From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The New Recruit

With Martine's right hand still being very weak, and George away on business this week, we were hoping to find someone else to ride, and Severine, the owner of the other horse in our paddock was looking for a nice quiet horse to ride as she had got a bit of a shock when she fell off her own horse and broke a finger ! So it was agreed, she would ride Gigi and I would ride Flurry.


Gigi was in extra lazy mode, which was fine, and Flurry was pretty chilled as well, so we set off on the ride the horses have done the most often, just to keep things nice and calm.

When I speak French I can't help but use my hands , and Gigi was not to impressed by my lack of steering, but as I said I just can't help it !
Well inevitably we met the sheep, and discretion being the better part of valour, we turned for home, just to be on safe side as it was Severine's first time riding Gigi, but as you can see, my hand is still doing that thing!

A nice calm leisurely hack, just what the Doctor ordered. Flurry was nice to ride, although I missed Gigi's big neck in front of me!
And she kindly waited 'till she got back in the field to blow of steam.

Saturday, 25 February 2012


I've been finding it hard to keep positive about Le Big Trek recently.  What really upset me most was attempting to hold Cinnamon's leash in my right hand - she pulled a little and I could not hold on to her.  Now, Cinnamon weighs less than 5kg.  If I can't hold her, what hope do I have of holding a 500kg horse if he decides to tank off with me?

While the YD was here, I sat up on Flurry, which was funny - "Dad will kill me for letting you do this!!!"  I was pleased to find I could mount ok, although there was a strong urge to use my right hand while mounting, I don't know why.  While on board, though, I picked up the reins and found my right hand refused to grip at all, so I hopped straight off again - attempting to ride was pointless.  

Yes, I was p'eed off.  How can I plan on riding 500km in six weeks time if I can't even hold the reins now?  Flurry is very steady and sensible, but he does tend to speed up on the way home, and any horse can take fright and get taken over by the "flight" response. There is no way I would be able to hold him one-handed in open country if he really gets strong.

Meanwhile, there is the whole horse fittening issue - we're hoping these horses will do 4 - 6 hours per day, 6 days a week.  The LSH has been doing his best, but he has a job to do too, and he has only managed to ride Flurry twice this week. Now he is heading off to Barcelona on business and will be gone for most of the next week, so we are back to square one, no rider for Flurry for most of the next week.  Anne is also finding it frustrating, she is dying to explore the longer hacks locally but doesn't want to do it on her own.

A week seems to be a long time with a fractured limb.  

I found myself successfully using a knife a couple of days ago, so I was determined to have another go at riding.  The LSH and Anne were planning to hack after the rugby today, so I went along.
I got a leg-up onto my little horse, which avoided the "need to use my right hand" issue.   I was pleased to find my right hand could actually grip the rein, and even take a little hold as necessary.  I rode down the road for about ten minutes, just to the first turn.  We passed a very excited horse loose in a field - my initial reaction was "Oh shit" and panic, then I told myself to cop on and ride my damn horse, and of course he behaved like the little gent he is, although he was very interested in the neighing, galumphing grey creature in the field adjoining the road.
We turned off the main road after that, and I decided to quit while I was ahead and handed the reins over to the LSH.  I walked with him and Anne for a while, but they started trotting and quickly disappeared over the horizon.
They are the tiny spots in the middle of the picture!
I followed for a while, but then decided to head back to La Belle Cour and my friend C.

The LSH and Anne were out for a good hour and they did plenty of trotting, so Flurry sweated up a bit
 but you can't beat a good roll to dry up the sweat!

I think we're all feeling a little more optimistic after today.

There is a local lady who is going to ride with Anne tomorrow.  Hopefully that'll work out well, and I might even have another little sit-up too.  Fingers crossed!

This is our 100th post.  Huge thanks to all who have taken the time to read the ramblings of a pair of ould wagons, and most especially to our Facebook friends and the gang at the hay-net who have been following and encouraging us over the roller-coaster that was the last five weeks!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Le Cirque est Roi!

The circus came to town!  Our non-horsey friend C is visiting us, so when we spotted the colourful posters attached to lamp-posts around the town, we decided that in the interest of exploring French culture, the three of us (Martine, Anne and C) would splash out the €5/head and see what a small French circus is like.

