Monday 29 April 2013

Transport in Luxor

On our holiday in Luxor, Egypt, one of the modes of transport I refused to sample was a calashe. While I am sure the experience would have been exhilarating, and possibly pleasanter than the inside of a taxicab with no air conditioning, I just didn’t think it fair to add more weight to the carriage and driver for one horse to pull. We saw some labouring along with three large passengers, plus driver, and it really didn’t seem right.

Some of the horses were clearly well cared for, while others looked tired and emaciated. One mare was working with a loose foal running alongside her along the main road beside the River Nile. This looked really sweet but it didn’t seem very safe.

I took this picture of calashe horses at rest in the centre of the town. Look carefully to see one lucky animal having lunch from a nosebag. The luckiest ones have been stopped in the shade of some trees.

Monday 22 April 2013

A Bit of Nostalgia: True Horsy Story from Fifty Odd Years Ago

pic by Jim Champion

Next to my school when I was in my teens were some riding stables where I was welcomed as a free helper and I soon turned into a horse-mad youngster.  These days I live near the New Forest, and I found the lovely picture above of new forest ponies at Wikimedia Commons.

In summer the riding school took on the job of providing hacks and children’s pony rides for Barton Hall Hotel, which was about a half hour walk from the stables, on the other side of the Newton Road, the main artery into town.  In exchange there was a hut for tack and taking money, plus a vast grazing field.  Free helpers like myself had a rota for which venue they would be helping at, and for moving the horses and ponies between the two of them.

One Saturday it was my turn to collect the two smallest ponies from Barton Hall and walk them down the lane to the railway cutting, along the Newton Road and up Shiphay Lane past the front of the school entrance and back to the stables.  I agreed to take along my sister who was a novice rider some 18 months younger than me.

We started off ok, me riding Silver, who could be a bit moody, and would grab a piece of your behind as you mounted if you didn’t have her head firmly pulled in the opposite direction, so you invariably started off by going round in circles.  Sis was on Smoky, the smallest and quietest, though a bit nervy.  She was to follow me down the lane, which was quite a steep downward gradient.  When we got to the bottom and turned to walk along to the road beside the railway cutting, I would pick up the leading rein and we could go side by side.

But no sooner had we turned the corner when a great gust of wind blew an old newspaper out of the hedge.  Smoky was so startled he reared up and deposited sis on the ground.  I heard the crack as she hit arm first.  With a bit of help, she was able to get on her feet, but she was sobbing and clutching her arm, and her face was paler than the whitewash on the side of the garage across the railway.  There was no way she would get back on that pony.

“I’ll take you to the hospital,” said her big sister.  This was not far.  All we had to do was turn right over the railway bridge when we reached the road about 50 yards away.  The hospital drive turned off the road on the other side of the bridge; then it climbed up from the road and rail valley to the casualty entrance.

We set off on foot, me supporting sis on one side and leading two quarrelling ponies on the other.  That few hundred yards seemed like miles and took us about half an hour. 

As I was about to tie the ponies to a sturdy wooden seat outside, a man said he would hold them for me.  You trusted people then.  Anyway I didn’t really have a choice.  I had to get sis inside.  Once she was being looked after by a starchy staff nurse, I was able to pop back out and check on the ponies.  Of course they were the centre of attention and being properly spoiled.  I could only hope that Silver would behave and not nip anybody.

Sis didn’t have to wait long for the x-ray which confirmed a nasty fracture.  You don’t get service like that in A&E these days.  Those were also the days of old money and red telephone boxes that took threepenny bits and actually had phone directories in them.  First I rang the stables, then thought about how we were going to get home.  We didn’t have our own phone then, but I found the number for the next door neighbours'.  Unfortunately noone was in and the phone just rang on and on. 

After scratching my head a bit, I suddenly thought of the corner shop about a hundred  yards from our house.  Sure enough, Mr Loram in the shop had a customer who would be passing our house and could pop in with a message asking my dad to come and fetch us at the hospital.  At the time he was a commercial traveller and had a bright red van that could also be used to run the family around when he wasn’t on the road with it.  No such thing as seat belts then.  One or two of us would be sitting on boxes in the back and sometimes ended up rolling around the floor on the sharper bends. 

Next time I went outside, the ponies were gone and so were all the people.  I was just a bit worried then, hoping there weren’t any horse-nappers about.  So I used my last threepenny bit to call the stables again.

“It’s ok,” I was told.  “We came straight over and collected them.”  Big sigh of relief.  And not long after that, sis was sitting comfortably in the front seat of the red van as I rolled around in the back.  I never thought I’d be so glad to be doing that.

It didn’t put me off horse riding, and I think I got some brownie points for looking after sis and making that phone call.  But it was almost the first time, and certainly the last time that my sister sat on a horse.

Friday 19 April 2013

Blog Posting Habits

I really admire people who manage to post on their blog every day. Look at John Sealander’s Some Assembly Required  and Joan Young’s My Quality Day, for example. I can’t even read blogs every day, let alone write mine, but I catch up with them and others a couple of times a week.

Some of my writing pals have actually committed themselves to a daily stint with the A-Z Challenge. They are now up to P so over half way. I recommend Bob’s Home for Writing (Bob is even posting while unwell at the moment, and I wish him well soon) and David Robinson’s blog – David is managing to promote his published books via the A-Z Challenge. I’m interested to see if he can keep that up all the way through the alphabet. He’s a fantastic writer, by the way, and I am an avid collector of his work.

