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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Review of the Year - Part Two

Our church life here had strange beginnings. We used to attend The New Life Church in Retford, where the worship was beautiful, and the teaching immaculate.
We knew the Lord had led us to Derbyshire, so we expected to leave our prospective place of worship in His capable hands. Mr O passed a church one evening on the way home from work, and suggested we go there the following Sunday. This was in the run-up to Christmas. We went for a few weeks, and got a very warm welcome, but found ourselves nearly nodding off during the service. And then in one sermon the preacher described God talking to Moses, and said, "Of course, God isn't going to communicate with people like that today." Oh really? As someone who communicates with God frequently, and knows it is very much a two-way conversation, I knew I wasn't going to be able to cope with that.
The second church had truly amazing worship, and we went there for a few months. But the teaching was abysmal, and then became non-existant. Oh dear.
So we were praying. Was it our job to stay here, encourage them to preach and maybe do some ourselves? But they were too much into the 'slain in the spirit' scenario, whereas we are, 'been there, done that, and guys, it doesn't actually work!
Then I was looking on the 'net one day, at the AOG website, at 'churches in Derbyshire', and came across The Zion Church, Chesterfield. There was something about the website that really attracted me. We were due to go to Chatsworth Horse Trials, but when we got there, it was cancelled due to bad weather. I said, "That's okay, because I know where we're supposed to go," and directed Mr O to the church. We walked in, we sat down, we worshipped God, and it was... wonderful, like coming home. We've been going there ever since. I have no idea, to this day, why the Lord didn't show us this place straight away, but I knew, sitting in the other churches, that we were being given second best, and the Lord wants only the best for us. I am thrilled too, that no one at Zion judges us when we can't be there because we're doing things with the horses. Nobody thinks we love God less because of it, and that is a huge blessing in itself.
Just before this, I'd met a Christian girl who was helping out at a farm up the road. We became quite good friends, and she came to the house. She introduced me to something that has changed my life - Facebook! I had to work out a lot for myself, but she showed me the basics, and that it isn't something to be frightened of if you are sensible with it. It has in fact turned out to be an enormous blessing. I am able to keep in touch with the children and friends, which is wonderful. Through Farm Town, I've become very good friends with a lot of American Christians, and I love them all. They are so bold with their faith, so generous in their attitude, I don't know what it is really, it's difficult to put into words, but I have become very close to them all. Funny to think I'll meet them all in the next life, even if I never get to meet them in this one. It's going to be a busy time! It's been an honour and a privilege to find them, share in their lives, to pray for them and know that they are praying for me, too. I have learned so much about the American way of life, and one thing I think we are missing out on in England is Thanksgiving. It sounded like such a wonderful time, I wanted to join in!
Then I read 'Life in the North' by Judith O'Reilly and became curious about blogging. Thanks to my friend Cherie, here I am, having so much fun, finding out about other bloggers, and finding out about myself as I write. Again I have met many more Christian women, and some wonderful horse lovers, and horse lovers who love the Lord. Imagine that! People who are just like me, who like the things I like, who understand the things I understand. What a blessing. Here's to much more of that in 2010. I have met people stoically coping with cancer, people who've lost loved ones, people with family fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, people who are waiting to adopt someone special into their families, those who write poetry, people who are amazingly creative with the needle, and so many who can express themselves with words and through a camera lense in ways I can only dream of. But blogging has taught me to be grateful for the things I am, and the things I have.
It's been thrilling to read people's kind comments, both on the blog and on other forums, from old friends, new friends and family members. Who knows where this will lead next year?
So I have begun to appreciate and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. I like to sit and watch the sun go down, on my favourite bench outside the stables, with a cat on my lap. I like to watch my grass grow and ripen, and be cut and baled, and know it's going to feed my beautiful animals in the winter. I am loving doing cross stitich and making cards, and baking my own bread, and soon I'll be making my own jam. I love having a clean house, and having time to do all the washing, and make lovely meals for when John comes home. I love to sit and listen to the silence, or at the most a curlew or a hawk or a magpie. I love the chickens, they have brought me such pleasure. I love to ride around the local farms and see that everything is in order, for a local farmer to wave at me as he goes past on his tractor. I love life, here, as God has given it to me, and I intend to make the most of it, for as long as He says yes.

Review of the Year - Part One

It's nearly the end of 2009, and what a year it's been. So much of our lives has changed over this past year. Nothing is the same.
Last Christmas Max arrived here from the Woodsetts field where he had been recovering from a bout of lameness. Barnaby was still recovering from his broken pedal bone, which took exactly a year to heal, and Zak was on box rest recovering from his tendon injury. We were getting used to living in a tiny cottage rather than a five bedroomed town house. I must just tell you that this house is totally open plan. We walk in the back door, cross the kitchen, go down four steps into the sitting room, walk across that to the flight of stairs up to the bedroom, and there's a shower room, and that's it! There is no more. Tessa took about twenty minutes to realise that if she laid in her bed and whimpered, we'd be able to hear her upstairs, so she lay in her bed on that first night and began to whimper with a vengeance. We stood it for about half an hour before giving in and calling her up to bed with us. Not long after that we bought a stairgate, so she remains in the kitchen, as the next discovery was that nobody, under any circumstances, was allowed to wear shoes in the sitting room on the beige carpet, and doggy paw prints are right out.
But outside the house, we've had to make mental and physical adjustments, too. I have gone from doing a very sedentary desk job to mucking out three, then four and now six horses, but I've gradually got used to it. I've written elsewhere about how I've recovered emotionally from the stresses and strains of work, to stretch out luxuriously into the person I was designed to be.
I am sure this job wouldn't be to everyone's taste, because I spend days and days on my own, but to me it is bliss. I get to read, cook, pray, ride and listen to music how, where and when I like, with no interruptions, no sarcastic comments, no suggestions, just my own company, and I love it.
I have made the slow transition from life on a livery yard, to being able to see my horse from my kitchen window. I can leave my stuff where I want without it being 'borrowed'. Nobody is bitching about me, my horse, my stuff, what I'm wearing, where I'm competing, how I got on, or anything. I do have to ride on my own, but even on a yard with fifty liveries, it wasn't always possible to ride out with someone else anyway.
As the year unfolded I realised how much pressure I'd been under to go to competitions, and more importantly to jump things and at a height I didn't want to do. After the teensy accident in January I am just thrilled to be riding at all.
When we first came Missis said she'd done eventing and did dressage to Advanced Medium level. I was encouraged by this. As time went by, it transpired that she did all of that when she was 17, and is 35 now. She freely admitted that she'd ridden more in the first three months we were here than she has in the last three years altogether. And you could tell because all of her information was out of date. 'So-and-so hires out their cross country course.' No they don't. 'The riding school hires out their arena.' No they don't. It was very frustrating.
Which is why I'd like to issue a huge thankyou to our farrier, who said one day, "You ought to join Amber Valley Riding Club. They do pleasure rides once a month round here - you'd really like it." He gave me their number, I rang them, and away we went. We've done an absolutely brilliant ride every month, each at least 10 miles long, with a minimum of roadwork, and thoroughly enjoyed them. It's really opened up Derbyshire to us as a county with possibilities, as before that I really wondered what we were going to do.
And all this is possible, because our vet declared Barnaby and Zak sound in May, and able to be gently ridden. We went indoors and hugged each other and cried. It was such a relief. We turned Zak out for the first time. He galloped round. So much for taking it steady. Max and Barnaby were so overjoyed they decided to jump the dry stone wall in unison, what a sight! They had rugs on, too, but cleared it by a mile.
The highlights of this year must be 1. The sponsored ride round Chatsworth. It was an amazing day, very warm, and miles of off-road riding. This place is used for a high level Horse Trials each May, which we normally go to watch, as all the top level riders go. Some of the cross country fences are a permanent fixture. When we got the paperwork through for the ride, it said, 'Strictly no jumping of the cross country fences.' Who did they think I was riding, Apache Sauce? And then, when we came to it, we got round to Queen Mary's Bower, where the main water jump is. Max suddenly lit up and went careering towards it! I was deeply tempted, it's only a drop in, a few strides and a jump out again, but I managed to steer him away at the last minute, but if nobody had been looking...
2. The next best thing has to be a TREC competition held locally. It was pairs only, so Missis and I signed up to do it. I have always slated TREC, said it's for wussy types, and I would do it when I was fifty and not fit enough to do anything else. It turned out to be, by far, the most fun I've ever had on a horse. We did the orienteering phase first and got completely lost. We only got home by teaming up with two other women who'd clearly done it before. I thought, "Missis has a Ph.d, she's bound to be able to read a map," but, no!
We could see some of the obstacles we'd be doing as soon as we got out of the lorry, and Max had been standing, snorting, round eyed, staring at them. I knew it didn't bode well. As it happened we fluffed most of the obstacles, but I had such fun trying them. Missis and her horse did very well, actually. We did the 'control of paces' section, which was also a lot harder than I'd expected. I was amazed at how nervous I was just doing a bit of walk and canter. BUT I haven't laughed so much since I did that very first hunter trials years ago at Laughterton. It's been wonderful to feel like that again, instead of nervous and stressed. If we want to do it with a chance of being placed, Missis ought to do it with Mr O next year, as Mr O's map reading is very good, and Polo was very brave at the obstacles, and Barnaby, as you know, is scared of nothing. Something to look forward to in 2010 I think.
We had problems with the taps and water here when we first moved in, so I decided not to bother doing any showing, as it takes me three hours to bath Max and get him ready. But in August I couldn't resist having a crack at The Ashover Show. I got up at 5am to get Max ready. Because we didn't know what to expect here, Mr O hadn't got the day off work, (it's always on a Wednesday) so I walked Max down, and Missis met me there. She groomed for me, extremely well, I can't express my gratitude enough. I had no stress as she was there for me the whole time. I didn't realise it was a County Level show (good job, as I wouldn't have had the nerve to enter!) and had entered Coloured Pony and Ridden Cob. I had to book in advance so all Max's details could go in the show catalogue. How exciting, my horse's name in print. It was a wonderful day, and we came fourth in the Coloured Pony class. We were only really beaten by the county champion. As I say, it's a good job I didn't know beforehand. Next year Mr O will make sure he gets the day off, so he can come, too.
So, on the horsey front, it's been a lot of fun, with no pressure, just like it used to be years ago. I haven't used a whip on Max once all year, shouted at him, or threatened to sell him! He's progressed a great deal, too. He used to be terrified of cows and sheep, but riding round Chatsworth, where the sheep scattered at his approach, cured him of that, and having cows in every field here has cured him of that fear. Now he helps the farmer down the road round his cows back up to the barn. He stands right next to the cows, so close I could touch them, and isn't the least bit bothered. This is a total transformation. Last time he saw cows at Osberton, he turned and fled!
I am so looking forward to doing more pleasure rides in 2010, more showing, and definitely doing the TREC again. I am so thrilled that the horses are well, and that I have bonded with Max this year like never before. I have loved the summer, when I have sat in the field with the horses, listening to the birds and watching my boys playing. I am blessed, and don't I know it.
We'd better have a bit more tomorrow, don't you think?