This circus was French... and it was small - in fact, it was the smallest Big Top any of us had ever seen.  I had jokingly said to C that there would be 200 small kids plus parents and us ould wans from Ireland - I was wrong.  200 small kids would have burst the tent at the seams, never mind their parental escorts.  We did a rough count and reckoned there were about 80 people present all told.
A section of the crowd
Hmmm, 80 punters at €5/head == €400.  We could see straight away that these guys are not making a huge profit, so we weren't expecting much.

First we had Mademoiselle Laura, who did stuff with hula hoops.  Laura had been selling tickets five minutes earlier, but she had taken off her red gilet and seemed a bit under-dressed for the time of year.  To keep warm, she's wearing a lot of hula hoops in this photo.

Two feet...

Then there were the horses.  First a little skewbald guy who didn't want to be there.  He went around with a mulish expression, and half-heartedly bucked every so often, much like many riding school ponies I've seen.  I get the feeling he's been in this job for too long.  Anyway, he did his tricks and trotted out with a relieved expression on his face.

Four feet (he wasn't keen on this at all)
Take a bow... he was good at this!

Then there was a sparky little cremello pony.  My guess is he's learning the ropes to take over from the skewbald.   He trotted around with ATTITUDE and did a sort of dance with his trainer, which students of Natural Horsemanship could easily emulate.  Then he did his final trick and trotted out, still sparky!
Two feet on podium.  Note Mademoiselle Laura is working
away in the background, getting the popcorn machine going
Mademoiselle Laura quickly divested herself of the red gilet and presented herself in the ring again.  This time she climbed a rope and did all sorts of acrobatic stuff while hanging from the rope.  The ringmaster/animal trainer/her Dad? held the rope steady and was, perhaps, prepared to catch her, but his fielding skills were not required today.

Wow, she is bendy
Ringmaster/animal trainer/dad is spinning
the rope here while Laura does stuff.
Actually, this was pretty impressive!
 Then we had the camels.  Or rather, we had the dromedaire first, followed by the chameau.  French is much tidier than English here, and always differentiates between the two species.
Here's the dromedaire doing his trick
Two feet on.. wait, I'm seeing a pattern emerge here
Then the chameau came in.  He was pretty impressive, although I don't think the name Rambo suits him
Ringmaster/animal trainer/dad tried to give the crowd a little Natural History lesson and talked about how the different animals move their legs when they walk/trot.  This is a subject which is endlessly fascinating to dressage aficionados, (especially when we see the dressage camel doing his flying changes) but I suspect it was over the top for most of the people present, especially seeing as the majority were less then five years old.

Anway Rambo finished with his trick, and strolled majestically out.
I started to get "arty" with the photos.
The "two feet" trick was beginning to pall 

Rambo was followed by a small clown act.  There was only one clown, and he was small.  I've a strong suspicion he was the young lad who had taken our tickets as we entered the tent.  He played the trumpet (quite well) and engaged in some repartee with ringmaster/animal trainer/dad, some of which I could follow.  The little kids were giggling anyway, and seemed to enjoy it all.

The intermission followed, during which small clown sold souvenir flags, Mademoiselle Laura sold candy floss and popcorn and parents went out for a much needed smoke.

The second half passed quickly... there was a little donkey who did his trick...
Oh look! Two feet on a podium!
To be fair, he had another trick as well, he jumped over a small pole that small clown held, then when small clown raised it higher, he went under it.

The donkey's final trick was that he's an absolute sweetheart.  He went around the ring and stopped in front of all the small kids and stood patiently while they petted him.
I want a Donkey!

The final exotic animal came in - a llama from Peru.  He seems to be young and doesn't have any trick(s) yet, so the wooden podium stayed where it was, ringmaster/animal trainer/dad continued his discussion about animal gaits and then small clown led the llama out.

The final act was... TaDa...... Mademoiselle Laura again, in another aeriel performance, this time in a ring dangling from the Small Top's top.
Anne's comment : I bet she'd be good at Pilates!
Ringmaster/animal trainer/dad then said their thank yous and farewells, small clown and Mademoiselle Laura waved and smiled at everyone and we all filed out, to find small clown and ringmaster/animal trainer/dad at the exit saying Merci, Bon Journée to everyone as they left.

Within an hour, the small top was down, with an extra man appearing from nowhere to pitch in with the family and help disassemble and pack up.

