December 6, 2008

Yet another new leaf


 I have fallen back into the evil life-eating habit of spending way too much time on the blog.  If the day were thirty hours long, etc* I could write a nice long entry every evening.  Day length and mortal flesh being what they are, I can’t.  I’m behind on everything.  I’m behind on breathing.  And let’s not even talk about sleep.

            So as a warm-up to the new improved able-to-write-short** McKinley I’m giving myself the evening off.  More or less.  And I am going to do this more. ***

            Meanwhile, a photo or two.   Or three.

            The reason you don’t get more hellhound photos is that they’re incredibly hard to photo.  They are faster than speeding bullets and leap to the tops of tall buildings in single bounds just by the way.  They also have this tiresome habit of responding to me.  If I kneel down to take their photo, I get a photo of Large Dog Noses, and I have to be fast even to get that, before I am bowled over and Played With. †  And right at the moment the situation with mixy rabbits†† is so awful that I haven’t been letting them off lead at all, barring Third House’s garden.

              But occasionally I capture some shadow of their gorgeousness.









And adorableness.

* * *

* But preferably forty 

** This is the basic problem as I have said before.  My ‘natural’ entry length seems to be 1200 words or so.  I can’t seem to spit it out or pull it together or figure out what the daffydowndilly I’m on about any sooner.  But I’m also not to be trusted about anything that doesn’t have to be done every day, day after day.  I get the hellhounds walked every day.  Almost everything else falls into large dark holes from time to time^.  This is not a good way to run a blog.^^ 

^ Just the word time . . . brrrrr. . . . 

^^ Especially not a blog whose existence is to present me as a professional.  Cough cough cough cough cough.  Professional what is of course open to interpretation.+ 

+ Not to mention interpolation. 

*** You want PEGASUS in a timely^ manner, right?  So do I.  I also want Connie to go on recognising me.  Including watching me out of the corner of her eye as I slog across the field toward her and then throwing her head up and coming briskly and eagerly toward me^^ at the last possible moment as if she just hadn’t noticed me before and of course she’d’ve met me halfway except she was contemplating the meaning of life, etc. 

^ There’s that word again. 

^^ Toward me and the bucket.  The meaningfully rattling bucket. 

† I have taken many photos of Large Dog Noses. 

†† for those of you who have forgotten/aren’t country folk.  It’s a horrible disease.  Rabbits get feebler and feebler and their eyes get so infected they can’t see before they die.  I can’t bear it that the hellhounds catch them–which of course they do, while I’m screaming about fair play and that it’s sick, leave it alone–and I also don’t wish to bear their either eating or rolling in the ones that are already dead.^

^ I want to know how humans evolved to be able to find creatures with these habits cute.+

+ And the answer is, like this: 


I did manage to go riding today.  Jenny was chuffed because someone who went off to be famous a year ago has had enough of being famous, sold her (successful and very nice) fancy horse and all his fancy kit to someone who wants to spend their lives on the road and plaiting manes every morning at 5 am, has taken a deep breath and become ordinary again.  And wants an ordinary horse.  Not too ordinary.  Connie would do.  No.  Jenny keeps telling me she’s not going to sell Connie, but people do hang round her (Jenny’s, but Connie’s too) neck occasionally, weeping, and offering ridiculous amounts of money.  Connie will never go to Horse of the Year but she’s top drawer ordinary. 

            She was also rather loaded for bear again today.  Jenny managed to wedge me in for a lesson–I having missed my normal Tuesday lesson due to press of canine circumstance–and every time we went past the (closed) door of the indoor school Connie got several inches taller and, you know, elevated.  What price self-carriage.  Once there were actual feet visible under the door:  I mean, feet.  How totally alarming.*    Jenny had clipped her again this week, so at the moment she looks like a contour map, and she’s probably feeling a bit chilly.  And Jenny said she’s short of exercise because Jenny hasn’t had time** to get her out often enough.  I’ve been worrying that she seems to be having too many loaded-for-bear days–oh gods I’m a bad rider and a bad influence–but it occurred to me that your fit horse is your lively horse***, and Jenny makes a point that work is to work, and is impatient with people who let their horses slop around at a shuffle on a slack rein.  None of that with any horse of hers.  Which suits me very well, since shuffling on a slack rein is boring.  But there’s a certain amount of reaping what you sow involved.  Fortunately Connie’s saddle is a nice old Stubben and it kind of bends around and helps hold you on.  Chains and padlocks would be better but Connie probably wouldn’t like the clanking.

