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Rural life?

♥Sep. 8th, 2013 // 09:33 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/908797.html]

*So* exciting. I barely know where to start.

We had the neighbours over for dinner --

(a SMS exchange:
- Blah blah (from me)
- Blah blah. A Certain Person has really annoyed me. I'll tell you about it next time I see you.
- We were going to ask you over to dinner anyway. Do you think you could manage to get here without a Certain Person seeing you?
- We'll come over the fence and through the field.)

-- which was nice. The WWOTV has increased their rent (by 11%!! You can tell Mrs Neighbour is an accountant a tax advisor, can't you?), amongst other things. Bitching ensued. I was able, with complete accuracy, to say "Is home-made chicken en croute ok? It's what we were having anyway", and Mike's cooking was duly admired. And Commented Upon by Mrs Neighbour to Mr Neighbour. [g]

I took advantage of her being recently-preggers to have a juice-making binge. She stuck to the made-from-good-bits-of-the-widnfalls-and-what-I-pulled-off-the-tree apple juice, but the peach and strawberry were very nice too.

This morning, Mike took the baby out for a hack. I had been going to give GB an extra day off, as he'd been a bit meh the last couple of days (for a side saddle session in the school and for a hack), but last night I finally admitted defeat and started rugging him and, when I took him in the school for five minutes just to see it seemed to have worked: the cold (it is bloody cold out here at night; we've had the stove lit the last night and tonight) must have stopped him from sleeping properly, or else he was sick of the baby getting in his way in the school: he went beautifully, the cones I stopped to lay out were still untouched by hoof of horse half an hour later when Mike got back, and we only stopped because they did get back earlier than I thought that they would. (First solo hack. Went swimmingly, though, and Mike was happy throughout.)

Afterwards, we had a mission to Canterbury that was mostly centred around getting things with which to poke the fire and lunch, both of which failed: we ended up eating in the cafe of Morissons. Eugh. Although I do /know/ that Morissons has gone relatively-upmarket in recent years, I did grow up in the Frozen North when it decidedly wasn't, and so can't quite reconcile myself. We did get various other bits and bobs from the shopping list (and, thus, I now have a nice wicker basket of small bits of wood sitting by the stove, and the wine is no longer in a heap on the floor of the not-a-loo*).

* Behind our kitchen there is a small collection of rooms, former outbuildings subsequently connected to the house with same-width corridors. Off one of them is the loo, which I labelled as such t'other week to help people out. People still went into the pantry cupboard next door, so another label was made. Given that we also have another pantry cupboard in the kitchen, and had been unsuccessfully trying to remember which we had -- to avoid confusion -- called the larder and which the pantry, the not-a-loo seems to have stuck.

After we'd come home and I'd chopped up bits of wood whilst listening to part two of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (I don't usually bother with the Sunday Drama, but I'd heard part one last week and it was quite good. Thought the ending was a bit predictable and weak, though), we went out to an open garden in the village. We wouldn't have bothered until such time as Mike's mother happened to be here for a weekend when it was open, but the Mad Animal Lady was doing teas there and we'd arranged to meet her as she packed up and have her follow us back to check that we weren't axe-murderers had a suitable house for Jodie. In the event (though, naturally, *after* we'd paid to get in and committed ourselves to buying cake from her tea stall), she had a fit of can't-be-bothereds and said that she was sure we were fine and she didn't need to check the house. Which was nice, but would have been nicer if she'd said so a few days ago. Anyway, we're picking Jodie up tomorrow morning. She's been vetted (or whatever the dog term is), and her heart is sound. She's got a bit of a noisy breathing thing going on, which is apparently an almost-certainly harmless vocal chord issue but incredibly invasive to check. As she's not going to be sleeping on our bed, we don't mind too much.

We had a morning of bizarre fog, earlier in the week. We couldn't see the trees on the other side of the valley but, when we'd wrapped ourselves up warm to go and see to the horses, we stepped outside into a sauna. Most odd.

The misc. Eastern Europeans had, at close of play on Friday, very almost finished: they'd done all the fencing and dug the trenches for the water pipes. Then they vanished. We assume that they're waiting for the Man With Plumbing Skills to come and join the two pipes together before they fill the trench in, but it would have been nice to have been told. The boys were vastly confused by it all: I took out the temporary electric fence by the gate, as usual, and they gave it a very wide berth, as usual, and then they found themselves trapped: the new wire fence was in the way. I walked GB back up the wire fence and through the gate, then walked him down to his stable. And then I realised that the baby hadn't followed and had to go back and walk him through it too.... They currently have the run of (almost) the whole field, though, and are loving it. Sadly, they won't have it for much longer, as we'll need to divide it up to save the grass. Yesterday, we saw the baby positively frolicking, all four feet off the floor, as GB gamely trotted after him, trying to keep up. I swear that he through a few strides of canter at one point!

See, I told you it was exciting in the countryside.
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The Letter Of Last Resort

♥Jun. 5th, 2013 // 05:09 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/901795.html]

This is rather good (available for anther three days):

The Letter of Last Resort is a hand-written letter from the Prime Minister to the commanding officer of each of Trident's submarines. It contains instruction on what action the commanding officer of the submarine should take in the event that Britain is obliterated by nuclear attack and all those in authority deceased. The letter can only say one of two things: retaliate, or, don't retaliate. Each new British prime minister must write the letter upon taking office.

Set in the near future, David Greig's brilliant play is a conversation between the new prime minister (in this case a woman) and the Head of Arrangements, John, at the end of her first day. It unpacks the arguments around nuclear deterrents - and the surreal position a new prime minster must find themself in.


Yesterday, I took GB out to the water meadows near the stable: I'd never been before, mostly because I didn't want to just go on my own but had never managed to get the timing right to go with someone else. The bad part was that I let myself get talked into trotting down the narrow road through the village: I try to avoid too much trot on the roads, because I don't want GB's legs to have trouble, and they were indeed swollen when we got back. Fortunately, they don't seem to be bothering him today, so Ill just keep an eye on it.