Ouch!

A busy day yesterday. We decided to ride, and took the horses up to the manege. The roads were clear, but there was ice all over Jolly Farmer's driveway, so I hopped off Max and lead him up. It's the first time Mr O has been there, although of course I've ridden Barnaby there quite often. There was still snow on the surface, so we did a lot of walking round, and did manage to have a trot, but the ice balled up in the horses' hooves again, so we ended up taking them out. Fortunately there was a girl on the yard who lent us a hoof pick, otherwise we would have had to lead the boys home. I said we wouldn't have a canter on the verge, then saw that it looked nice and changed my mind, so we set off, Max straight into flat-out gallop. I'm wondering if it might be worth not riding him at all while the weather is like this, and start again in the spring, rather than doing it in fits and starts like this.
We mucked out when we got back. Missis' horses were all in. Mr O stood there making up the night feeds. Our feed bins are right up against the outside of Fudge's stable, so he can reach over and touch you while you're doing it. He was watching what Mr O was doing, then he picked up his breakfast bowl in his teeth and swung it over the stable, where it landed in the Mollichop bin, as if to say, "While you're at it, put some in there please!" It was so clever, Mr O couldn't resist it and gave him some chop to eat. It's the cutest thing I've ever seen a pony do.
I have bought myself a new magazine called Cardmaking. It is absolutely brilliant, and comes with some free stamps, which are very sweet. I will have to practise with them. I am dying to go back to the craft shop to stock up on card and a couple of punches. It isn't going to take me long to finish my latest cross stitch either, as I am more methodical and therefore quicker, each time I start a new project. Time to try something a little more complicated I think.
Pongo and Missis had a games night last night. Loads of her family were there, plus our nearest neighbours, Housewife and Pilot, who we get on really well with. We played Pictionary, which John has never played, and I haven't played for years, but I have good memories of it being hysterically funny, which it was again. Missis' uncle started drawing. I'm shouting, "Slug? Snail?" Mr O piped up, "Chainsaw?" which it was. Silly me, how could I not have known?! I did guess Loch Ness Monster within seconds though, and Missis' mum guessed my drawing of 'washing line' after I'd drawn three lines. It's the one drawing activity I'm quite good at, as drawing is not my forte at all, but it's all about getting the message across as speedily as possible, and it doesn't matter if you draw stick men.
We also played a game called Pass The Bomb. It is a spelling game, where a few letters are printed on a card, and you roll a dice to see if you must use those letters at the beginning of a word, at the end, or anywhere, provided they are in the same order as on the card. When it's your turn, you are holding a ticking bomb, and have to think of the word and then pass the bomb on. If you are left holding the bomb when it goes off, you are out. It was extremely funny, and very hard, as someone can say the word you were thinking of, just before it's your turn, then you have to very quickly think of something else. Fortunately, words definitely are my thing, and when the letters on the card said, 'her' I said, "Hermenutics!" and passed it on. Everybody looked at me in total astonishment. I can't help what I know, can I? If it was maths I wouldn't have had a clue. Anyway, I didn't win in the end, Pongo did, but I really enjoyed it. I would definitely play it again. Considering it was 11 o'clock at night and I'd had a glass of wine, I was pleased my brain was functioning at all. There were about fifteen of us doing it, but I imagine my brain would fry if there were only about four of us in it. We'll have to have a go some time.
It was snowing again, quite heavily, when we came home, and collapsed into bed.
I actually had my first proper lay-in today (better late than never!) and went to turn Max out. It's been a horrible, miserable day, and it hasn't even been light really. Mr O had an energy burst and has cleared a load of muck and haylage out of the barn, which looks fantastic. He's put loads of wooden bars up so we can hang rugs up to dry, as there isn't room for them all in the stables.
Then, major classic, as I went to feed the cats, I slipped on the stone steps going down to the cat room, and landed on my right side, and banged my right arm on the corner of the stone. I just sat there gasping and pulling myself together, with the cats staring at me as if to say, "No time to dawdle, we're starving!" Isn't it typical that we've had over a week of snow and I haven't fallen over once, only to do this to myself anyway? I limped back into the house, where Mr O doctored me with pain killers and Voltarol. I couldn't type or hold a cup of tea, but it's not so bad now. At least it's not broken. It never is, is it? I am thankful for small mercies.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Bearing Gifts, We Traverse Afar

Finally, the day I have been waiting for, came yesterday, for two reasons:
1. We rode. At last. It has been killing me not to go out. We had to stick to the main roads, as a lot of the side roads are still snow covered or icy. We went up Birkin Lane, which confused the horses, as we've never done it before, but I knew there wouldn't be much traffic. It turned out to be a lot more hilly than I'd expected. I was planning to either turn round and come home, or see if we could get up the Manor bridleway, but there was a sheet of ice in the gateway, so we decided not to risk it. Max has a total panic if he slides on ice, and I didn't want to be on him if it happened. We decided to go on a bit further, then when we'd had enough, to turn and come back home. I was expecting Max to try a canter on the way home, as it would all be steeply uphill, but to my surprise he went straight into canter up the first hill, facing away from home, and was off. I shouted to Mr O to stop, which he did, in the nick of time, and Max managed to stop himself without crashing into Barnaby, but he was in a bolting mood. I shouldn't really be surprised, as they're on half-day turnout, plus an increase in feed since the weather became ridiculously cold. Plus we are riding them straight from the stable in the mornings, whereas at Lorna's we would have turned them out for an hour before riding them. I desperately need to take Max somewhere to let off some steam, even if it's in a large menage. I might book myself in at the riding school, just to let him have a blast round without getting out of hand.
2. We came back and mucked out and I blitzed the house, and before we knew it, it was time to set off for Abby's. It is strange to see that as soon as you come out of Derbyshire into Nottinghamshire, there is no snow at all. It's quite surreal. I had rung Abby to ask, "Did I say I would bring something?" and she said, "Yes mum, a pudding." Gasp. Fortunately her Tesco was open, so we performed an emergency manouvre and went in to buy a chocolate gateau, a lemon cheesecake and a trifle. Yummo. I still had that strange, "David isn't here," sensation, which I don't like at all. I miss him so much.
Then it was time to play Santa Claus with the grandchildren (and the children, for that matter). We got Ebony a Pepa Pig house, which she loved, and a cuddly Pepa Pig. We got Ben 10 things for Christian, cars for Jake and sleepsuits for Caelan, as he is too young to know what's going on really. He is a very contented, smiley baby. Oh, and guess who forgot to take the camera? Gutted.
Abby gave us a beautiful photo of Ebony. I will have to find a lovely frame to do it justice. Lisa got me a jewellery set, which was a total surprise. I realised I wasn't wearing any, so put it all on, there and then.
Christian sat on my lap nearly all afternoon, playing with his DS. It amazes me how capable such young children are on this little computer. Six is the same. I am so glad I knew what Christian was talking about, as he played Mario Kart, and I renewed my relationship with Mario and Luigi. Christian was his usual chatty self. I just find him totally adorable. He is so bright and funny.
Lisa got Ebony the Disney dressing up outfits, for Snow White, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella. She looked absolutely stunning in them, hence my misery at forgetting the camera. It was quite funny to see the stroppy side of her, as when we go, she is normally on her own, but she is two and Jake is three, and they don't always see eye to eye, and Ebony doesn't always get her own way. Her frowny face is very cute, she so reminds me of Catherine and Rachel when they were little.
Christian had sat with me the whole time, quite contentedly, then suddenly announced, "I don't love you, you know!" He likes to see what effect this will have. Unfortunately for him, I have had a hand in raising numerous children, and have been around the block a bit. I said, "That's okay, actually, because... I have enough love for both of us!" and started tickling him. He seemed more than satisfied with this as a response. Then he said, "I have another granny, you know." I said, "I know, but she's not as nice as me, is she?" He didn't know what to say. I said, "For a start, she's not as tall as me, is she?" He thought about this. Then I said, "Anyway, if she's any good, tell her to bring it on, I'll arm wrestle her any day." He looked highly amused at the prospect, then challenged me to an arm wrestle, not really knowing what it was. I laid down on the floor with him and showed him what to do, and beat him hollow. I may as well, while I can. Then before I could get up, Jake came and sat on me, saying, "You're my horsey!" I said, "Well if I'm a horsey, I'm going to buck you off!" and tipped him onto the floor, which he found hysterically funny, and got back on for another go.
By then, fortunately, it was time to eat, so we all went and helped ourselves to the lovely buffet Abby had prepared. I collapsed back onto the sofa. Sadly, soon it was time to go. Ebony never wants us to leave, and followed us out of the door. She is so sweet.
For some reason, I was absolutely exhausted by the time we got home. I can't think why. It's not like I'm sixty or seventy, is it? Well worth it, though, I love days like this.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Hark The Herald Angels Sing, Glory To The Newborn King!

