Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Moon

They say (whoever they are) that if you want to be inspired be with inspirational people. I find that if you look for inspiration its there, but then as a child I was told to "Stop being such a bloody Pollyanna!"

I can't always do it and spend time in an Eeyore place, nothing a swift kick up the metaphorical or real arse can't shift, most effective if it comes from myself.

I can gaze at a piece of art work and experience that shift inside somewhere, a connection with the artist or something greater, but its not usually something visual that moves me. Not man made visual anyway. It is usually sound, often music and lyrics at times which can plumb the depths or boost me to highs that are unsustainable but long in the memory and deep in the heart.

Sometimes I open my eyes properly and can't believe I have been focused on such a small horizon, and a season has turned. So if it is visual its Nature that is providing it. Recently someone in my family accused me of getting excited by small things. Too right!! I had just been raving about how AMAZING the moon looked in the sky over the sea. Every time I see this sight, wherever I am in the world it still sets off a reaction in me I can't put into words, still a sense of wonder, sense of WOW, water moved by something so far away, just as I am moved, reassured by its presence. It is a thrill, I am excited by something so timeless in the human scheme of things. Walking or driving by moonlight has a special feeling, a sense of belonging that there it is up above us, all of us. In the past the reassurance that someone I love far away in a different time zone, will look up at the same moon, even if the stars allotted are different. Reassuring, powerful, changeable, known and mysterious. The moon to me is female. I like the night, I easily turn nocturnal and there is this glowing presence travelling with us through space on a journey beyond the mere mortal, radiating its blue luminous glow for all.

Last week I was trying to capture something of the wonder of a full moon at dusk over the valley behind my house, all I had to hand was a disposable camera, and I was trying to take photographs, a man appeared with an absolutely gorgeous black Labrador, and asked me what I was doing so I explained and suggested he look at the moon and he said, "oh that, haven't you seen that before!" I said, "no, before it was another day, another time." He looked at me as if I was mad. Oh well.

So this week I wondered how I felt about NASA bombing the moon. I am intrigued about the purpose and the exciting possibilities this could help arise AND somewhere I felt sad about the violence of it. NASA site is full of interesting information and I have anthropomorphised a small planet...
"Earth's closest neighbour is holding a secret..." - not just me then..

Mental Conflict I feel!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

School of Hard Knocks

About two months ago I was riding in one of the outdoor schools and doing my basic stuff, whilst at the other end was a horse and rider practicing some high jumps and tight turns. There was another rider and horse partnership like mine also doing their stuff. There were 3 instructors one for each horse/rider pairing and each of us was able to maintain awareness of ourselves and some sense of WHERE everyone else was and what they were doing and where they were going. An essential skill as the horses concerned were large.

One of the them was a stallion, not common in this situation and the Gelding I was riding was very aware of the presence of the stallion. The other horse was a mare.

The stallion was jumping out of his skin, and very very hyper, hardly controllable and sure enough the inevitable happened, the rider was dumped. I knew this had happened even though when it did happen, I actually had my back to the events and the horse knew too. The rider was soon on her feet and back on the horse. They continued rider picked up where they left off and 10 minutes later with lots of snorting they finished their practice and were off.

Again I knew they had left the school even though at the time they did I had my back to the events. I could sense a change in the horse I was riding, because the horse too knew that the stallion had departed.

I found this wider awareness fascinating. We all have this skill, we use it all the time walking through crowded places, and not crashing in to one another. We use it in the car when somehow despite watching the road ahead we can maintain awareness if we open out to the rear view mirror and the side mirrors. I can remember my father asking me the colour of the 3rd car behind me in traffic jams!! And sometimes I even knew the answer!?!

Yet on a horse I am still at the stage when this same skill is amazing to me because I am conscious of it, I am noticing it, even when I don' t need it. I will be really competent when I notice it Specifically when I need it, when it doesnt noticeably intrude on everything else I am doing. I suppose it will be part of being in flow.

I have decided that I am on the path to this competence because recent evidence is severly testing me and I have taken a few steps back and am in a relearning loop. Intriguing when I think about it, frustrating and upsetting when I experience it. I appear to have regressed. I suspect I am actually learning stuff now in a deeper way than I did before. I hope so.

It all started few weeks ago. It was a friday afternoon, hot and heavy and also monsoony. It was the afternoon of the company party and the day before an important family party too.

I was riding a horse, a mare who has difficulty with a particular move.

When a horse canters, depending on the direction in the school there is the Right leg to lead off with and the Wrong leg, and this changes with direction. There are a few reasons for this and when you are riding in a tight circle when a horse is on the "wrong" leg it can be an interesting experience!!! For both Horse and Rider

The horse I was riding can only canter off one leg, so in one direction its the right leg, and in the other direction its the wrong leg. She only canters on this one leg and always has done. When I ride her we slowly work on increasing her suppleness on this other side, so that we can coax out of her the ability to lead off the other leg - so that eventually more people will be able to ride her this way. She actually CAN canter off the other leg, she just doesn't believe she can. And because its rare for her to canter off it, obviously she isn't as good at it.
Nice self fulfilling prophecy at work.

So I spent about 35 mins doing various things to make her more limber and relaxed and aware of that side and remembering that both legs can lead. Then set her off nicely and we head round first corner, use pole to strike off from, ask her to canter. She responds nicely and balanced -- on the wrong leg.

We make several more attempts and each time its lovely and balanced -- on the wrong leg.