The good part was that he had a lovely time charging around on the grass, and splashing in the river. He was very dubious about going in it, but I convinced him to try and, once he'd looked confused and had a big drink, he wandered around quite happily. I swear he was deliberately making as much of a splash as he could! I'll have to take him back, without the trotting down the road part. Maybe we'll take the baby as well.

Life seems to be terribly hectic right now, which is at least partly because Mike was around during the day last week: we were down in the new house twice, for a start, and the horses had massages. Plus I had to go to work. That's just rude. Also, Mike broke the car, which not only meant that I had to go to a breakers yard and hang out with the strange men there on Monday but (as that hasn't fixed it) also means that I have to faff about pumping one of the tires up every time I go anywhere. Bah. Yesterday, I was being primped, and today I had two riding lessons (dashing back to the stables in between to swap both horses and saddles: this may have been foolish) and am out for dinner.... And then I have to go to work, *again*.

(I'm bored with work, now. I've fixed it all, so it's just day-to-day stuff, and that's getting dull. Well, fixed it all other than my usual problem with companies I work for: this one is, ahem, showing all the signs.)
Link6 kisses // Who loves you?

I seem to be busy lately....

♥Nov. 18th, 2012 // 04:11 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/885997.html]

Last Thursday - Country Life Christmas Show: overdose on orange and cinnamon scent, bought a few bits, thought "I could do that" about many bits, thought "I would do that" about slightly fewer.

Last weekend - Novacon, lovely. I really enjoy Novacon, these days. Lost of nice chats. Contrary to popular opinion, I did not spend the entire weekend sitting in the same chair, and most certainly had not in fact been there since last year.

Monday - new job, first day, sort of. Seems to be doable. Proper start this week.

(An observation: About six months ago, one of my big toes started hurting (ultimately, I think, due to a single side saddle lesson in which I Did Something Wrong and kept scrunching my foot up). It got randomly better and worse, until Mike made me go to the GP who gave me a leaflet for a foot clinic, which I never got around to going to. Then I was jumping up in the air trying to read a price tag in Costco when I landed, hard, on the ball of that toe, which was excruciating. Ever since, it's been pretty much fine: I remember thinking, as I walked down the road on the Thursday, that it seemed to be better. I wore Proper Shoes on Thursday, Saturday and Monday, as opposed to the usual yard and riding boots. My toe hurts, now.)

Tuesday - went riding in the woods, in the sun. It was lovely. We have very pretty colours this year. At one point, a small tree has fallen annoyingly and (bottom of a hill, just after a corner) dangerously across the path. As I was later planning on coming around that corner and up the hill at speed, I jumped off and moved it. GB happily stood and ate the bits of leaf growing out of the tree stump I'd thrown his reins over. The horse I was with was utterly terrified by the crashing noises. C'est la vie. GB, incidentally, has been a little out of sorts this week: grumpier than usual, although I accept that most people can't tell. Not sure what's up, hopefully it's just the change in the weather, or something.

Wednesday - side saddle: getting better at making him listen to the cane, but the grumpiness didn't help.

Thursday - stayed at home. Was Domesticated: I'd decided to make bath balls and bath fizzers for people I want to give small presents to (eg, woman who cleans up my horse's shit). Made them all, much to my pleasure, and put them in the spare room to dry out without stinking the flat up. Went to check on them a few hours later and decided that it was probaly worth, for the sake of avoiding the risk of damp in the books, putting the heating on in there a little: the bath bombs were fine, but the ones that were supposed to fizz up as soon as they went into the water had, um, fizzed up. I should have taken a photo, it was quite impressive....

(Relatedly, I've had terrible trouble buying peppermint essence. I tried in Tesco last week, and found the empty place on the shelf where it should have been. Tried again a day or two later, hoping they'd have re-stocked, and found that they'd rearranged the shelf and got rid of the label. No job in Lidl, or Holland & Barrett, either. Gave up and bought it from Amazon, which feels somehow wrong, but there we go.)

Friday - felt distinctly crappy (someone at Novacon is to blame, I suspect: coff, choo, sniff), so went to see GB but didn't ride him. Came home and lurked on the sofa.

Saturday - went to France and Belgium. Failed to get preferred brand of dishwasher tablets. Refuse to go to Germany just for dishwasher tablets, have set Mike back on the web searching. On the way home, sms from Teenage Girl's mother saying there was a problem, could I call. Later, found out that Teenage Girl has been having "trouble" with other Teenage Girls at the yard, and is too upset / scared to go, hence a morning of sobbing and she didn't go to see GB today. I shall start making enquiries at the yard but I think it's too late; wish Girl had said something to either me or her mother sooner. On the one hand, I could find something else but, on the other, I think I'll just let GB have two days off a week, instead of one, and this means Mike and I can have more flexibility about which weekend day we ride.

Sunday - went to the new Horse World Live show, at ExCeL. Crap. I can't imagine there'll be another next year. Dealers were all going mad with boredom, there was pretty much no one there. Stayed about an hour. Came home. Lurked on sofa.

On Friday, one of our fish died. Given that it was one of the five still-live members of the batch of ten glowlight tetras that were the first fish we put in the tank (after we gave up on the manufacturer's instructions and just set it up properly) three years ago, this is pretty impressive. Looking at the others, I note that one of them is rather lying on his side and another looks worryingly skinny, but the rest of the fish seem to be doing ok so it's probably age, not a water problem. They've had a pretty good run.
Link8 kisses // Who loves you?

Tired now.

♥Aug. 26th, 2012 // 05:51 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/880830.html]

Today was our little local riding club show, conveniently held at our yard. So we had to join in, really. I would tell you all about it, but I'm far too knackered. You'll have to ask GB about it instead.

