Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm in love

Sorry I haven't written for a bit, but I haven't been in the mood. I thought everyone would be bored with my latest passion- horses, but apparently not. So here's a wee entry for my darling sister.
Let me introduce you to Dambala a.k.a. Oscar. He is very, very special and I absolutely love him. He is for sale, but as he is not your average horse, he is priced for the international eventing market. So one day soon my dear Oscar may wing his way overseas, but while he is here I get to enjoy seeing him when he is out an about. He belongs to Emily Cammock (nee Butcher) and is competing at the advanced level. He is a bit of a sensitive creature, and likes to be approached with respect and caution, but now he has met me a few times, he seems very happy to let me give him lots of love. In these photos he was at the Amberly One Day Event, which we attended last weekend. A good time was had by most, except for the poor girl whose bit broke and her pony bolted. There was much alarm and screaming. She didn't fall off luckily.

After a pep talk from me (oh, and some input from Emily) Oscar got a clear round in the show jumping. He won the Advanced class in the event. He was rather relaxed about his success.

I wasn't as relaxed as either Oscar or Emily because some of the cross country jumps were hideous. Emily is one of the bravest people I have ever met.

Last night I had my riding lesson. Last week Sam gave me a bit of trouble as he was looking for trouble and decided to shy and carry on a few times. I hate the feeling when he pricks his ears and swings his backside around while reversing. This week I didn't give him a chance because I kept him "on the bit" for almost all of the lesson, including walking to and from the arena (past the chickens and the building site). I really got my trotting going well, keeping my reins the right length, managing steering with legs and hands, plus keeping my legs wrapped around his tummy sides much better than last week. Plus Sam was "on the bit" and working for me for quite a bit of the lesson. So much better. Next week I will do some work on diagonals. "On the bit" means he has contact with the bit in his mouth and he has a lovely curved, but comfortable neck. He likes the bit contact and really seems to be listening and paying attention when everything comes together. I really tried hard to get everything right because Southern Ben was having a bit of exercise in the arena, and it is a privilege to be near to him as he has been to Badminton. Silly, I know, he doesn't care, but I feel like it is a honour to know him.

On other fronts, school is going really well, even if we are having a really challenging week. Tired students, emotions, hormones and bickering between them makes everything harder. I think the earthquake has had a bit of impact on the class. I haven't felt an aftershock for a few days, even though they are still going on. I don't know whether I will ever feel like I can trust what is below again, no matter where I am. Every time I drive or walk past a building I am conscious of the possibility of collapse. I'm handling it really well compared to a lot of people.

Highlights of the week:
  • Peppermint chocolate marshmallow Easter eggs.
  • Thai food at Mrs CT's house with friends.
  • Riding (of course).
  • Going to the ODE with Johnny and not having a job so I could explore and enjoy everything (except the portaloo- OMG that small cabinet was like the bowels of Hell- those poor people who are still using portaloos all over Christchurch- you can actually see and smell lots of other people's poo!!!!!!!)
  • One of my boys did his best ever handwriting.
  • Another young man did a huge fart when being read a story- picture the line "Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's ---- faaaart." I laughed until I cried- immature I know, but sometimes windy bottoms are absolutely hilarious.
On that note, goodnight.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Memories and looking forward

Today was the National Memorial Day for the Christchurch Earthquake. We had a holiday in Canterbury and there was a huge service in Hagley Park which thousands of people attended. We both decided not to go and took a drive on the main roads through to Brighton so that we could get some first hand feel for the damage. The roads were quiet, but as John said, he almost needed to go into four wheel drive mode. There was not an undamaged road and there was mess to some degree on every street. Some roads have massive dips and humps in them and there are ripples like big waves in some places. We chose not to go onto the residential streets out of respect for the people living there, but we certainly saw some awfully damaged buildings. It was amazing that there were not more people killed.
This photo was taken from the Port Hills just after the quake struck. The "fog" in the middle is the dust from the falling rubble in the central city.
We used to live in the hall in this church. There was a wee apartment upstairs.
I can't help but feel grateful that we moved out of the city. I love driving out through the little bit of countryside to get home.

On the looking forward note, something exciting has come my way. Last week at my lesson I was told about a horse that was being given away that might be perfect for me. Johnny didn't say no straight away so I got very excited. My instructor found out how much it would cost to keep a horse out at the farm, and for the farrier. My heart sunk. By the time we calculated how much it would cost to keep per year, we were talking thousands. Plus the farm isn't exactly handy. I would be very unhappy if my horse was stuck somewhere in a paddock where anyone could get in. So we decided not to go ahead with finding out if the horse would be suitable. There were understandably lots of tears. Right now I'm crying at the drop of a hat.

So onto the good news. This is Zanny. You've met her before when we went to visit her baby Fraser. By the way, Fraser is big, gorgeous and has a coat that feels like teddybear fur. Zanny has been at Horse Clubmed in Ashburton fattening up because Fraser sucked the life out of her. As soon as she gets back I am allowed to ride her and love her whenever I want! I'm so excited. She is very placid and safe, and I'll be able to continue my lessons plus have extra rides to practise on my own. She is a very, very special girl who is much loved by the family, so anytime I'm not with her she will be getting the very best of care. It is the best possible arrangement for me and so kind of Zanny's family.
Note the nice mane for holding on to. Sam's is so thin I've hardly got anything to grab onto in an emergency. Also see that velvet muzzle. Hope she likes kisses. Sam does.