Afternoon was getting very hot and steamy, and both of us are generating A LOT of heat too.

Next time we try it slightly differently, and instantly though lovely and balanced I know its the wrong leg. I ask her to come back to trot and she does beautifully for about 5 steps. Then she trips over her feet. This happens in slow motion and really fast at the same time. She stumbles and from where I was sitting felt like she was a bit surprised with where her legs were, and considered " am I going to fall over" before actually decidng "yep I am going to fall over".

I flew about 10 feet over her shoulder forwards on to the floor on my right shoulder and hip and knee. Winded, air sucked out of lungs, pain to one side of back oh ho... pulled myself.. Horse on knees behind me. Roll over. I manage to get upright on knees and am terrifed she is hurt. Get towards her and she is getting up off her knees and snorting. Manage to stroke her nose a bit and talk to her, all the time she is looking down and watching and taking the strokes and listening.

She was shocked, more I think than I was.

I had been through that quick momentary elation of "I'm alive" followed by "quick do a total body check" followed by "must get to horse..." Thoughts so quick they overtook each other

Manage to get up and walk her around a bit. She seemed sound. Got back on and had a quiet 5 mins doing some gentle transitions but she felt stunned. Decided to dismount and walk her back up to the stable at end of lesson and the whole time I was talking to her she was leaning her head into my shoulder, almost leaning on me.

I should say this particular horse is quite a remarkable one. She is currently "on loan" to an adult who learned to ride on her and actually she has been the one that has done the teaching and the looking after of the rider. I too felt this nurturing instinct the first time I rode her, she was assessing me and helping me. When I had fallen and turned to look for her, she was looking at me. She was snorting with shock and fear, not with aggression.

Adrenalin is an efficient pain killer. Afterwards I drove on to the party and in a way was relieved. It was bound to happen some time and the longer it went on the more the thought of falling off would have festered in my head. Now it had happened and I still knew how to do it!

Bruising was the usual large technicolour postmodernist abstract body art.

Subsequent lessons though have been frustrating. The first one only a few days later I still hurt everywhere, my right arm reminded me of its presence regularly and as for breathing deeply, I've only actually been able to do that properly for the last week or so.

What I have noticed is that the sensory awareness I was describing at the top, is still there but its overwhelming me. Before the fall I was surprised at the amount of information I was consciously processing but was able to process it. After the fall I was hyper alert, but quickly reaching overload. Whereas before others working in the school with me presented no difficulty, now they sometimes do. Annoyingly for the last week and a half I haven't been able to continue as other obligations have kept me away. Very frustrating in so many ways.

My instructor pointed out that she thougth my pelvis had tightened up again so when I do resume its to a no stirrups lesson followed by a lunge lesson. Better eat Pasta the night before those lessons then!!

She also most wisely said that I should just go back to enjoying it rather than thinking about it

Sage Girl... look forward to following that advice.

Back to the lovely mare, two days after our fall, I went to see her in her stable and when she saw me she nickered at me. Felt like a nice recognition that we had been through something together.

:-) felt v happy with that.

Saturday, 18 July 2009


80 years ago she was born

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Silent Solstice Night

Being nocturnal is probably my default state, when the world isn't making demands on me and I can do as I please, within a short period of time I will turn the clock and often appreciate the dawn this way.

Sometimes the silence of the night is very loud and you do hear you heart beating and thoughts snuff out if you can't sustain the argument you are developing

How fast is a thought anyway?

Wolfram Alpha was not sure what to do with that input. Which has been a common reaction to many of the things I have asked it ( and people too!) Uncertainty isn't its thing on principle.. Or I am not sure it is

It has proved however to be a very intriguing definition engine and has given me some great definitions on thought

belief | the organized beliefs of a period or group or individual higher cognitive process | the process of using your mind to consider something carefully mental object | the content of cognition; the main thing you are thinking about opinion | a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty (4 meanings)

Interesting, those definitions could probably apply to a few species

So I checked the definition of thinking, this is what it returned

thinking | the process of using your mind to consider something carefully

Hmmm and so could that....

Checked the definition of instinct

instinct | inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli

MMM... applied to the stereo Ocelots beside me and myself

Conclusion: As I thought, Cats do think

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Soothed by a Cat called Yusuf

A Cat Said: I love my Dog and it's a Wild World

He also said:

"find you are in hospital, getting injections day in and day out, and people around you are dying, it certainly changes your perspective. I got down to thinking about myself. It seemed almost as if I had my eyes shut."

"when I sing the songs now, I learn strange things. I learn the meanings of my songs late..."

"I get the tune and then I just keep on singing the tune until the words come out from the tune. It's kind of a hypnotic state that you reach after a while when you keep on playing it where words just evolve from it. So you take those words and just let them go whichever way they want... 'Moonshadow'? Funny, that was in Spain, I went there alone, completely alone, to get away from a few things. And I was dancin' on the rocks there... right on the rocks where the waves were, like, blowin' and splashin'. Really, it was so fantastic. And the moon was bright, ya know, and I started dancin' and singin' and I sang that song and it stayed. It's just the kind of moment that you want to find when you're writin' songs."

What a fantastic image - I can imagine, hear and see it, taste the salt of it.

Geldof said ( in reference to Father to Son) his words are what would be said and that the melodies are beautiful.. Who could argue with St Sir Bob?!

Peace train sounding louder....

