Sunday, 30 May 2010
It's the apple blossom on the driveway. I'm so pleased it's here at last.
We spent all day on Sunday at Holme House Farm, fence judging for the showcross competition. Tessa came with us. She classes herself as an official. It was incredibly windy all day, so I was holding my binoculars and clutching my hat at the same time. We worked with two new liveries for the Pairs and Novice round. Basically, we watch what's going on on the cross country course and dictate the scores to them and they write eveything on the score sheet. They've never done it before and worked really well. The Pairs class is fairly slow, as both competitors have to jump the showjumps, then come down onto the cross country course, but when the individual classes start, the competitors come thick and fast, so as soon as you've seen one horse get home you start on the next horse going out. We can see most of the course, spread out below us, but then the competitors go into the next field and the judges in there relay information back to us on the walkie-talkie.
We fence judged last year, and I had no urge to jump the fences whatsoever, but this time I realised I really fancied having a go. They have put a water complex in, which looked really good, and extra jumps in the far field, plus a gate that you have to open and close. We might have to go over for a bit of a session. Lorna lets us have a go as a thankyou for fence judging. Zak would love it and it would be very familiar territory for Barnaby, so we'll see.
It was lovely to see old faces again, we had a good chat with Sue and Nigel who came to write for us for the Intermediate and Open classes. It was great to see Morag and John and Lesley, Sue and Lorraine and Clair and Paul. It's great to see how much some people are progressing with their riding, too.
There are some sad things going on, though, like Bill's Henry being put to sleep, and John's lovely mare, Snip. You could see he was still distraught, poor man. I do hope he finds something else to ride, but it's difficult when you've had a relationship with a horse like that. He said he has gone back to playing golf. I can imagine people at the golf club asking him where he's been, and him wanting to say, "I was having an adventure back there for a while..."
I am sad about Henry, too, he was a magnificent horse. It was him and Harry that guarded Barnaby when we turned him out with his broken pedal bone. When we put Barnaby in the bottom field for a few months, it was Henry who greeted him when he came back, "Oh it's you, where've you been, you scruff?" Two bluff old coves together.
We got home earlier than usual, as normally we pop in to see Daughter 2 on the way home, but the Flower Fairy has got chicken pox, so we thought we'd better give it a miss. The poor little mite sounds as if she's covered in spots from head to toe. Good job it's half term now. When we did get home I looked in the mirror and my face is bright red from windburn. Good grief.
And so to today. We woke up at 7.50am, which for Mr O is his first and only lay-in of the
year. We got Zak and Barnaby in and tacked up, then set off on a mega-hack. I had to ride Barnaby in his double bridle, as he's made it clear he doesn't like the pelham and my new dutch gag hasn't arrived yet. I have to say, this is the best ride I've had on Barnaby so far. I don't know if it was the double bridle or just his good mood, but he was very responsive and very well behaved. I soon got used to two reins (I have used a double bridle before) even though one is plaited and quite chunky. I wouldn't want to do it without gloves on.
We rode down to the park and had a canter across the grass, slipped out through a gap in the wall and cantered across the field, then a bit of a mystery tour to me, as I've not been this way before. We found a new bridleway that led through some trees with fields on the right (with lots of horses that decided to follow us) and a river on the left. I was impressed.
Then we got to Ogston Reservoir from a completely different direction to last time. It was brilliant. We went off to search for the third bridleway and couldn't find it. We ended up riding through a village where they were just getting ready for their Well Dressing festival. I have always wanted to go to one of these. The horses weren't frightened by any of the goings-on, the ice cream van or the bouncy castle. I wish we'd brought some money. I was really thirsty by then, but an ice cream would have done just as well.
We rode on and on (and on) until I stopped a couple of women and asked for the quickest way back. They gave us directions and on we trundled. We weren't lost, but goodness knows where this bridleway was. We never found it and must have added five miles onto our already long journey. It was a relief to get back out onto the main road and turn down to Ashover. I think we must have done between fifteen and seventeen miles all told, but it was a good ride and very warm. We'd worn our jackets as it looked like it was going to rain when we set off, but I was hot by the end of it.
We got back and washed the horses down and turned them back out. They only took a few strides before they started pawing the ground. Their knees buckled and they hit the dirt and went down for a roll in the dust. By the time Barnaby stood up, he was black. Marvellous.
And since then, frankly, I am prepared to spend the rest of the day relaxing. I have done quite enough for one weekend. Actually, I am half way through a cross stitch for Daughter 2's wedding. I have bought an embroidery hoop, which is making my life a lot easier. I have bought a kit in Hobbycraft, and I have to say, the threads are very cheap and keep knotting all the time. This is the last time I'll buy a kit, I'd rather find a picture in a magazine or book and buy the threads myself. I'm constantly panicking that I'll run out of thread and not find a perfect match for it to finish off the design. I have until the end of June to get it finished, so I should have it done in time. I will show you as soon as I can.
