Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas 2014

It was OK in the end, I guess it always is, it's just the run up I can't abide - all that shopping, spending and talk of a perfect Christmas. 

Christmas started with Olympia Horse Show, the best part of the festive season for me. An excuse to watch horses all afternoon, shop for jodhpurs, souvenir rosettes and 'oooooh and aaaaahhh' at the size of the jumps with a friend who gets the addiction. The kids sat transfixed at the Ukrainian Cossacks crazy gymnastic riding, the police horses jumping through fire, a Shetland grand national, the dog agility display and the famous riders show jumping the biggest fences. And then Father Christmas made a brief appearance, it was definitely the real one we all decided, with some snow, a carol and lots of kids on ponies galloping around the arena. It was completely brilliant!

I wrapped the presents in one hit with red wine, he helped enormously. We decided not to faff with appetisers and nibbles and instead opened a packet of cheesy balls which went down a treat. The bread sauce came from a packet, and although it was pretty disgusting we had all the right components of the feast. No off-piste cooking this year, a straight-down-the-line-middle-of-the-road-turkey dinner with the trimmings. Demolished in seconds I'm glad I didn't spend any longer on it than I did.

Instead I had time to watch Peter Pan, drink too much wine, play games, open mountains of gifts with the kids and clear up the inevitable Christmas day puke. 

Christmas 2014 ended, and is still ending with the bug. It just wouldn't be the same without it.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Friday, at long last

Thank Crunchie, and a whole lot of other things, it's Friday. I have emotional, stressed out, heaps of snotty nosed kids who are counting down the days. But after the school pick up today we can all just pile into our jammies and get cosy, put a film on, light a fire, drop our shoulders, relax our tight, wound up jaws and maybe even smile.

P's tantrums are reminiscent of a toddlers. A's outbursts are a look into the future of things to come - we have definitely hit the tween years.

I am trying so hard to be Zen about Christmas this year, I almost missed it last year for all the sadness and stress. So we really are going to take one day at a time and slowly get ready - I'm not going to try to pack everything in and make it perfect.

Just one day at a time, it will all get done. That's my mantra. It will get done.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Mexican milagro

These are milagros, small miracles, from Mexico - tiny tin ornaments that are pinned on the Saints in churches to protect you from ill health, or your animals ill-health or from matters of the heart, or they may increase your wealth, happiness, closeness to God - or simply pinned in gratitude for prayers answered.

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I was taken with these little trinkets in a gorgeous, find-of-a-shop in Hastings. A pot full of charms were rifled through and some stocking fillers sorted. I quickly snapped up a horse milagro for myself, attaching it to an old silver chain - a talisman for my riding perhaps, a superstition to keep me safe and maybe a good luck charm inching me towards a red rosette.

Well, they don't work those milagros.

I was royally dumped by Fletch on Monday - he had no knowledge of the milagro around my neck but was rather pleased and excited to be at a jumping clinic with other horses. He just couldn't help himself and flung himself inside out as I crashed to the ground, slowly. Falling off a horse always seems to happen in slow motion. I got up, grinned at the professional instructor, apologised for the behaviour of Fletch and got straight back on knowing he would now behave perfectly, having got it out of his system.

Perhaps I should have thought about protecting myself and not the horse, maybe I should purchase a milagro of a leg, or an arm, or a chest to protect me. The horse needed no small miracle at all.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


I need to listen to the rice grow but all I can hear is the never-ending lists in my head. Renew your driving license. Buy my father-in-law a gift. Make panforte. And chutney. Wrap the presents, probably better to buy them first. Order a turkey, poor bugger. A needs some sparkly shoes apparently. They haven't written to Father Christmas yet, not sure if they are doing their advent calender in order. My head hurts, my teeth hurt, my cheeks hurt, the sinus is screaming so I wouldn't be able to hear the rice grow even if I was there.