For myself, I try to publish a post three times a week and usually manage that, but have been known to slip. My work is mostly ghost writing so I can’t promote it, except for articles  for sale at Constant Content, or pieces published under my byline on other sites such as Travel Through History.  That reminds me I haven’t visited that blog for a while – Ruth’s travel blog is not updated daily either, but that won’t stop me hopping over to take a look.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Summer Photography

Scrolling through my photos from last summer, I came across this one, which I'm pretty sure is of Sidmouth beach. I decided to share it because I like the composition so much - the curve of the shore and the rule of thirds obvious with one third pebbly foreground, one third sky, and the centre third full of detail. Probably all completely coincidental as I don't have all that in mind when I'm snapping.

You may or may not now that the beaches of East Devon are all pebbly like this. Exmouth is not far from here, and is the first of the sandy beaches of South Devon, which also has some pebbly coves and some with a mix of sand and stone.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Spring to Summer

The weather is so atrocious at the moment, everyone is complaining about it. I got so wet taking Jade out this afternoon that I had to change my clothes when I got in. Jade's back was dry as it had been under  her coat but her face and ears were soaked . She is in her cosy bed wrapped up in towels and has had the electric fan heater aimed at her ears, which always take for ever to get dry.

I decided to cheer myself up by thinking back to last  summer's some what warmer weather. Here I am with Eryn and friend admiring the lovely petunias and an interesting dragon in a quiet corner of Seaton.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

My Lovely Mum

I prefer to celebrate the memory of  my parents on their birthdays rather than on the anniversaries of their passing. Today would have been my mum's 95th birthday. This is the last photo I took of her shortly after her 87th. By then she lived in a Torquay retirement home which was 100 miles from where I lived then. I used to visit her about once every three weeks, and it was always a wrench to leave her, although I never considered whether I would see her alive again.

I well remember the day I took this picture, which was in fact the last time I saw her alive. She had been rather unwell and was too frail to be taken out. Instead we cosied up and I gave her a manicure, painting her fingernails with a pretty pink varnish. Then one of her grandsons - my sister's boy - arrived to visit as well, and she was delighted. He was in the photo I took as well, but for this post I edited him out, as this day is just for her.

Now  when I visit Torquay I always try to sit on the seat my sister and I have dedicated to the memory of our parents, who lived there in the same house for the whole of their married lives. My dad was seven years older than mum, and she used to say that she knew he would go first and she'd have to live with that. Strangely she survived him by just that seven years, plus one month. I imagine him waiting for her at the pearly gates and saying, "Come on Win, you're late again." (Her name was Winifred, and Win was his pet name for her.)

Monday 8 April 2013


I've had, for me, quite a long hard day out of the house, ending with a long drawn out meeting that meant  driving home through the  Bournemouth and Poole rush hour and arriving only just in time to cook a meal for  the lads and myself. This is my excuse for the lack of a scintillating post to start the week.

I browsed my photos, as is my wont when searching for inspiration, and came across this one which I took at Sandbanks late on a January afternoon when a storm was threatening. So this is instead of words. Make of it what you will.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

My Life by Jade: Sharing Homes & Family

I had a visitor this weekend. He was a very bumptious pup called Rafi. Not only did I have to let him stay in my house, I also had to put up with him trying to get me to play with him. I don’t play with dogs. I just like playing with my family. He was so annoying when he kept sniffing me and bumping me and jumping around me, but I was very good and tolerated most of it. When I’d really had enough I’d just give a low growl and he got nervous and backed off. I even let him rest in my bed, but when he picked up one of my chewy bones I saw red and chased him out of the room. I also got my own back a bit when we were outside in the garden and he wanted to come in, because I stood in the doorway and looked mean so he was scared to come past me.

Actually I had met him before because he has gone to live with Eryn and her mum. I got a real shock when I went to their house recently with my mummy. I mean, there was this little upstart living in my second home. Well, how would you feel if you suddenly had to share your home and family with someone new?

What I did like though, was when we all went out for walks together. Rafi didn’t just concentrate on me then, but we had a great time running around with Eryn and her best friend who came to stay as well, They do seem to do more running and jumping than my mummy and daddy do.

One day when the sun was shining we took the cars to Tyneham  (my mummy has blogged about that before) and walked down a long lane to Worbarrow Bay, which was a very beautiful beach.

 Rafi was so silly; he followed a big dog right into the sea and couldn’t get back, so his mummy had to go in and grab him back. She got a bit wet and she was cross. So she borrowed my long lead for bit and stopped Rafi going too far.  But after his wetting he didn’t seem too inclined to go in again.

I don’t go in the sea; ever since I fell in when I was little myself, I keep a healthy distance from it. I feel really sorry for all those dogs who have to swim after a ball that their mummy  or daddy has thrown in expecting them to bring them back. I never bring balls back even when they are thrown on land.  I do like to chase them but I don’t see why I have to take them back to mummy. She keeps saying she’d like to teach me to fetch, but doesn’t know how. I just think if she wants to take a ball home she can go and get it herself.

Of course after we’ve been out we have to have a sleep, and thank goodness our couch is plenty big enough for both of us. The house is very quiet now because he and Eryn and that part of my family went home. I’m not sure I like it so quiet, but it is nice to have my mummy to myself again.     

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