Friday, 28 May 2010
Thursday, 27 May 2010
Well I've made the lemon curd and followed a recipe from a Youtube video as I haven't got a recipe for it in any of my cookbooks, even my Farmhouse cookbook.
Basically you whisk up four eggs in a pan, add sugar, butter (yes I used real butter) juice and peel from four lemons and cornflour (although not all recipes require this) and put it on to heat. Then just heat it up and stir constantly like you would a white sauce. Some recipes say to stir in a glass bowl above a pan of boiling water, which I might do next time. Apparently it stops the eggs scrambling by themselves. I just kept whisking and it was fine, but it hasn't gone as thick as shop bought lemon curd, despite the added cornflour and it's a much brighter yellow than I think it should be but this may be because I haven't used any shop bought ingredients, and I have used totally organic eggs. There are no colours or preservatives in it, are there? It almost looks like picalilli or curry sauce. I sterilized my jars with no problems at all and I'm still waiting for it to completely cool before I put the lids on, but have a look anyway:
Needless to say, it isn't Country Fair standard so I'll have to have another go next month. It was quite an experience, though. It has quite a subtle flavour, but I suppose you don't want it to be an overpowering lemon zing. The only disappointment is that it tastes more floury than buttery which is a bit frustrating. I'll just have to keep experimenting until I'm happy with it. I also want to make about four jars at a time, so I can give some as pressies if it's any good. I've realised the sensible thing to do would be to bake some bread and have it on that. Imagine that, warm home baked bread with fresh, home made lemon curd on it.
It was a lovely experience, though, to be standing in my country kitchen (you can tell it's the countryside as the chickens won't shut up!) with the sun pouring in, making lemon curd whilst listening to the radio - bliss.
Next month - chutney...
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
I didn't tell you, did I, that the chickens and I aren't currently on speakers? This is because they came in to my garden a couple of weeks ago (we hadn't had George very long by then) and trashed my containers. I came in one afternoon, looked down, and realised to my horror that my busy lizzies were missing. There were lots of little green stems scattered about on the ground. One of my containers was bare - no busy lizzies, no loebelias. I was devastated. All that hard work for nothing. So now the gate is kept closed and the chickens can't get in. I know they stand in my containers, otherwise they wouldn't be able to do this, would they?
Our fruit trees have finally arrived. They are a month late, but never mind. On Monday night we drove to B&Q to buy some huge containers to plant them in. We have 2 eating apples and 1 cooking apple, 2 plum, 1 pear tree, 2 cherry trees and 1 apricot. The irony is that the farm used to be a fruit farm years ago, so it's come full circle really. They will stay in the tubs until the garden is finished. While we were there I decided to buy a couple of geraniums, as that's all they had left, so I've planted them this morning in order to replace the (years) plants the locusts have eaten.
Apart from that, between us we have blitzed the stables today. I have mucked out Zak's stable, put all the spare straw from Max's stable into Zak's, totally swept Max's stable and put our big boxes in there. This leaves the space clear outside, so I can sweep up properly. I still haven't finished really.
I rode Barnaby yesterday and today. We went for a fabulous hack yesterday, around a local place called The Manor where there is a decent bridleway. This is very close to where Max bolted with me and I haven't had the nerve to ride there on my own since. I was a bit nervous, but Barnaby was fine. I had to get off at one gate, with a little Jack Russell who appeared from nowhere (JR's can do that) and barked her head off. Barnaby didn't seem too bothered, thank goodness. He seemed to have so much energy I felt he could have done 10 miles and not been bothered.
Today I've schooled him and it was quite hard work. He isn't as supple as Max was (for all his faults) and struggles to bend on a circle any less than twenty metres. If I ask him to bend to the left he immediately sticks his neck out to the right, as if he's staring out to sea. In the end I got off him, got a mint out of my pocket and offered it to him right next to his shoulder and he immediately turned his head right round and ate it! Hmmm. We have some work to do there I think.
I've also taught Seven on Monday night and Ten tonight. They have both improved dramatically. Ten keeps on deliberately asking Fudge to canter, so I've told him off a bit this evening and said he must not canter unless I've asked him to. Why is it when boys learn to ride they all turn into speed demons by the fifth lesson? Son 2 was just the same.
And I have made some cards, too. I am very pleased with these.
It was making these that made me realise it was time to buy a craft knife. There is no way I could have cut them out properly without one.