            Then I raced home in time to feed hellhounds lunch before I clattered off to my next thing, which was handbell practise for this carol gig at the old folks’ home.†  We’re improving:  several of the carols were recognisable this week.  We’re only working on a few of the really, really obvious ones because we’re hoping our audience will sing along and drown us out.  I suggested passing out lyric sheets.

            Then I finally got down to the mews. ††  We had some old friends of Peter’s coming by–well, they’d been there for lunch †††.  Cough.  Cough.  Ahem. ‡  Fortunately they’re used to me, although they hadn’t heard the ‘handbell carol’ excuse before.  But I was listening to what they’ve been doing and are about to do–they’re both taking half-year sabbaticals and going to India–Henry was last seen on his tailor-made kryptonite-alloy bicycle‡‡, pedalling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.  She has a pilot’s license and we get occasional postcards from her in Turkey or Alaska or wherever her little group of small-planes pilots have gone for fun this time.  She and Henry go to New York City for the weekend occasionally for the shopping.  They also have a sailboat.  I’m tired–and more than a bit dazzled–just thinking about it. 

            Except I’m just as bad, in my stay at home way.  I was thinking about glamour–Henry had, of course, bicycled down from London (it’s only about 75 miles, he said carelessly), which meant he could flash his bike at us:  it really does look a bit like a rocketship without the rockets–we see Georgina oftener, so I’m a bit more inured to her flying.  I know if I accused either of them of being glamorous they’d look nonplussed and then burst out laughing.  I, of course, know that I am not the least bit glamorous, and any‡‡‡ reader of this blog knows it too.  But I get an awful lot of book mail taking the glamorousness of Being a Writer as a given.  And riding a round ten-metre circle§ is glamorous, as is ringing a touch of Stedman Doubles§§.  Glamour is not only in the eye of the beholder, it has a lot to do with the angle of the light at the time. 

* * *

 * Jenny went out, told Miles that Connie was having a silly day, and to please play somewhere else. 

**  Guilt.  Guilt. 

*** Being exercise girl at a race track never appealed to me, and you read these very blasé interviews even with top flight dressage riders who say, oh yes, my Olympic-gold winning horse, Piffling Panjandrum, likes to drop-kick me over the perimeter fence and then dance along the roofs of the cars in the car park.  Ha ha ha, he’s so funny. 

† We’re a peculiar mixture:  two teenagers and the rest of us won’t see fifty again (nor have seen it in a while).  I don’t suppose the old folks will care.  I’m looking forward to the conversation about performance dress code. 

†† Having thoughtfully swung past the cottage to pick up hellhounds, who are feeling that there’s been too much of this ‘leaving hellhounds behind’ thing the last couple of days:  yesterday there was puppy visiting, going to the dentist^, and bell practise.^^  Today there was Connie, and handbell carols.  Hellhounds are beginning to contemplate forgiving me now however since I haven’t been out of sight of their beady little eyes since midafternoon. 

^ To no avail.  The moment I rang up and rather than just letting me cancel next week’s appointment like sensible people, insisting instead on dragging me in for a consultation yesterday, the tooth subsided like sticking a pin in a balloon.  It’ll be back next Tuesday afternoon, when he steps on the drill pedal. 

