Thursday, 30 December 2010

Review of the Year, Part Two

And so to say farewell to 2010, here are my own personal awards for the past year.
1. Book of the Year - This was easy. The winner is The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I was rivetted all the way through it. A very unusual way of exploring an unusual topic. Beautifully written, a real treat. I will read it again in two or three years.
2. Film of the Year - This one was not so easy. The two contenders are:
'Knight and Day' starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, action packed and very funny (and did I say it starred Tom Cruise?!)
'Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.'
And the winner is: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A tale beautifully told, true to the book and very well acted. The special effects are stunning, too. Well worth a gander.
3. Place visited this year: Hardwick Hall. We went there for my birthday in March and I absolutely loved it. It's a tudor building and fascinating to explore. I'd definitely go there again.

4. Event of the year: Holiday in Mumby, with the horses and the dog, living in the lorry and galloping along the beach. A fabulous experience.
5. Regret of the year: Not being able to ride round Chatsworth as it was too hot to take the horses. Hard to believe at this time of year, but true nonetheless. A definite date for next year.
6. Gadget of the year: The Sizzix Bigshot, most excellent Christmas present. This baby is going to transform my cardmaking. But also this little thing:
It's a corner punch that cuts your square corners into round ones, making them look very professional. Who would have thought I'd have found such a little thing so exciting?!
7. Recipe of the year: It's got to be the Onion Chutney, which was absolutely gorgeous, although runner up would have to be the Bannoffee pie, and there's a lot to be said for picking your own rhubarb and cooking with it the same day. They don't come much fresher than that.
8. TV Programme of the Year: I have a feeling that would have been Downton Abbey, but as I haven't actually watched it, I can't really say (but I've just found out the whole lot is going to be shown on 2nd and 3rd January, imagine my delight!) So the winner is...
The Apprentice - for gripping me, fascinating me and making me laugh.
9. Song of the Year: The Rhythm of Love by The Plain White T's. A beautiful song. I've also loved Annie Lennox' CD, Christmas Cornucopia. I am so glad I got it. It sums up everything that Christmas means to me. Biggest disappointment: Take That's New Album. All the songs sound the same, and the words don't make any sense. Can I just say, for the record (no pun intended) after watching Robbie Williams looking bored rigid on Strictly Come Dancing and not even bothering to sing towards the end, that Robbie doesn't need Take That and Take That don't need Robbie, so could we just stop it now, please?
And finally...
10. Unexpected Pleasure Of The Year: That Chris Evans has been so superb in taking over the breakfast show on Radio 2. I absolutely love listening to him every day. I was thrilled, too, that in May he abseiled from a building in Portsmouth to raise money for a hospice called 'The Rowans.' This place is very dear to my heart, as both my mum and grandmother spent some time there. There is a 96 year old woman called Doris Long who holds the record as the oldest person ever to abseil, and she just rang up and said, "Why don't you have a go, Chris?" and he said yes. As simple as that. Thankyou Chris, it was brill. I and many others really appreciate it. Thankyou for brightening my mornings throughout this year. Not many could have filled Sir Terry's shoes, but you have done it admirably.
So all that remains is for me to wish you a wonderful and peaceful New Year, and that you will have a healthy, prosperous and most of all fun 2011.
Bless you folks.
Mrs O.

Review Of The Year Part One

It's been an extraordinary year really, come with me and we'll take a look...
On the horsey front, there have been a great many changes. First of all, after a lot of soul searching, I finally made the difficult decision to sell Max, but only because Mr O had promised to give me Barnaby. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I never want to sell a horse again as long as I live. I have been missing Max a litttle lately, but I've had a Christmas card from his new owners telling me how much they love him, so I am happy with that.
Sadly, dear little Fudge was sold, as the boys have totally lost interest in him. I miss him too, bless 'im.
And saddest of all was Missis' decision to have Polo put to sleep. I absolutely adored him, and he was a good and worthy friend of Barnaby's. Lyndy still misses him, I think.
Then not long after, Hugo arrived, causing a great deal of ups and downs as he has settled into a much more relaxed way of life to what he's been used to with Novice level eventing. Quite a few upheavels really, but things are more settled now.
So I have spent the last few months helping Barnaby to make the transition to me as his owner rather than groom. I have to say, this snowy weather has helped. He is definitely mine now.
Remember though, this is the horse that jumped over his stable door, an event I will choose not to remember too often. Definitely not the highlight of my year!
I've had a wonderful time riding Barnaby though. The upside of him being an arrogant so-and-so is that nothing frightens him, so riding him is an absolute pleasure. He has totally restored my confidence in the equine race. The best bits must be doing the TREC, where he didn't really put a foot wrong, and doing the dressage, which I really loved.
Of course, taking the horses on holiday in August was a real highlight. Galloping along the beach, blue sky above and sloshing waves below was a sensation I won't forget in a hurry. I hope we can go again soon.
Mr O has had a very good year with Zak, too, where they have gone from strength to strength, especially with jumping. The photo finally came of Mr O jumping him at Marchington. Check this out:

We love it, anyway. Such a sweet horse.
I guess the other thing is that card making seems to have completely taken over my life. I've discovered a side to myself that I didn't even know existed. I can't emphasise enough that I am a very non-artistic person. I can't paint, I can't draw and I couldn't throw a pot if you paid me, so no one is more astonished than me at what I've been able to achieve this year. To be fair, I've always loved designs on things like bedding and china, and have always been a paper stroker! (It's fantastic to read all these blogs and find I am not alone!) I love colour and pattern, and learning to put it all together like this is a real treat. I look forward to seeing where this leads me in 2011.
I've set myself a series of challenges each month and I've had great fun completing as many as I can. This is the first year I've ever made chutney and lemon curd and I really enjoyed doing it. I've loved doing cross stitch, especially the special one I made for Daughter 2's wedding.

I must be careful not to let the card making push cross stitch out of the way, as I still really enjoy it, but card making took off in a much bigger way than I'd imagined.
The only thing I haven't really done enough of is church activities. We've decided next year to cut down on some of the horsey events as it's always on a Sunday, but we'll see how this pans out. I'm going to do more Bible study, too, especially as I am on my own at home all day, I haven't really got an excuse not to do it. There will be more about my hopes and plans for 2011 in another post, coming soon.
It's been a wonderful year on the farm, too, with the addition of baby ducks and newly hatched chickens. I don't think I'll ever get over the absolute thrill, the joy of new life. It's what the countryside is all about, isn't it?
And of course, one of the best bits has been writing this blog, and meeting all of you. What an incredible world blogging is. It's helped me to find (and like!) the real me. I have blossomed because of this blog. It's been wonderful to get to know all of you, too. I've found such encouragement through blogging, thankyou so much.
There have been things like good books and good films this year too, but I'm saving that for my next post. So looking back, how was 2010 for you? I can honestly say I've had a lot of fun this year and learned a lot. I'm looking forward very much to finding out what 2011 has in store.
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

We've just come back from seeing this fabulous film. Each one, in my humble opinion, is better than the last.
The trouble with this one is that The Dawntreader is one of my favourite books of all time, so I was hoping to goodness they'd do it 'properly.' The BBC did a series some years ago (I'd probably depress myself if I looked it up to see exactly how long ago!) but the little girl who played Lucy was all wrong. No offence to her, but she just wasn't how I'd pictured Lucy in my mind.
But the girl who plays Lucy in these films (Georgie Henley) is absolutely right. She's very, very good in this one too. The crucial bit in the book is when the character Eustace has become a dragon. He tries desperately to take the dragon skin off and can't do it. In the end Aslan slits the skin from top to bottom, and throws Eustace into a pool. I can't read that section without sobbing like a child, and sure enough, tears were pouring down my cheeks in the cinema. Good job it's dark, isn't it? I'm pretty sure Mr O was at it, too.
My prayer is that everyone who sees the film will grasp its true meaning, and that one day they will experience the Deep Magic for themselves. If you get time, go and see it, I highly recommend it. In fact, as it's December, it could still earn my vote for 'Film of the Year', couldn't it? We shall see...