We do, however, have a pretty respectable haul:


Mike points out that his second and third mean that he did better than I did on average.... I'm sure he'll post some photos later.
Link4 kisses // Who loves you?

Out and about

♥Aug. 15th, 2012 // 04:04 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/880247.html]

I seem to have been doing a lot of driving to strange places for side saddle reasons, lately.

The other week, I went up to Addington, in darkest Buckinghamshire, for the national side saddle show. We were just watching, not taking part, and it was very interesting. I now actually know what the jumping position is. Not sure I'm actually going to use it any time soon, but I know what it is. Gorgeous venue: I'm incredibly jealous. Two huge indoor schools, overlooked by the cafe and the bar, three (four?) outdoor dressage arenas and two (three?) outdoor jumping arenas, oh and it's in a country park for hacking. God knows what the livery fees are like!

Today, I went to Headcorn, in darkest Kent, for a side saddle lesson with my instructor's instructor, on her schoolmistress. As predicted by my instructor, I got on the horse and she immediately started going in tiny circles until I Got It Right, which I think I was starting to do by the end. Very useful, I just need to actually do more side saddle (been a bit slack lately, at least partly because of GB's impressive collection of bites. Which thankfully has not increased in number lately).

Today I also went into Boots to talk to the pharmacist: something bit me yesterday (I really need to stop thinking 'ah, sod it' and hacking out in leggings after my Pilates class because I can't be bothered to get changed and it's hot), and I have an enormous lump on the outside of my left (fortunately, else I doubt I could have done today's lesson) knee. I took an antihistamine last night, else I'd probably be unable to walk or something. She said "I could give you some hydrocortisone cream" and I said "oh, shall I put some HC45 on it?" which made her look utterly bewildered (she actually said "no, hydrocortisone is a steroid": how can a pharmacist not know what HC45 is?) but eventually she agreed and told me to try it. We shall see. At least it hurts less now than it did this morning.

I have a new phone, which was remarkably painless other than the half hour wait for my appointment at the Apple Store. ("The battery tester says that there's nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, it also says you'd get ten hours of standby and two hours of use, so there obviously is something wrong. Just a minute and I'll get you a new phone.")

I also have a hair cut, which looks remarkably the same as it usually does, and I went to the Unicon last weekend, where I played what I can only describe as the board game version of the first part of Spore. It works better when the computer does the adding up for you, I fear, but it was quite fun.

This weekend, we are actually at home. And not doing anything! I suspect we'll be bored by Saturday afternoon.

(Phil the Greek's been taken to hospital in an ambulance. Radio 4 is stressing that it's just a precautionary measure, but as it's doing so between programmes, rather than waiting for the news....)
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Ouch...

♥Jun. 28th, 2012 // 02:40 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/876759.html]

Today, we had a visit from the saddler.

GB had been a bit unhappy with his saddle for a while now, somewhat compensated for by putting a big foam pad under it, but it took a while for me and the saddler to synchronise our diaries.

The saddler was very confused: GB hadn't changed shape particularly since the last visit (when I was surprised that the saddle got the all clear, as it had been bashed around rather at the riding school), so it should have all been fine, but it obviously wasn't. After a bit of delving around inside, he concluded that my air bags had leaked....

(Saddles used to be stuffed, to shape them to the horse's back and provide padding, but some of the newer ones, including mine, have replaced that with airbags, which have the advantage of moulding themselves to the horse better.)

Whilst it would be possible to replace them, it would cost more than the saddle is worth, and nearly half the cost of the latest model of that saddle (which I like anyway), so. Still, as I said, it wasn't terribly unexpected. And the new saddle is lovely and squishy and well padded, so we should both enjoy it. (And the airbags have a five year guarantee on them!)

I've been very crap at updating, lately. Here are some things I have done recently:
- been to a lovely wedding reception, and seen lots of people I hadn't seen in a decade, which was both nice and nerve-wracking;
- done a dressage competition in the side saddle. Didn't win anything, but my scores were pretty consistent: sixes and fives, with a couple of sevens, in Intro B (59.56%), and fives and sixes, with one four, in Prelim 7 (54%). The arena for the latter had an enormous, tiger-filled pile of bits of jumps next to it, which GB naturally had to a) keep an eye on and b) keep as far as possible away from as possible, so this wasn't that surprising. The arena for the former had a cross country fence near one end, but other than giving it a stern look and having a little buck to make the point that he wasn't doing cross country in the side saddle it was safely ignored. Pics/pics, all terribly small so that I can't tell if there's one where I'm not pulling a silly face / don't have my eyes closed, which I might actually want to buy. Someone forgot his camera;
- been to see Democracy, at the Old Vic, which was very interesting if rather long and, in places, slightly wobbilily acted;
- been to a lovely sunny-day party-in-a-garden, at which I got to catch up with various people I don't see often enough;
- been for a ludicrous long (Mike came and collected me from the pub on his way home from work, and ended up having dinner with us) and fancy lunch at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon for Erik's birthday, which featured lovely food but slightly bizarre service: they weren't all that busy, but they kept throwing the food at us, with about two minutes between courses. Then, when they offered coffee and I said "could we have five minutes?" they went away and ignored us for twenty minutes. Most odd. Just to balance the scales, we had pudding (spag bol, because you have to really) at Cafe Ciao, which Erik had never heard of.

Tonight, we're off to see One Man Two Guvnors. Phew.

Here are some pictures that someone else took at the Big Show, later in the day when my hat had melted and my horse become a ravening beast due to cold and boredom. I love the way that it's raining so heavily that it looks like it's snowing....
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Bloody weather

♥Jun. 7th, 2012 // 07:43 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/875925.html]

Today was the Big Show. It rained. Pretty much continually. Sometimes it got a bit lighter, but then it got heavier again.