I sneaked out to the barn on Christmas Eve and placed the horses' Christmas presents outside their stable doors. They were wondering what on earth I was doing with a rattly bag. I said, "Shhh, you can't look. I'm supposed to be Santa Claus." I got to Fudge and said, "Apparently you're on the naughty list." He looked back at me with his most innocent face. I relented, put his present in place, switched off the lights and tiptoed back indoors.
But, to my absolute annoyance and disbelief, Mr O got up in the morning and put the horses out! I couldn't believe it. The whole point was to go down in the morning and open Max's present with him. I was gutted!

But there was still loads of snow on the ground. I think it must be the first ever White Christmas in my lifetime. It set the scene really.
Then Mr O started mucking out. I refused to join in and said we were going to open presents, so we came in and did the deed. This is Tessa with her present. She walked round with it in her mouth all day. She didn't want the treats that it contained, she just wanted to dismantle the actual boot, and spent the day painstakingly taking the thread out and eating it.

Mr O got me a black jacket to ride in, and two pairs of jods, and I got him more or less the same, as well as The Terminator films on DVD. He got me Public Enemies (Johnny Depp) which I am dying to watch as I never went to the cinema to see it. He also got me a beautiful book of poetry, hymns and readings, which I saw in Past Times and really wanted. I will thoroughly enjoy dipping into it.
We went next door to take Six and Nine their presents. Nine said, "I don't normally cuddle women, but I'm going to cuddle you as you are the best babysitter ever." and gave me a big hug. I was speechless.
Missis liked the photograph we got them, which is of her and Pongo on the pleasure ride at Shipley Country Park. The fact that they are both on horseback is a very rare event, so I'm glad I got it. They got us an alarm clock each. Mr O's plays a horse neighing to wake you up, but has a picture of a horse that looks exactly like Barnaby on the front of it, and mine is a cock crowing. I will use it, but will probably end up throwing it at the wall in the mornings! They're very loud.
Then we zipped off to church. It was a wonderful service, just an hour long. All the children went up on the stage to show what they'd got. It was very funny and sweet. But what thrilled me was that at the end two older ladies got up and showed their presents. One woman had a cake that her 84 year old brother baked. She said Christmas is special, no matter how old you are. I must say, there has been great emphasis on 'buying for the children' this year, but adults celebrate Christmas too, don't they? What if you don't have children? What if you've got children who are away, or in the armed forces? Are you not to celebrate, then? When you get to our age, unless you're with your own children or grandchildren, it's a very odd feeling, which I will take some time to adjust to. Mr O was adamant that he wanted it to be just the two of us on Christmas day, and right up until that moment it seemed just like any other day, but when that woman spoke, it finally burst on me what Christmas really is about, the birth of my wonderful Saviour. It's not about gifts, or snow, or food, or television at all. But I definitely think there should be more provision for older people on Christmas day.
We came home and mucked out, and got the horses in. I opened Max's present for him, which is a pack of treats called Stud Muffins. They look like truffles, and smell absolutely gorgous, and slightly alcoholic. He scoffed the one I gave him. I put the rest away.
By then it was time to cook the Christmas dinner. The table looked lovely. We had a bottle of chardonnay. As usual, my favourite bit was the pudding, I don't know why. It always has been, ever since I was a child. I got a 'Finest' one from Tesco, and it was gorgous. I have to have lots of cream on it, too.
After that we slumped in front of the television. I even missed the Queen's speech, what happened there? It was a lovely day actually, but I wish we could have ridden.

And now it's Boxing Day. We were woken by Mr O's new alarm clock going off at about 7am. The sound of a neighing horse filled the room. I woke up with a start and thought we must be very late and Barnaby had come in to get us! We went down and turned the horses out.
Then we drove into Matlock with Pongo, Missis and the boys. There is still lots of snow. It looked at least like Aviemore, if not quite Val D'Isere. We parked the car and joined the crowds walking down to the river that flows through the centre of the town.
Every year a raft race takes place down the river Derwent, from Matlock to Cromford Meadow, and all the competitors are in fancy dress, and it was quite a sight.





I was amazed to see how high up we were, and there is no barrier to stop you sliding over the edge of the bank, into the water, especially as it was still icy up there.



The photos speak for themselves I think.


You'd have to be mad to do it. The snow is only just melting today, and it was what my mother would call 'perishing cold'. We were watching them come under the bridge where there are loads of rocks, and nearly every raft got stuck.




People stand on the bridge and pelt them with eggs, flour and water balloons, as they come underneath, but this year some of the boats had water cannons and were squirting water up onto the bank. It was brilliant.





We came back and decided to have a late breakfast. Mr O went down to the sitting room, and there was a robin sitting on the windowsill (indoors!). How on earth had it got there? We didn't notice it fly in. Had it been there all the while we'd been out? I opened the back door, but it wouldn't fly up to the kitchen. In the end Mr O opened the sitting room window, and the robin flew out that way, thank goodness. It didn't seem distressed, fortunately.

We had a big brunch with eggs, bacon, sausages and huge slices of black pudding from the farm shop, that was gorgous.
I needed the sustenance to help me muck out afterwards. The water had switched off again, but Mr O drove down to the pump and switched it back on, otherwise the horses wouldn't have had any water.
Max came trotting across the field at tea time, determined to get in before Barnaby. He needs to be ridden, and the snow is definitely melting, so my hopes are up for tomorrow. Never has one person been so glad to see snow disappearing, and been so desperate to get on a horse.
Talking of which, Kauto Star has won the King George VI cup for the fourth consecutive year, beating my darling Desert Orchid, who won it three times. What a horse.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Silent Night, Holy Night

Mr O has finished work, so now the holidays can begin. And they began with... more snow! The horses are bored with it now, and have got into the routine of only going out in the mornings while we muck out. It was white with fog again today. The horses retreat to the very back of the field by 11am and refuse to come down when we call them, so we have to walk all the way up there through the snow, and drag them down. But they don't eat or drink up there, so I have laid the law down with Barnaby and explained that he and his men would be coming in, so I can be a good provider to them.
After the 'warming Max's rug' scenario the other night, I have increased the horses' feed since the snow started. I want to know they are going out and going to bed with something filling in their tummies. Honestly, it's worse than having kids. But I have noticed here, more than at Lorna's, that the horses expect Barnaby to provide for them, and he in turn, expects me to provide for him, and I intend to live up to his expectations and be a good leader. I have noticed him looking at me affectionately this last few days, so maybe it's working. I rugged him up last night and he looked back at himself as if to say, 'Oh, is that what I'm wearing?' and seemed quite pleased.
They have been coming in with ice tightly compacted into their hooves, and I have had to wrench it out with a hoofpick every day, otherwise they are sliding on the floor, and it can't be very comfortable for them, can it? Yesterday I picked up Zak's off-fore and noticed a deep cut in his hoof. I've realised it's a bad overreach. I bandaged it up yesterday, having put wound powder on it, so we'll have to keep an eye on it, as it's quite deep. I don't want it to get infected.
I have emptied Zak's uneaten feed onto the lid of the dustbin, which makes a very good bird table. There is something about his feed (it's for weight gain) that must be very appetizing, as Tessa will tip his bucket over and eat what's left in it, and I tip it on the ground for the chickens to finish up, so I thought I'd make use of it and give it to the robins. I was filling the water buckets from my kitchen window and opened the curtains while I stood there, to reveal Tigger on the dustbin, chewing thoroughly on the bird food. I love my cats, but I want these birds to stand a chance, so I shoo'ed him away.
Not long afterwards, the first robin appeared, then the second, then the third! What is going on? And then, to my surprise, a big, fat mamma blackbird appeared and scattered them. She looks 'heavy with child' to me, and is clearly eating for three. You don't mess with her. The poor robins don't get a look-in. So today I have scraped the snow off the garden table and put extra feed on there, as the blackbird can't guard both places at the same time, so the robins will still get something to eat. Today Mr O realised what I was up to, but it was too late. He'd commented on how fat the robins looked, and said he wasn't surprised if they were scoffing Allen and Page Weight Gain. It's a wonder they can take off, they're so podgy.
After we'd got the horses back in, we ventured out in the snow, across the first field to the dry stone wall, where I made Mr O climb over the electric fence and cut me down some holly. We got enough for us and for Missis. We waded back, having risked life and limb, and I arranged the holly in my galvanised bucket, which is now in the sitting room, looking exactly like a Christmas tree. I might jazz it up a bit if I get time, but it looks very good. Missis managed to get me some mistletoe, which is hanging in the sitting room window, so everything is exactly how I wanted it now.
We went out for some last minute food shopping at the supermarket, and then went up to Highfields Farm Shop. I love it in there. They sell venison and wild boar sausages and haggis. We bought a huge pork pie, and some sausages and bacon, so we can have a big breakfast after we've mucked out tomorrow. The snow on the way back was horrendous. The fog was getting worse, and had come down to meet the snow, so it was just a wall of white everywhere. I'm glad we stuck to the main roads. We won't be riding tomorrow, that's for sure.
I have a feeling I have enjoyed the preparations for Christmas this year more than I am going to enjoy the day itself, as we won't be seeing the grandchildren until Sunday. Mr O rang Abby and Ebony answered the phone. Ebony asked, "Is that Father Christmas?" Mr O said, "No, it's Grandad." Ebony said, "Oh, what do you want then?"