Some of the card ideas in Papercraft Inspirations magazine suggest you use quite an unusual sized card, but they don't tell you what you're supposed to do about an envelope, so I adapt where I can to standard card stock that I've already got. These were a lot of fun to make, though. I still prefer to use foam pads for decoupage, but have learned the value of silicone glue, especially on some of these as the little dog's nose is decoupaged, so you can imagine how tiny the nose is once you've cut it out. You'd never find a foam pad small enough.
I have realised the difference between home-made cards and shop bought ones is that home-made cards make you want to touch them. When I gave Ten his birthday card, he touched and pressed every single bit of it. With shop bought cards you read them and put them up and that's it. There is something very tactile about a home-made card.
And finally, I've bought all the ingredients for the lemon curd, so hopefully I'll be able to make it tomorrow. I've been reading up about sterilizing jars, so I'm all ready to go. You know what they say, if life gives you lemons...
Post script: Immediately after writing this I googled 'making your own envelopes' and found a brilliant 'how-to' video, so that solves that problem.
Monday, 24 May 2010
We felt it would be cruel to ride in the heat of the day, so we decided to go to the cinema in the afternoon and ride at night instead. So off we trolled to see the new Robin Hood film, with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. What can I say? It was actually a really enjoyable film, and Cate Blanchett shines like a jewel in the sand. Her costuming is perfect. The downside, as you may have gathered if you've read any reviews, is that Russell Crowe's accent is dreadful. It swings between irish and scottish in the beginning, with a dash of a good scouse accent in between, but then becomes a bit Yorkshire when they turn up in Nottingham. It was truly dreadful and offputting, and totally unnecessary. His own accent is beautiful to listen to and wouldn't have made the slightest difference. It never did Sean Connery any harm, did it? We loved the horse, except at the very end where he blatantly dishes. I don't know where it was filmed yet (it looked like Wales) but it's a shame if that's the best horse you could find (I have a perfectly good one waiting in the wings!) It strikes me that it must be a director's dream to have actors that ride so well, so you don't need to employ stunt doubles and you can get good close up shots of the actors galloping along. Russell Crowe is an extremely accomplished rider, but I've never seen Cate Blanchett ride before, and she looked stunning.
Overall it was a very good film, not the usual Robin Hood story, and builds to an excellent climax. I can think of worse ways to spend a hot Saturday afternoon and so it gets a thumbs up from me.
Pongo and Missis put on a barbeque in the evening, which was wonderful, and then we got the horses in to ride. They were a teensy bit put out, but soon settled down. Mr O and I rode in the school together, and it was quite a giggle. It was very good training for Barnaby, to have Zak in front of him and let him trot off round the arena, and not to try to whizz off behind him. I need to practise this a lot before we go to the Ashover show in August.
And so to Sunday, when the temperature was a ridiculous 28 degrees, and we had to load the horses into the lorry and drive down to Shipley Country Park. Poor Barnaby was dripping by the time we got there. We tacked up and decided to take it slowly. I had a cannister of water strapped to my saddle, for me to drink, but if it's ever as hot has this again, I'll take another cannister and pour it on Barnaby at regular intervals. As it was, they both did brilliantly, but I wouldn't say it was the most exciting ride I've ever been on, and considering it was ten miles, I think we were back in record time. We did find a huge grass area at the end, and decided to double back and do a flat out gallop on it. I found this rather stunning as it's the first time I've really let Barnaby open up. For a cob, he can't half shift, and had no problems keeping up with Zak. I am thrilled by this, because when we used to ride Max and Zak together, Max knew he didn't stand a chance and used to give up and go back to walk. It's lovely for me to be on the fearless horse, too and watch Mr O cope with a spooky one for a change. I took the decision to ride him in a pelham bit this time, and it was the right thing to do, as I held him when a group of riders overtook us, and he couldn't go trotting after them, so I was relieved I'd done it.
Before we knew it we were back at the start, and came in level with Pongo and Missis who had done the seven mile route. It turned out they'd had more canter places than we had. I may do the shorter route myself next year, then. I've seen the photos on the website this morning, but we are too far away in them, although we are side by side, so I may not bother buying them. It's only us on the flat, after all. We just doused the horses with buckets and buckets of water. As we scraped the water off them it was hot, so you can imagine what they were like. They obviously enjoyed it as they just stood there and let us get on with it without argueing.
The other totally exciting thing was the arrival of the quad bike. We've got it so that we can level the manege and buy a hoover attachment and poo pick the field. Tessa definitely gave it her seal of approval.
