Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Well done USA!

Blogging has been a bit sporadic: school holidays have eaten up my time. They always do, and it always takes me by surprise, every single time.

Still, I have found enough time to watch the showjumping. Excellent course building, and brilliant performances by the USA, and in particular Canada, with only 3 team members and therefore no discard score.

Of course the UK were also down to three after John Whittaker's Peppermill had a stiff back, but you would have thought from listening to the British commentating on the event on BBC that this was the sole reason we didn't do that well.

Well, Canada only had three and they still managed to finish in silver medal position.

And huge congratulations too to Mara Yamauchi, who came 6th in the Women's Marathon. Whilst on the subject of Olympic gripes, the huha over Paula Radcliffe in the Marathon makes me cross; not so much the huha itself; it's more the way Mara Yamauchi is relegated to a brief mention, or a distant boxed off paragraph after long discussions of poor Paula's emotional bravery. Of course it's dreadful when someone's dreams come to naught, but both girls have had this as their focus for 4 years and worked, I'm sure, equally hard and it's a pity this isn't properly recognised.

Still, I'm looking forward to the individual showjumping now, and I hope Ben Maher continues to do well. I do like his quiet style of riding (so unlike some "old fashioned" riders who seem to be all hands), and I am also hoping Rodrigo Pessoa does well. I do love watching him ride.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Not a lot in common

My daughter and I, as I said in my previous post, don't really share my passion for horses. Daughter and I don't share a few other things, either. We just spent a while in front of the You Tube, trying to find some musical ground we had in common, for surely there must be some?

Daugher likes Rihanna. Don't terribly mind Rihanna myself, but want to say to her and to most R&B singers, and actually quite a few others now I think of it: "For goodness' sake put some clothes on woman!"

Which is not a problem for this next lot, unless baggy yellow shorts really do it for you. Daughter and I watched this, and we are far, far apart on this one. I love it: I think it's fun, and sounds sunny, which as I am typing this in yet another bout of pouring rain, does it for me. Daughter thinks it's one of the worst things she's ever heard.

Oh wow, Kristina

What an amazing Olympics she had. She so deserved her medal: fantastic riding on all three sections. I'm glad Hinrich and Marius won - I do love that horse. And what a gripping final.

My daughter, who is getting progressively more anti-horse with each passing week (can't imagine why, when she has my example to follow), was curled up elsewhere in the room when I turned the showjumping on. "You're mad," she informed me, witheringly, as I groaned my way through Mary King's round, crouched there with my head in my hands, barely able to look as she went down that final line. However, the excitement got to even her, and she joined me, hanging in front of the telly, actually keen to see what happened.

I did love Ian "Voodoo" Stark's commentating. Everytime he said something about another team's rider, crash went a fence, and although he was a tad partisan, he made me laugh. And of course I was not sitting there myself, guiltily wavering between willing those in front of Kristina to have a fence down and wanting them to do their best for their horses. Phew....

Monday, 11 August 2008

Urghhh. Arghhh.

Am not at my bright mental best today, husband and self having set the alarm for 1.00 am to watch the cross country. All of it, in its entirety. Despite now feeling like the little ghoul at the end of Buffy who staggers across the screen going "urgghh, arghhh," it was worth it.

Mary King nearly finished me off entirely when she had an interesting take off at the Pagoda fences, but goodness, did she do well. So impressive, as were the Germans (lovely Marius) and am only sorry that Lucinda Fredericks on Headley Britannia didn't do better. It's on BBC here.

Intend to sever all human contact when the showjumping is on (which is, I can guarantee, when my family will think to themselves. "Ooh. Horses on tv. That reminds me. Haven't spoken to Jane in ages. Must ring! Now!", and also when my children will develop crises of mind-boggling intensity which must be dealt with NOW - where are their trainers, most like.) Shall retreat behind my own Chinese wall of answerphone and uncharacteristic, unmaternal snarling.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Amazon - an update

I posted a few months ago about Amazon's attempt to take over the POD (print on demand) market. Booklocker filed an anti-trust suit against Amazon. Things have now become rather heated: Amazon filed a motion to dismiss, and Booklocker then filed a counter motion. You can read a summary of the arguments here. The motion will be ruled on after Labor Day, which is 1 September 2008.