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Don't Eat The Yellow Snow!

A busy day yesterday. Lindy is lame, so Missis is keeping him in. I am putting my horses out in the morning and bringing them in at lunch time, and Missis is putting Polo and Fudge out for a couple of hours in the afternoon, although it has to be said, mine didn't want to come in and hers didn't want to go out, but it means Lindy has company all day.
I couldn't resist taking some photos, as it was absolutely beautiful outside. The sun was really strong, and the white was stunning. I was 'Jane Orson, arctic explorer.' Because everything is very stark, the birds have become clearly visible. I have two robins in my garden, which is interesting as I thought they were terretorial. Maybe one will have to give in and leave. I really want to feed them, but the cats are so crafty, and I can't police the garden constantly. I'll have to see what I can do.
I spent the afternoon finishing off the traditional trifle I'd started the night before, and making the Black Forest trifle. I decided to make a mini one next to it, so that I could taste it and only inflict it on an unsuspecting public if it was good enough. It did occur to me that if the situation got desperate, I could go outside, scoop up a bowl of snow, sprinkle on some lemon juice and say, "Look, I've brought a sorbet!" That would wipe the smile off thier faces.
So I put the chocolate swiss roll in the bottom of my big dish, then sloshed some port in as we don't have any sherry. Then I spooned in the black cherry pie filling, which is one of my favourite things, and the whole reason pancakes were invented. On top of this goes the chocolate custard. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was like a runny chocolate mousse. I whipped up the cream and spread it on top, then grated a flake and sprinkled that on to finish. I got a spoon and tasted my miniature version, and it was absolutely gorgous. All the flavours work wonderfully well together, and the dash of port just gives it an edge. Lovely. Thanks Raine, for the brilliant idea, and so easy to make.
I also wrapped Mr O's presents, and Tessa's. I think Mr O was under the impression I was going to wrap his presents under his nose at the weekend. Silly. When I've finished this I'm going to go and make some nice gift tags to put on them, as I've found a website with some brilliant ideas.
Then I hopped in the shower and had an opportunity to use my favourite shower things. It's a fragrance called Summer Hill by Crabtree and Evelyn, which I absolutely adore. What joy to go out for the evening smelling of summer flowers rather than eau de silage for a change.
Then we had the tricky task of carrying two dishes of trifle through the snow to the car without sliding and dropping them. I wasn't worried about one of the dishes, but the other is from my china set and I would have been heartbroken if I'd dropped it. Have you ever tried transporting two trifles by car in the snow? It was a military operation, I can tell you. I had to get in, fasten my seatbelt and get Mr O to pass them to me so I could have one on my lap and one at my feet, so I could keep it motionless, and I begged Mr O to drive very , very slowly. Fortunately we didn't have too far to go.
The party was a great success. We had all different curries which were delicious, and all the wonderful puddings. There were 12 of us from the Bible Study. It was a good opportunity to chat and get to know people a bit more. We took Communion together at the end and had an opportunity to give thanks to the Lord. It was lovely. Who knows how much longer we will be able to do that? A teacher has got the sack this week for offering to pray for a pupil who was ill. Christians should be used to persecution, it's not a new thing, but it is new to us in the west, and I wonder how bad it will get before we start having to meet in secret like they do in Muslim countries. A sign of the times, I think.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Hats Off

I do not go outside now unless I am wearing thermal leggings. They go under jods or my jogging bottoms. The jogging bottoms are four pounds each from Quality Seconds, and are perfect for days when I only muck out and don't get to ride. I can wipe my hands on them and not care. I have to wear a thermal vest. Then a polo neck, then a sweatshirt, then a jacket. Soon there will be a waistcoat under the jacket. By February I will have a minimum of six layers on, and struggle to get on my horse (and struggle even more to get off).
But my trademark, as always, is my hat. For some reason I cannot find a sensible hat. So in desperation I am wearing a pink pom pom hat, with tassels. Why? I am forty-two. I look like a frozen Scandanavian pixie. In fact, what I really look like is the suicidal mother in About A Boy. No wonder she felt suicidal, walking around in a hat like that. They looked good in the market stall, where there is no mirror. This is not a coincidence. If you could see what you looked like before you bought it, the crafty stall holder would never make any money.
But now we have managed to go one step further than this. We have bought those fluffy trappers hats. I already have one of these, and the only reason I can get away with it is that it has 'Joules' on it in large writing on the back. Horsey people are so blinded by the word 'Joules' that they fail to notice I look a complete and total prat in it.
But this new trappers hat is khaki, and has fur in all the right places. In fact, you don't notice until you wear it, but they've added two extra flaps of fur, totally unnecessarily, one on each side of your head, that look like little ears, so you end up having a distinct resemblance to Deputy Dawg. Not a good look. I don't normally wear these hats anywhere except on the farm, but as it's so unspeakably cold, I wore one yesterday to town in desperation. This was fine until we stopped in the car at the traffic lights, and people crossing the road kept bumping into each other as they were staring through the windscreen at me as if they couldn't believe their eyes.
Mr O turned Barnaby out this morning, who reared up, turned round, and ran back out of the field. Mr O managed to catch him down by the white gate at the end of the drive, and put him back in the field, closing the gate properly this time, before undoing Barnaby's head collar. I led Max out and he stuck his nose in the snow and snorted it (it is white powder, after all!) The next thing I know, his knees had buckled and he went down for a roll, right there, on the yard! He was laying there, making snow angels, legs in the air. Then he stood up and shook himself and went off to the field as if nothing unusual had happened. The three horses went careering round in the snow, being very silly, rearing up at each other and cantering off.
It has snowed all day, but the electricians still turned up to finish off installing the lights in both barns. I am amazed. We made them cups of tea to keep them going. We mucked out and did all the chores, then got the horses back in by 11.30. They are coming in earlier and earlier each day, but there's no way I'm going to be able to keep Barnaby in all day. We had to pick their feet out as they were filled with rock solid ice. The electricians had to switch power off in our house while they made adjustments to the board outside, so we sat here freezing to death.
We have been to see Avatar. It is extremely good. We didn't see the 3D version, but even the normal one was excellent. It is obviously a take on the Amazon Rainforest, and the ore they go to mine is called 'unobtanium' which I thought was hysterical, but apart from that it was very enjoyable, and sucked you into the story, as the script is a bit weak at the beginning. It was very 'circle of life' but I guess that's all part of that culture. The graphics are stunning. I would definitely watch it again. A guy called Sam Worthington is the star, and I've got to be honest, I've never heard of him. He looked like a slightly chubby Ben Afleck. It turns out he's in Terminator Salvation, which we'll be watching over Christmas, and he's Australian. Interesting.
So this afternoon has been about finishing my second cross stitch, which I am very pleased with. It says it is an Anniversary Pig, so you could put whatever number you wanted on it, but I have decided to use it on a card for Caelan's first birthday, so I have put a 'one' on it.



We have been to drop off the family's Christmas cards. Lisa has given me a lap light, which is brilliant, it made it much easier to see the holes in the fabric. She says I am not to do it too late at night as it's very bad for your eyes. She's not kidding. She's also lent me two books on cross stitch that are absolutely brilliant. I am dying to go back to the craft shop and buy loads of stuff now. There are so many things I could be doing.
I'd better go now to make the jelly for the trifle for the party tomorrow night. I spoke to Lorayne and she said all her friends are making Black Forest Trifle. You just put chocolate swiss roll in a dish, pour on cherry pie filling, top with chocolate custard and put cream on top, so I am going to make that as well.
And what is so sad, is that I have brought Max's stable rug in to warm in front of the fire so that's it's warm and dry before I put it on him at night. It's like warming your child's towel on the fire while he's in the bath. Too much?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Let It Snow!

I was convinced it wasn't going to snow. So it started at about 11 am. Mr O had finished work and been dropped back just as I finished mucking out his stables. He helped me do all the other jobs, then it started blizzarding with a vengeance. Soon it was white everywhere. I was not impressed.
I did actually get quite warm with all the mucking out, and took my hat and jacket off.
The John Deere has got a puncture, goodness knows how. We got a guy out from Wingerworth Tyres. It was quite fascinating watching him work. He took out the inner tube and showed me where the puncture was, and fitted a new tube, then pumped the tyre back up and all is well.
As I went to take the cash out of my jacket pocket (now back on) I pulled out a glove instead. It was covered in some slimy, mucus like substance, which I gradually realised... was raw egg! It turns out I left last night's eggs in my jacket pocket, and forgot all about them. When I took my jacket off to muck out, and swung it over the stable door, one of the eggs must have smashed with the force! I smiled weakly at the mechanic and said, "I'll be back in a minute." I ran indoors, pulled out the other glove, also covered in a protein-rich, sticky goo, and then pulled the pocket inside out, where I found one pale blue, completely unharmed egg, and the remains of a brown one that had smashed. I slopped the contents of my pocket into the bin and put the jacket in the washing machine. It turned out that, unbeknown to me, the egg had been dripping through my pocket for some time, as a large, unattractive damp patch had spread over the top of my jodhpurs. Had the mechanic noticed? Should I make some witty comment, to gloss over it? I opted to pay the man, and walk away, pride intact. I may never meet him again. I would make it quick. I went back in a clean jacket, and as I handed over the (clean, dry) cash, he said, "You have horses here then?" and proceeded to tell me all about his, that he keeps at Jane Portas' yard. He said they are for his children, but it was obvious he was the real horseman. I pulled back the wooden door to reveal Barnaby chasing Zak with his ears back, fighting over the hay. It was like telling someone how wonderful your children are, only to have them appear in front of you screaming and pulling each other's hair. I said, resignedly, "These are ours."
Then as I held the gate open for him to leave, a delivery van pulled onto the drive and the guy gave me a box from Robinsons, which I signed for. Then my Tesco shopping was delivered. It was like Piccadilly Circus.
The Robinsons box has got a heavyweight rug for Barnaby (with no neck!) and jods for Mr O which are my Christmas present to him, plus a new black jacket each. Mr O also had some boots. He'd tried to get a bridle, but they'd sold out within two hours of the sale starting.
It continued to snow.
In the end we got the horses in, as they had snow on their backs, and looked generally unimpressed, plus, of course the trough is frozen, and so is the outside water tap. This means I have had to do each horse's water by bucket from our tap in the kitchen. Marvellous.
I waited as long as I could, and then made the decision to phone my hairdresser and cancel my appointment. There was snow everywhere, and it was getting worse. We should have been going to the yard Christmas party, but the weather was just ridiculous. I had shaved my legs and everything! It wasn't so much the weather then, it was if it got too bad to come back at 11pm. I had to text Lorna and apologise as we weren't going to make it. I got a very curt message back, but what can I do?
All our plans were scuppered, as we wanted to box the horses up and take them to Osberton on Friday morning, but there's no way I'm taking the lorry out with ice on the roads. The Barlow Hunt was supposed to be meeting up the road as well, but they must have decided to cancel, as I couldn't see any vehicles, and none of our horses were stressed.
So we had no choice but to spend the evening indoors, so I did a little more sewing and caught up on my facebook stuff. I can't complain about the weather. Usually facebook is for doing Farm Town and Farmville and superficial stuff like that, but this week it's been an opportunity to pray for people. I have one wonderful American Christian friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, one who's husband is having an operation today to have a stent put in his heart, and Wendy's pony went down with colic and is now in horsey hospital fighting for her life. I think I'll just count my blessings and stay very quiet.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Crafty