The phrase comes from how the people of three Asian countries define their characteristics, possibly how the French defined them in colonial times. It is said that the Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch the rice grow and the Lao listen to the rice grow - such as is the pace of life in Laos. I liked it a lot, Laos, we arrived in Luang Prabang with little A fluttering in my tummy, all but 18 weeks developed. I feared not the exotic food and traditions on my unborn baby, but embraced the serene pace of life before the chaos (I had been told) ensued, once she was born. I sipped at the strange drinks, ate the fried seaweed strips topped with chilli and sesame, wandered around temples in the rain and watched geckos underneath whirring fans of times past. We slowed to a pace so hard to find amongst our own lives.

But this Christmas I will take time to listen to the children giggle, listen to Fletch grinding and crunching through his hay, I will listen to their carols - and not let my mind wander - and to the glug of the red wine from the decanter. I will hear the cats delicately paw my duvet, I will appreciate the silence of dawn and I will listen to peoples needs. This Christmas I will listen to the rice grow, Sussex style.

Monday, 1 December 2014

No point fighting it!

I feel a little bit more able to the handle the 'C' word today, it is December after all.

The torrent of decorated Christmas trees on social media last night felt wrong in November, especially after the warm and sunny weekend we had. The panic is setting in about presents, various relatives demanding to know what we want - we don't want anything - you've got to have something it's Christmas - oh OK I'll have a think - well if you don't let me know I will get you a voucher - fine, get me a voucher. Got to get it all done and wrapped, a chore that has to be done at the end of the year. Is there any joy at all in Christmas shopping, choosing a gift a loved one might like, rather than from a pre-determined list? I quite like doing that but have learned to keep the receipts when my idea of what people would like was obviously far from what they wanted.

Anyway, there we are, the first of December today - it is now acceptable to listen to Christmas music, to send and receive Christmas cards, to eat a mince pie and sup some mulled wine. The kids are pouring over our Christmas selection of books and have eaten chocolate before breakfast, the nativity play is next week, the Father Christmas movie been watched and menu's are being decided.

There is absolutely no point in fighting this - it is now upon us - tinsel and all, a big box of chocolates and some cheap red wine will get me through - Merry Christmas everyone, enjoy the build up in all its plastic glory!

Thursday, 27 November 2014


"Will you stop it!" I scream up the stairs, "Everyday I have to tell you to stop fighting and every single day you ignore me, just leave each other alone, go in separate rooms, just don't look at each other, for goodness sake, stop winding each other up!"

They continue to hiss at each other and even start caterwauling loudly, I physically pull them apart and they slink to their own private spaces and start to lick their virtual wounds.

Sisters, same the world over.

Lupin and Cleo, my not-so-little cats, will make huge efforts never to be near each other except at dinner. They sleep at other ends of the cushion in front of the fire, if they accidentally touch each other, a hiss or a whack ensues. Sometimes they touch noses and then fight, just one bop on the head and walk in different directions - it is amusing, but I wonder why they hate each other so much?

Suffering closeness for a bit of tuna-mayo

Friday, 21 November 2014


We are not talking about the 90's favourite perfume here.

I feel like I am running out of time to get as good as I can. My body creaks with stiffness as I crawl out of bed in the cold November mornings - and after getting the sandwiches made, cats fed and litter tray cleaned, spellings practised, numerous naggings to get everyone out of the door with clean teeth and straight ties - I finally drive to the yard, where a furry head and a flurry of nostrils greet me over the stable door.

I'm not really too sure what drives this passion and why it matters so much that I ride well? Why do I have an insatiable appetite to learn more? Why am I not content with what I know and how I ride?

It feels like I don't have much time left to improve, I'm not eighteen and I don't bounce when I fall off. I've created bad habits in the thirty years I've been riding and they are really hard to break, I'm not flexible and sometimes I'm a little bit scared.

But I try and try again and if someone video's me riding, it may look like I am not trying at all. But I am, with all my heart, all my passion, all my longing just to get those 2 seconds again when I feel in perfect unison with the horse. I would like to learn how to do that more.

I can learn to crochet when I'm ninety.