^^ I rang a near-perfect touch of Stedman last night, including both the doable cat’s-ears call and the undoable coathangers’ call.  At the end of which . . . nobody said anything.  They just went on with tying up their ropes and going on to the next thing.  I know what this means:  it means I am considered to have arrived.  It means Robin Now Rings Stedman Doubles.  This should be good, yes?+  No.  It also means Robin in a permanent panic on Sunday mornings for months, in fear–no, in utter pop-eyed terrified dread–of the possibility of touches of Stedman Doubles.  I’m still most likely to go wrong slightly after a successfully negotiated coathanger, when I start shaking from shock.  No, I’m afraid I’m not exaggerating for effect.  Stedman is a castle you storm.  They should hand out medals

+ Although it’s good too.  Golly!  I ring Stedman!  I ring touches of Stedman, not just plain courses!  Lots of ringers never get this far!   I’m the real thing!  I’m a bell ringer!~ Eeep!  . . . And for my next trick, I will start memorising Cambridge.  Cambridge is a ‘surprise’ method–I have no idea, although when you look at your first ‘surprise’ method line, the surprise could kill you if you have a weak heart.  But I’m under the impression that if you survive Stedman you’re assumed to toil on and fall over the edge of the ravine into surprise.  Besides, I’m convicted out of my own mouth:  I want to ring Yorkshire, which is a very nasty surprise method indeed, only it sounds so pretty. 

 ~ It doesn’t feel like it.  Being a real ringer still feels like something that happens . . . later. 

††† Lunch!  I knew I was forgetting something!  Well, hellhounds had theirs!   

‡ I got there just in time for the rugby.Ewwwwwww. 

^ I may mean football.  I don’t know and I don’t care.

‡‡ sic.  Well, maybe not the kryptonite. 

‡‡‡ sane 

§ Round is the issue, as any rider will tell you 

§§ Wearing a false moustache so none of the little old people at the old folks’ home will recognise you behind the handbells is not glamorous.

Hacking, and hewing


 . . . to an assortment of lines.  Or not, as the case may be.  Mostly not in my case.

            Connie was a pill this morning.  Saturday mornings are a little complex when you can’t use the outdoor arena–and the outdoor arena is likely to be a no-go area now till spring–because the indoor school is small.  Today was due to be (and, in fact, for a wonder, was) a very soft, mild day, the sort of autumn day that could almost be spring.*  And Liz was looking for someone to hack out with.  Caprice apparently had a serious meltdown a few weeks ago and Liz has been having trouble getting her nerve back.**  I’ve been in the situation of having a horse who is a pretty fair nightmare to hack out alone*** so although I’ve come to dislike Caprice I still like Liz, so I agreed.

            I think it’s quite possible that Caprice was winding Connie up–or maybe it was I Caprice was winding up and I was transmitting this information to Connie.  We were in a big field at one point–a biiiig field–with the little road between Jenny’s town and mine on one side, and a small stand of maize on the other.  We were going down pretty much the middle of it, and Liz was saying, oh, sweetheart, I know you don’t like lorries . . . WhatWhat lorry?  If the QE II was ploughing down the road† you might have been able to see her.  And you’d need a pheasant the size of a helicopter flying out of the maize to cause reasonable alarm.

            After most of an hour of this I guess both Connie and I were starting to climb out of our respective skins.  But we reached a new low when she took exception to a man, a girl and a dog walking together–who had got off the path, very reasonably, seeing the Ride of the Valkyries passing a little too near and not wishing to be carried off to Valhalla quite yet–and having booted her past this manifestation of the reopening of the Hellmouth in southern Hampshire, we caromed the rest of the way down that last bit of bridleway, shying at large metal field watering tanks, cowscows!  Aaaaaaugh!–geese, farmhouses, mud, goblins and simurghs.  We finally got back down to the road again–this is the one-lane lane that runs past Jenny’s farm–and when I asked her to trot past a car that had politely stopped for us to squeeze by, she climbed the bank to get away from it–not, I might add, that this was a climbable bank;  we sort of levitated at an angle–and then about fifty feet from the yard turn-off there was a Mini†† that had been parked end on into the hedge with its nose just poking out, Minis not being a great deal bigger than SmartCars, and Connie was not going to go past the awful thing.  –You’re almost home, stupid!