At last, Missis is back and yesterday was the last time I have to muck out all six stables until January 4th next year. Yippeeee! Not a moment too soon.
We have had two days of dreadful, miserable weather, thick fog yesterday so it was dark all day, and icy rain all day today. We got the horses in at 2pm as they'd obviously had enough.
I put piles of haylage round the field again today. It seems to be working really well, as it's much more natural for them to walk about and eat than just stand there scoffing. The haylage is stored in the barn where the new stables are being built. It is directly up against the field, and as you slide the brown wooden door open, you can step straight into the field itself, and the plan is eventually to turn the horses out through this door. So I've been opening said door, walking along the outside of the barn with great big piles of haylage in my arms and dropping it at strategic places along the wall.
The first time I opened it, unbeknown to me, Max was standing on the other side, and it frightened the life out of him. He must have leapt six foot backwards, poor boy! I genteely placed a pile of haylage at his feet.
The next time I opened the door, Barnaby was standing there, large as life, poking his head in the door, asking, "Did you just frighten my friend Max?" I couldn't aplogise enough (you don't want to get on the wrong side of Barnaby) and held out the haylage, as a peace offering, which he took. I dropped it, closed the door quickly and beat a hasty retreat.
I am at the stage where my hands have gone very dry, as they are in water all the time, because of washing horse water and feed buckets. I have to be disciplined about putting hand cream on. Likewise my poor feet are itchy and sore, so I have to wash them, dry them and powder them every day, and also have some time going barefoot, to give the skin a chance to breath, poor things. I am in socks and wellies all the time and it's too much for my poor little piggies.
Mr O got up at 4am and left in a van to go to Glasgow. Snow is forecast for tomorrow, so instead of staying overnight, he is driving back again this evening, and won't be back until 11pm.
This has given me the opportunity of making his Christmas card while he's out. And it's a good job as it took me two hours. This is largely because I couldn't decide between two different design schemes. I spent ages cuting out bits of paper, and laying paper on paper, only to cast it aside and start again with something else. I have learned a lot about this card making malarkey.

1. Start with the right sized card. I know that might sound obvious, but the card I've bought is too big really for what I thought I wanted to do, though it has worked out okay in the end. Ditto paper. You need big enough paper sometimes to cover the whole card. Easier said than done. I will know for next time.
2. Don't cut anything out until the very last minute. Plan and plan and plan, and re-arrange everything on the paper until you are completely satisfied, then start cutting and sticking.
3. I have yet to find a way of doing lettering that I am happy with. Stamps are ok, as long as you are very careful with the ink, but the transfer lettering I have bought so far is useless. I shall think very carefully before I buy any more.
4. It doesn't matter if you have seen a design in a magazine or on a website, if your local craft shop doesn't have those things, you will not be able to make that card. You might loosely follow the design, but your card will not look like the card shown.
5. Always have clean hands before you start, and work in a big, well lit space. I am making these cards at my desk, but I think the kitchen table will be better for the next project.


Anyway, this is what I've done for Mr O, and I hope he likes it, as it was a labour of love! A bit amateur for now, but I've got to start somewhere. I am sure he will like it, just because I've made it, anyway. It is a bit shadowy because I've scanned it in rather than taking a photo of it, but I think it's clear enough to see what I've made. Actually it looks quite cute now I'm looking at it again.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Jingle Bells

I couldn't blog yesterday. By 8pm I could hardly even move.
I think because I moved all the straw bales on Saturday, I didn't really have a chance to recover from the four days mucking out all the stables last week. Yesterday it seemed to take forever, but this is because:
1: I told Mr O not to bother feeding early, so the horses were very late going out, by the time I'd given them breakfast, waited for them to eat it, changed all their rugs, and put hay out in the field.
2: I rode Max. More of that later.
I put seven piles of hay out for the horses, and turned Barnaby out first. He stood there, assessing the situation. He takes his duties as herd leader very seriously, and knew he'd have to have the situation sussed before any of the other horses appeared. He judiciously picked his pile of hay and started munching. I could see him thinking, "We'll see how this pans out."
At about 9am it stopped raining, and I decided to take the plunge and ride. I gave Max a thorough grooming. I don't groom his mane very often and I never brush his tail unless I've washed it and put conditioner on it. Anyway, he'd obviously rubbed his mane, as it was very tatty, and as I gently stroked it with the brush, handfuls of hair came out! Oh my darling boy! I'm sure it'll grow back, and that if he didn't have a rug on with a neck, it would have fallen out naturally, but I can see how ponies in the wild end up looking a mess, with no one to groom them.
I came out of the gate, and pulled it closed. Missis has put a very nice Christmas wreath on it. Max thought it looked very nice indeed, and decided to have a little snack off it! I managed to pull him away in the nick of time. I'm sure whatever's on it will be either plastic or poisonous, so it's just as well, greedy hoof! I just decided to go down to the bottom of Press Lane, turn round and trot all the way back up again. This is a brilliant place for trotting to increase the horses' fitness, as it's not steep, but goes gently uphill for at least a mile and a half. Max was puffing by the time we got back to the top. I waved at Lucy Goosy, who waved back. Her dog, Ben, forgot to bark at us, which made a nice change. He sits on the low wall that surrounds the front of their house, and I always feel I should toss him a biscuit as we go past.
I got back and turned Max out. Zak had been standing near the gateway, waiting to greet him and explain things. Their conversation went something like this:
Zak: (ticking Max's name off on a clipboard): So, you're back, are you?
Max: What's going on?
Zak: Well, Sir Barnaby has got that great big pile of haylage over there, obviously, and we're all sharing these little piles over here.

So then it was back to the mucking out, which seemed to go on forever. I'd only done three stables by lunch time, whereas normally I've done five. I went back out after lunch to finish off, and by the time I'd done everything it was time to get the horses back in.
I cooked dinner in the evening, and then spent an hour ironing, as Mr O said he'd nothing to wear to work. When I asked him to come and pick what he needed so I made sure I ironed it, he picked out one pair of trousers. Very strange. He didn't even make a cup of tea to sustain me in my hour of need.
After that I didn't feel very well at all. Every part of me seemed to ache. I felt like a Russian shotputter. Last year, when I first started this, I felt as if I had extra bones inserted across my shoulder blades, like a rack of ribs. That's the only way I can describe it. This year it's just my right shoulder that hurts, but it feels enormous too, as if it's the size of The Incredible Hulk's shoulder. I bet I could beat any woman at arm wrestling.
And then, the saddest thing, just to round off my day nicely. I was so tired I have messed up and ruined my new cross stitch. I started to go wrong, and decided to do the decent thing and unpick it, then the threads got messed up and broke, and now I don't know what to do with it. I'm so sad about it. I'll have to try again, but I was so tired I could hardly see straight. Mr O kept saying, "You've fallen off Max, haven't you?" so I must have looked quite bad. Then not to be outdone, my stomach decided to start hurting as well, so I gave up, took some painkillers and went to bed. Not the best of days.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Away in a Manger