A lesson this week that had me yearning for more - my 2 seconds of harmony 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


The leaflet was advertising a school jumble sale, asking people to donate items and clear out their unwanted goods - just in time for Christmas. Get rid of stuff to make more room for more stuff. When we were at the dump last weekend taking garden waste and clearing out the rubbish from our shed, I was genuinely shocked at what people were throwing away. Mountains of stuff being dumped. Plastic crap being chucked only to be replaced by more plastic crap at Christmas.

Doesn't make sense. We know it can't be like this forever. I'm going to think about Christmas even harder this year to buy ethically, environmentally, home-made and recycled where possible.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Life story

On Friday after school, P's tooth was ridiculously wobbly, she had been playing with it all day no doubt and now it was hanging out her mouth comically. Pull it out I told her, go on, yank it. So she did, and when it still didn't come out she gave a it a double twist and a great big tug - out the tooth finally came, along with great spurts of dark red blood. I guess it wasn't quite ready. We giggled at P's bravery while A squirmed and squealed in the other room, not daring to look at either the tooth that had come out or the bloody gap.

I try not to put our children into pigeon-holes but if I had to describe them in three words it might go something like this:

A - the kind and sensitive, daydreamer
P - the wilful, competitive, brave one

Anyhow, the story goes that we were all cuddled up to watch the new David Attenborough series, Life Story, on iPlayer. If everything has been done, all the washing, feeding, cleaning and preparing for school the next day I like to sit and watch a programme with the girls. We choose something with animals in normally so this series was very fitting. And for those of you that have already seen it, you can imagine that my cosy snuggle-up session ended in chaos. In wailing. In screaming. It was a disaster.

The gorgeous fluffy Barnacle Geese chicks balanced precariously in their 400 foot high nest, only 2 days old and needing some food they had to get to the bottom where the vegetation grew. Being born so high up gave them a chance of survival, away from the nasty mean foxes down below, it was like a fairy-tale about to go very, very wrong. The Mother and Father goose flew off the cliff edge and encouraged their babies to jump out of their nest, unable to fly they squeaked and crashed violenlty into the cliff face, their little furry bodies tumbling and whacking against the hard rock as they journeyed to the bottom. Three out of the five made it at which point we had to turn it off.

P, the brave one, was heaving, shaking and screaming at the screen.

"Why doesnt the Daddy just go and get food for the chicks and bring it back to the nest.......sob sob sob....or, or, or they could've flown down on the Mummy's wings!"

She was utterly distraught, I felt a bit sad as well and hugged her little, upset body.

"It's only a chick, for goodness sake," said A the sensitive one, blowing all my pigeon-holing right out the window.

Friday, 7 November 2014


It was a rainy morning and no one was around so I spent my time taking selfies of me and Fletch. Fletch being the great big ginger horse I have the privilege to ride and love. He was a bit shy at first, and then persuaded by polo's (Fletch will do anything for a polo) he got into the swing of the selfie. It's pretty hard to get us both in you know, I need one of those long stick things tourists have to take the professional selfie - not as funny though!



Isn't he the lushest horse you ever saw?

Monday, 3 November 2014

'Alternativo' holiday pics

Barcelona is a great city, really one of the best. But it wasn't the Sagrada Familia or the Gaudi architecture that made it such a fantastic place, in fact we didn't even see those sights - but the city beach, the large open spaces made for roller-blading, the melting pot of cultures, the languages, the plazas at dusk and the constant smell of cigarette smoke to remind you were in Spain, sorry, Catalonia. We meandered and wandered, avoiding The Ramblas, the churches and we never set foot in a gallery or a museum. Heathens to all thing cultural, we had a blast.

No hotels for us - we stayed on a boat in Porto Olimpico marina

Blimey - nobody says it quite how it is, like the Spanish - sorry, the Catalans

Balconies of films and dreams - beats a church any day

Minding the tourists and dog poo - there are a lot of both in Barcelona

Morning toe-dip, the beach is the city's biggest draw

Proper scary cable car down the mountain - crossed all the major sights off from up there - job done

Pimientos de padron - the russian roulette of tapas 

Galley cooking

Scooting around the plazas 

Choose your favourite font - hours of fun

Monday, 27 October 2014


We'll be in Barcelona tonight, sitting on a boat to nowhere, drinking a cold San Miguel watching the twinkling lights of the seafood restaurants and trying to imagine we live there. I booked the flights straight after India, a nice, cheap sleazy-jet style flight with only one piece of hold luggage paid for, for all four of us. And now Barcelona is upon us, we are wondering slightly why we are going.