Did we enjoy ourselves?  Well, yes.  It was a small operation, to be sure, but it gave us a brief glimpse of the life of a small-time circus family as they travel through France, working hard at the only life they know.  At €5/head, it was well worth the money, but there is no way these guys will ever get rich doing this - at best they made about €500, having spent two days in Céreste.

Will €250/day keep the show on the road?  There's a lot of hay to purchase : the animals were all well fed, and apart from the grumpy skewbald, all seemed reasonably content.  There's three large trucks to keep fuelled.  There's four (we think) humans to feed.

Will Mademoiselle Laura stay with the show?  She's the centrepiece, and she also chips in and does whatever needs doing along the way - I bet she even drives one of the trucks.

Will people continue to go to the circus?  This is a big question for Irish circuses too.  This one is in Céreste once a year - with such a small population, will audience numbers be sufficient to keep them going?  It's hard to say, but the small kids loved the show, with one small boy remaining in his seat long after the goodbyes were said, in the hope that something else would happen!

I wish Le Cirque est Roi well, and I hope that they continue to introduce les animaux exotics to small children for years to come, with Mademoiselle Laura continuing to bring a bit of sparkle to small country towns for another few years before she is drawn away by the lure of a bigger Big Top.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Slight Hiccup - the Happy Ending

People who have been following the blog since last year will remember when I discovered that my Irish car insurance company ( would not cover me for more than 30 days abroad - anyone else can go back and have a quick read of A Slight Hiccup to bring themselves up to speed!

Anne is insured with a different company, Quinn Direct, and they will cover her for up to 93 days abroad in any one insurance period.  By a stroke of sheer genius (or maybe luck!) her insurance falls due for renewal while she is here, so her trip covers two insurance periods - definitely genius!

I investigated getting insurance with Quinn Direct, but I was absolutely up-front with them and told them that I would be here for at least four months, and the answer was no, you won't be covered, so I let it rest at the time and planned to research French insurance companies in January.

The jeep was covered on her Irish insurance up to the 27th Jan, and I started looking for insurance during the second week of Jan.  I didn't do very well at all, probably because I wasn't prepared to lie and say I was moving here long-term and would be importing and re-registering my car.  I had been told that the jeep and I would have to be physically in Ireland to take out a new Irish policy and it was beginning to look like I would have to dash home before the 27th and take out a policy with Quinn Direct to get their "90 days abroad" cover, and then limit ourselves to 90 days once I got back here.

At the 11th hour, I emailed the help section on this website,  The very helpful Jo Rhodes replied with the name of a Dutch-owned company.  Correspondence has been going back and forth, I seemed to be waiting forever for my "proof of no claims" to arrive from and I was afraid to say anything here in case I somehow jinxed it but now finally it's all sorted, Jeepy has her Carte Verte (Green Card) and is "French" insured.
The magical Carte Verte
The company is Schreinemachers SARL, their website is and I can't recommend them highly enough - they have been so helpful every step of the way.  Their staff are either English or are very fluent in it, which is a huge boon when you're struggling to resurrect language skills learned 35 years ago!  I've taken out a one year policy with them, I'm to notify them in writing when I want to cancel it and they've sent me information on how to re-register Jeepy in France in case we decide to stay - how helpful is that!!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The LSH Takes to the Saddle

The LongSufferingHusband was the first to offer his riding skills as part of the "Get Flurry Fit while Martine is Banjaxed" plan, even though it's been quite a few years since he was last seen on the back of a horse.  

The YD was keen to have a hack out with her Dad before she goes home tomorrow, so Anne kindly loaned her GiGi, Flurry found himself carrying 50% more weight than he's used to and off they went, with me trotting along as part of the "Keep Martine fit while her arm is Banjaxed" plan!

They did a new route which we had sussed out yesterday, which crosses the main road, goes out to the other side of Céreste and comes back through the village on the way home, 4.3km in total, which seems a nice distance for someone's first time riding in years.

In hindsight, it may not have been entirely fair to send the LSH off on a new route for his first time.  Flurry got a bit excited on the way home, especially when about twenty very noisy vintage cars that were taking part in a rally went past, but they both held it together and got home in one piece!

The Renegade boots are still not behaving perfectly.  The hind boots don't twist at all, although it's more of a struggle to get them on, but both front boots on both horses invariably twist, usually up to about 30˚.  We're not sure what to do about it - as far as we can see, we're fitting them as described on the Renegade website.