            And in fact we’re still out there, facing down a grey Mini in the dark.  Oh, okay, no we’re not.  I whispered in her Connemara ear and told her to get her thoroughbred side under control.  Horses, like dogs, are shameless:  the fact that I wanted her hide for a hearthrug after all this had no impact whatsoever on her clear noisy assumption that I would give her her carrots and apple as usual after I’d cleaned her up and put her away.  They are, after all, her just tribute.  Feh.  And–of course–I did give them to her.  I know all the books that say that reward and punishment must be immediate in the critter world, and that withholding something later because you’re in a snit won’t do anything but confuse and dishearten your critter.  I can also hear the sniggers behind my back:  heh, heh, heh, heh, don’t anybody let on that we can remember:  just stare ’em in the face and look earnest and a bit dim. . . .

            We were out a bit longer than I meant††† which then inevitably meant the rest of the day seemed to be happening about an hour later than planned.  I walk hellhounds in the dark often enough during this unfriendly end of the year but on riding days when the morning hurtle is curtailed I try to get them out both in daylight and out into the countryside in the afternoon.  Today this meant the second half of the walk was in the dark, pretty serious dark with a heavy cloud cover and no streetlamps.  We didn’t get lost–this is a piece of ground I know extremely well, although we kept being not quite where I thought we were on it.  Which included discovering rather too late that we were walking up the wrong side of a hedge:  one lot of tractor ruts running in the right direction look very much like another lot of tractor ruts running in the right direction.  Oh well, I thought.  Tractor ruts along the side of a field usually mean there’s space for a tractor to get out at the top (or bottom) of the field when another hedgerow runs in from somewhere and produces a corner.  Not this time.  Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

            I thought I’d seen a good gap on the way up that we could probably all fit through, although it would involve me lifting hellhounds over a barbed wire fence and climbing after them.  We’ve done it before.  Fortunately slightly before I had a hellhound in my arms I realised that the strange shadows I was looking at were a WHACKING GREAT HOLE on the far side of the fence, the sort of hole where Mr and Mrs Badger could hold a patio party.  Chastened, then, we went back aaaaaaaall the way down to the bottom and turned up again into the right set of tractor ruts.  Darkness was by now absolute, and my Darkness was only tangible by his spring-loaded extending lead taking in and letting out nylon tape, and the occasional dark flicker passing over stubble-field straw or a bit of path that has worn to white chalk,‡ and Chaos, were I of a nervous turn of mind, looked a lot like one of those pale things in an MR James story that paces you as you grope your way through mysterious woodland, and you’re pretty sure it does not have your best interests at heart.

            But we got back eventually, in time for me rush off to ring handbells.   How do I get into these things?‡‡  Six of us are learning to ring handbell carols so we can ring a Christmas party at a local old folks’ home.  I hope we’re all fast learners . . . I’ve never been a fast learner in my life. . . .  

* * *

 * My Souvenir de la Malmaison is still flowering.  Old Blush–AKA Parson’s Monthly Rose for good reason–keeps throwing out flowers and Sombreuil is too, but Malmaison?  If the rain doesn’t spoil her^ you get a very spectacular midsummer flush out of her, but in England she does not repeat.  The odd flower just to torture you with, but not a proper repeat.  I hear rumours, not to say fairy tales, of repeating Souvenirs, and despite that brand-name commercial roses are all little clones, the same rose can be remarkably individual from bush to bush in the same five-mile stretch of Hampshire:  I have several roses behaving differently here than they did at the old house.  Wouldn’t it be brilliant if I had one of those legendary repeating Souvenirs?  Then I could be driven mad by rose-ruining rainfall more extensively

^ See previous entries. . . .  

** Pollyanna as this blog’s presiding spirit or not, I am not the only person at Jenny’s yard who thinks Caprice would make better dog food than he does a riding horse, and he’s getting worse

*** However my old horse had some counteringbalancing virtues.  

† Instead of running into sandbars off Southampton 

†† only this one was grey 

††† Because the footing was so lousy that there wasn’t even much trotting, let alone cantering.  Although given the mood Connie was in this was possibly a good thing.  