I mostly couldn't see a damn thing, because my glasses were so covered in water. I fear that the hat from my outfit will not recover, as it has wilted rather and the feathers are distinctly bedraggled. At that, I suspect that my outfit, made out of cheap synthetic fabric, will look rather better in the morning than the ones in sumptuous velvets and silks. One lady had a slight wardrobe malfunction (fortunately after the judging!): her satin skirt got so waterlogged that it ripped open the fastenings at the waist and showed off her petticoat....

(Yes, in the end I rode in the outfit hat, rather than my riding hat: I thought that GB seemed reasonably chilled out, and as it happened he had a little buck in the warm-up arena that made me fairly confident about staying on; this was a good thing, as he proceeded to buck for little or no reason throughout the rest of the day, including right in front of the judges at the start of our individual display.)

Speaking of GB, I don't think that he enjoyed it very much: it involved rather more standing around in the rain getting cold and wetter than he would have liked, and then I wouldn't let him charge off in canter to get warmed back up.

It was, however, quite fun. We didn't place, so did at best seventh out of nine (should have been sixteen, but the other people were too sensible to turn up!), but it was interesting to do. And cold, and wet.

Mike took some photos, but only of the earlier part of the day: it was raining so much that he was worried about damaging his camera, so he put it away in the horse box to keep it dry.

Edit: Poor hat....
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Phew!

♥May. 24th, 2012 // 11:50 am
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/873391.html]

Have just spoken to the lady in charge of my bit of the Big Show: the class numbers in the printed schedule are all wrong; we aren't going to have to join in with the Heavy Horses....

And relax....
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This may be a problem...

♥May. 23rd, 2012 // 07:15 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/873201.html]

When I sent in my forms for the Big Show, I checked very carefully against the list of classes on the website*, and then double checked, and then carefully wrote "Class 444" on my form.

I got my paperwork for the show last week, and today I looked at it properly to check timings. There, on my bit of paper, is the class number: 444. They'd helpfully included a copy of the actual printed show schedule, and I checked on that to make sure that the time hadn't changed, and... it appears that class 444 is now the Heavy Horses. My class has been changed to number 442.

Naturally, I noticed this after office hours were over, so I shall have to fret about it until tomorrow morning when I can phone them to go "eep".

Hopefully, when I ring them, they will be able to change it.

* The website information still says that my class is 444, which is in my favour: how was I supposed to know?

Hopefully, if they can't change it, I'll be able to get in touch with the Side Saddle Association, and we will find that all of the ladies in their historical costumes are incorrectly in the Heavy Horse class, and that will be enough leverage to get the show to change it.

But I may be buggered. Sad face.
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There's a reason I don't want kids.

♥May. 15th, 2012 // 03:42 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/872195.html]

So, I have a nearly-teenaged Girl who rides GB a couple of times a week. She seems fairly sensible, and her mother used to be horsey, so no problems there.

Back in February, I asked Girl if she wanted a key to the woods (while it is possible to go out hacking nearby without one, you have to go on the road and it's a bit of a trek). Mother Said No: not until she'd got more experience. Fine by me, and I rather agreed.

The other Saturday, in between bits of wedding, I had a SMS from Girl: would it be ok if she rode GB for a second time in one day? I'm generally quite happy for her to do this, depending on how hard he's worked, and I very much appreciate that she asks me. I replied saying it should be fine, but what had she done on the first ride, had he sweated up? Oh, she'd just been out in the woods, walk and trot only.

Er, what? I thought she wasn't allowed in the woods, and said so, but said GB'd be ok to do a little bit more.

And then after I got back from the wedding, I spoke to Mother, who was furious. Apparently, the little darling had been in the woods a couple of times with Pony Club, and had taken permission to do this to mean she could also wrangle an invite to go out with one of her mates and the adult who was taking her mate. It had only happened once, both Girl and Mother were very sorry, it wouldn't happen again, etc, etc.

Today, as it happens, I spoke to the previously-wrangled-adult (who's only actually about sixteen or seventeen: the rules say that you have to have someone over fourteen in any party in the woods). And it turns out that the walk-and-trot-only was what the adult and other kid did: Girl pulled her face and got the adult to agree that, yes, ok, the two of them would continue to walk along *this* path while Girl cantered along *that* path and they would all meet up again *there* at the intersection of the two paths. Girl was not there. Adult was rather panicked and decided that it would be safest to take the other kid further through the woods to the gate, leave her there and then ride back and search for Girl's battered remains and / or GB. Fortunately, Girl was also by the gate: apparently, GB just took off with her, she couldn't stop, and he'd gone full-tilt all the way to the gate.

(Whilst in some ways this doesn't surprise me (the fear that she wouldn't be able to stop him if he decided he was going home was one of the reasons I was happy for her not to be allowed up there), I find it very hard to believe that he would willingly canter a) that far and b) down the fairly steep hills that he normally minces carefully down. Also, this was not mentioned when she told me how much work he'd done: I find it hard to believe that he didn't sweat up from that.)

Adult told her that she'd better check GB's legs carefully when she got back, on account of how cantering full pelt downhill isn't a very good idea, and they all went back to the yard. I don't know who did that checking of the legs, but I'm told that there was some concern that one of them looked 'funny' (he's shown no signs of lameness for me, thankfully, so it can only have been minor if it was there at all). What I do know is that there was also no mention of that when she asked me if she could ride him a second time.

I'm not madly concerned that she went into the woods once, but I am concerned that she didn't tell me about a possible injury, and that she lied about what she'd actually done in the woods. And, actually, it's not 'once': she mentioned in passing to the adult that she'd been there a few other times with one of the other (under-fourteen: no idea if anyone else was with them) kids (I've been out with this kid: she rides like a nutter, and I can well believe that she'd canter her young and fit horse down hills).

