THEY made an arrangement to come over and see me and then, after that, Carol needed to simplify her life and THEY agreed to take me.

That day was the most wonderful day of my life. When I stepped out of the transport at Ninefields, Dartmoor, I had no idea where I was going. Then I was taken into the field and met my mother for the first time in eleven years. At that time , mum was living with Tregony and Wicky and there was, of course, a lot of jockeying for position. At first, after mum and I had got acquainted again, Wicky chased me away from the herd. I have never let him forget that. There was no way that I could replace Tregony in mum’s affections as he had been, and always was until he died, her very special best friend. However, we formed a good team, the four of us, both me and Treg having a special bond with mum and Wicky having a special bond with Treg.

Once things settled down a bit, I started to make Wicky pay for his initial treatment of me. However, he is a tough little pony and he just took all my chasing in his stride. Wick has a habit when chased of just running a few steps and then coming back to whatever he is doing (usually eating).

It took me quite a while to get used to the vets and the farrier as my awkward stance tended to make me wobble when they lifted a leg and it was often taken as me being uncooperative. I do have a reputation for being wilful but that is not really true at all. I just like getting my own way! For a long while at Ninefields I would not eat in the field shelter and HE had to put my bucket in a position where I could have at least the front half of my body outside.

Since we came to France, I have really come into my own. My funny way of standing has gone, I can cooperate with the vet and farrier (as long as mum is by my side) and I have taken up the position of second in command and take my duties very seriously. I will admit that I have a tendency to be a bit on the plump side but since the Big Man has come I have a lot more exercise now, chasing him around the field. This has also taken a lot of the heat off Wicky.

My only regret is that I have never had a foal, which I would dearly love. I know that THEY don’t allow it for the best of reasons. THEY are getting old and are afraid that THEY would not be able to look after it and THEY need to know that we are all well looked after. However, sensible though this might be, I can’t help it when my hormones start to work on me.

I will be very sorry when mum’s diary ends as that is the start of the end of things as they are now. I only hope that mum lives to be a hundred as living here with her is really wonderful for me. Good bye and please remember us all.

Wicked (Flick)Saturday 26th April 2008
Aye, folks. It’s typical size-ist and breed-ist treatment. Apart from Alli, I’ve been with the herd the longest. Seven and a half years to be exact since 21st September 2000. And how am I treated? They put me right in the middle after the Big twerp and that madam Mims. Still, I should care. They’ll need me again if some newcomer joins the herd. And they should remember when those two Percherons came and tried to get in with us. It was me that guarded the fence and kept them out.

So, what can I tell you? I may be the shortest member of the herd but I’m also the oldest. THEY don’t know exactly how old but they have guessed at twenty eight as my previous human found me in 1984 and she thinks I was four or five. There is an ugly rumour that I was due for the meat market because I was quote “A mean little sh*t”. You see, size-ist again, even if it is wrapped in compliments! I had a lovely time with Michelle at her riding school. Lots of friends and lots of opportunities to do what I liked and get called ‘naughty’ in a sort of admiring way.

The bad times came when Michelle had to close down the riding school and, of course, find new homes for all the horses and ponies. I can remember the first time that I saw THEM. There were three or four of us in a field near the school and THEY drove up with Michelle to have a look at my old mate Tregony, as THEY were looking for a companion for Alezane. We all crowded round and THEY had some polo mints so we all got treated. THEY fell in love with Treg, as everyone did as he was such a gentle and kindly soul. However, I worked my lovely but naughty little pony charm on THEM and THEY agreed to give a home to us both. I think I was helped by Michelle who said that Treg and I were inseparable and how we would be lost without each other. THEY had a think and decided that, as Alezane was a thoroughbred and would have to come in at night due to her thin coat, then her companion would need a companion and who better than me?