Mr O went down to dish out breakfast to the horses, "Morning Barnaby,"
"Morning, Dad!"
It turned out it wasn't foggy, windy, raining, icy or snowing, so I got up quickly and went out to groom Max. He was less than thrilled with the prospect, but I feel as if it's ages since I last rode. Missis rode her horse yesterday and when she came back he was sweating like a trooper and she said he didn't seem very fit. I was expecting something similar from Max, but as I was riding I could feel a little volcano inside him, waiting to erupt. The trouble with living on a hill is that everywhere you ride away from home is downhill, and trying to keep a lively horse under control for that first stretch is hard work. I guess Max was fairly relaxed as he hasn't been out with another horse for weeks, and prefers company.
We went all the way down Press Lane, and trotted along very nicely. I had asked Mr O to keep control of Barnaby, which he did so well that Max started to overtake him. I said, "Be warned, as we turn the corner and come up the hill, Max will have a little canter. It's nothing to worry about, and I'll have him under control after a few strides." Sure enough, we turned right and Max shot off up the hill. The trouble is, he loves hard ground and has always done this to me. I've got used to it over the years, but the first time he did it, it really put the wind up me. I got him back, and they trotted boldy up the steep hill. We were stopped suddenly by a woman in her gateway who said, "I heard horses, so I came out to have a look. I'm socialising him." and pointed to a tiny, black labrador puppy zipped into the front of her jacket. Under normal circumstances I would have been off Max, cradling puppy and inviting myself in for a coffee, but the boys were on a roll, and we couldn't really stop. I must stroll past some time and introduce myself, as I know they're new in the neighbourhood.
We continued on up the hill at a decent trot. I thought I'd be nice and give Max a bit of head where it's steep. He just said, "Thankyou very much!" and went straight back into canter. I hauled him back in. So much for being generous. We then turned left to go up Tinkley Lane. There is a small but significant bridleway at the end of this narrow road. Barnaby went into flat out gallop up it, and Max seemed to lift up in the air, throw himself forward, and was off like a rocket. It was fantastic. I can't wait to go to Osberton on Friday.
Max hasn't lost any of his fitness, energy or stamina, and I am frankly surprised. I'll just have to stick to my plan, even if it means I ride on days when I've got six stables to do, as he needs the work and loves to be out and about.
When we got back I jumped in the shower, got changed and we set off for church. I am so grateful for this amazing place. We only started going there in May, and we absolutely loved it the minute we walked in the door. Today was the family Christmas service. The little ones did a nativity. It was so sweet. Considering none of the children in it are either my own children or grandchildren, I didn't expect to be affected by it, but it brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. It brings it all down to the simplest level, doesn't it? And yet it was so powerful, too. So I have at least sung Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful so far this year, but there is a carol service next Sunday evening, so we'll try to go.
When we got back, Mr O went out on Zak, while I mucked Max out. He came back totally sweated up, but had done a long ride. His tendon seems to be holding up extremely well, which is fantastic. We have only scratched the surface with this amazing horse, as he had a tendon injury six weeks after we got him, and was on box rest for a year. I am dying to see what he can really do. He is such a beautiful boy. We are blessed to have him. Mr O put him in Barnaby's stable when he got back, and this is what happened next:
He is reaching across from Barnaby's stable to eat Max's haylage, the greedy beggar! We are going to have fun when they move into the new stables, because Zak, Barnaby and Max are going to be in a row, with no bars in between, so they will still be able to reach over like this. I hope not too much of this sort of thing goes on, because if Zak tries to eat Barnaby's haylage, there will be trouble. But Zak will be very fawning and willing to mutually groom Barnaby for as long as he likes, which Barnaby will love. I can't wait to see how it pans out.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Way Forward

I have decided on a new way forward for Max, as I am not riding him enough. If it is foggy or icy first thing in the morning, he can stay in until 12 o'clock at the latest. If the fog has not lifted by then, he must be lunged, and then turned out. I know this may reduce his turnout, but as it's knee deep in mud out there, he'll be better off indoors, in the dry, with more regular haylage than he'll get out there anyway.
If it's nice, I can ride as early as I like, once he's digested his morning feed. If it's raining or windy, he must still be ridden.
I ended up lungeing him yesterday, as it was foggy all morning, with no sign of lifting. I took him into the lungeing pen, which is just a ring of grass, and of course, being a poor deprived boy who is wasting away (his words, not mine) he wants to scoff the grass, so I have to hold the lunge line up high to keep his head up, and tap him up occasionally with the whip. He bucked, bronked, kicked, cantered and was generally bonkers. Let's just say I'm glad I wasn't on him! He did settle down, but he definitely still has loads of energy, even if his fitness has dropped off slightly, but as I was grooming him, I noticed the muscle at the top of his thigh is rock solid. I love my beautiful boy.
I've been to Pets at Home today, and ended up buying a Christmas stocking for Tessa, but I've hidden it, and she hasn't seen it yet. It'll be a surprise. She has to have something to open, and it is not only Christmas, it's also her birthday. She'll be nine. Imagine having a dog who decides to give birth on Christmas Day, it must have been pandemonium.
We have done the last bits of shopping today, but more importantly, I have been into my local craft shop in Chesterfield, Arcade Crafts. I warned Mr O I would be some time, and that he would be better off going and doing some shopping by himself. As it turned out I was at least half an hour. I wanted stuff to make Mr O a card, but also things to make my youngest grandson Caelan a card to celebrate his first Christmas. There is so much to choose from, it's so hard to decide. I have to concentrate on keeping to one colour scheme, so everything matches when I come to put it together at home. In fact, concentrating is the thing, and I can't with Mr O standing in the corner, trying to make me hurry up.
We went to the Post Office to post some cards and Lorayne's parcel. There was a woman in the entrance way asking everyone what they had come for. I thought, 'Isn't it obvious?' She gave me a ticket and told me to take a seat and my number would be called. "No need to queue," she said. "What?" I'm British. It's my job to queue. It's my right, my heritage. I am being deprived of part of my national identity. Everyone was milling about, not knowing what to do with themselves. We kept an eagle eye on the board, waiting for our number to come up. When it finally arrived, 'Number 1o1 to cashier J please,' I nearly shouted "House!" I was so excited. If you go to the desk opposite to fill a form in and your number is called, without you realising, you miss your turn and have to take another ticket, so it pays to be alert. Quite an extraordinary experience.
The whole point of today, was to relax a bit so I regain some energy. When we got back from the shopping Pongo said he needed to get all the straw bales off the wagon and up into the hayloft, so I have lifted 138 bales of straw. Drew loaded them onto the tractor, Pongo drove them to the hayloft, Mr O off-loaded them, and I stacked them up. I must be a lot fitter than I give myself credit for, as I looked at them and thought, 'I can't do this,' and then did it!

I have finally finished my first ever cross stitch. I am thrilled with it. I know it's very simple and basic, but I did it, and I'm very pleased with the result. Cross stitch is a bit like sex, isn't it, an awful lot of hard work, for something quite nice at the end. The hardest part was putting white thread through white fabric, whilst sitting up in bed with a white duvet in the background. My eyes were actually flicking from side to side, trying to focus.
I forgot to say: Missis has been in Poland all week, and brought me back a gift. She gave me a little package, and inside, carefully wrapped in bubblewrap, were two tiny glass chickens. They are so small, I wouldn't be able to photograph them to show you, yet they are perfectly coloured, incredibly detailed, and even stand up on tiny glass feet. I have wrapped them back up and put them in my desk drawer over Christmas, as I'll have to think carefully about where and how to display them, as they'll be easily damaged.

When Barnaby comes in at night now, he rolls in his stable and starts rubbing his rug along the wall, because he is too warm and needs to have a good scratch. We have to take his and Max's rugs off for half an hour after their tea, so that they can do this, then they have their pyjamas on. Barnaby will actually nudge Max on the bum until he turns round and they mutually groom for a while. They both seem to find it deeply satisfying. Who am I to comment?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Success and Relief

I am thrilled to report that Dog Vet didn't come out, it was his young, Australian assistant (named Bruce - yes really!) I was told he would come some time after 10am. He finally turned up at 3.45! I didn't care by then as at least I'd got the horses in. He was a very nice chap, and said straight away that he wasn't a horse expert, and that if it was more complicated than he'd expected, he would refer him, which was music to my ears.
He had a good look all round the pony, watched him walk, felt all four feet thoroughly, and declared him as having chronic low level laminitis, and after we discussed it, I am inclined to agree. He said that we must restrict his haylage intake, as he does stand there and gorge, and put him on a strict diet, and be very careful next spring when the grass comes through, all of which I know.
It is such a relief to have someone declare what's wrong with him, and how we should proceed. Missis rang on her way home, and she is relieved too. We're going to discuss tomorrow the best way forward, whether to keep him in when Pongo puts a bale out (they are huge) or to pen an area off and monitor how much we give him.
To be honest, I think we shouldn't bother putting a big bale out, we should put it into haynets and hay up in the field properly. They trample so much of what's out there, that it's just wasted, which seems silly. I don't fancy the extra work, and Missis won't like the idea of tying haynets to the fence (not my favourite thing either) but I think it would be worth it. I'll put it to her tomorrow and see what she says.
This is because, as I've kept Fudge in for the past two days, I have given him one haynet, not massive, and it's taken him all day to eat it, and even left some and had a sleep and so on, but when he goes in the field, he buries his head in the haylage and eats non-stop. Even when the other horses come down to the gate, ready to come in, he is still up there, stuffing himself. Plus if we put haynets out, there would be no need for Pongo to drive into the field, churning up the ground with the tractor. And I wouldn't need him to do it, I would just use the bale in the barn.
Pongo put a bale in the field on Monday, and it was gone by Tuesday afternoon. He put a bale in the barn for haynets. I have done two big haynets per horse per night, and there is still enough left to do the nets for Friday. Nobody says these horses are deprived of haylage at night, but there is still so much left to use up. And in the morning, most of the horses have something left in the bottom of their haynets, so I know they're getting the right amount. I will pray, and hope I can persuade Missis that it's the way forward.
So all in all I am thoroughly relieved. I just felt like crying on Tuesday, seeing him in such obvious pain, and I have never been in the position before, of insisting that someone gets a vet out. But if anything had happened to him, it would have been on my conscience for ever. If he loses the weight over the winter, and he should, as his cresty neck has reduced quite significantly already, then he will be fine and will be rideable again. Bless God.
The other good thing is that the water pressure on the hose is fantastic now that Pongo has installed the new pump. You can definitely wash the horse's legs off with it now. Before it used to fluctuate, so it took ages to do them, as it used to reduce to a trickle. Now you can practically shotblast their legs! Barnaby has mud cracks on his heels, and it's impossible to treat them if you can't get the mud off. Last night I washed him down and this morning his legs were so clean they were glowing in the dark. The sore places were blatantly obvious, so I slapped the Camrosa on. I have to say we have been using this for a month, and it hasn't made much difference, even though it's supposed to be a wonder cream. We were having more success with the Aveeno, which is a treatment for kids that have eczema, but it was working, so I think we'll go back to that.
We had our feed delivered again today, which meant although I was fit to drop, I lugged 8 sacks of feed from the driveway into the barn. That was the last straw really. I've been frustrated this week because the weather has been beautiful every day, but I haven't had the strength to ride. To be honest, doing six stables every day for four days has been enough to contend with. When I come in for lunch and sit down, I can hardly get up again afterwards. Never mind, I've done it now. It should be a while before I have to do it again, and soon it will be Christmas, ten whole days of only having to do Max's stable. Be prepared boy, you are going to be ridden a LOT!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Frustrations and Fun