Yes it will be lovely to have a break from the everyday, a change, some last-minute sunshine and a little tapas. The real reason I booked the journey on a whim, was straight after travelling to India the UK seemed so dull and uninteresting. We thought we might like to live in Spain again. Let's go to Barcelona to see if we could live there we thought.

And now we are going the kids are crazy-wild with excitement. They know what to pack in their hand luggage - Flumpy and Sizzles, colouring, their travel journals, sunglasses and a Kagool - all eventualities covered. They are talking about which magazine they would like at the airport and discussing which fish they will eat at the seaside cafes.

I guess it doesn't matter why we are going, it will be a mini-adventure. Five much needed days for him. A time for our little family to bond completely again - all on the same path and discovering together. Travel unites us.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Survival tips by an 8 year old

You must read this until the end - otherwise you will not know how to deal with hyenas.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Mother's Guilt #154

We were supposed to be 'love bombing', me and A. I was looking forward to it as much as she was. She bounded out of the school gates and clung from me like a 2 year old, delighted to have me for herself for the afternoon while the little one played with a friend. I had it all worked out, we would ride Freddie the Shetland, I would teach her and she would feel proud, we would then go for cake and I would really listen to her.

It was a rainy day, another grey one and soggy underfoot. Freddie's belly was wet with mud, being so close to the ground. A leapt on to the tiny pony, grinning, glad to have him all to herself today.

"Heels down, keep your hands down, well done, look up, push him over, don't let him cut the corners, you're doing really well..." I instructed her, keeping close by the cheeky pony's side.

A desperately wants to ride well. She wants to do it for me, I know that. She tries so hard and gets so frustrated when she loses her balance.

And then some walkers tramped across the next door field, Freddie must have caught sight of them and .....wooooooosh....he shot off at a miniature gallop as I watched my daughter hang on, screaming and finally to be dumped in a puddle full of sand. I rushed over to her, and cuddled her amidst big, fat salty tears of shock while the little pony careered around the school, looking quite pleased with himself.

Of course she got straight back on, because that's what you do - I soothed her and explained to her what had happened and then we went for a walk around the forest where Freddie behaved impeccably.

I felt so terribly guilty. I had let her off the lead-rein, I am the one encouraging riding and all things horsey, it was my idea that we rode for a love bombing afternoon and now I felt awful. Putting my little girl in danger made me feel very sick all the way home, she was seemingly unbothered.

Character building they say - or another reason to believe that you're not very good at this parenting lark at all.

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Here we go...

The fine rain made seeing difficult, it was easier to look down and let the water drop off the peak of my hat as he trotted purposefully up a hill. My new coat, tight at the wrists, refused to let any rain trickle down my arm  - bought for this weather in mind. His chestnut coat steamed after a ride around the lanes, no more cantering through fields as they turn to sludge, not to be seen again until next spring.

The yard started swimming as the horses stood patiently with their heads over their doors, seemingly unbothered by the drips falling off the end of their noses - waiting for their hay. I lug soaked hay nets to each stable, re fill their water, muck out, getting sweatier and smellier - and change their huge heavy rugs. Winter with horses is hard, the weather relentless and even after only two days of rain the summer seems but a dream.

The girls have changed to winter uniform, grey tights and buttoned up shirts, stuffy but necessary. We have sorted out the scarves and hats and odd gloves, giving them a good wash before the chill sets in. The garden looks bedraggled, neglected since the Leylandii fell, the vegetable beds awash with weeds and the odd pumpkin that no one wants to eat. The cats litter tray has moved indoors, they refuse to go outside from now until about May, they sit waiting hopeful by the fire that someone might light it, wondering what all the fuss is about.