"That name is part of my history and a lot of the things I dreamt about as Cat Stevens have come true as Yusuf Islam"

They've come true because he has committed himself to making them come true. What an interesting and balanced man.

One to join my list of heroes

.... Now when and where can I get tickets...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A life long eQUEST

Well recent evidence suggests that the path to being a brilliant (but undiscovered) equestrienne, is going to be a very long one, life long probably. Fortunately I knew that when I set out cos my beginnings the first time were memorable and had continuous physical and mental impact on me. The first year I learned to ride as a child I fell off, slid of, was bucked off, cunningly thrown off and or just found myself off or on the way off with no idea quite how it happened on at least a weekly basis.

Sometimes it was inattention, the horse put his head down for a chew of juicy grass and I slid down the neck -- very embarrassing, hurt feelings, some bruising. Horse regarded me with one eye and would swish the tail and continue eating.

Sometimes it was at speed, and the landing place could be a ditch or a ploughed field, or some concrete somewhere. On those occasions then it was more than hurt feelings.

Bath time would be bruise count time. I'd get a strange amusement from this. I wasn't proud that I'd fallen off, it was too frequent an occurrence and very obviously pointed to my lack of ability, which was very frustrating. I really wanted to learn though and somehow somewhere I knew that I was choosing to continue and I was earning the bruises. The big step that year was not the riding itself, it was when I crossed a threshold and did not cry when I fell off.

No one was making me, the opposite in fact. My Mother had been bored to tears with "horses horses horses" during her own childhood from her own sister, so another inflicted person in her house wasn't ideal. My Father other than being glad one of his children was finally showing some interest in sport of some sort, Horses were BIG THINGS that would always try to bite him. As for siblings one had left home and the other had entered with some enthusiasm into the (probably permanent) phase of pubs, fags and girls.... My passions were just something to watch with some amusement - from a safe distance

Those days/weekends at the stables were an eye opener in many ways. The horses and animals on the farm presented many challenges. Teeth and Hooves! I wasn't just riding (or more accurately) falling off. I was collecting them from fields, feeding them, cleaning them, cleaning the tack. Filling water troughs was hard enough in itself.

One pasture was hidden, it was a strange triangular field you wouldn't really know was there. An old fashioned meadow, full of amazing flowers and high grasses, the earth was always damp - but no actual water nearby. When the buttercups arrived and some of the horses would be turned out in here, it looked like something out of a fairy tale. In winter it still did, but the bleak dark bits of fairy stories where the witch is nearby and not entirely friendly. So the trough would be filled by climbing into a small ditch and filling an old battered tin bucket with water from a spring, then climbing back out of the ditch and walking 30 yards, climb the fence and then bucket by bucket fill the trough. This was done alone sometimes and very arduous it was too after a long physical day. Mostly though there would be at least two of you at it. One in the ditch ( usually me, because I was small and with the small bucket could gradually fill the bigger buckets) and the other taking the water to the trough. A large trough takes a lot of buckets. It was a time of banter too and mischief. Other times in winter the ice would have formed on the water and we would have to break it so that they could drink when they needed.

All this would happen at the end of a long day, when every sinew ached and certainly before we had anything to eat or drink ourselves.

No one was making me do any of that either. We all mucked in and out! Tasks were allocated by a mixture of choice and ability, often tacitly. Being around horses and working with them brings a great deal of visibility to your skills and your desires and it becomes clear to all around you what you are capable of. . And the most astute judges were the horses themselves. Horses might be flight creatures, herd creatures but they are fast. They often have time to decide whether they need to flee. From a distance you can see that decision point, if you are close by, you might just FEEL it!

There was one very pretty mare, Pippa that I wanted to ride. She was a very beautiful, very highly strung, highly schooled horse. I was a very long way off being able to attempt to ride her. I would occasionally talk to her. when she was tacked up waiting. Once I remember I was allowed to take her tack off, and swap her bridle for a head collar (and kept all my fingers!). I was thrilled that I was finally trusted to do just that.

I never did ride that horse. Later, many years later, I did ride an event horse that was as beautiful, as highly strung, ( a very naughty boy) and even more highly schooled and he taught me a lot too.

This time my mind knows I have been here before, but my body has almost total amnesia and it is much weaker too. So I have little arguments going on in myself between what the head asks and what the body can do and they get very annoyed with one another. This week I was asked if I knew how to do a particular move, I tried to describe it, the instructor smiled and said the words I had used were correct but somehow it wasn't accurate!

She should be a diplomat.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Feline pauses aforethought

It has been suggested to me that animals can't think.

I think that they can think, and more.

I would write a longer blog post about this -  but the return and backspace keys are under a small feline chin. She doesn't appreciate the interruption when she is dozing and there are activities I should be attending to for her.

Anyone would think she had thought about it.


Friday, 27 March 2009

My Hero

I was not able to ride today. Some vague balance problem from a virus meant that I took the decision not to attempt it. Being physically weak and not particularly competent is a risk I will take, but not able to balance is probably, at this point one too many risks.

However I had to smell them. I went to rearrange and to have a good long sniff. As I chatted I asked where large grey beastie that brought out my vertical take off skill was, as his stall was bare.