Pongo went to Derby on Monday to buy a new pump. They sent him to Birmingham. He came home and installed it and it worked. Yippeee!
Then I got up on Tuesday morning, turned on the tap and.... nothing! Grrr. I used up the rest of the water in the cannisters, the milk churn, which I could hardly turn over to pour the water out, and then struggled to lift from the bottom to pour the last bits out. I had to go over to the field and get water out of the water tank, one bucket at a time, to fill up the rest. I was exhausted by the end of it.
I rang Pongo and basically asked him to sort it out, which to give him his due, he did, but I was totally fed up by then.
Mr O brought home fish and chips, which we ate in a hurry as we had to get ready to go to Nine's concert. Pongo had to drop him off at 5.30 then came straight back to get us as the traffic was so bad, and it started at 7pm.
It was quite good actually, and brought back memories of Abby doing ballet at Miss Mayfield's, although Miss Mayfield's standard was much higher. Nine looked as though he was enjoying himself, though, and played Mike TV (very appropriate!) in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set. Very funny. Some of the older girls were very talented, and the Jesus Christ Superstar set was brilliant. There was one tiny girl who sang her heart out, and one young girl who sang a song from The Little Mermaid. It brought a tear to my eye. It reminded us both of our eldest daughter Lisa, who has a beautiful singing voice, but when she was young she used to sing constantly. I can remember putting her to bed and hearing her singing away to herself. Because the other children had to get some sleep, we'd shout up the stairs telling her to be quiet. Then you could hear her under her pillow, singing Up Where The People Are in muffled tones.

And now today, I have gone to turn the pony out and he can hardly walk. This is driving me mad. He has been lame on and off for weeks (since the abscess incident) and Missis is doing nothing about it. She just drags him along behind her and puts him in the field. She says he has got laminitis, but I am not so sure, and if he has, she isn't treating him appropriately. I sent her a text and she said I could call a vet out if I want. Yes, I do want, but he's not my horse, and it's not my decision to make. Eventually she text me back to say Dog Vet is coming out tomorrow. She still won't be back from abroad, so this should be very interesting. I showed Pongo that he couldn't walk, and will show Mr O when he comes home, too.
I am prepared to turn a blind eye to the appalling grazing, the lousy hacking and the fact that we have no menage, but if she thinks I am going to stand by and watch a pony suffer and say nothing, she is very much mistaken.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Water, Water Everywhere

Why is it some days my plans are totally thwarted? I had planned to chuck Barnaby and Zak out, move Max into Barnaby's stable, muck two horses out and then go to church. But Mr O decided to clip Barnaby. As I've mentioned before, you can clip any part of Max and he is fine, but the moment you go to clip the long hair off his legs, he goes berserk. Barnaby isn't usually like this, but he's not keen on having his legs done. Mr O was quite frustrated because this new set of clipper blades aren't very sharp, so it took longer than it should have done, then when it came to doing Barnaby's legs, he started throwing himself around all over the place, rearing and barging into his dad. I was holding onto the leadrope and his headcollar, from outside the stable, and had to hang on for dear life. Not my favourite occupation. So by the time we finished it was too late to go to church.
I wasn't happy, but decided to make the best of it. I could at least catch up on laundry. We were going to go for a big ride round Holymoorside after lunch, but as I was washing the horses' feed bowls out, the water started to go slower and slower, until it reached a trickle, and finally stopped. I went indoors to try the tap. There was a little trickle, and then nothing. Oh dear.
Our water doesn't come off the mains, it comes off a pump in a farmer's field just up the road (the one before Jolly Farmer, in fact). This is a truly archaic situation, and I don't fully understand it myself (ie who's in charge of it, who do Pongo and Missis pay their water bill to?) I couldn't do any laundry as there was no water to work the washing machine. Grrr!
So the ride was abandoned as we collected up every water cannister we could find and Pongo and Missis drove to Missis' mum's house, in the horse box, to go and fill them up. They came back with nine filled cannisters and a huge old milk churn also full of water. Goodness knows how they got that in and out of the lorry, as it weighs a tonne.
So this morning I have had the joyful task of mucking out, and filling the horse's water buckets from these cannisters, that I can hardly lift, and that slip out of your hands as you're pouring them. I have a friend who is a missionary in India who complains about the lack of facilities. There's no need to go all the way to India, love, a weekend in Derbyshire can be very similar. The irony of the fact that it's pouring with rain is not lost on me either. Water is pouring off the hills, it just isn't pouring out of my tap.


I sat last night and made a set of Christmas cards. I am thrilled with them as my first attempt. There are magazines and websites that tell you how to make these things, so I am going on a quest to find out as many ideas as I can. although another forage in town yesterday yielded gold ribbon, more stick-ons, and a set of Christmas papers, so I have been scrapbooking as well, and framing the results. I am very impressed, even if I do say so myself. Now all I need is some mistletoe, holly, which grows on the farm, so I just need to go and gather some, and a couple of poinsettias, and I'll be happy. I got some scented tealights to go in the little holders, so that's done, and we bought Steve and Peter's presents yesterday. My main task this week is to get Lorayne's parcel wrapped and posted. I feel I am on top of things. If life gives you lemons...

I am tackling the first cross stitch I bought, but I seem to end up doing it quite late at night, and squinting as the holes are so tiny, but I am getting there. There more you do it the better you get at it I think. It's good fun, anyway. So by the time I've made some cards, done some sewing, read a bit of something in German and had dinner, it's time to go to bed. We have resorted to getting the electric blanket out. At least the electricity is still working...

Saturday, 5 December 2009

In The Bleak Midwinter

Mr O woke me up at ten to seven this morning. Who does that on a Saturday really? I thought I'd made it clear I'm not prepared to get up even earlier at the weekend than I do during the week. I said, "What on earth are you doing?" He said, "I thought we were going to ride early." It was pitch dark outside. Let's just say I was disinclined to acquiesce to his request.
I emerged a little later to find Mr O tacking Barnaby up. Keen, that's what I call it. In the end I decided to stay home and clip me 'orse instead, so Mr O set off and was gone for an hour.
Max looks pretty smart, even if I do say so myself (and I do!) This is the third time I've clipped him this year, which will fit in perfectly with doing him again in the New Year, then he'll be left alone as his summer coat will start to come through. I always do a blanket clip, which suits him perfectly. I think it's a bit mean to take it all off.
He did look at me as if to say, "Mum, why do you wait until it's minus three then shave all my hair off?!" I was trying not to laugh. He was very patient actually, and even let me get quite close to his nether regions, which is unusual. I never take his leg hair off. My life wouldn't be worth living. He's been known to attack grown men if you try it without sedating him, and as it grows back within a fortinight I've made the decision to leave him as nature intended. I can't sedate him every two weeks, can I? So I turned out my very smart boy and mucked him out while I waited for Mr O to come back.
He had been round the back of the Old Poets, on the bridleways up there. We walked it in the summer with Tessa, and there's no way on earth you'd have taken a horse up there. Since then the council have repaired the track and put a ford in now so you can get across the river and keep going. Mr O said the water came up to Barnaby's stomach, so it's just as well I didn't go, it would have been up to my knees!

We turned the horses out and set off for Sheffield to do the Christmas shopping. After my conversation with Lisa last week I decided not to waste the opportunity, and went straight into Hobbycraft. Words cannot describe the delight of this shop, it is a veritable Aladdin's Cave of craft. I have always had a thing about paper, you know, notebooks, writing paper, diaries, all that sort of thing. There must be every kind of paper known to man in there. It's a wonder I'm not still in there now, stroking everything. There was parchment paper, and beautiful tissue paper with designs on it, things for cross stitch, tapestry, decoupage, flower arranging, scrapbooking, everything you could wish for. There's so much stuff in there, I wanted it even if I didn't know what to do with it when I got it home! In the end I limited myself to a couple of tiny cross stitch kits and some stuff to make my own Christmas cards with. I'm so excited I don't know where to start. They probably won't be very good. I'll inflict them on the family this year, and maybe go wider next year if they are any good.
Then it was off to Toys R Us. We only go once a year, and I regress as soon as we walk in the door. I must have had a deprived childhood, because I desperately want all the Lego and Playmobil. I could sit there for hours playing with the Playmobil Zoo or the Emergency vehicle set. Ben 10 abounds. I succumbed. But I can't say anything about what else I've bought, as it's all for grandchildren, and the children read this, and I'm not going to tell you! I did manage to get something for Six and Nine as well though, so it was well worth going. It's all still in the boot of the car, as Six and Nine were running round here when we got home, so we don't want them to see anything. I'd better buy some wrapping paper.