Friday, 21 May 2010
The two boys that live on the farm (Seven and Ten) have a lovely little pony. Up until now they haven't been able to ride very much, largely because the winter weather was so bad, and because we haven't really had suitable facilities. We have what we call The Lunge Pen, but there is grass on the ground, and it's very difficult to teach young children to ride on a pony who just wants to eat the grass.
But now, of course, we have the school, so some real work can begin, and this is also where my rant begins. This rant really is about 'The Nintendo Generation'.
When my children were growing up, Nintendo was fairly new, but they still wanted most of the games that came out, and certainly every new console, (Nintendo 64, Playstation, Playstation II etc). We weren't made of money, so supply could not, and would not keep up with demand. They had plenty of games, though, and were deeply into the world of Zelda, Tetris and Buster Move 2 (Remember those?) and I didn't have a problem with it.
However, back to the horse riding lessons. Both Seven and Ten have a Nintendo DS each, a Wii system and a computer. They have learned that if you 'press a button' a great deal happens. Now my job is to teach them to ride. I have been teaching riding for years, to people of all ages and abilities. I can't help noticing that both boys ride as if they are playing a Nintendo game. They seem to think that they can put the minimum amount of effort in (and sometimes no effort whatsoever!) and something huge will happen as a result, as though the pony will know what to do by some form of osmosis or thought transference, or something. I asked Ten what you need to do to get the horse to trot. He said he had to squeeze. I thought, 'fine, he understands' and told him to go ahead, and he just sat there doing absolutely nothing. I was actually speechless, a rarity for me.
In the end I took both boys right back to basics. I decided to teach them to start, steer and stop. That's all. I put some poles on the floor parallel to the fence, but about four feet away to see if they could ride the pony down the long side of the school, between the poles and the fence. Otherwise the pony just walks round wherever he feels like it. It took Seven a long time to work out that the pony is not a machine, and that it would take real effort from him, involving his whole body, and movement from his arms and legs, to cause something to happen. The fact that this was a total revelation to him was written all over his face.
It really made me think what a lazy society we are becoming. I know it's wonderful to have all these new gadgets and inventions, but it makes you wonder where it will end. We love the fact that our TV now comes with a remote control, but why have we invented the remote control? So that we don't have to get up!
Have you seen the Pixar animation film Wall-E? If you haven't, it's well worth seeing. There is a big space station in it, and all the people are fat and lay on beds all day, and get propelled along and fed and entertained as they sit there, there's no need to move. I am really beginning to wonder if that's the way the world is going.
Before we moved to the farm I worked in an office. My desk was my ops centre. I had a head set for my phone, a keyboard in front of me and all my files arranged along my desk, stapler etc in front, handily positioned. I was like an octopus, if I wanted anything I could just reach out my arm, and there it was - no need to get up, just stay right there, answer the phone and type at the same time. I didn't need to leave my chair except to go to the loo and make a drink, and I'm sure the company would have preferred it if I could have abstained from both.
I am well aware that my two sons would quite happily sit at their computers all day and all night and play games, barely stopping to eat or sleep. My youngest son is now pale and very slim and arranges via the internet for someone to keep his game going while he is at work! For goodness sake, what is the world coming to? I totally understand that computer games were invented to fill a gap in the market. No child really wants to play hoopla and cup-and-ball for ever, do they? But what's wrong with going for a walk or playing mud pies in the garden (oh I forgot, children mustn't get dirty) or going out on their bikes for an hour's explore like we used to (oh, sorry, it isn't safe, is it?) It really makes me sad.
I guess that's my rant over. And I really am sad about it. Sad for this generation that has to get its excitement vicariously. This is why I really want the boys to learn to ride. At least it's one thing that teaches them that you only get out of life what you put in, that you can get hurt in real life, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again, and progress at something and have a lot of fun in the process. Only time will tell... *climbs reluctantly down from soapbox* but if I really am turning into a Grumpy Old Woman, I'll be climbing back on it again before too long!
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
I stroll to the field twice a day and put suncream on Barnaby and Lindy. They both have very delicate pink noses that burn easily. Barnaby stands still and takes it like a man. Lindy wrinkles his top lip and tries to lick it off. Polo comes over to see what all the fuss is about and asks to have some on as well. I put a splodge on him. He hates to be left out. Zak runs a mile.
I have some catching up to do on the Barnaby front. I went for a lesson at the riding school a couple of weeks ago. I had a different instructor, and I'm going to be honest and say I've never been keen on her. She's quite young and arrogant. There's nothing she hasn't ridden. I went in for the lesson with a sense of trepidation and it was... brilliant! She knew exactly what I wanted to do (jumping) what Barnaby was like, what he needed to do, etc. She put the jumps up straight away. When I have a lesson with 'the other girl' she makes you do flat work for twenty minutes, then puts a fence up. This girl had the fence up instantly, talked to me while I warmed up, and we got on with it. I didn't have time to be nervous.