He was in the school. So I took 10 mins to watch him in action. He is one amazing horse. Very large. There were two other horses in the arena, one being lunged whilst one of the school owners talked through the process and coached the person lunging the horse, whilst the horse itself listened to the instructions down the line. This was a beautiful dainty light bay and looked tiny in comparison but was a good size horse. This was happening at one end of the arena. Then there was another chap on his slightly bigger horse riding round the outside  of the arena just as a warm up. And then there was the Grey Beastie. 

He is very handsome and very proud. His rider was very accomplished and together they were quietly doing some interesting things and some very very difficult things. They were  deep in conversation with one another, it was interesting to watch, and listen to the noises, the breathing. I could sense the contained energy, the power held between them. And the generation of something more. It was good to watch the two individuals, know they were two and that they were making one beautiful shape, to make the whole. The rider asked and it was perceptible but subtle, the horse mostly chose to answer. 

I like the curves of a horse, the long sweeps.  He has them in abundance. He arched his head. A few times he slipped in a buck, which amused me but not the rider. OOOh He is a handful. 

I had my 10 minutes and then left the school happy I had seen, but sad I was leaving.

I  was walking across the quad when three dogs of different shapes, size and disposition came to greet me and looked me hard  in the eye. Luckily for me this slightly slowed my progress and this  meant that just as I was about to turn through the gateway out of the quad, the horse came out (still with rider) and walked across the yard. He stretched his neck, put his front foot out, and reached down and rubbed the side of his nose against his foot. It looked from my angle like a salute to one of the little dogs who was standing directly in front. He was regarding me as he did so. His eyes looked black and deep in his noble white head, the contrast and the line of his eyes and eye lashes, perfectly shaped, more curves.

I left and drove away, looking forward to my next visit. I wonder if he will still try to bite me next time.

I think I might be in love


Cat Rescue Remedy

When I run out of cat food (which I have been trained to do infrequently) they get Emergency Tuna.

The know the words. I just have to walk into the sitting room and announce Emergency Tuna! and into the kitchen we go. They like Emergency Tuna I think almost more than normal cat food and I am comforting myself that they hear the phrase Emergency Tuna and translate it as "mmm yum treat". The alternative is that they are being gracious about my lax attitude because it is convenient, but in the Cat book of Chatelaine Crimes and Punishment it is being listed and the total is increasing. I hope their lack of opposable thumb means they haven't yet flicked to the latter half...

One of them has been very poorly this week and her appetite has been a bit off. This calls for Desperate Measures Sardines (in tomato sauce), the strong smell and taste encourages her to eat. This doesn't have the ring of Emergency Tuna but something about the rhythm means that when I do say it,  the ill one (which ever one that might be at the time) knows it is for them, and the well one doesn't demand their share.  

Emergency Tuna is for all Ocelots.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

OWK help, not enough synopseeeeese - no time to catch up

So Brenda has made a mistake, Tom has reacted badly (she always does and why is she surprised at his reaction)  Matt is being investigated for Fraud,  ( has he really been a norty boy with Chalky) Pip is still subjecting people to her 5 mile radius diet and her chronic case of smugs disease looks life-lasting.

Usha has been mugged and doesnt want to talk about it. (Who and do we have any indication of why)

But I dont know the details.. Facts Facts Facts... someone who collects facts....

Still "I am not a 22 year old hair dresser" and "How about its a Wonderful life.... I am not a toddler"  did take on Shakespearean wit.

Do we know what car Matt drives? I am betting not a mercedes estate ;-)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Harrier Goat Person

When I was a child I was thrilled at the sight and sound of a harrier jump jet. It was the vertical take off that impressed me. I wondered if I could have one, no more worrying about what was ahead of me I could just leap up and over it

A few years back on Crete we watched in amazement as the special Crete goats did this amazing cartoon style leap directly up, them sideways mid air over a fence and then back down again, followed seconds later by its companion. It was such a funny and startling sight we laughed about it for hours.

I have often wondered how this was done

Whist waiting on friday I walked down a cool shadow aisle and said hello to some equines. One a pony was full of talk even before I was near him, he had held my eye and was reeling me in. I spent a happy few moments scratching his ears and forehead, whilst he explored pockets for mints. 

At the very end was an enormous creature. A grey horse, clearly male and his head was HUGE, I would say just his head alone, ignoring his neck was the size of a springer spanial. ( a whole one) He looked hard at me and pulled a face. Charming I thought. He looked again and I was encouraged to walk nearer, not too near, he looked very very cross to me, but he was so beautiful I wanted to know more about him. He felt sad and fed up. He looked at me  and I looked at him. He met my gaze and his ears went back, fast and tight. He looked at me some more and a foot stamped. Hmm I thought. 

I was well back but suddenly he stretched his neck and his head shot out and I saw at close quarters all of his teeth. In the same moment I leapt up, sideways and back out of the way. 

I didn't know I could do that. I have done it before but such a long time ago there were teachers roaming the earth that took my PE lessons .... 

Nice to know I can do it. Still dont know how

After my leap to safety the horse swung his head and farted. LONG and Loud. The talkative pony nearby gave him a look of derision. And then the Grey Horse's head came forward and he wanted a conversation. He got one, but I maintained my distance as those teeth were encased in a very large jaw.

