Sunday, 17 June 2018

Why severing the tendon in your hand is a Good Thing

Let's dial back eight weeks ago to me at work eating pizza at my desk at 10.30am in the morning. I'm greedy, and slobby and the pizza is delicious. I'm even humming to myself as I smear cheese all over my face and type out an email with my left hand: because I'm nothing if not a professional, multi-tasking woman etc.

I wipe my face with the sleeve of my dress, just like Anna Wintour does, and trundle off to the kitchen to wash my plate.

Which explodes in the sink. "Phew!" I think, "That could have been nasty!" I lift my hand out of the sink and it blossoms into a vivid red mitten of blood. 

"Oh" I say. 

Three destroyed tea towels and a trip to A&E later and the nurse tells me she's sending me to big hospital in the morning for stitches and to check my tendon is unharmed.

The next morning I find myself staring up at the ceiling while Dr Max and four nurses reconstruct my hand. Dr Max gleefully pings my tendon like an elastic band and confirms that it is hanging on by a thread. As he stitches me back together he points out that I absolutely cannot drive, lift anything heavier than an envelope or even look at a horse without jeopardising the surgery. I feel a dark hysteria rising in my guts and focus on saying Thank You and remembering the names of everyone who is helping me.

I take my giant plaster cast and mutilated hand home and wonder what on earth I am going to do.

Return to the present day. I've spent the past two months living with my mum through the week so I can walk to work sporting various plaster casts and answering the question: "How's your hand?" six million times a day with one of three thoughtful answers, depending on my mood.

"Fine, thanks for asking!"

"Getting there, slowly but surely!"

"Ruining my life by forcing me to move out of my marital home, destroying my happiness and making me want to put my head in the photocopier and use my working hand to smash the cover down onto my skull until my brain waves stop."

In addition, it's an incredibly busy time at work. Tis budget season and I've had two big staff events to oversee and the pressure has toasted me. The last week I stopped sleeping entirely and became incapable of sitting still. My thoughts began to breed like moths and colleagues began standing at a safe distance, should lazer-like jets of flame shoot from my eyes.

On Thursday, the last staff day concluded and Phil picked me up, drove me home, tipped me onto the sofa and poured gin into my eyeballs until I finally fell asleep.

Yesterday was my first day back behind the wheel, and the first place I drove was the stables. Zed has been under the trusted eye of our amazing YO, so I knew he was well, but I cannot tell you how good it felt to catch him in, brush him down and pop him on the walker for ten minutes. He's fat, feral, fresh off ten plus months of field rest, and looking gorgeous.

Now the job begins to bring him gently back into work and pray that his leg is healed. I can't ride for another month yet but I can see him every day again and that is bloody brilliant. I had not realised just how much I've missed my horse and the horsey life. Flicking my indicator to turn down the farm track made my heart skip with a little thrill of happiness.

Which leads me back to the title of this blog.

Yearning for my normal life was painful. Taking twenty minutes to dress myself was embarrassing and frustrating. Wearing a plastic bag over my arm to shower was just plain bizarre. 

But realising how deeply entrenched I am in my family, and how much they're prepared to back me up - was wonderful. 

Missing my husband every week, and knowing he missed me, showed me how good our marriage is.

Having my hand mended by a brilliant surgeon, for free, and having the help of countless nurses, physios and support staff, also for free, was Goddamn humbling. In any other country I would have had a four-figure bill, or a hand with no grip or mobility.

It was tough trying to keep my new job going, but having a manager and a team around me asking how they could help, confirmed that I've landed on my feet.

Every bit of help or support I've asked for, has been granted - often before I even had to ask for it.

Friends have kept an eye on Zed, my dog walker (also a friend) has put up with shifting and cancelling plans, my wider circle of buddies have checked in constantly, taken me for ice cream and glued me back together, despite their own busy lives that come with bigger and badder problems.

So, severing the tendon in your hand is not a good thing - but what happens next ... can be pretty fucking great. 

Thank you all. 

Sunday, 1 April 2018

A post of happy news

Sorry to disappoint my detractors, but I haven't killed my horse yet.* So everyone who thinks I'm a wang for considering it can move along and find someone else's photo to cover their dart boards.

In fact, this post is a post of happy news. Of changing fortunes and good times.


This afternoon Zed begins his first day of the ironically titled 'summer livery'. 