Barnaby was quite hard work, though, and kept rushing his fences. Bear in mind that he hasn't really jumped since his injury and I've only jumped him a few times before that, because he wasn't my horse then, and you can see, we have a lot of work to do. In the end I was just walking him round, trotting the last two strides and jumping the fence, then going off and calming him down, and going for the fence again. It really made him listen to me and wait for instructions, instead of just charging off. The instructor was brilliant, though, I can't thank her enough.
This was all because I wanted to take him to Wingerworth show and do the showjumping, but he isn't ready. It won't take long, but we have a lot of work to put in. If I go now, I'll probably manage to jump one fence, but anything could happen after that.
I brought him in to ride in the new manege a couple of days after that. When I picked his back left (or near hind) foot up he absolutely yanked it away from me, and then wouldn't put his foot down. I tried not to panic, but after the broken pedal bone saga, you can imagine, we are very protective where his feet are concerned. It turns out he's got a mud fever wound there, which is very sore. Every time he picks his leg up he's breaking the skin again, which must hurt like heck. Anyway, he was lame after this and I couldn't ride him, and the next day he was still quite bad, refusing to move etc, so we got the vet out.
A very nice vet came, said it was mud fever, gave me some antibiotics and charged me one hundred and eleven pounds! Good grief, I'm in the wrong job. She offered me bute. "No," I said, "I have plenty." (No need to make the bill one hundred and forty pounds when I have packs of bute still in the drawer).
So he's had all of last week off, and had antibiotics in his feed twice a day, and once a day this week. He came sound within two days, but he was definitely feeling sorry for himself. When the horses were chasing each other round the field, he just stood there and wouldn't join in. When I brought him in for his feed he walked very slowly and after his tea he stood there and wasn't bothered about going out again. I can't stand seeing him like that. He is such a majestic beast normally. I was so relieved when he got his normal bolshy attitude back. It's worth a little bit of barging just to know he's well.
We trotted him up on Sunday night and he was fine. We've been putting cream on the wound twice a day, just to keep it soft and flexible really. I rode him on Monday in the school and he was beautiful. I've put three trotting poles on one side of the school, and a cross pole (jump fence) on the other side. I did exactly what I'd done in the lesson I had, and schooled him on the flat for quite a while, just to satisfy myself that he was sound, then took him over the trotting poles. They are a set distance apart, and he should trot neatly in between them. The first time he tried to jump all three, and cantered over them, but I steadied him and he was fine after that. Then, when he wasn't really expecting it, I presented him at the fence and he popped it beautifully. I carried on schooling and took him back over the poles, then jumped the fence again, and just kept going. He was very attentive, and really enjoying it, not knowing what was coming next and realising he'd better listen and be ready. In the end I put the fence up to a straight bar and put him over that a few times. He was superb and absolutely flew over it, but came back to me afterwards as well, not just going flying around the arena, which was really good.
I was as high as a kite afterwards because I was totally on my own, and wasn't the least bit nervous, wondering if I should wear a body protector/let Missis know I was jumping etc. I really had to concentrate and think about what we were doing the whole time, but it was wonderful. I do feel if I do this at least once a week, we will be ready to do a little clear round class, and maybe the 55cm class in June. It's all very well watching people show jump at Chatsworth, where the arena is huge and you have ten strides between every fence. At Wingerworth the showjumping ring is very small, and you have maybe two to three strides between each fence, so we will have to be on the ball, or we'll be jumping out of the arena!
On the domestic front, I have been saving all my empty jars with the intention of making either:
Having given it some consideration and researched various recipes, I have decided to have a go at lemon curd first, because
a) we love it and will actually eat it and
b) it looks really easy.
So the ingredients will be on my next shopping list. I have no idea how many jars I will end up with, or what I do about sterilizing the jars, so a little more research is needed (and probably consulting The Oracle for her wise advice in these matters). But I want to do it, because I can't help noticing that the more expensive the lemon curd, the nicer it tastes. I've read the ingredients on all the jars I've tried, from Tesco's cheapest to Highfield Farm Shop's version, (more than twice the price) and it seems the more butter or margarine they put in, the better it tastes, so I'm looking forward to making my own and seeing how it compares.
We have had the schedule in the post for this year's Ashover Show and I notice there is an entry for jam, chutney and lemon curd in the preserves section, so you never know...