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Past

Hello all, I hope you've had a wonderful few days, as things are gradually getting back to normal here.
I've probably had the best Christmas in some years, if I'm being honest. Mr O went to pick up Son 2 and indeed, the mulled wine was on the stove to greet them, the festive aroma floating around the kitchen, mingling with the sound of wassailing, as they walked in the door. A cup each, and I knew Christmas had begun.
I had fabulous presents, including my long awaited Sizzix Bigshot, a Horseware Ireland rugby shirt. It's in red, black and gold. When this design first came out I didn't like it at all, but it's really grown on me, so I can't wait to wear it. I may show you a picture when I've got a bit more organised.
I decided to join in the Secret Santa on the Your Horse forum this year, and guessed from the packaging that I'd received a book from mine, which I assumed would be a horse book, but when I opened it, it turned out to be a craft book. I am so surprised and thrilled. I know who it's from and I didn't even know she knew about my cardmaking. Thankyou Jo, I'm going to be dipping into it a lot.
Missis got me a DVD called 'Dressage For Jumping' which I am saving for when I've got a few peaceful moments. She's got me a dressage book, too. Daughter 1 got me The Time Traveler's Wife, which I'm really pleased with, as you can imagine.
We had a quiet Boxing Day, but today we've been up to Worksop to drop Son 2 off and see all the children and grandchildren. This is really the highlight of my Christmas. I love seeing everyone all together and just sitting back and observing my grandchildren playing and interacting with one another. I don't think the mums realise how amusing and witty their children are. And the baby, who just poodles up and down, in a world of his own (usually with a biscuit in each hand.) I don't think I've got many good photos, as no one sat still for long enough. They all liked their presents, anyway.
So we're spending some time re-arranging the sitting room a little so I can keep my craft things out all the time. How lovely for me that Mr O is willing to do this. I have had a little play with my Sizzix every day. It feels very strange not to have to make Christmas cards anymore, and realising I can use what I like, no matter what the colour or pattern. I suppose the first thing is 'Thankyou' cards, isn't it?
Now for some time to reflect on the past year and the year to come. I haven't quite decided about New Year's resolutions yet - I'm actually still working on one from last year! It snowed all morning, and apparently more is due tomorrow, yet the temperature is going up, so maybe it will come and melt straight away. Hope springs eternal...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Full Circle

I'm not sure where the past few days have gone. They've whizzed by in a whirl of mucking out and present wrapping. Where do you do yours? I can't do it at a table, so I tend to sit on the floor and spread the wrapping paper out in front of me. After a while, my back is in agony, so I've been wrapping one at a time, then going to my desk to make a tag for it, then back to the floor to wrap the next one, which has been a lot better for me, but probably more time consuming. I've loved making my own tags, though, it's been a really good way to use up odds and ends. I'll definitely do that again next year.
I also finished Mr O's card and gave it to him. He really liked it, which is a relief. I feel as if I've come full circle as it was my desire to make a card for him last year that got me into this card making adventure. I also wanted to make one for my youngest grandson last year as it was his first Christmas and I wanted to make something special that his mum would want to keep. Looking back on it, I didn't have a clue what I was doing really, I just had this incredible desire to make something and knew it must be possible somehow. Though I say it myself, I've learned an awful lot since then.
Today was the last time I will muck Zak out in 2010 as Mr O is off now until January 4th. Such bliss, only having one horse to muck out. We have had a little more snow in the last day or two, but nothing too heavy. We are all willing it to disappear. Zak's water bucket has been frozen solid in the mornings. I've been boiling the kettle and pouring that on to melt it a bit, as I'm worried about him dehydrating.
And now my dear youngest son is with us until the 27th. When he walked through the door, the candles were lit, the carols were on, and the mulled wine was on the stove. Now Christmas can begin in earnest. It is so lovely to have Son 2 here. He has brought his guitar, so that should be fun, shouldn't it?! There seem to be a surprisingly large amount of presents in the pile, too. Tessa has two. I wonder what Santa has brought her?
Things may be a bit hectic for the next day or two, so I'd just like to take this opportunity to say thankyou for reading my blog and sending me all your wonderful comments throughout this year. They are all much appreciated. My wish is that you have a wonderful Christmas, surrounded by the people you love, and that you get lots and lots of pressies!
Happy Christmas everyone!
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

TV Times

I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I don't watch television. To be fair, the television is often on, but Mr O spends a lot of time channel hopping and not actually watching anything. Because of this, I can't get into anything so I don't bother. Also, even if I do watch something good, there are so many channels, I can never remember which channel it was on, and what day I watched it, so I never see it again. I've missed a few good things that way.
Add to that that I don't watch any soaps, Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity, or X Factor, and you can see my viewing would be limited, to say the least.
But suddenly I have become gripped by, of all things, The Apprentice. There have been several series of this, and I've always thought it looked a bit stupid. I can't stand 'sales speak' either, so I wouldn't have chosen to watch it. I don't know why I watched one episode about six weeks ago, but I was instantly hooked. The whole group dynamics aspect was fascinating. I have to say I desperately wanted Stella to win, as I thought she defended herself beautifully when criticized a few weeks ago. Well done you!
The second thing I've been enthralled by is Strictly Come Dancing. I can't bring myself to watch the first few programmes because I love dancing and can't stand watching people making fools of themselves. But the moment I first saw Kara Tointon dance I was enthralled. She was beautiful and truly talented. I was delighted that she won, but I've had a soft spot for Matt Baker for years (someone with a collie can't be all bad) so it was all-round goodness, really.
The only thing I didn't choose the winner of was Sports Personality of the Year. I really wanted Lee Westwood to win (he's from Worksop, you know!) but I think AP McCoy is a worthy winner.
The third programme I am thoroughly enjoying is Scrubs. Now I've worked out who the characters are, and how they relate to one another, I have realised how clever and funny it is. John McGinley and I go way back. I've loved him since he was in Wagons East many years ago. It is brilliant to see him come into his own in this series.
So all in all I've become a bit of a TV addict. Imagine my distress at missing Downton Abbey. Oh what a foolish girl I've been! I've seen one episode on the i-player and now realise it was my duty to have seen every episode and I've missed it. I am aware there is a DVD of the entire series, but I don't really want to buy it, I just want to watch it. Woe is me.
I wonder what lays in store next year? But knowing me, I'll probably have my nose stuck in a book anyway...

Friday, 17 December 2010

My Perfect Christmas, Part Two

1. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Definitely Christmas morning, straight after breakfast. I would feel so strange waking up on Christmas Day having already done it the night before. Also got to open Barnaby's present with him before he goes out.

2. Favourite childrens' Christmas song?
Away In a Manger, preferably sung by children. We had our church nativity on Sunday.
I am not related to any of the children in any way, and don't even know all of their names, but for some reason I sobbed all the way through it. I've never understood that...

3. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The pressure to spend money... and the way shops stock things that nobody really wants or needs (like a pasta bowl with servers, something you wouldn't be seen dead with at any other time of year) and the way you feel obliged to buy it, just because it's there.

4. Favourite ornament theme or colour?
Classic red, green and gold, you can't beat it. Maybe a dash of tartan.

5. Turkey or ham on Christmas Day?
Good grief, turkey of course! Do people have ham? What on earth for?

6. What do you want for Christmas this year?
As I gather Johnny Depp is spoken for, I'll settle for a Sizzix Bigshot.

7. Does anyone in your family dress up as Santa?
No. Unfortunately we never have. I wonder if we've missed something there?

8. Age you discovered Santa wasn't real?
No idea. It obviously didn't impact me that much. Ditto tooth fairy.

9. Eggnog, hot chocolate or apple cider?
Actually, I am partial to mulled wine, as hot as you like. And roasted chestnuts.

10. Do you have any Christmas decorations on your roof?
No, I'm prepared to lay down and let a bus run over me before I give in to that.

11. How does Santa get into your house, chimney or magic key?
Chimney, every time. The children never doubted it.

12. Do you prefer gifts or tokens?
Gifts really, but there's always room in my life for another book token. Always.

Not long now...
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

My Perfect Christmas, Part One

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper, despite all the hard work. I like those tall gift bags for wine, though.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Always real. It conjures up memories of my childhood, as my grandparents always had one. I still think a sparse real tree is better than a full artificial one. Holly and mistletoe also essential.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Around the fifteenth of December, but as you know, no room in the inn!

4. When do you take the tree down?
When we go back to work in the New Year. Then I have a big spring cleaning session!

5. Do you like eggnog?
I don't think I've ever had it, so I'm going to investigate!

6. Favourite gift received as a child?
My dolls house. It was a work of art. My mum still had it when I left home.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
Mr O. Yes, siree!

8. Easiest person to buy for?
Both daughters. I try hard, but also know they will appreciate whatever I get them, and I like to think, because I know them so well, that I usually get it right.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Not now, but the children made one when they were young, and it had to come out every year. I loved it.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Definitely by post, and having something to hang up round the house. Wishing everyone a merry Christmas on facebook just isn't the same, but I guess it's better than nothing.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
If I'm going to answer this honestly, I can't tell you!

12. Favourite Christmas movie?
Actually I have a real thing about not being able to stand Christmas films. I detest The Wizard of Oz! But what I truly, truly love, is The Snowman. I could cry every time.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Early December. Every year I say I will do it through the year, but I'm just not that organised.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No, but it is the sort of thing I would do! (Blushes!)

15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?
Nuts. In recent years I have developed a nut allergy, and this has eroded a very enjoyable part of Christmas for me. I also love Christmas pudding and mince pies. I have only had one so far this year.

16. Lights on the tree, coloured or clear?
I don't mind either.

17. Favourite Christmas song?
Song is not carol, is it? So I get to choose two, right? 'December Will Be Magic Again' by Kate Bush and 'Silent Night'. But Annie Lennox has released a stunning album called Christmas Cornucopia, and she sings In The Bleak Midwinter, which sends shivers down my spine.

18. Travel at Christmas, or stay home?
Stay home, with my husband, my doggy and my horse. (We call it 'being snowed in...again.')

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Sadly yes. That's why I'm good at Trivial Pursuit and pub quizzes.

20. Angel, star or ribbon on top of the tree?
Angel. Although why she wants that shoved up her skirt is beyond me, frankly.