So, I shall have to phone Mother again, probably this evening. I'm trying to decide whether I should give them a chance to discuss it first, so that Mother has the full(er) story, but I can't decide if I should send a SMS saying "You may want to have another conversation with Girl about her hacking exploits and see if there's anything else she'd like to mention" or saying "You may want to 'fess up to your Mother about what you've actually been doing in the woods before I tell her. PS: I rather think you should know to tell me if you think there's something wrong with my horse, and not expect to be able to ride him if there is"....

(I, on the other hand, had a rather successful side saddle lesson, followed by GB getting checked by the physio, who made his back and neck go crunch in interesting ways and told me that I need to get the saddler out again.)

Edit: Hmm. Have spoken to both Mother and Child: Child promises faithfully that she just said she'd *like* to go out hacking with the other kids (which I'm not sure I believe), that it wasn't that she lost control and GB cantered all the way back, it was just that when they stopped at the meeting place he got ansty and she couldn't stop him from walking off / make him walk back towards the others (which is very believable, far more so than that he would canter all that way, in fact), and that his leg was absolutely fine.

Interestingly, Mother made some comment about how she goes up to the riding school for her lesson every Saturday: that's not what I've been hearing from idle comments on the yard. I might speak to the riding school, because if she's not on the yard, and she's not in the lesson, there's really only one place that she could be. This would tie into the fact that I've been noticing for a month or so that his boots (which he wears for hacking and jumping) have been being used. I shall keep an eye on this.

Girl is on her last chance with me now, and I've told them both so. I shall mobilise the adults to spy on her for me.
Link14 kisses // Who loves you?

The big show

♥Apr. 19th, 2012 // 03:30 pm
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/869925.html]

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the Side Saddle Association (well, you have to really, don't you?) begging for more people to enter the rather grandly named The Jane Hallett Costume Concours d’Elegance at the South Of England Show, on account of how last year they only had half a dozen people doing it and it was in danger of being cancelled.

Which sounded interesting.

I enquired a bit further (in particular, about what lines in the description like "Fancy dress is not permitted [...] competitors should produce a brief written resume of their costume for the Commentator" actually meant (historical costumes only, you can't go as a fairy or whatever, it turns out)), and thought "what the hell". As far as I can tell, it's more of an audience attraction thing than a proper showing class: it's in two parts, one where you go into a ring at the insignificant end of the show ground and ride around getting judged, then another (over an hour later: the gap is presumably designed to test your ability to be lady-like and not get horse poo and slobber all over your fancy frock) where you go into the main ring and ride around showing off your frock before they announce the winners.

(I'm still bemused by the fact that, in the first part of the class, "competitors [...] may be asked to give a short display in small groups," though: normally, you do a short display on your own. If you're in a group, who decides what you're going to do next? Do you get together in the Green Room and plan it? If so, how do you know who you're going to be in a group with? Although I've been working on the assumption that they'll just ask people they're planning on giving rosettes to to do this, and so I needn't concern myself, I should probably make more of an effort to find an answer before the show, shouldn't I?)

So, yes, there we go: on the 7th of June, I'm off to the South of England show, with my faux-Georgian faux-military blue riding outfit, and my pony, and a mountain of stuff and helpers. Things to do before the show include:
- figuring out how to get on the horse in at least the underskirt of my outfit, because I haven't got a bloody clue how to do it (I normally mount astride and then swing my leg over, which seems likely to lead to tangling with anything more than an apron on) other than knowing that it traditionally requires a Big Strong Man to give you a leg-up
- riding in at least the underskirt of my outfit to make sure GB doesn't bother about it (I can't imagine he will)
- hoping that the previous thing will show that the skirt is long enough for me to just wear my normal boots under it
- buying a brown bridle
- deciding if I'm going to be Authentic (wear the natty, feather-trimmed tricorn hat that came with the outfit) or Safe (wear my riding hat. Possibly with, say, a blue ribbon tied around it)
- oh, and, er, getting less crap at riding side saddle.

This should be interesting. To the best of my knowledge, neither of us has ever been in a show before, other than me leading a pony in-hand once.
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Achy

♥Apr. 19th, 2012 // 03:09 pm
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I've been a bit slack about riding, lately: not going up as often as I should, and spending too much time pootling in the woods instead of doing proper schooling work. (The Plan: one lesson, one side saddle schooling, one cross saddle schooling, one hack. The Reality, for the last month or so: one lesson, one hack, one more hack.)

That meant that, when I had my side saddle lesson on Tuesday, I'd not actually used the side saddle since my previous side saddle lesson a fortnight before. And then my instructor seems to have decided that I need to get on with doing more than just pootling around working on my position for the big show*, so she seems to have worked me harder than usual.

But I really don't think I deserved to wake up on Wednesday morning feeling like I'd been thoroughly beaten (the fact that I strained something in my arm/back trying to hold on whilst a certain little shit bag dragged me around the field on the end of a rope probably didn't help, either). But, I am trying to do better and ride more, and anyway exercise would help, so off I toddled to the yard, carefully timing my visit for the forty-five minute gap in the rain that the Met Office and Meteox both agreed was going to happen, and everyone laughed at me for believing the weather forecast and then gave me a funny look when it stopped raining and the sun came out for half an hour before the rain returned. And we had a good schooling session, but gosh did I ache when I got off, and even more so when I got home and tried to get out of the car and walk up the stairs....

So it was that, this morning, I still felt like I'd been thoroughly beaten, but I thought I would be good again, so off I toddled to Pilates, because exercise would help, and the instructor 'helpfully' threw in some exercises to stretch out my aching muscles, and then I went to the yard thinking I'd ride. But the school was busy, and the woods would be muddy, and anyway the heavens opened about ten minutes after I'd decided to be slack and just put GB back in the field to replace his layer of mud, so it was probably the right decision to come home and sit on the sofa, wondering just who it is that keeps beating me up while I sleep every night.