My friend has the right idea. Take off for a big trip around the world chasing the colours of the rainbow with her two boys. Follow her adventure here.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

"What does sexy mean Mummy?"

"I'M FEELING SEXY AND FREEEE...." Jessie J screamed out of the iPod speaker.

The music pounded out of the dance studio where my 8 year old A, was having her Street Dance lesson, the teacher encouraging hair shaking and hip swivelling.

I was not in the mood to hear that yesterday, and apart from pull her out of her class, protesting that the song was deeply inappropriate for little girls, little children in fact, I suddenly felt powerless to protect her from what the future years hold.

Thankfully A is quite an innocent 8 year old. She's interested in making stew-pies behind the garden shed, creating lurid loom bands for her friends, she likes having Famous Five stories read to her when her big blue eyes stare at the night ceiling, imagining the adventures and tight spots the four children and a dog get up to. She doesn't watch TV, only selected programmes on iPlayer and DVD's appropriate for her age, she hasn't seen MTV or pop video's on YouTube - the ones she has seen when I am with her are quickly switched off or laughed off.

I have no idea why that lady isn't wearing any clothes darling, she must be freezing!

But it's everywhere; on billboards and buses, in magazine adverts and on Facebook, Ann Summers shops in the High Street, overtly sexual clothing in H&M for 5 year olds and blaring out of the radio - I'm sexy and I know it eeeeeeh sexy lady op op op oppa Gangnam style....

There are hundreds of articles written about the sexualisation of young children, how damaging the Internet can be and how children are body conscious at the age of 9. There are stories of eating disorders and bullying and of Snap Chat and porn playing a huge part in young peoples lives.

I am scared for this future because no matter how many articles are written about it, no matter how many petitions we sign protesting about boobs in The Sun, no matter how much I protect my kids from videos on YouTube - it all still exists and nobody seems to be doing anything about it all.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Brighton rocks

You forget what's out there if you spend too much time at home, on the school run, or at work and trotting around the country lanes. It's all very well and lovely, my Sussex life, the gentleness, the everyday-ness and the calm of the countryside - sometimes I don't even know I need some culture to inspire me and jiggle the creativeness back into action.

Brighton with its laines, shop after shop selling interesting, quirky, hippy, vintage and intricate stuff. Café's with enticing cakes and vegetarian dishes sold by young people, with hopes and rings through their noses. I remember being like them, all alternative and free. Carving out a life for yourself, starting with selling gluten-free puddings and vegan casseroles, smoking roll-ups out the back in your lunch break - for this is only temporary before you make a difference in the world. I remember feeling like that.

This time in Brighton, he and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, all married with children, good jobs and not very alternative at all. But Brighton fires the inner-student in me, makes me want to join a mindful meditation group, have a go at creative writing, get a tattoo and think about my wardrobe a little harder. We made plans for the future, guessed the ingredients of our quiche and salad lunch, we went roller-blading along the sea front to Hove - a little wobblier and less certain than last time. We stayed in an arty hotel with a view of the sea, drank beers as the sun went down - when the way forward seemed much more clear and exciting.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

10 years

The Wedding

Year 1 - Up the duff

Year 2 - Baby 1

Year 3 - New House

Year 4 - Baby 2

Year 5 - Walking and talking

Year 6 - Mini me

Year 7 - Trying stuff out

Year 8 - Beginning to travel

Year 9 - Planning the future

Year 10 - Indiaaaaaaah

I reckon we can make the next ten even more fun - happy 10th Wedding Anniversary Babs!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I feel like I can fly

Beginning of term

It's a beautiful September. I am trying not to let the back-to-school and the gossip spoil it. Or the homework. Or the tears and beginning-of-term colds. I am trying to enjoy the chilly starts to the day, walking into cobwebs when getting into the car and removing blackberry stained bird poo from the windscreen before the school run. It's hard when school is all encompassing, it isn't just about dropping them off at 8.45am and picking them up at 3, it pervades much more of family life.