Part Two tomorrow, and I'd love to read your version, if you want to link it to mine.
Mulled wine anyone?
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Putting The Boot In

I've had a phenomenally busy few days. In case you're wondering, we managed to do the deed on Sunday morning. It wasn't pleasant. At first I thought I was going to be sick, but after a couple of minutes it just seemed like biology in school. The method prescribed wasn't entirely successful, and Mr O thinks he might do it slightly differently next time, but by six o'clock we had our first chicken in the oven. I watched Macbeth Sunday evening. Never have Lady Macbeth and I had so much in common.
To be fair, I plucked my first pheasant when I was seven and have never disliked it. We had a friend in Worksop that shoots and used to give us birds nearly every week. We became very proficient at plucking and drawing, but I have never actually dispatched the bird myself.
Grace has walked around for the last couple of days feeling a bit out of sorts, missing her three brothers. At first she went around with Peggy and her six babies, but I noticed today she is with Roxy and Margery, the grown up chickens. She has obviously decided it's time to learn how to be a lady hen after all.
You may have heard of a brand of welly boots called Hunters. They are the Rolls Royce of wellington boots. I have had mine for some years, and the pair before that I had for fifteen years. But recently they've developed a hole in the sole which lets water in. This is not nice, especially if you're walking in a muddy field. I have had the experience, at our previous yard, of getting totally stuck and my foot flying out and landing in the mud, sock and all. It was freezing cold and I could feel the mud oozing between my toes. Unfortunately Mr O was there to witness this and laughed like a drain. I had to pull the boot out and limp back to the yard as there was no way I could put my foot back in the boot after that.
Anyway, back to said hole in footwear. About six weeks ago I went to Tesco (after much sole searching!) and bought a very sweet pair of pink stripy wellies. I returned home with high expectations and a dash of rural femininity.
Obviously I wear wellies seven days a week. Imagine my surprise this morning when I put Barnaby into the field and felt a sudden cold sensation on the back of my leg. I had waterproof trousers on, too, so couldn't understand it. I got back to the stables, examined the boots, and to my dismay found a split right up the back of the left boot. Disaster!
For the rest of the day I had to wear my Hunters with the hole in and came in at lunch time with one black sock - yuk!
In the meantime I'd phoned Mr O to explain the situation. He said he'd go to CWG, our local farm shop and see what they had. I sat in fear and dread that he would bring me some very masculine boots with a steel toecap, or even worse, a pair of white wellies that he's bought for one of the lads at work this week (I'd rather drink wasp spit than wear a pair like that).
So imagine my surprise when he walked in and produced a huge box, out of which appeared the most gorgeous pair of wellies I've seen in some years. They are made by Aigle (French) and fit beautifully. They look very well made, too, which they'll need to be. Some wellies are made for walking the dog in the park, and some are made for wading through mud, aren't they? Clearly these are in the latter catagory, and I hope I get many years wear out of them.
I actually rode Barnaby on Sunday afternoon, which was wonderful. Very much business as usual after two weeks of snow. Now unfortunately we are forecast snow again on Thursday. We are supposed to be going to a party that night. Pleeeeese don't let it snow. I am wearing a very thin dress and high heels - possibly another side-splitting moment for Mr O, then?

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Ice Man Cometh

Yes indeed, we have post! I am thrilled because:
My papers have finally arrived from America. They are beautiful and well worth waiting for.
My December stamps have come from Little Claire Designs. They are little elephants and very, very sweet. I can't wait to start using those.
My pack of envelopes has come, so I don't have to panic about not being able to make square cards.
Crisis over then. Still no photo for Mr O, though. It's been nearly a month. We've decided to wait until Monday and if it hasn't arrived by then, he'll be contacting them.
Now if only the dustmen would come...
This morning I have woken up and there are patches of solid ground visible in the snow, patches of black and green, and unfortunately lots and lots of dog poo. We won't go there. There is supposed to be a thaw over the weekend, but it's supposed to go down again next week, which is going to be very, very depressing!
Barnaby is, strangely, being an absolute sweetheart while this bad weather is going on. It reminds me so much of when he was on box-rest because of the broken pedal bone. He got a bit stir crazy and used to help Mr O muck out at night. I am making sure I groom him every day, and he absolutely loves it. He has increased his actual 'scratch me' time to twenty minutes. He just loves that time with his rug off, to let his skin cool. I am his only opportunity to mutually groom. Have you ever been goosed by a horse?
He has also started doing something he used to do with Mr O, but has never done it since we've been here. He walks down to the field carrying his own leadrope in his teeth. It's very sweet. And the biggest thing was that when we came back from shopping on Saturday, he did his deep whinny as soon as he saw me. Mr O had already gone in and he didn't do it to him, he did it to me. My heart absolutely leapt. Pathetic, I know.
I tie him up before I go in to his stable and he does what I call wiffleing (I just had the big decision there of how to spell a made-up word!) He wiggles his muzzle over the leadrope and undoes it. I really don't know how it works. He can also wiffle on your jacket pocket when he wants a mint. So it occured to me, that that makes me Wiffler's Mother, doesn't it? (Snigger!)

Here comes a bit, that isn't for the faint-hearted (or vegetarians). If you are either of those, or both, you may want to wander off and come back tomorrow, and not read any further, although if you didn't blanch at the dog poo comment, you can't be too feeble!
As you know, we have chickens. And this year, they have hatched quite a few eggs. It turns out that chickens hatch 60% males. You only need one cockerel and his name is George. Unfortunately, three of the four chicks Penny had in her first batch have grown up to be fine, handsome cockerels, too. This presents a problem, because they are beginning to do what healthy cockerels do best (and it isn't eating!)
Missis has tried to source someone who might come and take these chaps off our hands, but we can't find anyone locally who can 'do the deed', so Mr O has bravely volunteered. Obviously we weren't entirely sure how to go about it, but last weekend we watched a video of a man who did it in a very calm and humane way, so we have decided this Saturday will be the time to do it. I've debated about putting this on my blog, but the whole point of it is to catalogue our experiences while we're here, and this will definitely be one of them. I'm just so sorry I've named one of them Arthur.
So think of us on Saturday evening while you're enjoying yourself at the cinema or a Christmas party...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Reality Check

As you may remember, I am reading 'Dark Fire' by C.J. Sansom. It's extremely good. The characters in it are the Wentworth family. Wentworth is my maiden name, so I was quite captivated, as you can imagine. The main character, Matthew Shardlake, has a horse called Chancery. I was reading away merrily last night, minding my own business, when suddenly,

'...To my horror I saw Toky directly underneath me, staring up at me with a snarling smile, the sunlight flashing off his dagger...Toky thrust upwards at my groin. Chancery saved me. As Toky stabbed, he reared up, neighing in terror and kicking out. Toky jumped back. I glanced down at my waist, clutching the slippery neck of the rearing horse, but it was Chancery's blood that stained it, welling from a great gash in his side...
'I must get him home.' But at that moment Chancery shuddered and slipped forward to his knees. I had barely time to jump off before he fell on his side. I looked at the blood still welling on to the dusty cobbles, and thought how easily it could have been mine. I looked at his eyes but aleady they were glazing over; my old horse was dead...'

Oh no. I blinked rapidly to dissipate the tears, and hope that Mr O hadn't noticed. Oh boy, these guys had better get their comeuppance.
The book is set in 1540, Henry VIII is on the throne, and the writer evokes the period perfectly. I was pushing my barrow through the barn yesterday, when the ducks crossed my path. I felt as if I could quite easily be in a tudor market. I need to get out more.
And get out we have. We've managed to drive into various parts of town. I can't believe how much snow there is everywhere. It made some familiar roads unrecognisable, and was quite hair-raising as in places people can't use the pavements, as they're piled high with snow, so they're walking in the road. Very nerve wracking.
But at last, I have bought Mr O a Christmas present or two. It's been very difficult as every time I've asked him what he wants, he just says, "I don't know." Grrr! So frustrating. Anyway, yesterday he saw a very nice jacket that he can ride in, and plumped for it. We've also picked up Pongo's present, which is a saddle cloth, with 'Lyndon' embroidered on it, which is Lyndy's proper name. Hope he likes it.
I've bought treat stockings for the horses, and we ended up buying a stable rug for Zak, that has a neck, as I have borrowed (pinched) his for Barnaby. We are going down to -10 at night, and I just feel Barnaby needs an extra rug on. I've bought him a Likit, too. It's banana flavour, so he should like it.
I've been meaning to show you something for ages. A while ago I went to Hobbycraft, and bought a stamp for my cards that says, 'Handmade by' so I can use it on each card and just write my name underneath the stamp. I was quite pleased with it, until a few weeks ago, I discovered the Bunny Zoe's Crafts website. They sell personalised stamps, at a very reasonable price, so I ordered this:

Sorry about the photo quality, but I'm sure you can see what it is. It came really quickly (considering it was made in Norway) and I am thrilled with it. As you can imagine, it's on every card I've made recently. It's one of my favourite things I've bought this year.
I've had a wonderful day making cards for the grandchildren today. This is what Christmas is all about. I feel ready to put my decorations up now, but you will think I'm a bit mad/bah-humbugish as we have no room for a Christmas tree here. Last year I put loads of holly and mistletoe round and it looked very festive in the end. My other sadness is that we have no open fire or fireplace, which is a bit odd considering the age of the house. So I have to be a bit more imaginative with my decorating.
Before you go, spare a minute to read this month's poem on my sidebar. I've loved it since I was a child, and thrilled to find it when I googled it.
Keep warm everyone.
Mrs O.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Still Snowing...