‡ And there were bats.  Yaaaay.  Bats are endangered.

‡‡ I am a schmuck.

Another miscellaneous


Blackbear says: 

Orange horse is fabulous. I am a little bit in love.   

It’s funny that so many of you like him, because these photos are not good.  He really didn’t have any butt when he came, although he’s beginning to grow one now, but he has a perfectly nice neck and a nice clean throat latch, and you’d never know it here.  And of course he’s half asleep.  I keep thinking that I hope that people who know what they’re looking at when they’re looking at a horse can see the potential there and I haven’t totally disguised it. 

Particularly like the one where he’s got one leg delicately back, gives him a rather insouciant look… Is the dog on the left the terrier you’ve mentioned? He’s pretty charming too.

She.  Yes, that’s Clover.  Clover is a fruit loop, as terriers so often are*, although she is a very nice fruit loop**.  I don’t think I’ve told you the Car Story?  She has me pegged as a soft touch, so when she’s been let out of durance vile in the tack room*** she tends to follow me around, flinging herself on her back at intervals so that I can rub her tummy.†  It didn’t take long for her to start following me back to my car.  One day, when I opened the door, she jumped in.  I laughed appreciatively, picked her up, and put her back on the ground.  She immediately jumped back in the car again.  I tried getting in the car before I put her out and she could still get back in before I could close the door:  I swear she turns in midair, like a boomerang.  So I thought okay, fine, started the car, and rolled downhill to the gate:  Clover sat happily in the passenger seat:  Great!  Where are we going?  Is it fun?  Does it involve food?††  I left the door open while I opened the gate.  Clover waved her tail madly when I got back in the car.  I left the door open when I went back to close the gate. . . . Clover was still sitting in the passenger seat waiting for her next adventure.  At this point I fished her out, grasped her firmly, and went in search of Jenny. . . . Clover still follows me out to my car pretty often, and has a nice little ride down to the gate, but she usually then gets out of her own accord.  Usually.  Sometimes I still have to go find Jenny.

            Clover’s mum, Sparkle, has her own variation on a theme of human interaction, hijacking, and tummy rubbing.  She likes to lie down in the road in front of the gate and roll over on her back.  She rolls over on her back for cars, because she has figured out that cars have people in them, and when they get, crossly, out of their cars to move her, chances are they will relent when she waves her paws madly, wags her tail like sixty and flattens her ears at them.  There are days that between the two of them–since chances are I have Clover in the passenger seat while I’m moving her mum–I wonder if I’m going to get home at all.


Vikkik says: 

And he looks a lovely horse, but surely he’s chestnut rather than orange

Mmrmph.  Er, yes.   I’m afraid I’m having my little joke about his colour because I do not like chestnuts.  I didn’t like Palominos even when I was a little girl.  I think it’s against the law for horse-mad girls not to like Palominos.

(Of course, I have practically zero experience of horses…) Any way, I think he’s a gorgeous colour.

Many people like chestnuts.  There is no accounting for these things.

*pets Roland cautiously* 

He’s a very sweet horse.  He will put his head in your chest so you can rub his ears better.  That is, in fact, what he’s trying to do in those pictures, and why he won’t stand still.  He thinks there’s a perfectly good human on the other end of the lead rope and he doesn’t want to stand over here when she could be making herself useful by petting him.


R and B says: 

He’s lovely–looks built uphill even at this age! How old is he–did I miss that? He looks to be about 16h? 

He looks extremely nice going under saddle–there’s enough in the front and enough in the rear to balance.  He’ll be four in March, and he’s 16.3.  That’s another case of the camera lying–Jenny’s quite small, but I must be shooting them at more of an angle than I realise, because if she’s small he must be about 15 hands and I can say, having stood in his shadow, that he’s large

But he really is a chestnut, right??