P has turned back into her grumpy self, holding all her emotions inside while in school and letting them out in a torrent as soon as she sees me at the school gate. We are back to feeding her as soon as we can and placating her with Club Penguin or some tree climbing before she can speak to me in a semi-civil way. She refuses to read her school books but she is more than able, so I bought her a Beano to encourage some sort or reading, any sort of reading - she likes that, all the burps and farts. She is still only six after all.

A slipped back into the school routine without a bump or a glitch enjoying the gentle start to the term with Art Week. The weekend homework sent her into blind panic as usual, where some deep breathing techniques came in useful. I may always associate maths homework with A's panic now, snot streaming out of her nose and big fat tears landing on her page of fractions. Darn homework, it spoils the weekend.

Only 5 more weeks till half term.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Nine eleven

I'm going to be late, there's a security alert, the text said. Of course my mind started playing out horrible scenarios as it would do on any day, but especially today. I wanted him home, with us, with the cats and a comforting seafood pasta - not stuck on the 7.10 from Charing Cross.

We all remember where we were on 9/11.  A moment when nothing felt safe or ordinary any more. I remember wanting my Dad to come home from the United Arab Emirates. I wanted him to get out of London and be in my organic garage in Cirencester, yes we have been together a long time. I wanted my nearest and loved ones around me.

Just like I do today, but he's stuck in London.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Folly Wildlife Rescue

Pippin turned out to be a boy in the end, a cock from Dalkeith - so he was inevitably re-named as Keith. It seemed fitting. Our rescue pigeon stayed with us for three days and eventually I had a call from his owner. In a distinctive Scottish accent, he told me that the pigeon had been let out in Rippon in Yorkshire, with the aim of flying the 150 or so miles back home to Scotland. Poor little Keith got a bit lost and ended up flying south, almost 350 miles to us in East Sussex. The owner said quite categorically that he didn't want the pigeon back and that it was no good to him, basically that it was crap at its job and that he would just 'dispose' of it.

I mentioned to the owner that it might be nice to take Keith to the vet, or an animal centre or try to get him well enough to be released into the wild. The Scottish voice told me to take him to a pigeon fancier who would dispose of it in a bucket of water.

Well it's a flippin' good job that Keith did fly down South and land in my garden as I managed to find a fabulous place for him to recover. Folly Wildlife Rescue near Tunbridge Wells happily took Keith in, wormed him, put some mite powder on him, weighed him and treated him with such love and care. I was so impressed and relieved that someone else thought of pigeons as precious, sentient beings. They even gave us a reference number so we could check on Keith's progress.

I warned the children that Keith might not have survived, so we all crossed our fingers when we made the call today. Yes Keith was still alive, he's in intensive care but they are worried he might have a nasty virus. The volunteer on the phone said she would just go and see him for us. I heard her tip-toe down the animal hospital and when outside Keith's cage she said:

" Ahhh, your Mummy's on the phone little pigeon, she's called to see how you are, isn't that nice?"

I am so pleased that there are people in this world that are as nuts about animals as I am. Cross your fingers everybody, because if Keith makes it he will be introduced into a flock and they will all be released together - back into the wild.

The Wedding

It was the wedding we were all waiting for, my lovely friend of over twenty years marrying her sailor. A day where my children excitedly wore delightful bridesmaids dresses and followed her down the aisle, clutching their posies freshly picked from the garden in their warm, sweaty hands. The congregation gasped as they walked in, sung their hymns with more gusto than I have ever heard before and shed tears at the reading about two lovely dinosaurs. It was a beautiful ceremony and the love overwhelming, many a moment I felt the familiar thickening of my throat and hot tears prick at my eyes.

Hugest congratulations you lovely people. May the rest of your lives be full of joy, laughter and adventure . We can't wait to hear all about your honeymoon on your return. Well, perhaps not all about it.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Pippin the pigeon

In the unnatural storms of this week, a little pigeon lost her way. She was found under our car sheltering from the rain which beat down relentlessly, threatening our imminent camping trip. We know she is young because the tag around her leg said so, the Internet helped us decipher that she was born this year and that she was all the way from Dalkeith in Scotland. She was very wet and bedraggled, A said she was must be feeling 'under the weather' which we all giggled at. We gave her some bird seed, and not bread, which she immediately pecked at - probably starving from her journey. We then gave her a little blanket, a pot of water and let her rest. She is still with us now, in the utility in the cat carrier. The fatty catties are unbothered by our new feathered friend, seemingly more concerned with catching the many zeds now that winter is nearly upon us.