As my title suggests, there has been no change in the weather. Pongo and I measured the drifts yesterday, and it is up to five feet in places. We cut a section out and I stood in it, with just my head protruding at the top (I am five foot seven). Now Kirsty the cat is hiding in it, ready to pounce on any unsuspecting passer-by.
Apparently we had temperatures into minus double figures last night. Everyone seemed fine this morning though, and Mr O has made it to work for the past two days.
Barnaby insists on going out each morning, and poor Zak has to accompany him. He looked at me yesterday as if to say, "Do I have to? Just to keep him company. I'm quite happy here with my pile of hay and my rug on really." Poor boy. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!
They come in after an hour or so. Barnaby is phenomenally clean, whiter than white. I've given him a good groom this morning, and he's gleaming. He is actually due to be clipped again, but I think that would be a bit mean, don't you? I wonder if he realises what a kindness I have performed (just by leaving him alone!)
Mr O appeared at lunch time yesterday, to my astonishment, and basically said that if Son 1 wanted a lift home, it was now or never, as it was still snowing. Son 1 lives near Nottingham, and apparently the roads were pretty clear, so they got there safe and sound. I am so glad he came, though, he made things so much easier. I had to do everything myself this morning, and realised how hard it is to push a full wheelbarrow through the snow, even the short distance to the barn, but then I found the sliding door had frozen shut. I had to ring Pongo and ask him to come out and open it for me, which he did. Then he offered to muck Lyndy out, which was wonderful (Lyndy is his horse, after all).
Of course, this is the perfect weather to sit indoors, with the fire on, and make some cards. The irony is, even if Mr O can get them into work, the recipient can't get in, so the cards will have to sit on her desk until Monday.
I've made this:

I am learning to assess a card when I see it in a magazine or on a blog, and ask myself what it is about the card that is so appealing. I saw these papers and couldn't resist them. They are the sweetest thing I've seen all Christmas. I am so in love with that pastel blue and red colour combination.
The papers I ordered from America are based on this colour scheme. Of course now we have so much snow, the dustmen haven't been, and neither has the postman, so my chances of getting these papers before Christmas are now nil. Never mind, they'll be something to look forward to next year.
I've also made this, as the person I'm making the cards for also wanted a birthday card for her nephew, one from her and one from her son, so this is the one for her son to give his cousin.

I've never made a pop-up card before, and it took me ages to get my head round the instructions, even though I had a picture of the finished item in front of me. But once I'd done it, it was pretty obvious, so I'm bound to make some more of these.
I emailed the customer to ask what her nephew was into, and as you can see, she said football. I had a bit of a panic because I realised if I ordered something to use it wouldn't be delivered, then I had a brainwave and ordered the pyramage above from Craftsuprint. How brilliant that I can just pay for it and download it, and there it is, ready for me to use, without any post involved. That's clever, really, isn't it? No wonder they're saying, "It's the way forward in card making."
I hope all my readers have a good weekend. I am trying not to panic about Christmas shopping. People will have to have money if I can't get to the shops, but it's not the same, is it?
We were also supposed to be going to a dressage competition on Sunday, but of course, it's cancelled. It doesn't matter now, because a) I haven't been able to practise because of the snow, and b) there's no way I'd drive the lorry there anyway. They've postponed it until the following week, but I still don't know if we'll be able to get there. Such a shame, I was looking forward to it.
So wrap up warm, everyone, and look after yourselves (and anyone you know, who could do with a helping hand). I'm off to bake a cake, my first one with duck eggs. Wish me luck!
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

December Will Be Magic Again!

Of course it started snowing the moment I'd finished my previous blog entry (declaring that it wasn't snowing!) And to be honest, it's hardly stopped since. To my delight, Son 1 is here to help me muck out, as Missis is in America and won't be back until Friday. Of course, I was thinking to myself, that if I had help mucking out, I'd actually have the energy to ride. How foolish of me! We woke up this morning, and this is the sight that greeted us:

It's hard to give you an idea of scale, as everything's basically white, but it's about 3 feet deep, or up to my waist.
It took Mr O three hours to get home last night, a journey that usually takes forty-five minutes. He said vehicles were either jack-knifed or just abandoned all along the route. I was worried sick. Then this morning, he took a shovel, and tried to dig the car out. He gave up after an hour. I was so worried and angry I rang him and said, "Are you in the car?" "No," he said, "I'm just outside the house." Then he had to dig his way back home!

By this time, Son 1 and I had got up and got dressed. We fed the horses, then donned waterproof leggings and set out to find Mr O. We had to dig a trench from the back door to the stable doors, then from there to the barn (where the chickens now sleep wherever they see fit, as it's far too cold to expect them to survive in their little shed) and from the barn to the muck heap.
To my astonishment, Barnaby was kicking his stable door in a 'bally well let me out right now!' sort of way, so Mr O put his rug on and led him out. He marched into the field, then started galloping up and down, stopping every now and again to roll, and push his nose through the snow. We put Zak out next to him, and I've got a fantastic video of them galloping up and down together, looking rather spectacular. If I can upload it I will.
(Go here to have a look).

In places the snow is up to my waist. 'Er Indoors loves it. The cats were trapped in the cat room, with snow half way up the door, so no way of getting through the cat flap (though I'd love to have seen Purdy try!)
I don't think many people have gone to work. (Apologies to you if you've struggled through to get somewhere!) I am so grateful that Son 1 was here, and that Mr O has had to stay home. I am so pleased that my horses are just outside, as I know many people haven't been able to get to their yards to do their horses, or have faced a long, arduous walk.
Pongo is obviously at home with the boys. He bravely volunteered to walk to the local farm to buy milk as that's the one thing I'm running out of.
It is stunning out there, I must admit. I haven't seen snow like this since I was about seven. I can remember walking along the verge at my grandparents' village, slipping into the ditch and the snow came up over my head. There hasn't been snow like that in my own childrens' lifetime, but my grandchildren are certainly dipping in. I've seen some lovely photos on Facebook of The Flower Fairy playing in the snow. Facebook may have its faults, but it's fantastic at times like this, just for being able to keep in touch and see what everyone's experiencing.
More snow is forecast for tonight. I don't know where it's supposed to go, we are full up. I'm starting to wish I could ski.
Hope you're all okay, and coping.
Keep warm eveyone
Mrs O.

Friday, 26 November 2010

It's All Good...

...but it's also freezing cold. We seem to have escaped the snow so far, though. For the past two days the ducks have come out of their coop (if that's the correct term) run to the pond, assessed the situation, and run straight back to the coop. They stand there muttering to themselves about the injustices in the world and where the next meal is coming from. This morning I realised they are actually thirsty and filled a washing up bowl full of water for them. They looked at me gratefully and tucked in.
Water seems to be the thing, actually, as everywhere is frozen. I noticed Lindy looking glumly into the trough. I went up with the largest hammer I could find, and smashed a hole in the ice. Barnaby appeared instantly, pushed Lindy to one side and began slurping through the hole. He drank for ages before submitting to Zak. Next was Hugo, then finally Lindy, by now a bit disgruntled that he'd actually been the one to point out the situation, but the last to be served.
Penny has been out of confinement with her nine babies for the last couple of weeks, as we were worried she was suffering from a lack of daylight. She reminds me so much of 'The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe...' She immediately abandoned her babies and went for a dustbath in the plant pot. Little chicks were cheeping in distress, but she just slammed the bathroom door in their faces. Mind you, if I'd spent a month in a rabbit hutch with nine babies, I'd probably want some 'me' time, too.
You have no idea how difficult it is to muck out two stables with 17 chickens in it....
Fortunately Barnaby seems to be recovering. He's actually worked every day this week, and the swelling is reducing. I asked Mr O to hack him out on Wednesday. I don't know what he did, but Bard was very calm for our hack yesterday, and impeccably behaved when I lunged him today (apart from the girly squeal at the beginning). I am so relieved he is okay.
I am wading through the cardmaking, but I am really enjoying it now. I've made two for some boys, which I'm also going to be using for my grandsons this year. I realised I am suffering from a lack of decoupage in my life, so I made this:
I love these little ticket sentiments. They are so original.
Now I can tell you that of all the cards I've made, this is my favourite Christmas card this year, not because I've made it, but because I love the stamps, the colour scheme and the simplicity of it. Again I've used the ticket sentiment stamps. I just love them.

I am a bit frustrated because I ordered some papers from an American company (which will deliberately remain nameless) which are taking absolute ages to arrive. I specifically wanted the 6"x6" size, which I couldn't get in the UK, so I ordered them from America and they haven't come. They are so beautiful, I'm dying to use them but I can't. Do I order the 8x8 size and start using it, and put the 6x6 away when they eventually arrive, to use next year? I'm not complaining about the company, I'm just champing at the bit to use these papers, and fed up with hanging round the post box all day like a disappointed bloodhound. What would you do?

Of course the plan is to go showjumping on Sunday, but I'm not building my hopes up, as I'm sure it'll be snowing here by then, and Mr O and I agree there's no way we're taking the lorry out with snow on the road.

Have a good weekend, everyone, and for goodness sake, wrap up warm!