Have a look at this: It's one of the other decorations I got from Chatsworth last week. The wings are painted with wording saying Happy Christmas. I need to get some tea lights to go in the candle holders at the bottom. I lurve it.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Schooling

The wind was howling round the house again when I got up this morning, but when I went outside it was a flat calm. Very strange. And as it wasn't raining, I decided to take Max down to the school. I needed to pay Jolly Farmer anyway, so I tucked an envelope with the money in it, inside my jacket, and set off. As we turned into his driveway, there was a horse in the front field with a whole haylage bale to himself. Max stood still and stared in envy and disgust, "Well that's just greedy!" I squeezed him on.
Our farrier was there, so I stopped to have a chat with him, and then went into the school. It's brilliant at this time of day, because the sun falls onto the trees at the back of the school, casting a shadow on a tree trunk that falls dead straight from A to C, so I can ride straight along it. Bee's daughter was turning their little palomino out. Max suddenly went charging up to have a look, and stopped stock-still at the perimeter fence, and began to gather himself. I yanked him away quick before he got any ideas of jumping the fence from a standstill! What's that all about?! Then Bee's daughter brought out a barrowload of haylage for the little mare, and Max was jealous again, "How come everyone's stuffing themselves with haylage except me?"
He actually worked beautifully. I'd put him in his Dutch gag, and he came on the bit and went really well. I can't think of a bit less likely to induce an outline, so I was quite impressed. They say that when a horse comes on the bit he has submitted and is working willingly. Rubbish! Max comes on the bit because he is annoyed, and knows he is stronger when he's like that. The fact that he looks lovely is neither here nor there. Don't be fooled. He is not co-operating with me, he is just powering through his shoulders and muttering to himself.
I had a chat with Bee afterwards. There is a new horse in the corner stable, a young and beautiful Dutch Warmblood. He is only five and has been there a week. A couple of days ago, he reared up and got his foot caught in the bars of the stable. They had to cut the bar with a hacksaw to release him. It's amazing he's not injured. Poor boy. I've always admired the American Barn stables, but when you hear stories like that, and think how Barnaby had me trapped the other week, I am now considerably less impressed. Bee said the horse's owner came down and turned him out at 4.30 one morning. (Why?!) The horse was obviously distressed as it was on its own in new surroundings, so it escaped. They came down at 6.30am and found him wandering round the yard. It's a good job, as there is no gate on the driveway, so if it found its way out it could have gone anywhere. Never a dull moment with horses, is there?
I came back and turned Max out. There is a brand new haylage bale in the entrance to the barn. Max stood looking at it and salivating. He looked at the one far away in the field. There was no dilemma as far as he was concerned. Why wade through the mud and wrestle for his pitch in the field when there was a freebie right here? He lunged at it, but I was ready for him, and towed him away. I love my horse.
I finished mucking out when I got back, ably assisted by the Ladies Who Lunch. They can go through a bed in 10 minutes, completely re-arranging it for you. They decimate the muck heap too, so it takes up much more space than it's supposed to.
I went into town in the afternoon with L who had various jobs to do, so I decided to change my library books. It was bliss to be on my own, but a bit cruel to give someone like me only half an hour. Obviously I dithered as usual. Time to throw in today's random comment: I speak German. Just for fun. And I read it too, and I am trying to read one book a month. The library is full of them. Sometimes I read adult books and sometimes I read childrens' books. 'Die Kleine Rote Henne' was wonderful, as was 'Jill und der Bohnenstengel'. This is because I've read all of my own books so many times I can recite them with my eyes shut, so I need something a bit different to stimulate me. I can't wait to start reading them.
Confession of the week: I have worn a thermal vest twice this week. I desperately need to wash my hair and haven't shaved my legs for several months. I must be an attractive sight. It's a good job John hasn't got x-ray vision. If the thermal vest didn't put him off, the hairy legs certainly would. Ewwww! When I left work the girls said I would end up like that mad woman on The Simpsons who comes out speaking gibberish with several screaming cats attached to her. How accurate they were! Or that character from The Laughter Show who comes out of the outside toilet in a scruffy coat tied round the waist with baler twine who says, "This week... I'll be mostly eating prunes." I need to see more people. Otherwise I shall go to the Christmas party on the 17th and the strain of looking nice will kill me. I can't remember what nailvarnish is, or perfume, BUT I also haven't weighed myself in a whole year, but all my clothes still fit me. The joys of country living.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Energy Boy


It was dark this morning as I came out to greet the horses. John had fed them before he left for work, which speeds things up quite considerably, especially if the horses have stayed in their turnouts overnight, which they are quite happy to do. It means I can walk out the door and turn the horses straight out and start mucking out much earlier.
It was cold, wet and windy, by far the worst weather of the week, so I decided to go for a ride. Why didn't I go on Monday (too busy) or Wednesday (too tired) when it was reasonable? There's no logic to it, is there? I wore my hi-viz gear again, as it still wasn't very light by nine o'clock, so I was lit up like a Christmas tree. The thing is, if I don't ride when it's raining, I'll never ride at all, and the hi-viz is totally waterproof, you can't even feel the rain on you.
We came out of the farm and turned right, and went down the steep hill. Max was a little surprised as I don't go this way very often, as it's a lot of main road, and it's usually very slippery, even though all our horses have road nails. Then we turned right again. I know there is a dog on a chain round the corner, so I was ready, but Max wasn't, and flung himself sideways when it started barking at him. I managed to stay on. I wouldn't say I was lying on his neck, but I was definitely up there somewhere, whispering sweet nothings into his ears.
The thing is, Max was full of energy. He and Barnaby are only on half a scoop of economy mix night and morning, with some Mollichop to stop Max being greedy, some cod liver oil and some vitamins. I'm blaming the cod liver oil. By now they'd normally be on a scoop night and morning, but there's certainly no need to increase their feed just yet. They seem to be absolutely thriving on very little, which is wonderful.
We turned right again, and trotted purposefully up the road. I offered a canter on the verge, but Max tested it and decided it was too soft. We turned right again. More uphill trotting, but not steep this time. If we'd turned right again, we'd have been home, but we only seemed to have been out for five minutes, so I decided to keep going. I was expecting resistance at the turning, but Max's mind was elsewhere, and it was another two minutes before he'd realised he'd missed his opportunity to go home. He did a huge snort and stumped off up the road.
I wouldn't say he was being strong, or about to bolt, but he was definitely in charge. "I think we'll trot here!" and "I think we'll walk here!" I felt like saying, "Hello! Rider on board! I'll be making the decisions today, thankyou." We continued past the livery yard, where a grey horse whinnied at him, but Max was on a mission. He reminded me of Zazu in The Lion King - 'The sooner we get there, the sooner we can leave!'
I knew we were approaching a steep downhill track, but actually he was very well behaved, and didn't rush down it or slip. I was thinking how hard it is for a horse to bolt up a road, when he went into canter at the bottom and set off, as if to say, "No, it's easy really, watch!" Cheeky beggar! I made him trot all the way back up to the next junction, much further than he would normally go, but he obviously had the energy, and it's all up hill, which is why I took him that way. I really thought his fitness might have dropped off a bit as I haven't been riding him half as much as I normally would, but there isn't a hint of it so far. I think I'd better get him clipped this weekend after all.
I flew through the rest of the mucking out when I got back. It's amazing how a ride can lift your spirits. I have Radio 2 on as I work. It has become a good friend. Terry Wogan is finishing in January. He has been there, warbling away, all my life. I will miss him. Chris Evans has a lot to live up to.
And then, major joy, my shopping was delivered. Yes, I have finally worked out how to do my Tesco shopping online. It did take an hour to wade through it, but it was well worth the effort, not having to drive there, doing it in the comfort of my own home, etc. The driver was quite young and actually said, "There's a shop in Chesterfield you know." I said, "Yes, there is, but I don't drive." He looked astonished. Silly person. I derived great pleasure from putting my own shopping away instead of John doing it, and hid the receipt as it turns out I accidentally ordered 3 bags of frozen sweetcorn. I must have got carried away. I think I saw one sort and forgot to delete when I spotted the one I really wanted. Oh well, good job we like sweetcorn.
I have actually spent the afternoon cleaning my poor old tack. Actually it's the one job I've never got over the thrill of doing. Not like mucking out and filling haynets, which I'd gladly give up tomorrow. Right from the very beginning, having tack to clean has meant I own a horse and I've never got over the joy of being able to do it. My new discovery is 'oiling my tack' which John has always done, but I've only ever used saddle soap. I don't know what has happened to saddle soap over the past few years, though. It used to be a thick, creamy substance you could wipe on your leather and rely on to do a good job, but the bars I've bought recently seem to be 'watered down' and don't seem to have any effect at all. So I have taken to oiling it instead, and the leather absolutely drinks in the stuff. I've used loads of it, and you can see it's doing the leather good. I may even try it on my leather riding boots. Golly, they were a mistake. I specifically didn't want ones with zips up the back like John's got, as they are very masculine. I opted for a dressage boot. They were well over a hundred pounds, and are the most uncomfortable things I have ever worn. It's like wearing cardboard tubes on your legs. I've tried everything to soften them, but nothing has ever worked. I only wear them out hunting and for showing, not even hunter trials any more. I have to wear sweat bands round my ankles to ease the pain. I'll have to get them out of the lorry and have a go.
I've read another article today about a woman whose horse died a couple of months ago. There seem to have been several this year, and my heart goes out to all of them. We all moan about our horses, what they won't do, how annoying or spooky or dirty they are, but at least we have got them. It's just been a reminder that we have something so very precious and to make the most of it and be grateful for what we've got, because you never know what's around the corner. I am only glad that I can put my trust in God on this one, as He promised I would keep my horse and that's why we ended up moving here. I had no idea he was going to do something so extraordinary to enable Him to keep His promise, but that is why my trust is in Him. I was designed for two things: to worship God and to ride horses, and I intend to do both for as long as I am physically capable.