Sunday, 16 May 2010
We headed straight for the show jumping ring, where the competition was well under way. We saw William Fox-Pitt, Jeanette Brakewell, Mark Todd and Paul Tapner (what a gorgeous guy, but I couldn't help noticing the wedding ring as he sailed past. Ah well). Alice Pearson was riding a horse called Beau Bear. When we looked in the programme, it turned out his dad was Alflora, who is also Zak's dad! Beau Bear is 12, so he is Zak's younger brother. He looked exactly like him, too.
I had arranged to meet up with a woman from the Your Horse forum who I get on really well with and who lives near Worksop. We'd emailed each other the day before and said we would get together and swapped mobile numbers. It's quite difficult to say you will meet someone when you don't know what they look like and only have clothing to go by, but we managed it. It was really nice to meet her (and her daughter) and swap stories for a while. An old friend of mine is on their yard, which I hadn't realised.
(Paul Tapner, this year's Badminton winner).
There are quite a few good trade stands, and it is absolutely essential that I make it to the Joules tent. How can I describe Joules clothing? It is more Laura Ashley than Laura Ashley. There. Do you remember Laura Ashley in the 80's when the clothing was romantic and you felt like Jane Eyre wearing it? Joules is very much like that, beautiful quality, and very 'english country garden'. Think 'tea dress' and you'll have it. I love every single thing they make. But it's expensive, so you have to tread carefully. I am thrilled with what I bought and will show you in a separate post. In the meantime you can go to Joules Clothing to see what I mean.In fact clothing in general is a big part of the occasion. You definitely go to 'see and be seen'. There was a lot of tweed in evidence as it was quite cold. I actually had mine in the car, but opted to wear my blue jacket instead. It is a massive fashion parade, even if it's trying desperately not to be. No woman is fooled. You do not wear sandals and a skirt, no matter how warm it gets. That screams 'townie'. And you do not wear riding boots and jodhpurs, unless you are twelve and begged your mother. You wear your Dubarry boots (two hundred pounds) or if you're a skinflint like me you wear very similar Dublin River Boots (roughly half the price). Only the very discerning can tell the difference. You wear your favourite skinny leg jeans, so it's only the top half that is different. You can wear either:
Kit A:- to spell out to anyone who cares to listen, 'I am a professional horsewoman and would be competing here today if my horse wasn't lame/stupid/too small. I opt for this look. You wear an equestrian jacket of some sort, you have your hair in a pony tail and wear a baseball cap with either Horseware/Joules/Toggi on it. Sunglasses are optional, Jack Russell is not.
Kit B:- 'I went to public school and own nearly as many acres as you see before you today.' This is the tweed set, preferably with matching hat. Hair could be down. You sport a border terrier or labrador.
You also take a picnic. This is essential. First timers lug a huge hamper around with them all day (putting it in the buggy and making the toddler walk is perfectly acceptable). The wise walk back to the car and get the folding chairs and rug out. This is very civilised but you do miss a lot of the action. You can buy food on the go (the poachers pasties are gorgeous) but it isn't very ladylike.Despite all this, the real heroes of the day are the horses. All of them seem absolutely enormous, even though I work with them every day of the week. The only event I've been to before my journeys to Chatsworth, is Badminton. Badminton is a 3 Day Event. This means you go on the Saturday and the only thing going on is the cross country phase, so you wander round all day watching it. Chatsworth is a 1 Day Event, so when you get there, the dressage is already in full swing in one area, the showjumping has started, and the cross country is about to start in the next few minutes. I can remember panicking as I didn't know which thing to watch first, but as you get used to it, you realise you can watch each phase for several hours, but you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. Watching Lucinda Fredericks' dressage test may mean missing Clayton Fredericks doing the showjumping, but you get used to it.
The cross country fences are huge, rather than technical. I think if you aren't horsey, you are just in awe that a horse can jump something so big, but if you can ride, especially if you hunt, you can feel physically sick watching it because you know you could do it yourself if pushed (and if you had the right horse). You know exactly when the horse should take off, and I actually find myself rocking in rhythm with the horse's stride. (Sad but true!)I had been thrilled that Pippa Funnell was riding today. She is my all-time heroine. We stood at one of the cross country fences and could hear over the tannoy that she was on her way. The camera was poised. Then we'd heard that she'd fallen at an earlier fence, but it sounded as though she was okay. Later on, though, we saw her jumping in the World Class series. A ripple of applause went round the arena, she jumped the first fence and had a pole down! Oh dear. Maybe next time, love.
But I went home very contented with my day, thrilled with everything (and everyone) we'd seen, clutching my purchases (hiding the silk scarf I'd bought at the bottom of the bag so Mr O is none the wiser. I won't be showing him until after I've taken the price tag off!) and aching all over from the amount of walking we've done. Wait until I next get on Barnaby, he won't know what's hit him.