Its a jolly good job they dont really have canines.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Episode 3 Communication, it's the listening

The building where I experience without any mitigation, my inadequacies, is itself  like something out of my fantasy land. It's a quadrangle, open at one end as an entrance for carriages, in the centre of the quadrangle a perfect circle  of grass, used as a roundabout for big long vehicles with enough horsepower to carry horses. All around the square inside are stables and stalls. When it was built long ago, attention was paid to the building. The tiles on the floor are tiny and set in herringbone fashion like a red tiled parquet for horses.  The stalls are spacious and deep and the long rows of heads looking out,  each with their own thoughts is just beautiful to my eyes. Opposite the entrance at the other side of the quad is the school, menage, the place of mirrors ( there are at points mirrors - though as I am not wearing my glasses as I ride I can't really see them). An active reflective place. This isn't a place to contemplate myself, this is a place to experience directly with no soft sell translation what I am doing right and what I am not.

The horse I rode yesterday was VERY tall I would say 18hh, a very long time since I rode one that tall. He was quite an interesting bod too. He definitely was checking out if I meant it, when I asked, and if I knew what I was asking. And if I wasn't clear enough, or polite enough he didn't oblige. 

You can't pretend you got it right on a horse. You might occasionally be in a situation where the horse ( maybe out of humour, maybe not) hears your thoughts before you actually ask, but the rest of your body isn't ready when the horse does the thing you were about to ask for, and it is obvious.  Going right back to the beginning is hard and fun. 

When it works well it is a mindmeld. That's what I am aiming for, have experienced briefly and seek again. 

The system is the two of you listening to one another. Being from a loud talkative family I do find myself talking to the horse A LOT. ( I listen more though)  And the horse is listening to my tone and my sense of self worth. Horses DO feel fear, they are prey animals, it's an essential survival instinct, others' referred fear in the herd part of an early warning system. They are also curious and quite discerning, before heading off at 30 mph they will just look to check. Give a shrewd second glance before deciding. Of course all of this happens more quickly than a human would normally be aware of, dullards that we are in our environment.. 

The Wikipedia article on the horse is a very good one and I particularly liked that whoever had written it had included Balance in the section on Senses, but that's another blog for another time.

I will have a horse in the future and I do and will take tremendous pleasure being out in the fresh air on a horse and sometimes at speeds that set your heart pounding and make your eyes stream. I love those moments, and I look forward to many of them in the future. There is an exhilaration that is hard to convey unless you experience it, of air entering your body at speeds it wouldn't normally do.

I also love as much and maybe more actually, the conversations that go on with dressage. I can't call what feeble steps I am taking presently  dressage, it is too grand a label. Flat work is a more humble and honest description but I am very certain where I am going with it ( over the next several years)  This is going to be very very hard.  Constant communication, will you, wont you, have you, did you mean that, do you feel like it, are you up to it. It looks gentle but its actually quite challenging. This isn't  something  you can enjoy if you always want to know you can do it, and are not used to  losing face whilst learning. You might be in control, you are aiming to be in control or more honestly to be able to effectively respond, but and its a huge but, its actually not about control at all.

Its all about cooperation, confidence in each other and trusting oneself and the other to be able to achieve things. That is never sustainable by force. You might get what you want once but the resistance the next time will be greater.

Once you believe that the other part of the system, the horse,  is doing the best it can, and you have a sense that the other part of the system, your partner in this activity. the horse believes the same thing about you, then you have the start of something. Something strong enough to go into the unknown, knowing that any feedback you get, even if its not positive feedback is intended to improve.

Yesterday another horse entered the school, who was "in one!" and the rider hadn't yet established any connection. This grumpy beast headed towards mine, with malintent. And I could see that intent all over his face.  My horse regarded him with the disdain a tall creature can muster easily over a smaller one. He actually relaxed one of his back legs. I should have LISTENED to that but I didn't, I reacted with my own response which was a loud WHOA. The rider broken out of her trance then started to communicate with the horse, (decided she was actually riding the horse, not as Eddie Izzard would suggest be something that the horse wears) 

My horse moved one of his ears back quizzically at me and sighed, and walked away. ( he strolled off in a  "am I Bovvered?" way)

I later found out that the other grumpy horse has a nice !?! trick when not feeling obliging. He walks besides another horse and bucks! So I would have had hoof in my face. Didn't feel quite so foolish about my crying out once I heard that. Thereafter we maintained polite but distant relations as we encountered one another in the school.

I wanted a twenty metre circle later, my horse doesn't like 20 metre circles - he likes 40 metre circles so my battle yesterday, my learning, was to find out how to get him to listen and believe and do, when I asked for 20 meter circles. Right now one of my (many) failings, is the amount of contact I have through the reins. I never am particularly tight here, even when I was good at this stuff. I want the horse to do it and I want as light a contact as possible. I don't want to be pulling at his mouth, I sure as hell wouldn't react well to someone pulling at mine. 

However if there isn't enough contact there I can't listen to what his mouth is telling me, I can't feel the tiny inflexion of head angle, or tension. So I need more contact than I have and I am gradually getting it.

Most of the information is conveyed through whats going on in his and my body. I transmit where I want to go by looking in that direction, ( it has to be very exaggerated at present) and that means looking 180 degrees round the school so he can fell through the saddle where my intent is and I have to maintain that, steadily whilst he resists and walks away. Yesterday was frustrating because I knew another way of getting him to understand that I wanted him back on a particular line, but to use it would have been counter productive( at this point). We haven't reached that bit of the conversation yet. He doesn't believe I am fluent enough in this bit, to try the other technique. Even though I would have been accurate HE wouldn't hear it because he needed to hear something else first and I hadn't demonstrated it clearly enough for him.