We have called her Pippin. I keep checking to see if she is OK, we are waiting for her owners to get in touch to advise us what we should do next. She is now dry, perkier and hopefully with a full belly and a good few nights sleep she can begin her journey home again. Or if she decides to stay with us, she would be very welcome indeed.

Monday, 25 August 2014


It's been a cracking summer holiday, the spell being momentarily broken today by Clark's shoe shop and the continuous rain. We had a fantastic week in Somerset my home county - it's an honest part of the world, a more real place than that of Sussex. Somerset is a bit grittier, if that's such a word, more raw, slightly harsher and reveals a sense of calm. As much as I like being a Sussex Mama I am always relieved to reach the West Country, to be rid of the twee-ness and commuter belt feel.


Watchet is a great place to visit. It is charming and I think I could live there with its ancient harbour, brown mud-coloured sea and views across to Wales. I love the coastline with its distinctive red cliffs and alabaster caves, the beaches are a stone-foragers delight hiding fools gold and fossils for the lucky seekers. We wandered along the narrow harbour wall meeting a red lighthouse at the end and watched some young people dive into the harbour waters with their clothes on. It looked like a lot of fun. We talked to a man catching an eel, its snake like body getting caught in the line as he tried to release him.

"Poor bugger's already been caught today!" he exclaimed taking 2 hooks from the eels mouth.

He threw it back into the silty water hoping for an eight pound sea bass next time. We talked local fish, sustainability, fishing with nets and using mud-horses. He took the time to explain to us the intricacies of fishing in the famous lilting accent, he seemed to have that time and didn't mind sharing his knowledge with us. It felt like such a privilege.

The tiny museum held treasures free for the visitor to look at, an old sea swimming pool which was free for anyone to use and to our delight, a free art workshop for the children to practice their fabric painting and flag designs. It felt like everyone we met felt proud of their village and genuinely wanted us to share its gems. Somerset ain't no Cornwall - but I know where I would rather be.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Fletch is at it again

"Well done! Shame about the jumping!" the judge smiled as she handed me a fluffy pink rosette. That's fifth out of five. I grinned, knowing the horse as I do, having being on his back for nearly two years now.

Fletch didn't feel like jumping that day, it was easier to go round them - so he did. I had to do the walk of shame from the ring, elimination at a fence because he ran out three times. He knows I am as soft as butter and that he was going to get loved anyway. Everyone commiserated our efforts, made comments at Fletch's cheekiness saying he should know better at his age and we all agreed that I need to be more assertive with him. They say horses reflect your emotions and that is certainly true in the assertive-ness stakes.

We tried the jumps again in the lunch break. I tried being more positive but Fletch DID feel like jumping them this time. He didn't feel like going round them, he sailed them all not batting an eyelid and wondered what all the fuss was about. I'm sure he grinned an inside grin.

"Ohhh, he's so cheeky isn't he?" they all commented again.

Yeah. You never know what you're going to get with Fletch. Beautifully composed and red rosettes all the way, a meeting of the ground, fly bucks up the fields, reluctance to move forward and a reserve champion of the show. Because we have had it all this week. Onwards and forwards Mr Fletcher, onwards and forwards.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Forty one

I've never liked my own birthday - or Christmas for that matter, perhaps I am just a miserable old fart - but turning 41 has to be the most dull of them all. A slight trough from the peak of being forty. All that self-centred searching due to becoming a decade older, the realisation of your own mortality, the panic that  sets in because there's not much time left, the lists of ways you plan to use the next forty years and the promise to yourself of not wasting a moment. Everyone has a crisis at forty but it kind of fades by the time you reach 41, it's just another year.