(If it weren't for the fact that I feel otherwise utterly fine, I'd say that I must be coming down with something. But I feel fine. It's very odd.)

(Grr. When I started working, I made my loan swap her day from Thursday to Monday, which was much less convenient for her mother. I asked her last week if she wanted to change back, and she said she did, so today I swapped my Pilates class to Wednesday. I just sent her a sms asking if she wanted to swap back from next week or the week after, and she's replied "well, my mum wondered if I could just keep Monday?" Grr. Particularly coming, as this does from the incident at weekend when I got dragged into the middle of the two of them having a mother vs teenaged daughter bitch fight.)

* I don't think I mentioned the big show. I should do a post about that.
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Ouch

♥Apr. 3rd, 2012 // 05:16 pm
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So, I booked an appointment with the GP for Monday evening, mostly for a prescription refill but also because I wanted to check that there was nothing I could/should so about the trapped nerve in my leg.

And, as it happened, I was sitting on the sofa on Sunday evening when I got hit by stomach pain. "Damn," I thought, "where did I accidentally eat large amounts of dairy?" And then I sat and waited for the next stage in the process, which involves running to the loo and which never came. And, pain, ow, more pain. Went to bed. Woke up. Emailed in sick. Sat on the sofa, wishing I felt well enough to at least do a little light tidying. Hobbled to the GP surgery.

At the surgery, a Nice Young Man came over and said he was a third year medic and could he see me first, which was fine by me. He had a jolly old time poking my leg, eventually deciding that it was, indeed, mostly numb in the patch where I'd said it was mostly numb, and that ("could you walk across the room on tip-toe, please?") it wasn't actually causing me any problems other than being a little disconcerting, and so concluding that while it might suddenly get better when the bruise on my knee goes down it probably would take six months or so for the nerve to re-grow (hey ho: as I pointed out, at least my rib is better!).

After that, he poked my tummy a bit, and took my temperature (which was normal, so it's not appendicitis), and asked if I would mind terribly having a urine test, and then he went and got the proper doctor, who tutted at my leg and told me to be more careful and then had a much harder poke at my tummy before sending me off to wee in a bottle.

Wee ruled out an ectopic pregnancy or infection, so the doctor concluded that my appendix was grumbling and that I should go straight to the hospital if I developed a fever or if the pain got worse. So I suppose that's alright, then.

Today, I felt a bit better again, but not well enough to ride*: I gave someone else my lesson (well, it was paid for and I wouldn't have got a refund!) and then fussed GB for a bit until the horse dentist arrived to check him over. Teeth are mostly ok, but he did note that a) the old vet did a much better job of smoothing out one side of his mouth than the other when she had a go, and b) that his upper teeth were twice the length of the lowers, which he would probably do work to correct in a young horse but wasn't inclined to fuss about at GB's age given that he's demonstrably not having trouble eating. Considering that he's had his teeth done once in the last decade, and possibly not much before that, GB's behaviour and teeth were more than good enough, which is a relief.

I may have had a small shopping accident with a side saddle habit. I may, based on the lovely photos that a nice lady emailed me of costumes she's about to sell, be about to have another one. My heart says "Get the cream satin Victorian outfit," my head says "Hello, you have a horse. He slobbers when he checks your pockets for food and gets black hair everywhere," and my husband says "I think that the royal blue Georgian one would suit you best," which is odd as I don't think he's ever seen me in blue, as I very rarely wear it. I shall give him the benefit of the doubt, probably. It almost might be piratical, as well, which could be handy.

* Conversation with Mother: "Well, I can see you might not go to work if you had an excuse, but... gosh, you must be feeling under the weather!"
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I'm very worried about the weather....

♥Mar. 30th, 2012 // 03:44 pm
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... if it's going to be hot over Easter, I may have to re-think my planned outfit for the Hugo reception!

(Speaking of which, I need to get a box of fliers to Eastercon on the Thursday, and won't be arriving myself until the Friday: I don't suppose anyone would be able to take them? I'll have them on Tuesday, I expect: they're being couriered and it looks like they'll arrive on Monday, so I'll be having a Driving Adventure to go to the depot in Dartford on Tuesday after I've ridden.)

But it is quite nice, there being a drought and all. The woods, where I've been riding loads lately for one reason or another, are drying out nicely, so that GB isn't having to pick his way through mud, and it's all very nice. I even went out there with the side saddle on Sunday, but I don't think I'll be repeating the experiment often: I was incredibly achy for my side saddle lesson on Tuesday, and I have a patch of skin on my right leg that's been vaguely numb ever since. Plus, GB found it very hard work, as I couldn't get my weight off his back on the hills, and he's now got a bit of a rub from the girth.

(I didn't go in the woods today. I was feeling guilty about not having practised anything I'd been doing in my lessons for the last couple of weeks, so I was a good girl and went in the school to give us both a proper work out. And then I succumbed to peer pressure and did a few jumps to give him a change. He likes his jumps, does my little shit bag.)

Yesterday, I got the sewing machine out for the first time in ages and made a mock-up of a side saddle apron. I think it's probably doable for me to make a proper one, so I'll have a look for some fabric and give it a go, after I've sat on the horse in the mock-up to check the fit on the legs.

Work is almost unbearably tedious and dull. I may give up.
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Double oops....

♥Mar. 19th, 2012 // 10:14 pm
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On Saturday, on the way up to Cambridge, we took a small detour. I'd read a blog post about a place called the Sandon Saddlery, something of a cross between a tack shop and a junk shop, that bemoaned the fact that all of the second had side saddle clothes were either incredibly tatty or had a 28" waist, so I rather had to go and have a look.

And, oopsie, I came away from it with a side saddle jacket and apron, for about half what I'd pay on eBay.