Treg and Alli hit it off right away but I will let him tell you about that. On that first night, when she was taken home from Ninefields to her stable in Ramsley Lane, Treg and I went on a bit of a wander. Or, to be frank, I went on a bit of a wander and Treg followed me as he always did. Down by the gate that led to the bridle path there was a bank and shallow stream ditch which was unfenced, presumably thinking a horse wouldn’t climb that. Well, I’m a pony not a horse. I broke through the bracken and up and over the bank into the bridle path and Treg followed me. The path led one way up to the moor and he other way to the road. Now I had seen Alli led away along the road so that was the way we headed. THEY were ever so pleased when a neighbour rung on the door to tell them we were walking along the road.

We all got along jut fine after that. I can remember one winter soon after we came when it snowed quite hard and the three of us had the time of our life. We rolled in it, shook ourselves and went galloping right up the hill and along the top two fields. I may be small but I can move when I want to. When HE used to come to feed us and we might be up in the top fields, HE only had to call and I would come running, right in front of the other two.

The first upset to our little herd was when Alezane’s daughter came to join us. I think she is a repressed mother and having no foal, picked on me (size again) as a replacement. You know when you see little human girls playing with dolls and dressing up pet cats and rabbits and pushing them in prams. Well that is how Mims treated me. Or tried to. I didn’t get my reputation for nothing and soon learned how to avoid her.

We had settled down to a sort of herd life with the two boys and the two girls keeping each other company. Then, in February 2006 my world fell apart when my best friend Tregony died. Apart from just missing the old guy so very much, I also became very much an outsider and a loner. This went on until the December when we came to France and life was at least interesting for a while.

However, after we moved to Le Cerisier, my life went back to being alone while the two girls went off together. THEY noticed that I was hanging about by the fence looking very forlorn every day and started to look for a little pony, my size, as a companion. And what happened? They got me the Big Man. However, he may be a giant but he’s a gentle giant and, in many ways, reminds me of Treg (yes, he’s that bright).

And here we are. The diary’s ending and you wont need to read my fake Scots accent any more. But look at it this way. The diary has covered a few deaths in it’s five years and, statistically, as I am he oldest, if it carried on you might be reading my obituary. This way you can always remember me as I have been on these pages.

TregonySunday 27th April 2008
‘Ere you lot, Tregs ‘ere. I’m still the second most important member of this herd, even though I’m … well … not very physical any more if you know what I mean. Well, alright, I’m dead. But really, it aint so bad at all. At least I don’t ‘ave all those aches and pains in my legs wot I used to suffer wiv. An’ I don’t get so puffed out any more. I can run wiv the rest of them, even that great big Frenchie oo’s joined us now. I been watching ‘im an’ I think ee’s not as daft as ee makes out.

Anyways, I not ‘ere to talk about him but about my darling Alli. The moment we saw each other was love at first sight. I know she ‘ad other blokes in her life before I came along but they was sort of arranged marriages, she didn’t ‘ave no say in it, if you know what I mean. But, after ‘aving been alone for all those years, I think she was really ready for a true companion. For that’s what I was. None of that foal making hanky panky, just a true soul mate to talk to and be with.

At first we went everywhere together and my old mate Wick just tagged along behind. Later, after the first flush of romance, we became more relaxed ‘cos we knew we were there for each other, even if we wos at other ends of the field. It didn’t mean we cared less, quite the opposite. What we had then was a true bonding of hearts that distance and even death, eventually, couldn’t break.

You know Alli is such a worrier and I used to feel real sorry for her when I lay down and couldn’t get up. She would stand around and try to encourage me and, eventually, I would make it although my old legs could hardly make it. I know that she knew that last time that I wouldn’t get up no more and a sort of calm came upon her. Of course she wasn’t happy for herself but she knew that it was the best for me. I died with all the herd around me and it was just like going to sleep, when the others stand around and guard you.

And the wonderful thing was that I woke up and found that I had not lost everything but that, as well as my new life and friends in the after world, I could also come back and be with Alli and my mates just like before. Only without the pain.

As far as the diary ending, you will find that it is like everything else – it ends but it is still here. Five years of three hundred and sixty five days times an average of 500 words a day is a lot of reading. If you have no new days, you can always go back over the archives and read some of it again, skipping the boring bits and enjoying the photos. All you need to know, for the future, is that Alli and I and all the herd will be together always, for as long as someone reads this diary.