The POD market is not the only one Amazon has its eyes on. It has now (subject to closing conditions) bought ABE. The Advanced Book Exchange is an internet site bringing together antiquarian and other booksellers to sell books. ABE is a very long way indeed from being perfect, but it was at least independent of Amazon. I've blogged at length about this new development, and its possible impact on booksellers on the Ibooknet blog.

There are small, independent organisations of booksellers out there: Ibooknet is one. As well as providing a site for selling books, we also promote each member's individual websites. Buying from Ibooknet, or our individual members, is a little bit less for Tescos (oops, Freudian slip - meant Amazon) and more for the small independents who care about service and quality.

War Horse now booking

here. I am so excited. I have booked tickets, though have no idea if any of my nearest and dearest will want to come with me. I do not care. I am going no matter what.

Europe's Kill Buyers

I am a keen devotee of America's Fugly Horses blog, which aims to expose duff horse ownership and breeding practices. Through that blog, I have learned quite a lot about American slaughter practices. It is no longer legal to slaughter horses for human consumption in America; but there is still a market, and slaughter for human consumption is still legal in Canada and Mexico, so horses are bought in bulk by the kill buyers and have to endure long trips across the border to slaughter.

Unfortunately we here in Europe are really no better. Around 100,000 horses across Europe are sold for meat. As around 84% are slaughtered in Italy, they can face journeys of up to 5 days before death. There have been, since January 2007, extensive regulations governing how horses should be transported. They are supposed to have 24 hours' rest for every 24 hours of travel. They are supposed to be watered every 8 hours, and if necessary fed. They should have enough room, and should be fit to travel: there are several staging posts in Europe, at which drivers are supposed to stop and tend to the horses. However, the abolition of border controls in the EU means it is only too easy for huge transporters full of horses to drive, drive, drive, and ignore the staging posts and the needs of the horses.

Horse and Hound's Abi Butcher travelled with Jo White from World Horse Welfare (which used to be the ILPH) from Poland to Italy, to track what happens to horses sent for slaughter. You can see some of her video diary here:

and read her diary here, and here, and here, with day 4 here, and day 5 here.

World Horse Welfare has a petition: the aim is not to stop the slaughter of horses, but to stop the suffering caused by the widespread flouting of the rules. They want to:

  • see rigorous enforcement of the existing rules
  • introduce finite journey time for horses travelling to slaughter
  • end the long distance transportation of horses to slaughter in Europe

Please sign the petition. I think it is terrible that much loved horses end up on horse transporters, and some of that is the fault of horse owners. If a horse is elderly, or unlikely to find a decent home it is no use hoping against hope someone will offer it a "good home": make the difficult decision and have the horse put down yourself in its own surroundings where it is comfortable. I don't have a particular problem either with horses being sold for meat, as long as they are slaughtered at source. After all, you can drive as long as you like with meat. It no longer has feelings. Transporting living, breathing animals, and making them suffer, must be stopped.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


Still haven't done those petrol receipts. They must be around here somewhere.....


Tax return? David Byrne? Tax return? David Byrne?

I love this. It makes me smile every time.

Monday, 4 August 2008

EMW's Big Day

It's the Equine Market Watch Open Day on August 9th: you can only buy online tickets and raffle ticket until Wednesday 6th (after which you can buy tickets on the gate on the day but it is £5 more). Click here for details. You can also buy raffle tickets via the site, for £1 a time. Prizes include:

  • a lesson with Emma Bailey
  • Trailer Service
  • Voucher for Sports Horse Massage
  • Voucher for Natural Horse Supplies
  • books (The Team and Fly-by-Night)
  • framed photograph from Browning Russell photographer
  • rug hanger
  • saddle trolley
  • pair of hand made jump wings
  • Farmkey vouchers
  • haynet filler stand
  • Seatbone saver from Heather Moffet
  • Pair or Harbourne stirrups
  • voucher for back treatment from Back in Touch
  • voucher for portrait from Portrait World

My fingers are crossed for decent weather. It looks like a fantastic day though, whatever the weather. The picture below shows Tanna, an EMW resident who is an amazing 42 years old (nearly 43). All credit to EMW for keeping such an old guy in such wonderful condition.

Sweet Peas

Here is a rare example of sucess in the garden. I absolutely love sweet peas, and although I copped out this year by buying plants from the garden centre, at least I didn't manage to kill these, and they smell wonderful.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Frost, but not in May

Having been off for over a week now lounging about recovering, I have masses of stuff charging about in my head, and think it's best some of it is offloaded soon.