Mrs O.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Great Jumping Jehoshaphat!

The vet came out yesterday to have a look at The Bardy Lad. He examined him thoroughly and I trotted him up for him. Barnaby is clearly not lame and the vet said he'd be very surprised if he had an infection. He said it looked like an oedema, almost as if he's been on box rest, but it's because he's gone from lots of exercise to a week of doing nothing. It can't be helped, there's no way I'm going to ride a horse who spent the previous evening hanging about over his stable door, is there?
Basically, the vet said to exercise him to dissipate the oedema. It is pretty big actually. I rode him in the school yesterday, then Missis and I hacked out today. I only wanted to take it steady, so we walked all the way down Press, then turned and trotted all the way back up. Lindy was cantering along behind me (on the road) which really sets Barnaby off, and I can only just hold him. Missis realised what the crafty beggar was doing and put a stop to it. We trotted to the top of the steep bit, then walked the rest of the way home. I think if we'd cantered on the verge like we normally do, we'd have been home in time for tea and medals. I can just about hold Barnaby in that sort of mood, so I think I'm going to hack out in a double bridle for a while, just to remind him of his horsey manners.
When we got back, Missis tacked Hugo up and we went into the school. I gave her a lesson in 'gymnastic jumping.' Hugo was quite lazy at first, but soon perked up and did really well. She has got a lesson with Nicky tomorrow, which seems a bit pointless now, but there we are.
This is all because Mr O and Missis went showjumping a couple of weeks ago (the day before Barnaby did his leaping episode). It was at a place called Marchington, which is an hour and a half to the south, in Staffordshire. It was a really nice place, with a big indoor warm-up arena, as well as the main showjumping arena.
It was 2-phase jumping, which means you jump the first eight jumps to see if you go clear, then fence 9-14 are timed. Mr O went in and walked the course but felt like he hadn't really learned it but it was time to go and get Zak and get warmed up.
He jumped quite well in the warm-up. It's the first time Mr O's ever competed him, so we weren't sure what he'd be like. As it turned out, he was going very well, and clear, when Mr O completely forgot the course. It was difficult, because in the end I shouted, "Green planks!" but didn't want to eliminate him for outside assistance. Mr O saw a green fence and jumped it, and immediately got eliminated anyway! It was such a shame, because he was going beautifully. Mr O said when he walked the course he kept counting his strides, which he never normally bothers with, but didn't concentrate on the course itself. We've decided next time he must take longer just to walk it and learn the route and I'll walk Zak round in the collecting ring so he's warmed up a bit before Mr O gets on.
Missis also did it, but had several fences down. I've watched the camcording, and she looks terrified. I don't think it was the fences particularly, she just got totally overcome with nerves. They are going again on Sunday afternoon, so both of them have decided to get some more practise in. I have to say, for a Trailblazers competition, there were a lot of fences, and the spreads on them were really big. I know when you're competing you can think, 'the fences were huge,' but that's just nerves kicking in. I wasn't competing, and I still thought they were big!
There are 14 fences, too, which is quite a lot, but it's because it's two phase. I suppose it's quicker to get everybody to do both parts in one go, but I think I prefer a jump-off. Maybe it's calmer this way, but I find it very peculiar to jump some fences both ways when you're doing a course. It's all good experience, though, isn't it?
Overall, though, we were very pleased with Zak's performance. He certainly had no trouble with the height. I think Missis was quite surprised too, as she's been having lessons with Nicky and is on a proven event horse. We've got an ex-racehorse, coached by little old me, and he did really well.
It turns out there is a rather spectacular photo of Mr O jumping. We are both quite astonished by it and have ordered it, so as soon as it arrives, you can rest assured it will be on here, facebook, my screensaver and Mr O's computer at work!
I am interested to see what this Sunday brings, but we are forecast snow on Thursday. I've no way of knowing what sort of quantity we're talking about, but it could totally scupper our plans. Never mind.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Oh dear...

I rode Barnaby yesterday, for about twenty minutes in the manege, just to see how he felt, and he was fine. I only did walk and trot, nothing manic. It felt wonderful to be on him again, and he was full of energy.
We've been to church (fantastic time) and come home. I've just got Barnaby in and been grooming him, and soon discovered two huge lumps on his belly and his sheath is massively swollen. I assume it's an infection and we'll have to get the vet out again. It's quite annoying though, when he's been on antibiotics all week. My poor boy. He certainly didn't have anything like that yesterday. The lumps don't hurt, but his sheath is sore. I can't stand it when things happen to our horses, honestly sometimes it's worse than with children. At least they can tell you which bit hurts. And it doesn't cost two hundred pounds to take them to the doctors!
Anyway, it's all go here. We started the Christmas shopping yesterday. Does anybody else miss Woolworths? Argos just seemed to have girls things in, but the items we wanted were both sold out. It was only by chance we had to go to the bank, walked past the Co-Op and realised they have a toy department. We managed to get everything in the end.
We've also been to my lovely, favourite craft shop and bought my Christmas present. Yes! I have in my own home, though not officially in my possession, a Sizzix Bigshot. It's a machine for die cutting and embossing and I'll do a 'show and tell' on Christmas Day. You may be thinking, 'Fancy going and buying your own Christmas present,' but let me explain:-
Years ago I sent Mr O to the shop to buy some nice drinks for lunch and some foil. He came back with crisps and a copy of the Times.
So the rival to Sizzix is called a Cuttlebug, and Mr O knows this. So he got Sizzix and Cuttlebug mixed up and asked me if I 'still wanted a Shuttlecock for Christmas?' which is why I felt the wisest thing was to go with him and make sure he got the right thing. I hardly want to be opening a shuttlecock on Christmas morning, do I?
And I must spend a brief moment saying how much I enjoyed C.J. Sansom's book 'Dissolution'. It's obviously set in Tudor times, and introduces the character of Matthew Shardlake, who is a lawyer. He is employed by Thomas Cromwell to go and investigate a murder in a monastery. It turned out to be extremely good. At first I thought, 'Gosh, this is hard to get into,' then when I looked I was already on chapter twelve! It can't be that bad then, can it?
As you know, Tiny Cottage is, well, tiny, so we are trying not to buy books, which take up a lot of room, so the library is a godsend, as you can imagine. I was just wondering if I would get another book in between now and Christmas, when in the market yesterday I spotted 'Dark Fire' which is the next book in the series. I am thrilled. I love it when things like that happen. I quickly handed over the money and pocketed the book (in a very 'Artful Dodger' sort of way). I might pass it on to Daughter 1 when I've finished it, she likes that sort of thing, too.
Just a quick card to show you.

This is made using the Kaisercraft 'Be Merry' papers again, which I am so in love with, but when you undo the ribbon, and open the card, it looks like this on the inside (sorry the picture quality isn't very good, and I can't take another photo as the card has already gone to its recipient:)
I really enjoyed making this, it's like a card within a card, and something a little more special. I learned from experience that it takes quite a bit of paper to do it correctly, but got there in the end and am really pleased with it.
As you can see, it ties with a bow. When Mr O gave it to the recipient he said, "That's what I don't like about it, the bow tying." Fortunately the recipient said, "I am a woman, I can do bows!" I was a bit cross with him, though, I hardly need him to say something negative about my cards as he's handing them over, do I? No wonder he isn't in sales, bless him!
Well, we are off to Worksop now, to spend some time with Daughter 2 and the Flower Fairy, who I haven't seen for ages. We are looking forward to the tale of how she got her toy bucket stuck on her head, trapped by the handle, and had to have it cut off! (The bucket, that is, not her head!!) Never a dull moment with children, is there?
Stay cosy and warm everyone,
Mrs O.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dark and Drubblie Days

I just want you to know that it's cold, wet and miserable here. But I am a perky person, because Barnaby is finally getting better. He was totally loopy after the hunt had been past. He wouldn't come in for his tea until everyone else came in, then I took his rug off and realised he was soaking wet. I just managed to swing a sweat rug on him, but he was like a steamed pudding. Then the shaking started. Some horses are just not designed to have adrenaline. Two hunts in two days is a bit much, don't you think?
I kept his head collar and lead rope on, to keep him away from the door, and tied his lunge line round and round the door posts to keep his head in. Apart from that I just talked and talked to him, staying really calm, until it started to get through to him. I didn't leave him until he was calm enough to eat his tea and start eating his hay, which was about an hour and a half. I'm hoping this will be a bonding experience!
I am enjoying making cards at the moment, but I can't help noticing Mr O is trying to direct my artistic flair! I'm finding it quite frustrating making cards to order, and having to put a sentiment on each one like, 'To a wonderful mother at Christmas.' I'm sure she's a wonderful mother, and it is Christmas, but I just want to use some of my lovely little sentiments because they match my papers perfectly, and that's why I bought them!
It's lovely when it's cold outside to sit at my desk and get creative. I need a cup of coffee and a pile of biscuits, and am soon deeply involved in what I'm doing. I love to have the radio on. Do you work best in silence, or do you like a bit of background noise? And do you prefer to work during the day, or at night? I have noticed the light is completely different, as my desk is by the window. If I make a card at night, sometimes I come down in the morning, open the curtains, and the card looks completely different!
Anyway, these are some of the cards that I've made for people recently:

This stamp is my latest delivery from Little Claire's designs. The paper is by Kaisercraft. I am going to be so sad when I've used it all up (unless I decide to buy some more, obviously!)