Snork!  No, he’s ORANGE!  Diane in MN says that horse people call her fawn Danes ‘golden chestnut’ which I find peculiar–dog fawn ought to be dun or buckskin in horse terms, which would then say certain things about its breeding.††† 


Lucy Coats says: 

But maybe orange only in the way that turning beech leaves in autumn are orange.

Oooh.  Imagine a copper-beech-coloured horse.  (Note to those of you who have never seen a copper beech:  they’re, um, purple

 I am looking out at a magnificent tree in our field as I type–and it seems like exactly his colour. He looks as if he has what is known up here as ‘a kind eye’.

Yes, he does.  They’re a little small–mind you, I’m spoiled, Connie has those enormous deer eyes that Connemaras are prone to–which is one of the things I didn’t like about him when I went with Jenny to look for a horse, but as soon as he turns it on you you change your mind.  Especially after he’s craned over his stable door to put his head in your chest and say ‘pet me’.  


Diane in MN says: 

Am I right in thinking that mares come in season quite frequently until they’re bred? 

Yikes, no.  Well, sort of.  They’re like a lot of other critters in that they tend not to come in season during the winter, and lengthening days bring them back into their fertile cycles–racehorse breeding mares live in barns with sunlamps so they can get them cycling early in the year, for example–and the cycle is usually around three weeks.   And there are certainly people who won’t touch mares because mares can be moody on account of fluctuating hormones.  Well, yes.  And there are certainly mares who are a real pain to have around when they’re fertile–and if you were sensible you would not breed them so as not to produce more mares like that.  I mean, they do come into season if they aren’t bred and pregnant, but most working mares are fairly low key about it, or at worst are only a bit twitchy a day or two per cycle during high summer.  Jenny is extremely cross about Connie because she says she’s never been ‘mare-ish’ before, and she’s had her three years or so–and that furthermore it’s spreading and here it is November when the estrous cycle should be closing down for the winter and there are several mares on the yard who are prancing around and whinnying and peeing.  Roland is a gelding.  Get a grip, girls.


Judith says: 

Puppies are adorable — and puppyhood is also hell, and when I’m going through it with one I can’t wait for it to be over! I really don’t understand people who keep puppies until they grow up and then want to give them to the pound; they’ve paid their dues and are about to get their reward, for heaven’s sake! Old dogs just get richer with age.

The people I totally take my hat off to are the ones that raise seeing-eye puppies.  Year after year after year of puppy–as you might say ‘hay fever’ or ‘foot rot’–as soon as it’s old enough to start proper training, it’s gone, and they have another wretched puppy peeing on the floor and eating their shoes.  I repeat:  puppies are darling, but puppyhood is still something you get through to have dogs.  But some of the idiots who take their post-puppies to the pound are in shock from adolescence.  You hear a lot about puppyhood but the facts of adolescence are downplayed.  She says feelingly, her aging adolescents being fast asleep about three feet away.  But people forget that brains take longer to grow up than bodies do and foolishly despair. 


Diane in MN says: 

This puppy is obviously very good at looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. It would be interesting to know how long it takes, after he settles in, for the halo to slip. Of course, he may be like MY puppy, whose halo has barely budged.

He arrived halo-free:  don’t let that face mislead you.  Look at those calculating little eyes.  This is not a hearts-and-flowers puppy but a right little bruiser.  I understand that the sock population in that house has already dropped dramatically.  However given that he’s still about three inches square and has been pitched into a family of about fifteen (technically it’s only Daisy and Roy, but in practise it’s also three kids, three spouses/spouse equivalents, eight grandchildren, and the odd in law) this is exactly what he should be.

            You want to encourage your perfect puppy to eat the occasional small noncrucial piece of furniture or when he hits adolescence he’ll suddenly think, yeep, what am I missing, and start staying out all night and coming home drunk and disorderly in the company of girls of dubious virtue. 


Southdowner says: 

Some people think that having more than one pet makes you love them all less 

Pet [sic] peeve alert.   This philosophy–and I get it too, although I only have two critters instead of eleven‡–makes me nuts.  What is the matter with these people?  Hearts are infinitely expandable.  There are critters, just like there are people, which are easier and harder to love, but the more people of all ages, sexes, species, etc you have in your life, the more room(s) in your heart you have.  The end of a well-lived life your heart is going to look like Gormenghast Castle, only cheerfuller. 