Despite a very colourful winter full of snow tantrums and rain squabbles, the gelding field is in fairly good shape, so our YO (may she win the lottery and live forever as thanks) has decided that 24hour turnout can begin.

This happy fact now runs like beautiful gold nectar through my very veins: instantly transforming four months of expensive piss-soaked labour from daily reality to distant memory. 

In other happy news, my old flat now has an offer on it, and I've found a new job. I only started about a month ago and I'm fairly terrified that they'll fire me but other than that it feels both meaningful and pleasant. Plus I work a few more hours and it's well paid which is helping the financial situation look much rosier. 

Nancy thrives on. She went for a walk with her bestie yesterday and then proceeded to flirt outrageously with him while myself and his owner tried to drink a latte and not look. First she made him lick her face like a slave. Then she rolled over and flaunted her muddy lady parts. Poor Buddy was just mystified by all this. 

It was gross, and funny and some more gross. My dog is creepy. I don't care, I love her all the more.

So a rough winter has turned into a fruitful spring. I know it won't be long before something else drops to bits but that's just life, sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down.

Happy Easter everyone x

*If you're late to the party on this one - Zed is a headshaker with a collateral ligament injury. So absolutely a great contender for resale and not at all vulnerable to ending up in a ditch somewhere.
Thoughts of putting him to sleep have centred heavily around moral and ethical sensibilities, rather than just for entertainment purposes.

Monday, 29 January 2018

How do you begin to write about this?

Zed, and his best friend Fergus
How do you write about a horse that might not be here in a year?

How do you turn a big jumble of feelings and variables and unknowns into a sentient blog post of no more than 500 words?

I guess we're about to find out, assuming you're curious. 

We're six weeks away from Zed's next leg scan. For the first four months of being turned away his hock looked good. No swelling, no heat.

Now it's showing small changes as the ground has become wetter and boggier and the herd have adopted the personas of whippets, frogs and ferrets to relieve their cabin fever. 

I suspect the injury is no better off than it was (the dark Lord Pessimist has spoken) and that the intermittent swelling is a sign of instability and inflammation.


I am loving every minute I spend with my funny little friend. I suddenly know, with total certainty, that if I couldn't go and see him every day, my life would be much smaller. And I also know that makes me a sentimental ninny. 

Years ago, when I took my first proper job on a newspaper, I made the decision to give my horse back to the girl I'd bought him from (she'd had him for 11 years and loved him truly). I was prepared for all the upsides of my decision - more time, more money, less stress: and none of the downsides. I had not anticipated the emptiness of nothing to get up for in the morning except work. That experience has certainly made me wiser when thinking about our animals and letting them go for whatever reason. 

Zed might get better, but no guarantees, and so a wave of bitter sweetness washes over everything we have between us. 

And that feeling has changed things. Water buckets and mucking out are still chores - but they've also become a little more sacred, a little more treasured. I used to fly through them so I had time to ride, but now it's more of a mooching vibe. 

And just being on the yard every day, or twice a day, feels like a slice of mental sugar. 

Hard not to see the funny side when your horse comes in from the field
absolutely bathed in mud!
When I take the left turn off the main road and onto the long sweeping track down to the farm it's the same, same view, but different each time. Under a foot of snow, or with a dazzlingly dramatic sunrise punching out over the valley. Even under thick grey rain. It's the same as a marriage. That familiarity, that comfort, and a different weather every day. 

Then filling haynets, with that sweet alcoholic smell of haylage up my nose. And seeing other riders up in the arena cantering, or wandering up the drive for a cool-off. I've been around horses for so long it just feels like home. It's nothing I want to give up. 

Then there's cold reality to consider. I can't honestly say I'm committed to keeping a young horse with no ridden future. Livery is so expensive (even when you're on a very reasonable yard) and every penny counts at the moment so it would be hard to justify in the long term. 

But I am keen to keep an open mind. Zed's leg might be better (that tantalising hope is something I try not to dwell on) and if it's not there might be other options (could he be a light hack?)

It helps to be able to talk about options - but I do find that most people, very understandably, arereluctant to get involved and offer advice. Some are clearly thinking 'be patient' while others are more towards the 'this horse is doomed' opinion. 