Thursday, 13 May 2010
Obviously they own Chatsworth House. One of their ancestors is Georgiana Cavendish, who is played by Keira Knightley in the film 'The Duchess', so I watched that earlier in the year, and loved it. I didn't have to go hunting for it, Missis lent it to me, that's been part of the fun and surprise, that so many of these things have just landed in my lap.
Then I watched 'Becoming Jane' with Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, which was excellent, especially as James McAvoy was in it.
This was followed by a viewing of 'Pride and Prejudice' with Keira Knightley (again!) as Elizabeth Bennet, but the other connection is that some scenes are filmed at Chatsworth (the circle goes round and round) I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but felt that Matthew Macfadyan as Darcy wasn't a patch on Colin Firth in the BBC version. I thought Donald Sutherland was dreadful as Mr Bennett (what was all that pathetic 'laughing behind your hand' about?) but Judi Dench was brilliant, and so was Tom Hollander as Mr Collins. He plays Cutler Beckett in 'Pirates of the Carribbean', and if you can't stand him in that (the character, I mean) this will truly make you squirm, his portrayal is brilliant.
Then for my birthday in March I visited Hardwick Hall. And the connection? Bess of Hardwick was married to Sir William Cavendish, who owned Chatsworth. On the way out I saw a book called 'The Other Queen' by Philippa Gregory (writer of 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and one of my favourite authors) but decided not to buy it as we are rapidly running out of book space in the tiny cottage. Then, to my surprise, I found it in the library at the weekend and grabbed it quick. It is about Mary Queen of Scots, but more importantly to me, it features Bess of Hardwick, by then married to her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury. I have only read a few chapters but can hardly put it down.
I am so thrilled at the link between all of these things, and how one has flowed straight from the other. My next book on order from the library is set in Roman times, though, so that should change things a bit.
I am still busy card-making, so I thought I'd show you my latest efforts:
This is the first card I made from my new Jayne Netley Mayhew CDRom. I hope it's obvious from example why I don't need to worry about not having anything to make a 'Mancard' with any more, as there are hundreds of beautiful designs on the CD. Each topper comes with matching backing papers, and I had the gold card in my stash, and just got on with it. This one is for my son David whose birthday it is tomorrow.
I so enjoyed making that one, I decided to make another one. I've printed the picture of the leopard onto photographic paper, and the print quality is incredibly good. I could easily get carried away making these.
On Saturday I bought a guillotine, as I want to cut neater straight lines, and also bought a craft mat and craft knife, as I got stuck on one project as I didn't have the correct tools for the job, so I will get those finished and show you as soon as I can. I also need to make a Thankyou card for Jolly Farmer for letting me use his manege for nearly a year. I need to take him a pressie as well, so I'd better get cracking.
Happy Thursday, everyone!
Monday, 10 May 2010
Eventually I plumped for a place just called 'The Cafe Upstairs' and had a lovely coffee and a ciabatta loaf with hot brie and cranberry sauce, which was gorgeous. Fully refreshed, I dived once more into the fray.
Friday, 7 May 2010
Basically it was just a muddy, wet, wasteland, and looked pretty awful from the road.
The diggers came in and took all the top soil off. Lots of it has been bucketed over to what will be a garden for us.
It's a pretty big area, as you can see.
Thursday, 6 May 2010
The doctor was very nice. We have lived here for eighteen months and never visited the surgery. It just goes to show what country living can do for you. The doctor said, "Oh, you are at the house with the new manege!" There are no secrets in the country.
On the way back I spotted the footpath Mr O had suggested as a short-cut home. It was a steep climb to even get on it, then a series of steps that seemed to go on forever to a blue sky at the top. I stood and considered, and decided to take the road less traveled by, just out of curiosity. I climbed up the stone stile, then onto the stone steps, set roughly into the hillside. Fortunately there was a handrail to cling onto. I stepped slowly and painstakingly upwards. I came out onto the narrow lane at Hill Top, to my surprise. We ride along here all the time, so I knew where I was. I crossed the narrow lane, into the fields, and to my delight found it was downhill all the way home. I traversed the first field, through the lush green grass, then a second similar field, and then I realised what lay up ahead - a field full of cows with their calves.
Now, I'm not afraid of cows as a rule, having been brought up where there were loads at my grandparents, but knowing what horses can be like, and knowing these ladies had their young with them, I was cautious. All went well for several yards. I just had to keep going in a straight line to the next wall, where there is a narrow gap for walkers to fit through (though some people's podgy dogs have a bit of a struggle - mention no names!)