 – no! it just means there is fur to bawl into when the time comes…

 That too of course.  Sigh. 


Mrs Redboots says: 

Having a new puppy is like having a new baby – thankfully, though, the “must-be-aware-of-what-she’s-doing-every-second” phase only lasts about six months, compared with about five years in humans!

Six months!  You have had much mellower, more amenable puppies than I have!  (However, all mine have thrown up in the car on the drive home from the breeder, so obviously I’m doing something wrong!)  The saving grace of puppies over human children, if you’re asking me, who never raised any of the human variety, is that you can lock them up in their crate and run away for a few hours if you have to. 


Skating librarian says 

Can anybody tell me enough about the taste [of chestnuts] so that I’d know whether I should give them another try? Thanks!

Susan from Athens says:
Well it’s a very nutty taste. In purree form it is very thick and sticky in mouth – somewhat like peanut butter (the smooth kind, obviously – but I don’t particularly like peanut butter).

Ewwwww!  I love peanut butter and I love chestnuts, glaceed, pureed, or any thing else, but I deny that chestnut puree is anything like peanut butter.  It’s much lighter and airier than any nut butter, smooth, barely sticky, and while chestnuts are nutty, they always taste to me like a near relative of a real nut rather than like a nut themselves.  Chestnut puree tastes to me like something with nuts in it, not like nut puree. 


Melissa Mead says: 

I’ve always thought they taste vaguely maple-y. Sort of like a rich smoked maple hazelnut? I didn’t like them as a kid, either, but I’m slowly coming to. Roasted, they have an almost soft texture.

 Soft and a bit crumbly, yes.  And yes . . . almost mapley.  And yes, a bit more hazelnutty than . . . well, than peanuts, or cashews or something.  Mapley hadn’t occurred to me (although crumbled chestnuts are good in waffles. . . . But then since I like chestnuts I’m liable to throw them experimentally into all kinds of things) but I think you’re right.  They aren’t themselves sweet but they taste like they might be somehow.  


Rachel says: 

My mother had a version of this recipe , known as Slut’s chocolate chestnut log because it was so quick and easy. She used icing sugar and rum instead of caster and orange juice.  And wrapped the whole thing in silver foil instead of putting it in a tin.

 I don’t myself use tin foil–it’s also implicated in those of us with auto-immune problems–but icing sugar works fine, and rum is excellent.  My original recipe called for orange liqueur rather than orange essence, but I prefer the essence if you’re going for orange. 


Southdowner says: 

We ARE a cult! Yaay! Robin has a cult following!!! 

I’m still worrying about this. . . . Following me where . . . . 

* * *


 * All right, name me a dog family that doesn’t have serious fruit loop tendencies.  But they do vary.  Terrier fruitloopery is significantly different from hellhound fruitloopery for example. 

** And my Exhibit A when the hellhounds and I have just been jumped by another nasty, aggressive little, or, worse, not-so-little s.o.b. of a terrier and I’m shouting that I hate terriers

 *** Or when she escapes, which also happens.  It is very difficult to get into a tack room carrying a saddle and not let a terrier bent on freedom out.  Then you rack the saddle hastily and go in pursuit.  I’ve chased her into the schooling ring where Jenny is giving a lesson more than once.  Generally speaking it’s very nice using Jenny’s tack room instead of one of the two bigger ones for the boarders, but the terrier situation is problematic. 

† I’m with Jodi about fuzzy tummies.  I’d be an instant ferret slave too. 

†† Clover, unlike other dogs we could mention, has a positive attitude toward food. 

†††   This is not really satisfactory and only barely scratches the surface.   But there’s a lot out there about colour types and genetics . . . which I’ve just wasted most of half an hour on and I still have to play the piano tonight. . . .

 ‡ Or is it fifteen now, and you’re just afraid to tell us?