So I am going to do some of my favourite things:

1. Have coffee in bed
2. Ride my favourite horse of all time and feed him carrots
3. Go to the beach rain or shine and marvel at the sea
4. Drink champagne, a really good one
5. Eat prawns, you know those huge ones which are almost sweet and so good with garlic mayonnaise
6. Be with friends and loved ones

I think that's a pretty special birthday after all.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A holiday in the holidays

Today has been my first day off this holiday, it's been a crazy-busy summer so far, but at last nothing at all was planned for today - perhaps a little pre birthday celebration but Hurricane Bertha soon put pay to that. I was supposed to be continuing my eventing career by entering another One Day Event, 5 cm higher this time, but I sensibly decided I hadn't had enough time to prepare - Mark Todd wouldn't have done that, but I guess that's why he's an Olympic champion many times over and I am not.

Anyhow, a day of nothing does not sit well with me. OK, the sheets were washed, lunch and dinner prepared and a blustery welly walk accomplished - but it seems I would rather be busy to the point of bursting than having a cosy day inside. Let this day be just a blip in a long and exciting summer - I couldn't bear to think it is already the beginning of the end, although I did smell autumn a few days ago and the blackberries are already ripe for picking.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Cluck cluck

What a fantastic weekend of fun, laughter, grown-up partying with plenty of soul searching and heart-felt issues discussed. A hen weekend in your forties is a rare treat, to be able leave the kids at home and escape with some female friends. I don't do it often enough.

We had lunch out with no one needing a poo or saying they don't like tomatoes. We drank prosecco at lunch time and were the loudest in the restuarant. We rode horses of the ex-race-horse- kind and whooped though the woods - jumping logs as if we were on our hairy ponies 30 years before. I still get a rush of excitement mounting a new horse, hoping I stay on. I chose an orange one called Jaffa - Team Ginger all the way I say. He looked after me like a true gentleman with hay fever and horse flies bugging him along the way.

We nosed in people's gardens, pondering on the house prices of Surrey with its immaculate villages and perfect ponds. Stopping for a quick drink and struggling to get back on we cantered home, twisting, turning, ducking the branches and grinning madly at each other like pony-mad kids. It was a shame it had to end.

Horses will always be a part of all of our lives and it was so wonderful to be able to share the enthusiasm with others. These women get it. The addiction.

And on to the evening of a warm swim in the disappearing sun, a glass of champagne in hand, toasting a friend of many years and wishing her happiness with her soon husband-to-be. It was all quite emotional and held so much more meaning than the hen parties of a decade ago - although even at 40 plus we still drank through penis straws and giggled.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

40 positives

There's a meme going round on Facebook at the moment, I think it's called a meme, to write 3 positives daily for 5 days. No one has asked me to do it but here are my positives anyway, for the summer holidays so far:

1. Sun in the morning
2. Sun all day
3. Gorgeous sunny evenings
4. Glorious views over the Sussex countryside
5. A fabulous beach trip to Pett Level

6. Watching young seagulls being released by the RSPCA
7. Swimming in the sea
8. Taking the cousins riding on Ashdown Forest

9. Eating outside
10. Cherry picking
11. Pub lunch
12. Sleepovers
13. Tree climbing
14. Mud pie making
15. Picking our own salads nightly
16. Lizards
17. Freddie the shetland
18. Fletch being a total-utter-super-star
19. Chipmunks
20. Eton mess
21. The Black Mountains
22. Tawny owls calling at night and buzzards by day
23. Belly laughter with friends
24. Stinkhorn fungi finds
25. River swimming in icy cold welsh mountain water
26. Picnics with dogs

27. Hill walking
28. Raving to old skool toons
29. My cats are so fluffy and squidgy and gorgeous and purry
30. The garden looks ace
31. I've been exactly the same weight for 4 years and my blood pressure is low in my annual check up
32. Beautiful butterflies on budleias

33. Running across grassy fields
34. Really cold beer
35. Late nights and dirty toe nails
36. Chilli plants fruiting and not even in a greenhouse
37. Home made rhubarb crumble with home grown rhubarb
38. My bezzie's Hen Weekend
39. Spinning yarns with Dad and A
40. Selfies