The cows were asleep at first, but my presence soon aroused their curiosity, and they got up, and sashayed casually but determindly towards the gap in the wall in order to block my exit. I eyed the barbed wire fence to my left, which I felt confident I could oer'leap, should the occasion require it. I kept my course and the bovines kept their watery eyes on me as I made it to the exit. You've never seen a human being move so fast as I did while leaping through the gap; I'd have made Usain Bolt envious. I was home and dry.
It was quite interesting to come upon our farm from that direction. It looked quite different. I could see the horses and the manege and the back of the barn, and it all looked very nice. I must take some photos soon.
After that it was action stations as some men came to lay the fibre on the sand in the manege, and the guys came to put the roller shutter door on the barn, and the delivery men appeared from Pop's Attic to deliver this:
Obviously I couldn't leave it standing there, cold and naked. Pretty soon he looked like this:
but I'm sure it will evolve. I have christened it Dai Jones (it is a welsh dresser, after all!) I am more than happy with it.
I went out to ride yesterday, but when I got to the field, this is the scene that met my eyes:
I didn't have the heart to get him up, and tiptoed away. Maybe later...
I am working on a cross-stitch bookmark, which is for the Bookmark Exchange on facebook. Unfortunately I can't show you until after I've finished it and sent it, as the recipient has been known to linger here. All I can say is, I am thoroughly enjoying the design I've chosen and will make one for myself as soon as it's finished.
I've also made some cupcakes, and am pleased to say I haven't lost my touch, considering I haven't made any for ages. The icing was a bit runny, though, but I had great fun using my piping bag for the first time. I need to buy some things to decorate them with and have another go next week.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
So I cut my hair short thinking it would be practical, as in quick to blow dry, which it was, but when I came home with my newly coiffed style and Mr O said I looked like my mother, I knew I'd made a mistake. I grew it into a bob. The bob is a mystery to me.
So you can imagine my feelings this weekend, when finally, at long last, I can scrape my hair back and put an elastic band round it. I cannot describe the joy in 'being me' again. The baseball cap is on (the other equestrian must-have) and I am deeply happy. I may have the tiniest ponytail in England, but it's a start. Things can only get better.
I would just like to state for the record, that I've had a truly wonderful weekend. Bank Holidays are difficult, aren't they? You make plans, but you know the weather is going to be bad, because this is England. It's the ideal weekend to go bowling or to the cinema, but no! We english plan picnics and trips to the zoo and the seaside (You can tell I don't live on the coast any more, otherwise I'd have said, 'beach', not 'seaside.') because we are bold and optimistic and mad.
But Mr O and I decided to do a ride to a place called Ogston Reservoir yesterday, because we keep looking on the map and finding loads of bridleways that go out that way. We drove round on Saturday night and realised it was 'do-able'. Yes, everyone else had either gone to the pub or clubbing, or even the flicks, but we were driving round in a car trying to see if we could ride a ten mile route hardly touching a road. And if I hadn't been doing that? I'd have been at home, cleaning my tack, obviously. It's a heck of a commitment, owning a horse.
So we set out at about 9.30 and rode and rode and rode, and it was... fabulous! Ogston Reservoir isn't vast (Ladybower must be much bigger?) but the sun was gleaming off the water which flashed past between the trees, as we flashed past, trying not to race each other and getting the giggles. We turned down a lane and came to what is, really like a secret part of Ashover. There were little cottages dotted about on the hillsides, with beautiful gardens, some with chickens and the odd dog running about, but everywhere a different shade of green. We went down a winding track, and splashed through a river, and shot up the track on the other side. I've never been there before, but Mr O has done it a few times now. The way he's described it made it sound quite scary, but I really enjoyed it and can't wait to go again. I would say it was about ten miles there and back again, but the horses weren't tired at all, and neither was I, which is deeply satisfying.
And then to confess that I spent the best part of the afternoon in front of the television watching the coverage of Badminton (Horse Trials). I just want to thank the BBC, as I don't think I've seen this much coverage in some years. It really was gripping, right to the very end. We'd seen Paul Tapner ride Inonothing on the Sunday, and I'd remarked at the time that his horse was very honest and genuine, especially when Paul rode quite badly through the water. That horse knew exactly what he had to do and jumped everything in fine style. Ninety-nine percent of horses would have ducked out, but Inonothing was amazing, and what a turn of speed. It comes as no surprise to me that he won (although I was secretly rooting for Mary King) and I cheered my head off at the end.
Add to this that Mr O cooked the dinner, and you can see that it's been a pretty excellent Bank Holiday weekend all round - and guess what? There's another one at the end of the month!