The lounging about was due to my having been much more tired than I thought I was going to be after my nose op. The op itself went well. The only alarming thing was a tendency to sneezing fits, which, when the inside of your nose is held together by whatever is the modern day equivalent of catgut, are worrying. My surgeon could obviously teach Matron a thing or two about good strong sewing, as I am still in one piece. It's just as well I was not the one doing the sewing: needlework is not one of my skills, and it was the exam I failed most spectacularly in my school career (26%).

But back to the frost. This week fuel prices have shot up enormously. During previous increases, husband and I have talked about what we might do: turn heating off in the bedrooms; rely on the woodburner; strap ourselves to the Aga. The difference is that this time we really mean it.

Thinking about it, it's not that long ago that central heating over the whole house became normal. I was born in the 1960s, and it wasn't until I was just about to leave home in 1980 that my parents had full central heating. Before this, we had huge brown storage heaters, which sat in most of the rooms; great heavy useless toads, sulkingly keeping any warmth they'd generated during the night to themselves. They had stern messages on forbidding us from putting anything on them; not, we thought because this would stop any warmth from coming out: it was far more likely the heaters would suck in and destroy anything left on them. That was the sort of beast they were.

So, we used to retreat in winter. Most of the house was unused, and we would hole up during the day in one room, which had a solid fuel boiler, and just about enough room for a sofa and a table. And there we stayed until the weather finally warmed, surrounded by the 1970s splendour of a glass fibre brown carpet, our lovely sofa: a virulently green and yellow thing my father's ex-wife had chucked out, and curtains in fetching blocks of ochre and orange.

There was not a lot of choice about family togetherness then: we scrapped and fought, did homework; painted, read but unless things became intolerable we put up with each other as it was better than facing the freezing wastes of the rest of the house.

The house was achingly cold in winter. I used to have six blankets and two quilts on my bed. Baths were interesting in a bathroom with a huge 1930s cast iron bath which our hopelessly inadequate water heater could spittingly manage to cover to a 2 inch depth, while the temperature of the rest of the room was affected not at all by one of those wall mounted radiant heaters which look as if they're doing a decent job, but aren't. We had ice pictures on the inside of the windows all the time (though even this chilliness wasn't as bad as one of my student houses in Sheffield: my hot water bottle froze, and it was still in the bed with me). But ice pictures were beautiful: they were something we looked forward to in winter.

Heat, or the lack of it, had its place in literature. One description I remember with particular fondness is from Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse. During the bitingly cold journey to Moonacre:

"Maria clasped her hands sightly inside her muff, and Miss Heliotrope clasped hers under her cloak, and they set their teeth and endured."

Which is a far cry from the heated luxury we travel in now.

"...the fireplace was the tinest she had ever seen, deeply recessed in the wall It was big enough for the fire of pine-cones and apple wood that burned in it, filing the room with fragrance.

But when Maria started to explore her room she found that it was not without luxuries. Over the fireplace was a shelf, and on it stood a blue wooden box filled with dainty biscuits with sugar flowers on them, in case she should feel hungry between meals. And beside the fireplace stood a big basket filled with more logs and pine-cones - enough to keep her fire burning all through the night."

To me, as a child whose bedroom fire was never lighted (but neither was anyone's: we all shared the spartan chill), this was the ultimate in luxury. I absolutely knew how marvellous it would be to come into your bedroom; not just a downstairs room, but your bedroom, and find it warm, warm all the time, and with provision to keep it that way.

The sort of biting winter cold in Keats' The Eve of St Agnes certainly meant something to me when I read the poem for the first time for A level. We were lucky enough to be able to afford to heat at least one room, but I could imagine easily what it would be like for the upstairs chill to be permanent, and everywhere.

"St Agnes' Eve - Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seemed taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith."

Cold doesn't make much of an appearance in modern literature unless it's a travel book and the chill is one reason why you went there in the first place, or unless disaster has befallen you. So, I suppose with the coming cold, we will at least have a much keener appreciation of Mrs Norris' witchiness in keeping Fanny Price's room at Mansfield Park unheated, and maybe books yet to be written will have more lyrical descriptions of being warm, and the horror of grinding cold about which you can do very little.