Orange Horse

I’m extremely relieved . . . I mean I’m really sorry to report that this morning went smoothly.  There’s hardly even a story in it.  It was an absolutely gorgeous morning* which provides that extra little frisson of something-or-other when you may be about to die any moment, specifically when that pheasant/rabbit/deer explodes out of the shruuuuuuuuuuaaaarrrrghhhh—–

            But you kind of had to be there to enjoy that aspect.

            I got up terrifyingly early** to give hellhounds a brief hurtle before I went*** off to frolic with hellcolts and nightmares, and arrived in such good time I had to bring Connie in myself.  You realise just how large Jenny’s fields are when the horse you want is standing at the far end of one.  Connie turned around when she heard the gate† and then turned back again.  No help there.  I toiled up the hill toward her and after she’d enjoyed her joke she did turn again and walk to me with her ears up and a faint whinny, although that may be because I had a bucket with a handful of horse nuts†† in it. 

            I said gaily to Jenny that Connie would probably behave worse than Roland and she said grimly, she’d better not, that’s exactly the sort of thing that would set him off.  Whereupon I instantly changed horses midstream and said that Connie would probably go all nursemaidy, as she’d done when Miles rode her a few weeks ago.  Mmmmm, said Jenny.

            At least they didn’t insist on billing and cooing, although they’d discussed world politics at length while we tacked up.  Jenny had told me to keep our distance, as Roland’s legs all grow to twice their length when he cavorts, not to mention being young enough still that he loses track of one or another of them occasionally†††, and we wanted as many of us to come home again undamaged and in one piece as possible. 

            Most of the local countryside is stubble fields at the moment–muddy stubble field–so we were spoilt for choice about where we could go.  And there were a few pheasants–and a few deer–and a few madly waving fronds and heavy low rustlings which were obviously alligators, and Connie did take mild exception to these on one occasion.  And Roland couldn’t bear all that lovely open space once or twice–Connie meanwhile was expressing deep displeasure at this nonsense of staying trotting‡–but us humourless humans prevailed.  And indeed the ground is so deep and soggy that a long uphill slope at the trot is quite enough, and poor Roland had his tongue hanging down to his knees, and Connie’s blood vessels were all standing out like a racehorse’s which I always thinks looks so cool.‡‡

            But the point is we all came home in the same state of cohesion as we’d left.  This is good.  We might even do it again some time I suppose.


Now, these photos fail miserably to do our orange horse justice.  I told you at the time that he had no clue about standing up for the camera and wasn’t interested, and he had also just been worked‡‡‡ and that was before he had any stamina whatsoever and he was tired.  He’s put on weight and muscle in the last few weeks and has begun to look like a genuine horse rather than a gawky baby.  But these are the photos I’ve got, and it would be a pity to waste them, you can at least admire his colour

 * * *

 * Therefore, because I’m like this, I felt guilty about not being out there with hellhounds.  But by heroic self discipline I got them out before dark for their afternoon walk. 

** Before 8 am is sufficiently terrifying to anyone who seems to have become incapable of turning her light out before 2:30 

*** cruelly 

† The now-famous Giraffe Gate after Roland jumped it in its pre-giraffe condition a fortnight or so ago.  Jenny shot awake to the pitter-patter of little feet on the lane outside her bedroom window. 

†† Thirty years ago in America I would’ve called these ‘pellets’.  I am not up on modern lingo. 

††† And a loose unsupervised almost-four-year-old colt leg can get into all kinds of mischief. 

‡ And. I. Was. Riding. Her. In. The. Milder. Bit. She. Likes.  Never occurred to me not to.  Well, as I’m fond of saying, nobody died. 

‡‡ So were mine.  It doesn’t look nearly so cool on me. 

‡‡‡ Note saddlemark  

§ Ewwwwwww.                                                                 

 ( . . . Pardon me, but don’t tell me this insert-multiple-photos-into-your-entry thing worked.   Yeep.  I’m almost afraid to hit the ‘publish’ button . . . )

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