Being such a different shape to the previous horse his trot was very different. A different rhythm.The instructor asked me if it was more or less comfortable. Found that an odd question, it was just different, it wasn't as familiar ( at that point) because I hadn't ridden him before but once I listened it was just different and I just adapted to match him and accommodate his length of stride. And on we went.

Afterwards the instructor told me that she had noted that the horses seemed to be calm around me, even the stroppy ones. I'd like to think that's because I have the right energy for them. 

I think it might be more to do with how I feel about them.  I love horses. I mean it. It's not a word I over use. I really love them. They move me, I am in AWE of them, I would pay money to see a horse like others would to meet a film star ( pah limited bipeds).  I look at them and the whole universe falls into shape, I watch them argue and bicker with one another and I marvel at the complexity and subtlety of their conversation. I like their honesty, their moods, their cunning. And I love the fact that you have to earn it, whatever it is, they discern and they discriminate, they pay attention, they give you multiple chances, they are prepared to make it painful to get you to listen.

They may be your friend and ifthey are, as a good true friend, they will challenge you

What a reward!

Sunday, 8 March 2009


I've got back on a horse. 

Twice now :-) !!!!!!!

First time was two weeks ago. I was excited all week, and terrified. What was I going to find? Did my body know how to do any of it? Would  I be  able to stay on? Would I be able to breathe? Would I be able to stay on and breathe?  Would I be able to ask the Horse to do anything, stay on and breathe?

Well the answer for week 1 was Yes.  Getting on was interesting, horses are so high up aren't they?  I don't like heights, lightbulbs are things that other people change (if I can get away with it). However, previously being high up on a horse didn't count, like standing over a waterfall and a lake doesn't count either. The water or the horse remove the fear somehow.  Anyway, on the horse, hmm legs... what are they going to do?  This was why I was nervous I had no idea what was going to happen.

I like riding a horse for more reasons than I care to share. One important reason is their unpredictable nature. Horses have minds and moods and spirits of their own. You have to ask nicely, and they have to want to oblige and believe you know what you are asking. 

Horses have special knowledge, they know that sometimes a hedge is a hedge, that well known thing they pass every day on the way to the hay net. They know what birds are, they dance about and land on the cattle, they can fly. Sometimes they know its not a hedge anymore at all and there is a lion hidden in it which they have to skitter past, fast and sideways. Their equivalent of the monster under the bed. ( The lost Book Monster in all our houses!) Or that shadow isn't the crow on his way somewhere but an eagle about to swoop and the only means of escape is to RUN.

You have to pay attention when on a horse.  Eddie isnt quite right here
about me - though he is as always amusing.  

So am on the horse wondering if I will 1) remember how to do anything 2) be able to actually do it.

This was going to be as hard as when I learned to walk again. Sending some instruction to some part of my body and see if what happened was anything like I had hoped. It was near, sometimes.  

The horse was a star, a mare but not a tempermental one and I had a sense that she was looking after me. That sounds like a foolish notion, but it did feel like that.  So I get to the end of the session, having breathed more deeply then I had done in a VERY LONG time I had nicely dredged up all sorts of goo at the bottom of my lungs, and I had a ruddy complexion. Did I say ruddy? I dont think that really does justice to large population of blood vessels that had exploded on my face.  And I was hot. 

I was alsodrunk on happiness. Happier than I have been for a very long time. The sort of deep happiness that comes when you have connected with something that you know is part of you and has been lost.

So end of week 1. My core muscles worked for the first time since before surgery were in that dazed place of "Eh? What just happened here? Who ARE you? Eh?"

Next hard thing, get off the horse. I knew as every single muscle in my body was trembling from over exertion that getting off the horse was not going to be possible the normal way. I took my feet out the stirrups and had a think. How was I going to jump off? How do you do it? Well I'd remembered lots of things, but not this one. 

Fortunately there was a mounting block nearby and on a loose rein the horse walked me to it and stood patiently whilst I climbed down.  The right leg, didn't quite make it. I was off, but not elegantly.

There is a scene in the film High Society, where the character Grace Kelly plays, is very drunk at her party the night before she gets married ( who can blame her!) and she has been escorted to a room to recover. She decides to escape and climb out the window. The way she does it, bears some similarity to how I got off that horse. Put it this way, its not the easiest, best or most elegant way.  And I probably couldn't do it sober.

So for several days afterwards EVERYTHING HURT. And that was GREAT

Week 2 arrives. Get on the horse. No longer appears high up, just normal :-) 
Ask the horse to do things. Horse says yes sometimes and not others. Horse is not being nasty, just not taking care of me like it did the previous week. Horse has measure of me. Horse is teaching  me. Get to end of lesson nearly. Nearly pass out at one point through lack of oxygen, This thinking AND doing AND Breathing lark is all a bit much at times.

Go out of school and up lane for a stretch of the legs. (Not mine, am still on the horse) Gorgeous day, sharp, birds and lion hedges about. Horse skitters but comes back. Look down at horse's head. Horses ears. Forward. I can't see the horses face  but I know from her ears what sort of expression she has on. She is enjoying the pastoral scene too.

Walk back in to yard. Outside. No mounting block. Have to get off. Hmm last week was a bit of a fiasco. Last week I had the mounting block and it was an indoor school. The earth would have been ignominious, but soft. 

This time am outside, concrete is hard and cold. Still not much strength in my legs. Stamina coming back slowly, or at least I have faith it is.