And then on Sunday we went down to the yard, and I tried them out.

And, double oopsie, the apron is too short. Sigh. On the plus side, they weren't on sale as a matched set, the saddlery has a seven-day return policy, and Mike's back up in that neck of the woods this Saturday. I'll keep the jacket, though, as it strikes me as being a lot easier to make an apron than a jacket. Plus, I know know what measurements I actually need from an apron for it to fit me.

And, even given that it was too short, it did look pretty! At least, it did if you skip over the pictures that Mike took of me mounting astride, getting my leg tangled up in the apron as I moved it over, fishing the apron out from between my legs and under my bum, and so on....





(The hem of the apron should be a hand's width or so above the lower-down ankle, so it is much too short. And, yes, my right shoulder is too far forwards. Sigh. I seem to be only able to get the position Just Right for short bursts of time, and even then only when my instructor is constantly correcting me. On the plus side, I do have a very easy way of telling if I'm right, because GB drops down into an outline for me. I think I managed that once, for about three strides, on Sunday.... No, I'm not going to start riding in a bowler hat. And it was much too early in the day for a topper.)

Also on Sunday, I saw a gorgeous outfit on eBay:

It was only £75, too. But Mike pointed out that I really wouldn't have many opportunities to wear it....
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Things I have done

♥Mar. 11th, 2012 // 08:59 am
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We went to see My Life Story last weekend, in the end. It was, as ever, a cracking gig, but after half an hour of hanging around and being moved from one sanitised part of the venue to another, we gave up on staying for the after-gig-gig and came home. Still, worth going. I just wish the Astoria was still going!

I finally got something to do at work. This made work better. I am now no longer on the verge of walking out, instead I'm just quietly waiting for it to go belly up.

My friend Toni brought her horses to the same yard as me. This is generally good, as it's nice having her there, but I fear it may get a little wearing having her mum there all the time. On the very much plus side, Mike likes riding one of them very much, and did so today: I suspect he'll be riding her a lot, which is good for him.

I, on the other hand, have been riding GB, as ever. I had a good but hard work lesson, I took him out for a nice ride in the woods (in which we slightly-illegally scooted out of the woods and into some land owned by a farmer; GB immediately perked up and started strolling along at a cracking pace. He is much happier out in the open than in the woods, bless him. I need to figure out other open places I can take him), and I got the side saddle out for a ride (hadn't been on it in weeks, and I have a lesson with it next week! Bum hurts, now, worryingly only on one side, so I must have been wonky), and today we had a good session in the arena, with -- as he obviously was dying to have a go - a couple of little jumps at the end.

On Thursday, I did pilates (still enjoying it; much better now I'm in the right class!), rode, and then we went to see Comedy Of Errors at the National: very good performance, with the slight niggle that the guy playing the Duke, who was obviously trying to be Gene Hunt, didn't manage to pull it off.

On Friday, I was walking out on the way to an early dinner with Erik when - horrors! - I saw a girl throwing stones into the dock. As I got closer, I saw that she was throwing them at the swans! As I got closer still I saw that she was throwing them at the just-starting-to-breed pair, who'd managed to pen a year-old cygnet behind one of the emergency escape ladders at the side of the dock, where it had wedged its wing between two of the rungs and thus made itself a very easy target for being beaten up. A couple of quick phone calls, and the swan rescue van was on its way, with me and the girl under instructions to try and keep the adults clear and try and stop the cygnet from pulling itself free. We managed the first but sadly not the second, and of course as soon as it was free again the adults decided it was back to being a threat and started after it again. My long scarf made quite a good swan repellent, as did a small group of schoolgirls who stopped to watch the drama. Eventually, after being stuck behind a broken-down car in the tunnel, the swan man drove up and came out of his van with a telescoping pole with a U-shaped hook on the end, which he got around the cygnet's neck (it was cowering under the bridge, shivering, by this point) and used to lift it straight out of the water by the head, much to my surprise. He got it sitting down, told us to hold its wings against its body, and dashed off to get a duffel bag, into which he strapped the rather bemused cygnet before carrying it off, with its head poking out of the top of the bag, to taking it to the sanctuary. I really should have taken pictures. (On the plus side: it does look like we might get cygnets of our own this year, for the first time in a while!)

So, I was rather late for dinner, but I did have the best excuse ever, followed by very tasty food (other than the pudding: we went for tapas, and I quite fancied a Creme Catalan for pudding, but it was utterly over blow-torched and was completely liquid when it arrived. I sent it back and was informed that the chef said it was supposed to be like that: er, no) .

On Saturday, we ate even more tasty food, and saw a traveller from afar, in Reading, and then today we went to the yard, decided we couldn't really be bothered to trek out to Hammersmith for the Douglas Adams thing, and went to Bluewater instead (shopping list: new riding bras, shoes for wedding, wool, new Soda Stream gas thing. Items bought: wool, Soda Stream thing, baking trays, trousers, on-sale thermal tops, an entire new set of cutlery. Oops. Does anyone want some cutlery? Knives, spoons and forks, twelve of each except there are only eight forks and the range is discontinued, which is why we needed a new set....). After Bluewater, we had a little drive around Kent looking at possible places to live (I've decided that I don't want to move GB again, so if we move while he's still around then it will have to be somewhere out that way. As Mike points out, this means that our choice of place to retire to is being fixed by my refusal to drive through the Rotherhithe Tunnel...); there are some nice little towns out there, though, and it's good for the M25, and there's topography, so....
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Pony pictures!

♥Jan. 22nd, 2012 // 03:55 pm
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It wasn't entirely sunny today, but Mike took a few pictures with his phone of us with the new side saddle.

GB is definitely more comfortable and forward with it, which is good, and I think I did ok....