Here she is again! This time she's coloured in sepia tone Promarkers after I saw a tutorial on Enfys' blog. I realised I had all but one of the Promarkers she used and decided to give it a go. I was thrilled at the result. I can't believe I can do stuff like this!

I've been down into the village today, and had to go to the post office. I asked the man behind the counter if he was the owner and he said yes. (It turns out he also owns one of the village pubs too, a busy man, obviously!) I asked him what his criteria was for buying cards, whether he was tied in to one particular supplier and he said no. He said to bring some samples down and he'd have a look. Oh my life! Now I am nervous. Will I be able to make enough to sell? Or worse, what if they don't sell? I'm not going to panic. He hasn't even said yes yet. Imagine it, though, my cards for sale in the village shop. How cool would that be?

The events of Sunday afternoon rather overtook the rest of the weekend, but there was another thing that happened on Sunday morning. Mr O was washing his hands at the kitchen sink and was admiring the view, and the 'new' wooden fencing. Then it dawned on him there was rather too much view and that the stone wall had collapsed in the night! He called me round to have a look. We stood there gaping at the hole. Then a cow hove into view. We don't normally see as much of them as this. Fortunately there is a barbed wire fence on their side, so they shouldn't be invading us just yet. We'd better phone the dry stone wall guys. Never a dull moment round here!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I'm not sure if I'll leave this post fairly short, but I just wanted to say a big thankyou to you all for your wonderful and uplifting messages of support after our saga on Sunday. They mean a great deal to me.
I am pleased and relieved to say that Barnaby is fine. He wasn't interested in his breakfast yesterday (which is a shame as it had antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in it!) so I just swapped his rug and put him straight out. He paced up and down a bit, but soon settled and I noticed he was having a snooze around ten o'clock. (No wonder he doesn't like being ridden in the mornings!) Hopefully this means the adrenaline is gradually leaving his system.
When the vet came she said there had been a hunt going on in our area on Sunday. She knew because her previous call was to a horse not far away who'd had colic as a result. This may well explain why Barnaby was more anxious than usual, as he gets very worked up when the hunt goes past.
I found out today it was the Four Shires Bloodhounds, and it could explain a great deal, although the person who told me is a foot follower from the Barlow Hunt who I've been talking to this morning as they met at 11am just up the road. I'd just finished mucking out and heard a strange sound. I knew instantly what it was though - hounds! I dropped everything, grabbed my jacket and a camera and hot footed it up the road.

I just hope Barnaby isn't too worked up by it, although when I looked they were all standing in the field staring at all the horses and lorries up the road. Hopefully they'll be finished by one, so the horses may have calmed down by three when I go to get them in.
One other thing. I have been wondering how this would work. It was icy everywhere this morning, so of course the pond has frozen over. I let the ducks out, who went racing along, came to a pool of water on the grass and skidded straight across it! I am sorry, but I was most amused. They went down to the pond, then a moment later they reappeared, all chuntering to themselves that the pond is frozen too. Ah well.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I had my post all planned but then something has happened today which I need to share to help me calm down.
We went to church this morning and had to pick up a few bits afterwards. By the time we got home it was really cold and overcast so I decided I wasn't going to go on the long hack with the others. I'd decided just to lunge Barnaby and then get some jobs done.
So while everyone was tacking up, I put Barney's lunge gear on, then helped everyone else to mount up and get them on their way. Once they were safely out of sight, I got Barnaby out and took him to the arena.
He lunged quite well at first, but was unusually over stressed about being on his own. In the end I let him off the lunge line and he ran up and down a bit, but when he realised there were no other horses around, he came to me, and we did join-up. It was the most fantastic thing. In the end I was running round the arena, with him running next to me, and we were jumping the fences side by side. It was fabulous. I was changing direction and he was running round after me, just superb.
Then I took him back to his stable, where he got quite stressed again, but I left him with his tea and went back to the arena to get my lunge whip.
When I came back, Barnaby was standing there, straddled over his stable door, where he'd tried to jump out and only got half way. The stable door is quite high, obviously, as it's designed to keep him in, so it was cutting into his belly as he stood there, stuck.
It took a while to sink in, it just looked like he was standing motionless out of his stable. He looked at me in shock.
I went in to ring Mr O to see how far away he was as obviously I needed him back straight away. His mobile rang on the bed upstairs. I couldn't think who else could help me so in absolute desperation I dialed 999.
I asked for the fire brigade and was put through and explained my dilemma. I told them I felt really stupid for ringing but couldn't think what else to do. She took all my details and said they were on their way.
I stayed with Barnaby and just talked calmly to him, then decided to ring the vet, as I could see blood and hair on the floor. I decided to use Mr O's phone to ring, but then couldn't get a signal. I went indoors to use the house phone, but it was completely dead. What on earth was going on? This was supposed to be so simple. I had to leave Barnaby and walk about to get a signal, to try again on the mobile. This time I got through but the voice message said they were closed and gave me a mobile number to ring. I ran inside, grabbed a pen and paper, ran back outside, dialed the vet again and this time managed to write the emergency number down.
I got through to the emergency vet, and explained the situation and she said she would come out asap, so I went back to Barnaby.
I have to tell you I wasn't entirely calm and was desperate for Mr O to come back. I had to pull myself together, because when I was upset Barnaby kept struggling to get his back legs over the door, so I kept talking to him soothingly, saying, 'Someone will come, I promise, someone will come.' I just wanted to cry and cry. My poor baby.
Every so often he tried to struggle, and at one point, sparks were flying off his shoes and going backwards into the stable. I thought, 'Marvellous, now I'm going to set light to the stable as well!' I think I'd lost it a bit by then.
I tried to ring Missis but she didn't answer. I couldn't believe it. Didn't anyone think to take a phone?
I went out onto the road to see if I could see them coming back, where to my joy, I could see a blue light flashing in the distance. I waved them in and they pulled up onto the drive. There must have been about seven men, some in a rescue vehicle and some in a landrover. They came in and looked at Barnaby. They assessed the situation and decided they would put a sling on him, hoist him up and take the stable door off its hinges and slide it out from underneath him.
I decided to try Pongo's mobile, and finally, he actually answered. I just said I'd called the fire brigade and hung up. Then I realised how ridiculous that was and rang back and said, "It's not a fire, it's Barnaby." They were quite near to home by then and Mr O put Zak straight into trot and shot home.
I have never been so relieved to see him. I held Zak, explained what had happened and he ran into the stables. He was shocked at the sight that greeted him, but went straight into action. I think Barnaby was relieved to see him, too and relaxed.
The firemen were worried that if they took the door down Barnaby would run straight off, but Mr O said he'd hold him and he'd be fine, so they went to work undoing the hinges. The firemen got the door loose, tilted it (at Mr O's insistence) and slowly pulled it out. Barnaby was calm, and once he realised he could put his legs down, he walked gingerly forwards into Zak's stables.
At this point we decided to bring the other horses in and once Barnaby saw Zak he calmed down.
As you can imagine, I thanked the firemen profusely. It turned out they are Derbyshire Animal Rescue Service, and frankly, words cannot express my gratitude to them. They did their 'think nothing of it,' routine and left. I could have hugged them quite honestly. They did ask if I was going to be alright, actually.
Then, of course, all I wanted to know was whether Barnaby was injured. He had some blood on his face, a cut on his knee, and a cut near his nether regions (which had been resting on the stable door the whole time, poor boy!) but no other obvious wounds, but I was worried about internal injuries, too.
Soon the vet arrived and checked him all over. She listened to his heart and said it was fine. We got him out of the stable and Mr O trotted him up. He was sound, bless God. We swapped him and Zak back to their own stables, as Pongo had swiftly re-attached the stable door. He was very uppity but very gradually calmed down, so I gave him his tea.
The vet left me with some antibiotics and some anti-inflammatories, and said that basically he'd been very fortunate to have come off so light. She said he could easily have broken a leg or anything.
Eventually everything calmed down, and I put Barnaby in his stable rug on just kept hugging him. Then I did the thing that really cheered him up - I went and got him a banana. I have discovered very recently that he absolutely loves them. He scoffed the whole thing, then seemed to calm down properly.
By now I'd had a hot cup of tea to calm me down and felt I could safely leave him and come indoors. I was fine until half way through dinner then I just burst into tears. I'm sure you know by now that Barnaby means everything to me. He has given me such confidence this year and I just love his character and his whole outlook on life, and this is the last thing that I want to happen to him.
Sleep well my sweet boy, although I think you're going to be slightly sore in the morning. And so am I and I have four stables to muck out. Never mind, I am just glad he is okay, it could have been so much worse.
Mrs O.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Thankyou, Thankyou!

I am a Bear of very little sleep. It was so stormy last night I thought the roof was going to come right off. I clung onto Mr O like Piglet clinging onto Pooh. I was awake for ages at midnight, then again at 2am. Then I fell asleep and (so I'm told) started snoring, which woke up Mr O. A night of very little sleep all round, then!
Well, first things first. I have been awarded an award. Right now I can't think of a better way of writing that (because of my lack of sleep). Anyway, the award is from my dear friend Margaret over at Christian Chick Crafts, and here it is.
Thankyou, Margaret, I am delighted!