Could make a big fuss and find the mounting block OR I could risk it. What's the worst thing that could happen? I could land hard on the concrete and not be able to get up... because I can't yet get up,  I still have to pull myself up.  I could land hard on the concrete and break something, then I definitely wouldn't be able to get up and it would be another while before I was back on a horse.

Got a bit bored of myself worrying about it. Took feet out of stirrups. Went for it. Jumped off horse. Properly.  Landed. Properly.

It wasn't what you'd call a great landing. If I'd been a gymnast dismounting, I'd have made that one step forward. But it was good enough... 

Thrilled. ( More thrilled by that then being able to keep one leg on, change diagonal and breathe at the same time)

Next day, slightly aware I'd exercised, nicely aware actually, but no pain.

Looking forward to round 3. 

I am not naturally sporty. Happy in water, on a horse, riding a bike, BEING rowed. Takes me a while to learn stuff, get it actually in the muscle memory. It's hard for me. I usually find when I am doing something physical like this my other learning starts to wake up too.. 

Hope still the same.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ocelots have a new toy

A toy dog to be precise, delivered in the darkness of a thursday night. 

.....Hmmm what gentle sport shall we have.... 

I could hear them as they each took a high sentinel post  and regarded their prey toy

....At some point SHE will leave the house and then...... 

Her ladyship is an aristocratic spaniel who is holidaying with me whilst her persons are parleying  and digesting cheese, wine, and probably vampire repelling amphibians.

She is part of the extended multispecies family, so they all know one another. Dogs have the freedom to travel in cars and such like, as companions. Felines do travel by car and stay in other habitats at times but they generally have the freedom to come  and go through their own special door, the portal to their wild selves, when they choose.  Then return and be pampered and turn their playful games on to more docile  sport. How perfect for them a small dog.

So far it is gently done, a dog's bed is a perfect cat's bed, particularly perfect if the dog wants to lie in it and can't cos  the shadow of a panther is resting with a paw out and a small but discernable slow rhythmic tail twitch.

The Old Spaniel has learned a new trick, sent by sms to those in the lower latitudes. She has found a way of sleeping atop a crate of groceries delivered, covered by the fallen skirt from the laundry. A sort of Spaniel Fakir slumbering on her bed of nails, of soya milk cartoons, sauce bottles and vertical spaghetti. Being mostly blind she can not see how clever she is being and therefore is not averse to attempting it.

They watch on from the comfort of the dogs bed, or her duvet or her blanket. And I have watched all from the sofa whilst consuming yet more lemsip.

One of the cat tippees is now back in place. 

How long before her ladyship finds it and what will Ocetlots do then?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

This is a thank you - with permission

To the biped hands of the Post IT Cat that sent me a letter in the post.

Dog, n A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship. This Divine being in some of his smaller and silkier incarnations takes, in the affection of Woman, the place to which there is no human male aspirant. The DOG is a survival - an anachronism. He toils not, neither does he spin, yet Solomon in all his glory never lay upon a door-mat all day long, sun-soaked and fly-def and fat, while his master worked for the means wherewith to purchase the idle wag of the Solomonic tail, seasoned with a look of tolerant recognition. Ambrose Bierce 1842 - 1914

The Ocelots have allowed this, because they realise that had Ambrose been defining a Cat, the entry would have been shorter by 7 words in the first sentence. There would be no need for the third sentence and there should be a replacement of 2 words in the last sentence.

But it was near and far enough to amuse them. And cats can start sentences with but.

And with and.


Monday, 2 February 2009


Today driving to work I was intent on keeping the gritter in sight, but not close enough for him (yes it was a male gritter lorry)  to dirty my windscreen. I was looking at how the fan thingy at the back was dispersing the grit so that it covered bits of the other side of the road too.  Up the steep hill safely enough, noticing the banana brain in my rear view mirror who never seemed to brake in a timely enough fashion and wishing, not for the first time, that I had a Hong Kong Foooey car and could drop something to get his attention out of the boot of my car - without hurting him.

This went on for about a mile or so, watching the gritter in front and letting my other senses keep a track of the "driver"  behind me. Finally I noticed I had been driving through a really beautiful bit, a forest, and my attention had been on the  grimey orange gritter.  

The trees were amazing, very tall and long and elegant there was a steely stoic quality to them as the light behind them,put the branches heavy with snow, into relief. It was a surreal sight and I nearly missed  it.

The rest of the journey was beautiful and uplifting. I'd timed the journey to avoid the early morning lunacy, on a day like to day I am even less inclined than usual to join the lemmings trapped in tiny metal boxes (Thank you Mr Sumner) , but even so every sense had to be alert to others doing odd things in the road and relearning the responsiveness of the car and wishing someone in the sky could paint the words... "use low gears!"

No music, just radio 4 this morning. Womans Hour - my heart sank, but it was actually very interesting Meryl Streep, quietly insightful, amusing and amused. 

Didn't see much wildlife, but chose roads that I knew had a fair chance of the gritter, - hence my close and prolonged encounter with the golden amber  beastie - so not too surprised. I saw a horse alone in a field  tonight, no rug, no shelter and no companion in sight... I hope there was a fellow equine out of  sight to me. 

The office closed earlier than usual today too so even though my journey was still over 2 hours home I was back before the expected time. The vertical pupils  of the Ocelots narrowed. What was I doing back in their house at this time?  Hmmm still maybe we can get  an early supper... With an unconcious synchrony they rose from separate heated places, leading me they strolled towards their bowls.  One squawked and the other more refined opened her mouth slightly, both training the biped with a small reward of interest in her.