 

Alezane (Always Special)Monday 28th April 2008
It’s left to me to close my five year diary and yet all I feel like doing is to tell you about today. After two glorious sunny days, we had rain all day and a thunderstorm in the evening. What a way to go out.

I came to them on 11th December 1998. At that time, I was on a bit of a downhill slope. Born and bred in France for a racing career at the Haras D’Etreham near Bayeux (of la Tapisserie fame), I was named Always Special. I was brought to England and trained under a couple of the best known trainers, Barry Hills and Martin Pipe. To be honest, I was never a world beater, I won a few and was placed a few times but my natural inclination is not to be competitive but just to run with the herd. Little did I know I would have my own little herd one day.

Inevitably, racing being a business and not a charity, I was taken off racing and put out for breeding but when nothing happened, I was sold on to my first private (as opposed to business) human Caroline. I produced two filly foals for Caroline, my first, Faline, was sold on but Caroline kept my second, Mims, until she came to us at Ninefields. Keeping horses is expensive (as THEY will tell you) and Caroline could only afford to keep one of us so she kept Mims and sold me to a local riding school.

I may have told you this before, but all a race horse needs to know how to do is to walk to the start and then gallop. The riding school soon found that although I had a very gentle and kind nature, things like trotting and cantering were a bit alien to me as were all the normal riding hand, feet and body aids (command signals). This made me worse than useless in a riding school and I was advertised or sale again. And that was where I met THEM for the first time. At that time, I was very thin and they called me Styk but not because of my shape but after some story character. Strangely, then as now, I had chickens for company in my stall.

THEY arranged to rent a stable and field on a nearby farm and that was my first home with THEM. There were no other horses there but my box looked out onto a yard on the other side of which was a large pen with cows in. This was in the winter so they were in all the time and we could talk to each other across the yard. THEY also tried to give me some company by getting some bantam hens but, after being shut in with me for a while to acclimatise, they were let out and they wandered off and became dinner for the fox.

SHE used to take me out riding and taught me the ways of non race horses. An example of my training was when SHE tightened the reins for me to stop whilst I was accustomed for that to mean to gallop. We were both surprised, to say the least. There was the night that I ‘escaped’. That makes it sound like I was trying to get away which wasn’t so. It was just that the fence was down and I wandered over it to see what was where. I walked along he road and finally found a nice couple of horses in a field to chat to. It was there that I was arrested by a policeman who called THEM out to take me back.

Then they had a stroke of luck. A friend of THEIR’s, Dot, had a pony called Pepsi who we used to meet and talk to sometimes and THEY came to an arrangement that I could share her field with Pepsi in exchange for HIM feeding and grooming Pepsi. THEY had a stable built next to THEIR house and I moved in there overnight and went to Pepsi’s field during the day. At first HE used to walk me there but, as it was uphill, HE ended up riding me there and back. And then THEY had an even greater stroke of luck. Dot worked as a teacher at the local school and the secretary there, Sue. was a farmer’s wife who told Dot they were selling some fields. Dot told THEM and THEY got in quick and bought Ninefields. It wasn’t called that then but SHE named it when SHE found out from old plans that it had, indeed, once been none small fields.

I moved to living out at Ninefields during the day and coming back to my stable at night from the beginning of September 2000 although the final purchase was not completed until November. I was only on my own for a couple of weeks before Tregony and Wicked came to join me. I fell in love with Tregony and the rest you know.

To finish, although I am sad to see the diary end, I feel we should all go out with a party and not a wake. No more pages will be added but the diary archives will remain, so if you would like a read, you have 5 years : 60 months : 1827 days : approximately 1,000,000 words to choose from. We will still be here and, no doubt, our days now won’t be much different from the ones in the diary.

Thanks for sharing part of my life. Good bye!

Alezane (Always Special)

 

ps (hoof note): Tregony died 07/02/2006, of old age, aged c35 ; Wicky died 12/10/2009, of old age, aged ? over 30; Alezane died 07/02/2014, of old age, aged 30 ; Mims died 20/11/2014, of heart attack, aged c18.


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