(Photos would, of course, be better if it wasn't slightly dull, and if the pictures weren't of a dark horse carrying a dark-clothed rider, against mostly dark-green background, as with this user pic, for example!)

Pictures! )
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Side saddle

♥Jan. 20th, 2012 // 04:59 pm
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Today, after months of trying to get hold of them, the Side Saddle Lady and her Daughter came to see me!

(They also came to see my up-the-road instructor, who was having a lesson with Daughter. I snuck in and watched, chatting occasionally to SSL*, and was insanely reassured to find that Daughter was telling my instructor off for the same things that my instructor tells me off for!)

* SSL's first words on being told by Daughter who I am were "Oh dear, you're bigger than I thought you'd be... I don't mean that rudely..." Oops. I did tell her my height and weight....

After they'd finished up the road, they came down to the yard and I took GB over to meet them, much to his bemusement ('why do I have a bridle but no rug or saddle...?') and suspicion (on account of how I was carrying the side saddle).

When they had a look at [livejournal.com profile] clanwilliam's saddle on him, they pronounced it to be too tight over the withers, which I'd suspected and which explains why GB wasn't keen. We moved onto the ones that they'd brought with them, and after discarding the ones that had the same problem, or were just too wide, or were apparently so uncomfortable that they caused GB to take a chunk out of my arm, found a couple of possibles in the half a dozen they'd crammed into their car.

We had a go with the better of the two, and everything seemed good: I found the fixed head more comfortable than on the one I'd been using and it was much easier to sit to the trot, which I think means that GB preferred it too (with the other one, he's tended to be very fast and therefore bouncy, but he was taking it in much more of his usual slow way with this saddle: hopefully, this means that he was uncomfortable but now is ok again). I even got a few tips from Daughter about my position, which I really must try to remember!

After I got off, we had another quick look at the other possible, but SSL firmly declared that the one we'd tried was the best bet.

So, I've signed an agreement, and I have a new side saddle to try out (another Owen, as it happens, but an older one) for six months!

All I need to do is a bit of shopping: need a longer girth, and a new numnah, and... well, I suppose really I'd better have a riding habit, hadn't I...?

(Some day soon, when it is both sunny and a weekend, I will get Mike to take pictures!)
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Brrr!

♥Jan. 16th, 2012 // 02:47 pm
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The canal froze last night, and indeed is still frozen now: only the second time it's frozen over this winter.

On the drive out of town, I kept seeing ominous patches of frost here and there by the roads, and indeed when I got to Bexley it looked like something from a Christmas card. I was going to take a photo of the spectacular covering of ice crystals on a drink can that had evidently been left out overnight, but then I realised that I'd left my phone at home: oops!

One advantage of the cold is that the mud has all frozen: it took me about five minutes to groom GB, other than doing his tail, which was a nice reminder of How Things Used To Be! After that, much to his expected annoyance, I stuck the side saddle on him and did twenty minutes (v impressed with myself: I've been doing about fifteen, and needing to stop and swing my leg onto the other side of the saddle for a rest half way through!), which actually included some slightly more interesting things than just bouncing around in a circle.

Then I swapped the saddles over and joined in the lesson that was about to start: more interesting than previously, and I suspect that I will end up doing it with the side saddle, once the side saddle lady has been later this week to see what can be done about improving the fit.

By the time I was finished, even allowing for the fact that I'd been riding for an hour and a half, it was actually quite warm, as long as you stayed in the sun; still bitterly cold in the shade, though. I did have my silly hat on, though, so maybe not all *that* warm.

Now I suppose I'd better call back the pimp who set me up with an interview last Friday, and see what he wants: he called while I was out, and did I mention I'd forgotten my phone...?

PS: any more for the deathlist, before I do a list of the nominees? I'm missing a few of the Usual Suspects, and though I should check!
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Rats!

♥Jan. 8th, 2012 // 04:18 pm
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Our oven seems to be broken. It says "F05", with occasional intervals of "F08". Which is Fun, and Exciting.

So we went to the yard instead, where I put the side saddle on poor, abused, starved GB and then had a nice little ride on him, including a couple of canters, which I'd not don before: much more comfortable than trotting, I can see why a lot of women used to just not bother with trot! (I was going to get Mike to take some pictures, but when I suggested he bring his camera out, he pointed out that the light wasn't very good, so we didn't bother.)

After that, I swapped back to the regular saddle and we had some more canters, in which he was so full of beans that he he even through in what were him were a couple of quite big bucks: I think he hasn't get twigged that he can get all the fun of cantering around when he's in the field, without a rider, so he misses it when I don't let him have a nice run.

After that, Mike jumped on him for a bit, and managed a few bits of canter too (one of them not entirely at Mike's request!), and then we put the pony away and pulled everything out of his cupboard, on account of how the woman in the next stable said "Oh, your loan found a rat in there yesterday...." This, of course, explains why the terrier that is one of the many dogs that lives on the yard keeps trying to get into my cupboard....

(Rats are, of course, fairly normal around horses. They generally prefer to be where the food is, but one obviously decided that the cupboard had enough chance of food, possibly from the smell of GB's treats in their slightly-horse-chewed box.)

So, cupboard contents removed, and then bits of bedding, occasional food dropped by GB when he's been in the cupboard and a small and thankfully empty rodent nest made from straw and bits of carrier bag swept out and thrown in the bin. On the way home, we stopped off and bought two really big Really Useful boxes for rugs (I'm worried about them being seen as a source of nice warm bedding and getting chewed up) as well as a new one for food. And I suppose I shall have to tell the loan girl to not leave carrots out on the cupboard shelf, too. Sigh. I'm not sure if it's worth trying to close up the hole at the bottom of the cupboard that Ratty is presumably moving in and out through: hopefully, cleaning it out and getting rid of accessible food will be enough. I don't particularly want to reach in and find a small nest of wriggling babies and a defensive mother one day.
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