Before I pass this award on, I have to list three reasons why I'm special. Hmmm, now let me see....
Oh yes! 1. I am a daughter of the King, and have been for 25 years. I know my place!
2. I am unique and I like it. There is no one else on this planet quite like me (good job, right?)
3. I am an eternal optimist. I firmly believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, every cloud has a silver lining and that the sun will come out tomorrow. It is November now, so I am clinging on to that optimism as I write. Some call this denial, but I deny that.

And so, without further ado, I am passing this award on to the following recipients:

Auntie Gwen (You go, girl!)
Sue (A day without a blog post from her is not the same)
Dottie Angel (Everyone should read this blog!)

More, much more, tomorrow, but right now I am off to my desk, because something astonishing has happened. Mr O took some cards into work today for one of his colleagues, who had ordered seven Christmas cards from me for various members of her family. I finally finished them, and breathed a sigh of relief, when I got an email this morning from another colleague saying the cards are really good, and could she order some. Yes, some. It turns out she wants 28! Good grief, where am I supposed to find the time?
Ah well, mustn't grumble...
Mrs O.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

We Will Remember Them

This year I've decided to share my all time favourite poem with you. I made up my mind about this quite a while ago. Because this year, I am dedicating this poem to my recently departed brother-in-law, Peter. Peter served for many years in the RAF, based in Germany, where he married and had two beautiful daughters. This poem, from my heart, is for him, and for all those who've lost their lives in service to our country. We will remember them.

The Soldier
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by sons of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Dressage Diva - Again

I've been so busy I haven't really had a chance to tell you about the dressage on Sunday.
The first thing was, the weather was beautiful. I was dreading doing it in the rain (again) so was thrilled to see clear skies and realise there was no wind. Perfect.
I booted up The Boy, ditto Zak, and we set off. We only had to get to Derby College, which took about 40 minutes. We unloaded the horses and tied them to the lorry. It soon became obvious how things worked. Instead of a warm-up arena and a competition arena separately, there was just one enormous arena, divided into two. One side was for warming up and one side was for doing the test. Brilliant.
We couldn't find a secretary or anyone to sign in with, it was all a bit chaotic really. I decided to tack Barnaby up as I was on at 10.15 and wanted to get as much warming up time as possible. I rode down to the arena with no problems about leaving Zak. There was a steward down there who explained where the secretary (his wife) was. (In a classroom up the hill). He said just to do my test and go and see her afterwards. You pay on the day here, you see, not in advance.
At this stage, the judge was in her car but there was no writer, so I decided to crack on and warm up. To my astonishment and joy, Barnaby was really well behaved. He still had energy, but was quite willing to be schooled, and could hear Zak whinnying for him but wasn't bothered. I had to go carefully as there was a young woman on a grey mare who looked extremely nervous. I didn't want to go whizzing past her and upset her horse, so I just kept things nice and steady.
In the end Barnaby was so calm I could stand talking to Mr O and Barnaby just stood there. It was lovely to think I was going to actually do a dressage test on my own horse.
Soon the first girl went in, and I was second, so I decided to keep Barnaby moving until it was our turn to go in. Before I knew it, the girl had finished and came out, and we were waved in.
I set off in trot. For those of you who don't know, there are lots of letters around the arena and the test says things like, 'Walk at A, trot at B' etc. You have to be accurate and your horse has to go well, in a good position, what we call an 'outline'.
You always enter at A, and as I approached it, I expected the judge to beep her horn so I could start, but she didn't so I went sailing past. I actually went past three times and went back to walk before she beeped the horn. I stayed very calm, as I never let this phase me now, went sailing round and entered at A.
Mr O called the test, but actually I knew it anyway. It always pays to learn it in case you can't get a caller (or aren't allowed) or it's so windy you can't hear them anyway. It just helps you not to get flustered if you know what you should be doing at every stage.
Barnaby was really listening to me and was extremely well behaved and obedient. I was thrilled when I finally halted, and saluted the judge. I couldn't have asked for more at this stage.
We left the arena and I gave Barnaby a big pat.
We had quite a while to wait before Mr O's turn, but the horses stood contentedly eating their haynets. We went up to the secretary's area to introduce ourselves and to pay.
Then Mr O tacked Zak up and went down to warm up. Barnaby did want to go with him, so I untied him and led him along. We came to a big patch of grass, where he decided he'd rather eat than follow Zak, which was fabulous. He looked as if to say, "I know where he is, I'm not blind!" and carried on eating. I was delighted. The only drawback was that I couldn't go down to call the test for Mr O, but fortunately he remembered it. (Actually he said his mind went blank twice but he remembered in the nick of time!) Zak looked rather beautiful, actually, I was quite surprised myself.
Eventually the results were put up and we were disappointed to find we were 9th (me) and 10th (Mr O) out of 12, which isn't brilliant. I have to say, I do disagree with a couple of comments on my sheet, but there we are, can't be helped. It's a different test next time, one I've never done on Barnaby, so we'll see.
Really I didn't want the results to take the shine off the occasion, because I am delighted with how Barnaby behaved. At least it means I can do some dressage and next year we should be able to do some showing, which is all I ask.
So all in all I thoroughly enjoyed it. And now, of course, I want to go again in December, but I dare say we'll have snow by then.
I do love Barnaby. He is really everything I've ever wanted in a horse. Thankyou, my man, the boy done good.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

And The Winner Is...

Well, thankyou to everyone who left comments on my previous post. I am delighted to announce that the winner is... (drum roll!)


Now, I don't want to assume here, Michelle, but I can't imagine you want a horse mag, so of course I want to send you a craft mag. Can you please email your address details to and your prize will be winging its way to you. (If there's a particular mag you'd like, please let me know, as it would be silly to send you something you may already have).

Thankyou to everyone who took part, I appreciate all your comments and the fact that you are following along. Here's to the next 200 posts!
Best wishes everyone
Mrs O.

Friday, 5 November 2010

200th Post Giveaway

Well, I can hardly believe it. I have been blogging for a year, we've lived on the farm for 2 years, I have reached my 50 followers milestone and this is my 200th post. Wow! I had no idea a year ago just how important blogging would become to me. I have 'met' some wonderful people through blogging and learned so many fantastic things. I personally believe I've grown and stretched as a human being through it, challenged myself and gained self confidence through it.
So come and celebrate with me as I enjoy the moment of my 200th post. To celebrate I've decided to hold a give-away, as a thankyou to my lovely followers. It's taken me ages to decide what to give, because some of my followers are horsey, and some crafty (in the nice sense).
So I've decided to do a magazine give-away. You can choose either a horsey magazine, a card-making magazine or, if you prefer, an english homes and interiors magazine. I'll put in some of my cards, too. I'm happy to send anywhere in the world. All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog. I'll leave it open until Tuesday.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Tea and Sympathy

It's all very well, this card making malarkey, but it has its ups and downs. Sadly, a colleague of Mr O's died a couple of weeks ago, and his funeral was last Friday. Of course, two days before the funeral, Mr O asked me to make a 'With sympathy' card. I decided it was within my capabilities and made a card with a poppy on it (poppies for remembrance, I thought, especially as it's November). It was discreet but quite feminine. Mr O came home and I showed him the card. It turned out he didn't want a card for the widow, he wanted a card for the son in law of the deceased man, who he also works with. So then I had to make a card from a man, to a man, regarding a man who had passed away. Unfortunately I can't show you what I made, as no sooner was it finished than it was whisked away. I'll know better next time. More communication, I think.
Another of Mr O's colleagues has a sister who is emigrating to Australia, and requested a Bon Voyage card. When someone commissions you to make a card they can be very specific about what they require. I do point out that I am not an artist, but Mr O is so confident in my capabilities (for some inexplicable reason, please don't think I'm being bigheaded here) he just agrees to the request. All we knew was, she is moving to Australia and likes castles.
Unfortunately, again, I can't show you what I made, but I made a card that looked like a castle on the outside, with an acetate window, with a kangaroo peeking through from inside the card. The wording said, 'From castle views... to kangaroos.' Mr O took it in on Monday. His colleague saw it and burst into tears! It turns out her sister likes castles so much she had bought a house with a view of Bolsover Castle and cut the garden hedge as low as possible in order to make the most of the view. I had no idea. The card obviously touched a chord, and I hope the recipient is as blessed as the giver on this occasion. Just shows what you can do when you put your mind to it, doesn't it?
Now, do you remember this card I made last week?

Cute, but a bit plain. The flowers I ordered from Wild Orchid Crafts came on Tuesday, so I was able to put the finishing touches I really wanted to add, and now it looks like this.