My goal is to be able to ride a simple dressage course with style and accuracy and to feel confident at trot and canter. I've got a long way to go, and am looking forward to trying hard to make it happen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heritage Toms and Speeding on Sam

We are right in the middle of the tomato harvest. This year I have lots of heritage tomatoes which I thought were a bit disappointing, but they have suddenly decided to get into action, and we have heaps. Yay!
The yellow cherry plums are the earliest producers of the cherry plums. I've got a few orange and red ones appearing now. They'd better get a move on because it felt distinctly autumnal this morning.
I've got quite a few of these funny toms. They are quite a meaty tomato, with small seed cavities and little juice. Johnny knocked some off when they were very green and they ripened really well inside.
This bowl of tomatoes is the pinnacle of my vege gardening success this year. Fabulous!
I had a horse riding lesson. Sam wasn't exactly excited about heading to the arena for a spin today. He wanted to hang out in the stable area and have a good go at the longer grass there, which he was very happily doing when we arrived. You could see his expression change when we caught him and got him ready. It was "damn it." As my instructor said, I'm past the getting used to being on a horse stage, and am intensively working on technique. It is so hard. I am pretty good going around in a circle one way, using hands and legs together with ease, but the other way I feel like I'm blind. It is like I can't seem to work out what to do with all of my limbs, and poor Sam didn't know what to make of it. I was pretty pleased because when horse away over the fence started galloping around Sam threw a little wobbly, but I got him under control with no trouble at all. I wasn't scared either. There's no getting off in an emergency!
See Sam's neck is curved beautifully. My heels need to go down more. I'm not as flexible in my ankles as I used to be.
We are both concentrating so hard in this photo. I could be in a dressage competition. Well, maybe if we could stay like this for longer than 30 seconds.

We trotted and trotted today. I've got the rhythm beautifully, the steering is coming and my instructor mentioned the dreaded "c" word (canter) today. Hmmm- trotting feels like I'm exceeding the speed limit. Not looking forward to cantering.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Not much to report

Compared to everything going on in the world, things have been rather dull around here. Dull is good. Actually the best thing going on at the moment is horse riding. My darling Sam was sold, unsold, tried out (too big) and not tried out (trial cancelled). Long story. So lucky for me he is still mine for lessons. I had a fantastic lesson last week. Because I hadn't been on for two weeks it felt like Sam was a skyscraper. I finally got the hang of using my legs and outside hand to control Sam on a circle, with the inside hand and leg to encourage his body to curve. Plus I got him "on the bit" so his neck was lovely and curved. So elegant. No photos because Johnny was busy chatting somewhere else. Then I got going on my rising trot, and managed to maintain my big circle for three rounds while rising, following instructions and steering.

We started back at school. Apart from having to use bottled water and hand sanitizer, life was pretty much as normal. We don't feel aftershocks at school, unless they are goodies, so we feel safe. My students were awesome, which was rather a surprise. Hopefully we have another good week. On Friday we have the big memorial day. Johnny is planning to go to the memorial service in Hagley Park, but I don't enjoy huge crowds, so will probably stay at home. Prince William will have to pop around here if he wants to see me. I'd quite like to show him my garden and chat about the wedding plans.

With one eye on Japan, I will go about my business as usual. This week:
- Monday- Morning meeting 8am, School, 'Cello lesson 5pm (in a borrowed studio).
-Tuesday- School, Staff meeting.
-Wednesday- School, Horse riding lesson 5.30pm.
-Thursday- School (hopefully no meeting)
-Friday- Memorial Day- holiday. Sewing, gardening and other fun stuff.

Oh, I forgot to say that today we went to Motukarara, to the Waihora Pony Club, for the combined Eventing Canterbury/Waihora Pony Club One Day Event. We were both show jumping writers for the day. I loved it. We got to watch all of the horses, see a few spills and lots of dropped rails, plus some lovely clear rounds. We were near the cross country water jump too, which was fun to watch, when we got a chance. I got to have loves with Max, Frank, Johnny, Milly and Lewis (the Butcher contingent). What dear, sweet horses. So brave too, doing the cross country, which was pretty scary in parts. So sorry there are no photos for you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Life goes on. Today the country observed two minutes silence at the time of the earthquake one week ago. Over 150 bodies have been found, with many more lost. The total dead could be well over 200. Human nature drives us to want to control everything around us, but our time is a tiny blip in the life of the Earth. Human habitation (and modern life) is totally irrelevant to the forces beneath us. The weather, the oceans, the wider universe, and the planet beneath us are beyond our control. We do observe natural disasters around with world with a detachment and tell ourselves it won't happen here. Well, it not only happened here, but it happened twice.

We're not back at school yet, thankfully. We are suffering from a touch of stress, I must say. Not anywhere near what people with ruined homes and lost family members would be feeling. In the back of everyone's minds seems to be the worry that we could get another big earthquake at any moment. Although we're used to aftershocks, that doesn't stop us freezing when we hear a roaring noise in the distance (usually a truck), or jumping when something bangs. And each aftershock brings the immediate question- how big will this one get?

Nature carries on like nothing has happened. The garden is looking very pretty. I'm particularly happy with the bedding dahlias that I got in punnets last year. Their colours are interesting and are great to have at this time of year.

Sorry, I took this on the little camera, which is quite sensitive to "dog on the lead" jiggles. Miss Dog and I went on a mushroom hunt. I spotted this pretty native bush with christmassy red berries.
We had to walk quite a long way to the mushroom patch. It is in a secret location on the side of the road. How strange to find mushrooms in only one place on the side of a road. They are dotted individually in the grass, and some form rings.
The camera doesn't really show how pretty the gills are underneath. They are exactly what you would call mushroom pink. I had to wash them really well because the last lot were a bit gritty.

It didn't seem to make a difference to the flavour and they were utterly delicious fried in butter with a touch of salt and pepper. Yummmm!!!! I'm planning another expedition soon.