Friday, 15 February 2008

Ponies and Parties

Knowing that there was a long evening ahead, I decided that a good dose of fresh air was in order today, so when my friend Sue asked if I'd like a ride out with her on her ponies, I jumped at the offer. I'm trying to get comfortable and confident again in the saddle and the more I can get out the better. Considering my mother sat me on a horse as soon as I could sit upright and had me in riding lessons at five, I've managed to get very rusty and the feeling of mortality that seems to get stronger with every year doesn't help! My mount for the ride was Sparks, who belongs to Sue's daughter Abigale who is away at Uni. I could tell that Sparks, who has a real mischievous streak was weighing me up as I got in the saddle, no doubt deciding how far he'd be able to push this newcomer. We rode our hardy ponies up onto the village fell where the winter wind bit hard at our faces and hands but we could enjoy a view of the hills stretching for miles. I thought of picnic rides up here in the summer and watching the displaying skylark from horseback. Happy days to come. Sparks had behaved very well, and we were on the home stretch when a tractor with a bucket on the front came up the track towards us. Sue said that I might want to stick Sparks between her horse and the wall "just in case" so of course I immediately obliged. Seeing that one of the horses might be nervous the kindly farmer stopped and turned off the engine... only to start it again right behind us! After a momentary lapse of control, we managed to get safely back to the field... hopefully Sue will take us out again.

After a shower and spruce up it was time to head out to Kath's James Bond Themed party in the Punch Bowl's luxury marquee. Kath looked fab in her new dress and even the lads had made an effort. Chris, Tracy and Andy had obviously been practicing and did an excellent job of entertaining the masses with their music. It was great to see everyone dressed in their best and having a good time.

Kelly looked uncharacteristically elegant in her long red dress ;o) Chris on the other hand managed to spoil an other wise nice photo of the two of us by doing his lager lout impression, grrr!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Heart of the Lake District

A few days later I found myself in quite a different setting, spending a night with my parents and friends in the Fell and Rock Climbing Club's Langdale hut. Many a family holiday has been spent in these huts over the years and there is a real feeling of home from home every time I take up my seat by the fire in one.

In the morning I had to go to work, but relished my drive along the icy lakeland roads, admiring the frosty mountains and streams. Chris and I live in the Northern Lake District and I'd forgotten just how much I missed the beauty of the southern and central fells.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Trial while the sun shines!

What a stunning weekend, quite different from the weather at the time of my last post.
My friend Louise must have brought it with her from the South East as she drove up the country for a visit. Louise is on a whistle-stop tour of friends around England and Scotland with four of her faithful border collies, two of which happen to be "cousins" of Fox: they are descended from Sadghyl Pip too, and in some respects it shows, especially in young Breac!

Poor Louise ended up helping Wal and I with fencing for the majority of her first day, but we managed to squeeze a little herding in too. It is good to know that it isn't just Fox and I who find our Shetlands hard work. They proved that they are the speediest of sheep and can give any collie a run for its money. Both Meg and Harry had admirable attempts at controlling them but the sheep had the upper hand and knew all of the escape routes behind boulders and around knolls.

Louise has advised that I get them in a round pen to get them used to a dog and I'm inclined to take it.

We drove back to Askham feeling that we had really earned our beer and a day of relaxing watching a sheepdog trial on Sunday. The photo is of Kilcreen Fox showing real style on his round.

We had an exciting moment when Louise learned that she could start trialling and still be able to register Harry on merit by taking a working test, because the rules have just been changed. But we were disappointed when the chap booking in the dogs said that there was no time for extra runners because of the long delay in the morning due to fog. I'm now hoping that Louise might have time to call in on her way South again for a new handler's competition next weekend.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Village People

Stuart's 50th Birthday bash brought all of the villagers out of the woodwork for an evening of revelries in the Queen's Head.

The drums came out and a pianist was located and coaxed to take the chair: the scene was set for a very enjoyable evening.

Saturday, 2 February 2008


Another month, another weather front.
We were faithfully promised a big dump of snow by the forecasters this week. Sure enough, yesterday lunch time I received phone calls warning me to hop into the car immediately if I wanted to get home that evening at all. Setting off, only a few flakes were falling, but I knew that once I got to Shap summit, over which my road home passes, it could be a very different story... and it was.
At 1350 feet, it is no wonder that the A6 bears several "Road Liable to Icing" warning signs. (One presumes that they mean "icing" of the cold and slippery kind!).
The road turned ever whiter as I drove until the tracks behind the car filled in and the route was badly obscured. One idiot overtook me only to slide sideways into a fortunately positioned lay by. The driver sett off again sheepishly and sat at a polite distance behind from then on. It was quite a frightening experience, but I've driven a lot in snow and know the road very well. I was quite happy thinking of playing at snowball fights with Fox and Chris, but as I drew nearer to home, things took a disappointing turn. There was hardly any snow in the village. Bummer!

Chris had been unable to spend much time watching the weather. He was puppy-sitting for our neighbour's 13 week old BC Cally. Cally is such a little live wire that Chris had been on his toes all morning. time to reduce her protein I think, a step which Ian and Emily are already taking. She was quite polite to Fox at first, but all that soon changed when she learned what a soft lump he is. Soon she was charging at poor Fox, hitting him head on in the stomach and biting at his lips with her sharp little needles. Fox made a big show of biting back and showing his teeth, but never once actually touched her. Finally, after an hour or so, she tired and fell asleep.
Today we woke to find that the ground was white, but not very. Compared to what I'd seen fall yesterday, it was a rather meager helping. Our walk was fun however and we watched dippers hop from rock to rock on the river and a hare bounding along though the woods. the day was only slightly marred when we learned that we'd missed seeing the dog and bitch otter playing by about 10 minutes!
It's raining now.