I could rave on about these flowers all day, they are absolutely beautiful, easy to use and totally transform a card.
I'm really pleased with it, so made a similar one:

It's going to be 'flowers with everything' from now on, isn't it?
These have already been ordered and will be winging their way to their new home on Monday.
Just to say, that tomorrow is my 200th post, so to mark the milestone, I will be doing a give-away, so pop back soon to see what I'm doing.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Hallowe'en Ride

We have had such a busy weekend. Every year, for some inexplicable reason, Pongo and Missis decide to have a Hallowe'en party. Nothing wrong with that, you may say. But they also have a bonfire and fireworks. I have never, in all my years, come across a farm with horses where they decide to let off fireworks, it's truly bizaare.
The second thing I don't understand is that they have the whole party outside. Don't misunderstand me, I have been to bonfire parties at farms before. Everyone stands outside and watches the fireworks, then troops into the big farm kitchen for soup and jacket potatoes - not a problem. But this means the whole barn has to be blitzed, to make it suitable for partygoers. The only problem is, our barn is full of ducks and chickens. So Pongo took Friday off work to move out the tractor, the JCB, the digger and the quad, sweep everything out and put round hay bales to sit on. Then he built a shed to house the ducks. Then we cleaned out the duck pen and the chickens. But on top of this, Missis complained constantly about the amount of housework she had to do to make the house presentable in case anyone wanted to come in at the end. Surely if people are coming into the house anyway, there's no need to bother tidying the farm up, just do the fireworks then all go in for food. It's a mystery to me.
It was quite a good party as parties go, and it didn't rain or anything, but I also get worried sick about the horses. Barnaby hates bangs, gunfire, bird scarers, anything that makes a loud noise like that. He was quite sweated up when I went to check on him, poor boy. We didn't stay late at the party anyway, because...
On Sunday Mr O and I went to a Hallowe'en Fun Ride organised by Derbyshire BHS (British Horse Society). Barnaby was in an absolutely foul mood while I got him ready, because the clocks had gone back and as far as he was concerned he should be out eating, not standing here having travel boots put on. Fortunately Missis had the sense to keep her horses in until we'd gone. If she'd put them out Barnaby would have gone balistic.
We drove down to Breaston and turned onto the field. I unloaded Barnaby and he really seemed to have calmed down. One of the stewards stood there looking at him. We got chatting and she said what a fit looking horse he was. I looked over at him, and could suddenly see what she meant. His clip has come out beautifully, so he looks like he's got his summer coat. He is also very muscly and looking good, so I was really pleased.
Loads and loads of people had come in fancy dress, plus loads of children, obviously. We got tacked up, had our photo taken and set off on the ride. The first thing we rode past was a graveyard, which added to the atmosphere!
Barnaby was really calm, which surprised me. There are always marshalls on a ride like this to guide you across any busy roads. Everytime we came to one we were offered sweets out of pumpkin buckets. We came to one crossing and were given instructions to go and find the name of the witch and come back, so we rode on and eventually came to a picture of a witch pinned to a gate with 'Winnie the Web' written on it, so we trundled back to tell her, then set off on the rest of the ride (much to Barnaby's disappointment, who thought we'd finished and were going home!)
The ride was six miles, and after a while we knew where we were. We rode through the village of Draycott and rode past the house of the man who sold us our lorry. It was a really strange feeling of deja vu, having only been there once, about five years ago, but recognising it instantly.
Eventually we arrived back at the field, and then it was, 'Let the games commence!'
The first game was a coconut shy (still on your horse, obviously). Mr O got four out of five and I only got two.
Then there was a football game where you had to use a witch's broomstick to hit a monster's head into the goal. This was clearly designed for children on their 13.2 ponies, so to say it was tricky was an understatement. Plus I whacked Barnaby on the leg with my broomstick. He just stood there motionless, bless 'im. My poor baby. I did score a goal though.
Then we did some proper TREC. This time for the control of paces we had to canter away and walk back, which worked really well for me as Barnaby didn't want to leave Zak so he went away really slowly, but tried to trot back. Fortunately for me he was in a double bridle so I had control. Then we had weaving poles, then a rein back, which Barnaby did. I have been working on this in our schooling, so I was really pleased. We also did the S bend and the stand still in the ring. There was a jump at the end, which I passed, but Mr O and Zak did it beautifully, which was very satisfying.
I don't think I've done justice to how much fun the day was. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and the horses behaved impeccably. We would definitely go again. For some reason though, by the end of it I was absolutely shattered. We didn't drink at the party and didn't go to bed particularly late so I can't explain it. Maybe it's because I've been mucking out all week, and knew we still had to muck out when we got back. All I do know is that I collapsed into my bed that night and slept like a log!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Website of the Week

I seem to have spent the last couple of weeks reading loads and loads of incredible card-making blogs, all with cards on that make me think, 'That's exactly how I want my cards to look.' Unfortunately I seem to have spent so much time reading blogs I've had very little time left to write my own! Oops.
I was trying to think where it all started, and I think it may be the Lily of the Valley website, which has totally captivated me. I'm sure, if you're remotely into card making, you'll already have visited. I kept seeing adverts for their stamps which I thought were lovely, but didn't really apply to me, but then I saw a card in one of the mags that was very similar to this, and I thought, 'Now I have to have this.'

Finally, after a great deal of what I consider 'make do and mend,' this is my idea of a Christmas card.
One thing leads to another, doesn't it? The above card is made from a stamped image called 'Dropping The Shopping'. While I was browsing, I couldn't resist this set of what they call 'cute squares'. They come as they are, so you don't need to colour them in (you get someone else's much better efforts instead!) The backing papers are also available for download from the website. This was my first attempt at buying downloadable stuff, and it worked really well. And of course, once you've downloaded them, you've got them for ever.

These images are so sweet, I was smitten.

But of course, the advantage to having the stamp is that you can colour it in in any way you wish, to match various backing papers, which is why I did this:

And I have to say, although I am very pleased with some of the Christmas cards I've made this year, this one is definitely my favourite so far. It isn't quite finished, though. I'm waiting for some flowers to arrive which I'm going to use on it. There is one more card to come, which fits my idea of Christmas card perfection, but I'll show you that some time next week.
I just want to add a big thankyou to Margaret of Christian Chick Crafts who heard my cry for help last week and sent me a set of die cut circles with slightly bigger scalloped circles to aid me in my craft making. She also sent me loads of papers and a beautiful set of stamps that I've already used in my scrapbooking (I'll show you soon). Thankyou so much Margaret, they are fabulous.
And so, Lily of the Valley meets all my requirements of a good website because:
1. The stamps and cards are good value for money.
2. They have an excellent, awe inspiring gallery.
3. They have a terrific blog, which I now follow.
4. My goods arrived very quickly (always a good thing when you're dying to play with something new!)
5. They have the best tutorial on using Promarkers I've ever seen. Click here to have a look.

So pop over when you get a moment, I guarantee you'll be inspired.

Well I'm off to ride in the rain. Lately, it's either that or don't ride. Good old British weather, you can't beat it, can you?
Have a great weekend, everyone.
Mrs O.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Fence Judging

Yesterday was totally exhausting, but a lot of fun. We turned the horses out and mucked out, grabbed Son 2, threw some clothes on him, then all jumped into the car (including 'Er Indoors) and whizzed up to Worksop.
We were actually due to fence judge for the Hunter Trials at our old livery yard, Holme House Farm. Usually they have a show cross, a competition where each rider does a round of showjumps then goes straight out onto the cross country course. Today was their first ever hunter trials, which is just the cross country phase. It looked absolutely beautiful spread out below us, and for the second time this year, I wish I'd bought Barnaby!
Mr O is the main judge and he co-ordinates everything. We can see loads of the fences spread out below us, but then the horses go into a field to our left and jump five fences in there, before coming back out, whizzing along in front of us, and then finishing by going back up the hill to our right, to the finish. If anything happens in the far field, the judge in there radios the information through to us, so we can make a note of it on the score sheet. We've had two girls, Jenna and Lindsey, who've helped us this year, and they've been really good at it. This means Mr O and I can work with one girl each as a 'writer,' so we watch the horse and call out comments to them, like, "Refusal at fence three - ten penalties,' and so on, and they write everything down and add it up at the end. It saves so much work for us, because it is actually quite hard to watch and write at the same time.
It turned out to be absolutely freezing, so after the Novice class, we all sat in the car, which was so much warmer. Even 'Er Indoors decided that being outside was above and beyond the call of duty and climbed in with us. Next year I am going to get her a little hi-viz vest with 'Steward' on it.

The first class is Novice Pairs, with fences at 2' 3" followed by Novice Individual, which looks like this:

This is followed by Intermediate Pairs (2' 9" I think). You have to have your wits about you for this one, as competitors can jump either the Intermediate fences or the Open fences.

Then comes the Intermediate individual class, followed by the Open. The other problem was that these two classes had a set of extra fences in a far field on the right. We got there too late to go and walk the course through there, and couldn't understand why competitors were taking so long to go round and come back through the water jump. Jenna and Lindsey told us there was a ditch in there, that might cause people some problems. At the very end of the competition we finally got a chance to run down and have a look, and I could instantly see what she meant.
The ditch looked like this.

I know it might look easy, but when I first saw it, my stomach lurched, as it's the most cavernous leap, and it made me think people were jumping right across the top of it, but as you can see from the photo, competitors were making their horses go down the bank, then leaping across the ditch, which has a little river in the bottom. Piece of cake!
Of course, now Mr O has seen this, he can't wait to have a go, so we are going to pop along in a few weeks time and have a run round, then go for a hack. I am looking forward to it myself, really, it's the second time I've looked at the fences this year and fancied having a go. I trust Barnaby enough now not to mess me around, and have jumped most of these fences on Max in the past, and sneaked round a few on Barnaby, come to that! Watch this space.