Monday, October 22, 2007

Edwardian bling

Edwardian ladies had much smaller fingers than me. I don’t have particularly fat fingers, but I do have chunky knuckles. They’re the sort that are better at giving a good punch than looking elegant. In fact, a psychic once told me: “Of course, you know you will suffer from arthritis when you’re older?” “Can you tell that from reading my palm?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I can tell because you’ve got big knuckles.”

I know this, but I have felt myself utterly compelled to bid on eBay for an Edwardian amethyst ring that I am unlikely to be able to force on to my finger. It’s just so beautiful and purple and old. There are a good few days left to run on the auction so it’s likely that I’ll be outbid (I know my limit and I stick to it). But however irrational, I really really want it.

My left hand is currently missing having its own ring. The last one – a gorgeous green amber and silver jobbie I called my dragon’s eye – was caught on the arena fence once when the Grey Mare and I parted company. I needed a hammer and plenty of patience to remove it from my finger. Prior to that, I had a square honey-coloured amber ring, which sadly snapped. The space is now waiting to be filled.

I wonder who the Edwardian lady was that owned the amethyst beauty? I wonder if she treasured it and wore it every day? I wonder if she’s left any of her aura on it? Sadly, I know for certain that she had smaller fingers than me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Starry, starry skies

Northumberland’s giant skies are rightly renowned for their lack of light pollution and the clear views afforded to those who want to gaze at the stars. Walking through a 5 o’clock field this morning, the sky was a little girl’s Disneyified dream: it looked like someone had grabbed generous handfuls of diamonds and hurled them across a backdrop of black velvet. Having recently finished reading Stardust, shooting stars were on my mind. Within minutes, there had been two to wish upon.

The bright, shiny, fake modern world makes us forget just how enveloping and dark real darkness is. Once, caught in a power-cutting storm while going to fetch the Grey Mare for her dinner, I was reminded of just how total it is. It’s surprising how much difference light from the village makes in the middle of a field. When they’re all switched off, you’re bent double against horizontal rain and your only illumination comes from the occasional flash of lightning, it would be very easy to become disorientated. Just the searching beam of a car’s headlamps on the coast road and the comforting three red buttons of the Chatton Mast at the foot of the Cheviots keeps you grounded.
Another more pleasant elemental experience also happened to me while walking back through a New Year horse field about two winters ago: my first, and so far, only view of the Northern Lights. The shifting and stretching colours dancing across the darkness left me transfixed. For once, I felt that over-used soubriquet awesome was justified.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A turn of phrase

Over the last few months I have unwittingly found myself talking like a 1950s pony book. “Jolly good” has been in my repertoire for some time – initially said with a sarcastic tinge – but it has also been joined by “Crikey!” which I’m finding myself saying more and more. And I’m not alone: a friend at work and a friend at the stables are also crikey-ers, while my sister has taken to exclaiming: “It’s simply not cricket!”

I don’t know how these archaic phrases have entered my vocabulary. I admit “jolly good” was initially said tongue-in-cheek, but it has rooted itself and now pops out quite naturally. I had a similar phase with “sweetie” and “darling”, when Absolutely Fabulous was on TV (Patsy is such a heroine of mine). That passed in time, but my current turn of phrase is showing no signs of abating.

I have to confess I think some of the exclamations in old pony books really are simply super. I’ve mentioned before that Jill Crewe was my pony book idol – and the speech of Jill and her friends was riddled with classic such as gollys, goshes and the sublime “My Russian rabbits!” which I have never encountered anywhere else.

But my word of the day has unfortunately been much more prosaic. It was repeated often while I was driving this morning. It begins with T and rhymes with fat.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Things have changed so much in the month that the Grey Mare has been lame. I have missed the subtle changes I normally notice while we hack around the quiet roads and through the fields. I feel I have been cheated out of the best bits of autumn.
Suddenly, now that I have started noticing things again, I see there are crunchy brown leaves on the ground. Small children jump, kick and stamp upon them, while bigger ones freewheel through on their bikes with grins on their faces. The conker trees that stand sentinel along the A1 have changed into clothes of red, yellow and rust. The scarlet scattered berries amid the thorn hedges have ripened to a deep, bloody and squashy red. The marshy field at the bottom of the lonnen is riddled with toadstools. I counted 10 heron silently sitting on the other side of the reeds. Sometimes, I think there is something otherworldly about that place.

The Grey Mare, too, has changed. Gone is the sleek coat of summer; now she is fluffy as a teddy bear. But there is no point in clipping until she’s back in work. The enforced break has also affected her belly. Never the most svelte of horses, she is now as round as a barrel. I hope I can fasten her girth when the time comes to get back on and see what else we’ve missed.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I firmly believe that some things happen for a reason. Yesterday, I went to catch the Grey Mare ahead of the latest vet visit, but before I saw her, I spotted a pristine, white poultice in the grass. Totally unsullied by sweaty horse hoof, it must have come off shortly after it was applied the previous night. This is the first time in a fortnight that she has managed to lose her poultice.

Her foot was black and muddy and I decided to give it a good soak in a bucket of warm water before the vet arrived. A very relaxed Grey Mare almost nodded off, so the tubbing lasted longer than usual. So long, in fact, that her black heel looked white and across it, two red lines were clearly visible. Two red lines that reacted when the vet used the hoof testers: the first ‘ouch!’ the Grey Mare has given since this saga began.

This, it appears, is the source of the nasty stuff; the place where the pus is attempting to track out. I am helping it all I can with more soaking and poulticing. I am considering taking out shares in Animalintex and Vet Wrap.

The vet returns on Monday. I am continuing to pray for pus and am very grateful for everyone’s support and kind thoughts.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bye for now

I'm taking a break from blogging for the moment because my poor horse is still not right and that's all that's on my mind. I don't have anything more interesting to say right now.

I might be back in the future.

All the best!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Of poultices and pus

I never thought I would have cause to regret the excellent quality of the Grey Mare’s hooves. Forget tough as old boots, these little beauties are hard as granite. My farrier often praises her hooves and lauds her as an excellent example of a barefoot horse.

However, when the horn is that hard, and a nasty abscess is grumbling away inside, there nowhere for it to escape. So thinks the vet after reassessing the still lame Grey Mare yesterday. The poor darling cuddled into me while the vet injected the nerve block into her heel, just lifting her head once when the needle went into her soft flesh. The nerve block showed that the lameness was indeed in the foot.

On Saturday, I suspected it may have been in her shoulder. She flinched when I prodded her shoulder on the bad side, but didn’t on the good side. She was massaged with muscle embrocation (amazing stuff for clearing a blocked nose), and I called the Back Lady. The Back Lady was in Devon.

On Sunday, she showed no reaction when I poked her in the shoulder. However, there was heat around her coronet on the bad foot. It was still there on Monday when the vet came. The vet will be back on Friday. Between then and now, the Grey Mare must be tubbed each night, which she tolerates as long as I stand stroking and chatting to her; the minute I walk away, she lifts her foot out of the bucket. Then her foot is poulticed, bandaged and taped. The plan is to soften her foot sufficiently so the vet has a fighting chance of finding the poison if it is there. I am praying for black, smelly pus.

I saw a shooting star tonight; I hope that’s a good omen.