I did have a very useful conversation with his old owner about headshaking as her horse is a mild headshaker too. I'm sure now that Zed's is seasonal as he hasn't been shaking through the winter and now I'm armed with good ideas for getting on top of the inflammation early in the season and keeping him comfortable.

So the year ahead is a mystery, but perhaps I'll know a little more in six weeks. 

Till then we're going to enjoy ourselves, enjoy ourselves, it's later than we think. 

*And the answer is, I don't know how to write about this without veering between callous monster and sappy dope. But I can't believe I'm the only one who's ever been in this situation so maybe I just have to be honest and admit that it's all fairly messy. Some things on here are going to be light-hearted (my horse still likes to roll in an offensively ridiculous way) and some are not, but that is the reality of owning a horse. 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Hetty and I reunited - Hetty not thrilled

Hetty: "Just gonna sniff this rug and pretend you don't exist"
 Went to play ponies with L yesterday. 

It felt like moving through quick sand to be tacking up and riding again so Hetty was the right choice for my first attempt in weeks. She basically does not care about anything and just tilts her neat ginger ears at you with a wry look if you fumble.

Snow lay all around us so we retreated to the indoor to 'school'. Although schooling suggests learning and the only learning going on was Hetty telling me she wasn't going to lift a finger till I sat up properly and asked for it.

Point taken.

The more she ignored me the more interested I got in re-awakening my sleepy core and legs. To open the lines of communication I picked up the schooling whip (major indignation even though it did not touch her once) and began to ask for gentle lateral work: shoulder in, leg yields, shoulder fore.

She was pretty mad about it but our trot work gained a bit more power and she began to reluctantly straighten rather than hugging the wall with he outside shoulder. After 15 minutes I could feel fury rising off her like steam and I did not want to outstay my welcome even though it felt wonderful to be back in the saddle.

We finished and L took a photo of me beaming and Hetty looking like she never wanted to see me again. 

Blue practicing handsomeness
I don't like schooling for ages. Horses seem to hate it. Or maybe I hate it and that feeling is pure projection. It feels nicer to ask for a bit, improve a bit, say thank you and call it a day. This is clearly why I suuuck at flatwork and need an instructor to boss me about. It was very strange to be riding again. You can feel how weak and curled up you are but at the same time it's so familiar and comforting.

First ride back. It's a start.

It was also really good to be mixing feeds, tacking up, brushing etc. L says it's nice to have someone ride who'll join in with the graft but that's second nature to me and as much a part of the deal as the ride itself. 

I do so miss having Zed in work. I love riding any horse and Hetty is just so lovely but there's still that little sadness in my heart as I wish he was mended. Now I have to acknowledge that and then get on with it and accept that he's broken for now and mooning about won't help. I would really like 2018 to be a great horsey year and now I have to work out how to do that with no money and no horse!

Which sounds pretty impossible but then I think back to my teens when I used to manage just that, so maybe it's mind over matter...

Gorgeous sunset to finish

Monday, 27 November 2017

Actual positive action no less

Not fully keen on the idea of personal space
 Good grief it's cold today.

My husband bought one of those nifty little electric readers that shows exactly how much you're using so needless to say I have turned everything off. I can't even look at the red dial shooting higher and higher when the kettle is on. It's bad enough that we're haemorrhaging money on the washing machine to wash the cheese smell out of Nancy's blanket collection. 

I don't think my wiser half would approve of me sitting here in a bobble hat and three jumpers, typing through the frostbite, but he's out till half five so madness can reign for now. 

Looking like a tightly-wrapped parcel in last year's rug - bought during the pre-obesity era
I think this stinginess is a common trait between horsey folk. It's all the years of wearing threadbare clothes. While paying trillions of pounds for an endless procession of fully adjustable saddles (that magically are not quite fully adjustable enough the next time the saddler pulls onto the yard A MERE SIX MONTHS LATER.
Not to mention horses that sail through five-star vettings only to prove chronically lame or suicidal the minute you walk them off the box. 

I went to see my little dole-waller yesterday and he's quite content. He didn't want to pose for photos, he just wanted to eat his cooking apple so we compromised: I took photos as he gently mowed me over.
My little money pit

But. You may be pleased to here that I have participated in actual positive action to boost happiness levels! Real action! I am going riding on Friday, on Hetty Betty no less - my lovely loan horse from the start of the year. Her owner, L, has given in to my begging and we are going hacking. If the weather is terrible L has promised to lock me in the indoor until I've cantered about for 20 minutes.