Looking out over the wildness that is my garden and the valley beyond, the world is beautiful even in its harshness.   

People smile at the snow - if its the first day, when they'd be ground down by the rain.  So many people work from home now  that today, whilst extreme, has not been  a repeat of previous snowed in days. 

I found a quote whilst reading about the snow in 1963 - a time of old money before I lived and thought hmmm but wouldn't it be great if time future really was contained in time past.

"People expect too much now. In 1963 about five weeks went by without a first division football match"

Teased by hope

Saturday, 17 January 2009


I received a letter in the post this week. Not unusual you might think, everyday the ritual of paper moving across the country, inserted through boxes at the beginning and at the end of the journey. Once the paper diaspora hits the home, its opened  ( or not!) filed ( or not!) and thrown away. A lot of the stuff is just picked up and taken straight to the bin. 

Most of the stuff that comes through the letter box is official in some way,  a statement or a manipulative request to buy something or support a cause. Christmas time is a big exception when cards plop on to the hall floor, but generally though they may be personalised they are not really personal.

I don't write letters much, there have been times in the past where I have been a regular correspondent as I maintained contact with people away from  me for a time, but from preference and habit I prefer phone, email or actually seeing people. And I enjoyed that process, developing  an accurate  eye for episodes and events and an ear for thoughts to convey later to the person not present.

I remember once my Mother and Grandmother being less than impressed when a relative in America wrote a letter and they typed it. He had signed the bottom, but that didn't satisfy, for them at the time the rules were simple, personal written, impersonal typed.  
The content didn't matter the form did and they were hurt by this.   Form does still matter in lots of things, in the sense that it always has an impact of some kind and people choose how they communicate. Even if its a habitual way and the choice is no longer immediate, its become habit for a reason. Somewhere it suits.  

Some people think that the written word is about the visual. I don't think it is really. I think the written word has more similarities to the radio than the television for instance, provided you are literate. The written word is a direct communication channel straight into the mind, and the mind does the rest, including creating the images and the feelings. 

The last proper letters I wrote ( up until this Christmas),  personal ones, that werent long notes in Birthday, Christmas or Condolence cards, was whilst in hospital. I'd been incarcerated and incapacitated there for what felt like forever. People came  (those I let see me that way) cards and notes-  in fact I got lots of mail whilst in hospital and in messages delivered in the old fashioned way, by word of mouth but the essences of the people in all the messages. I had learned to sit up again that week, without help, finally technique and strength combined and I could do it maybe 3 or 4 times a day.   I worked hard at eating and keeping some of the food down that day, so that eventually I felt strong enough to write them. They took me hours, most of the work was in my head thinking what I needed to say, because I knew that the writing of them was going to do me in  for a few days. It would be a task of physical endurance, so the thinking needed to have happened. Eventually after lights out I could face the attempt. Even whilst ill my nocturnal rhythms meant I'd have a bit of an energy burst to get the words down on the paper. I didn't recognise my writing really, small, feeble - if I was ever going to have faith in graphology that would have been the moment, my writing I felt reflected my physical well being,  at that time still a long way behind par. I handed them in, like homework to the nurse on night duty early in the morning and slept uninterrupted ( for a change!!) for several hours.

I've been using email for a very very long time working in universities early on and in IT meant I had access to it and lots of the people I knew did too. I loved it. I still do. I still love the magic that someone perhaps in another country has a thought and sends it and its immediacy. I am not a user of twitter, not sure if I will take that up, maybe I will, but those I communicate with in various other forms, usually get a small flavour of a bit of whats going on in me by viewing what I am saying.

This weeks letter was in response to one I sent at Christmas.  Last year at yet another funeral we commented again to those we have long held, deep affection connections with,  that we are sick of meeting at funerals. I was reminded that I am poor when it comes to Christmas cards and letters. So I broke the pattern and at Christmas I wrote two specific Christmas cards and one proper   letter to an old family friend of my Mum and Dad,  and this week I received a reply.

Obviously the contents are not for here, but I remembered just how much I enjoy receiving PROPER letters, that there is a qualitative difference between  a letter and any other form of communication. My piano teacher occasionally used me as a postgirl. She was  of my Grandmother's generation, indeed they had been at school together. She corresponded regularly with a friend of hers, that lived on a road  I could walk past on the way home from the lesson. Mostly the letters went in the post but if I was to carry out the task, she would in front of me write on the top of the letter "by the kind hand of Sarah"  . Strangely even though I had no idea what was in the letter and the person concerned knew nothing about me -  we never met- I knew that that was all part of the ritual of writing, sending and receiving of letters; the  choice of mechanism. 

This is a tradition I have taken, if I ask someone to deliver in the same way for me, I will in front of them write the same message on the letter, inserting their name. Very occasionally at work I have received personally delivered letters from someone of an older generation and seen the same words there, "by hand" sometimes with the name sometimes not. It adds a charm to the process.

The letter itself was long and typed, with a paragraph apologising for its typed nature explaining that his writing was no longer the best and I thought back to my Mother and Grandmother's response and knew he too had the same values - hence his felt need to explain. 

This tradition I have not taken. The thought that someone had spent time to compose and carefully without error type such a letter and then post it, meant more to me than how it had been written.