And. Yes, there's more. Another kindly soul has agreed to lend me a horse at the weekend so that is pretty bloody jolly too.

Nancy is crying now, so I am going to swap the Arctic inside for the Baltic outside. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Don't give up! Ever!

Semi-retired five year old. 
Good things keep nearly happening. 

But then not happening. And the base line for some of my life remains, well, pap.

Zed is still turned away lame, winter is here, I've been poorly, money is tight and the flat is a wreck with no end currently in sight.

All temporary, all fixable, but I can't lie, there have been some days when I haven't wanted to get out of bed and face the day. I'm grateful for all the good things in my life, of course, and I know so many have it worse, but I just feel a bit squashed.

Thankfully, Nancy will not accept such sulking. This is why we need our animals - they make sure the world keeps turning.

Get up, puny human!
And another good thing actually did happen today. I've been following Diary of a Wimpy Eventer - aka Victoria Brant - on Facebook for a while and find her posts funny and endearing and warm-hearted.

I met a really good friend for lunch and out of her handbag she produced a most fabulous impromptu gift - How to Get your Leg Over - Victoria's first book.

Signed! And with a message I really needed to hear. Purchased from the lady herself, so extra magical.

As soon as lunch was over I sped home, made a cuppa, armed myself with a box of cheese straws and settled down to read my new book from cover to cover.

I loved it. It reminded me of all the home truths I needed to hear - that life is never perfect, that you must have a go anyway, that horses are the answer to EVERYTHING, that people who piss on your chips must be trampled over in the quest for victory..the list goes on and on.

I am officially a new woman - bursting with optimism, renewed hope and a burning desire to be back in the saddle asap.

Aint so bad

I need to go for a frosty hack. A canter would be perfection.

This is now my mission for the week. If anyone would like to lend me a horse just shout...


Monday, 16 October 2017

Soup weather

Let me tell you about soup.*

Soup is for lazy people, like me, who plan to live forever.

Soup is the wholesome best friend that your mum doesn't mind you knocking about with. 

Look at this photo.

I'm actually eating chips for lunch, like an ignorant toddler, but it's ok, because I'm also eating soup. 

Homemade soup, full of vegetables and herbs and all the stuff you're supposed to eat that everyone despises.

Soup has taken my hand and lifted me out of my recent horse-related funk.

After my last gloomathon I tried to think of ways to unbreak my life.

"Start small," said a wise voice, "you can't do big stuff yet. So do small stuff."

"Should I brush my hair?" I replied.

"NO! Too big," came the voice, "Not strong enough yet. Maybe try to eat something that isn't a chocolate biscuit."

Since my unhappy news I've been mainlining hobnobs (the Lidl version, obvs, not made of money). The house has a trail of crumbs through it. 
Or it would if it weren't for helpful Nancy, my own wee Gretel. 

"I'll help, mama human"
But enough is enough. I don't need obesity on my list of problems. So out came the pan and the vegetable drawer and strangely, I do feel better. Plus, with the hurricane formerly known as Ophelia casting us into an unnerving dusk-like state, is it not soup weather?

Bolstered by beets, today I donned my smelly waterproofs to go and ride out on dear Bramble.

Dear Bramble is my antidote to Broken Zed. While I pour money and heartache into him, she quietly coddles my soul by being sound and sensible and asks for nothing much in return. She tends to be a tad on the curvy side so our yard owner nicely lets us trundle around the village together. She's like a good pal after a messalicious break-up. 

After our ride I gave her a solid brush and she fell asleep. What a darling. 

Llamas. Are you even a farm if you don't have llamas.
I still need to work out how I'm going to stay sane this winter. Money is tight till the flat is let or sold so my Stage 3 is on hold. And I'm preparing myself for the fact that Zed might not mend. The bicycle has been dusted off and I'm back to riding which are both good things...but...I need a plan. A trusty plan. I need some excitement and hope in my life. Phil understands. We keep watching Rocky films and staring at each other. 

Tiny voice says: "Let the plan incubate."

* Soup is definitely something to consider if, like me, you count vegetarian pizza as 'basically a salad'. I'm sure it offsets some of the damage. I feel, based on zero science whatsoever, that I could live to 90 just by eating soup every day.