Anyway, here's our first Everytrail map :

Hack avec flurry

EveryTrail - Find trail maps for California and beyond

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Perfect Day?

Between injury and weather, we've basically been hibernating for two weeks now.  To be honest, we were both a bit down in the dumps, and had almost forgotten why we're here.

Finally, the thaw has well and truly set in, the Youngest Daughter is visiting this week, we're no longer struggling to keep the house warm and we're back to dog-walking and horse-riding.

I accompanied the YD and Anne on foot to record the first hack for two and a half weeks.

Both horses were relishing the warm weather (15C) and were totally relaxed, although every time Flurry came near me he wanted to come over for a cuddle.

Lunch on the terrace of a nearby Café after the hack was EXTREMELY pleasant...

...followed by a little bit of sightseeing to have a look at the snow-covered Alps in the distance.

Then there was another dog-walk to let Poppie and Roxy have a good run around, and afterwards, a sociable get-together with friends.... does it get any better?

There's a song about this....

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The First Visitor

The youngest daughter is visiting this week, so the LongSufferingHusband took a day off on Tuesday to spend some quality time with her.

We have happy memories of the village of Gordes from a family holiday a few years ago, and that was the first place she wanted to visit.  So we set off, noting that the temperature was above zero as we left Céreste - the thaw is finally setting in!

Gordes is absolutely beautiful, the epitome of the French village perchée.

They've got way less snow here than in Céreste, but there was this amazing ice curtain beside the road on the way into village.

This is the posh end of the Lubéron, as we realised when we saw who the local estate agent is!

It was very quiet - it's definitely not tourist season at the moment - but we had a nice walk around looking at the old ruins below the town as well as the quaint cobblestone alleyways of the town itself.
We sat outdoors on the balcony of a coffee shop, looking out over the valley below.

Then we carried on to l'Isle sur la Sorgue, which is a town built on a couple of islands on the river Sorgue.  It's been compared to Venice.... I don't agree, there really is nowhere like Venice!  l'Isle sur la Sorgue is a lovely spot, though, very pretty with the little waterways running through it, and it's well supplied with cafés and antique shops.

The LongSufferingHusband had been hankering for Moules Frites and he got his wish!


We carried on to Avignon and had a quick drive through the old part of the town.  It's a beautiful city and deserves a day trip all of it's own, so we'll plan that for a future visitor.

We left Avignon in a balmy 14C, and drove back to Céreste, watching the temperature gauge on the car drop steadily all the way home.  It finally stopped at 4C just as we reached home - well, at least it's above freezing!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

-12C and counting

There has been no let up in the freezing temperatures here in Cereste, some days it does make it up above zero, but not every day, and not for long ! The horses seem to be managing well, I have never seen Gigi with such a thick coat.

Furry Gigi

And am I imagining it or are her sand cracks disappearing ?

Time will tell, I've seen this before, but never with so much distance between the coronary band and the sand crack. With the sub zero temperatures the ground is of course rock hard, and this has taken its toll on both of our horses feet, and Gigi is a little tender footed. Flurry's hinds were protected with PHW wraps, but one of these has worn through at the sole and is now sitting on his hoof like a donut !

Worn thru PHW
It'll need some powerful cutters to remove it ! But it is still on the hoof and not pressing into the coronet.

So with all the bad weather and no riding to be had, we console ourselves with food, roast quail with a honey sauce, Carmargue red rice, and the first of the broad beans from North Africa via LeClerc in Apt ! Recipe in our Recipe section.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Visitors for Poppie

Poppie is the dog who lives in the house we rent in Céreste.  She's a two and a half year old bundle of bouncing energy, who barks hysterically every time someone calls to the door - much to the annoyance of the LongSufferingHusband, especially if he happens to be on a conference call.  Sometimes the strange voices coming into the LSH's office from the other side of the world are enough to set her off - sorry, global telecom industry!

Yesterday the hysterical barking reached new levels, when two very special visitors arrived, just to see Poppie.

Bob and Jane are local expats - they live a couple of miles outside Céreste.  A couple of years ago, they became aware of two puppies that had been dumped in the forest near their house.  The pups were petrified of all humans and other dogs, which leaves one wondering just what exactly was done with them.

Bob and Jane went out in all weathers to feed them for weeks and weeks, trying to build their trust, but the pups were still too scared to approach them.

They tried using a special trap, baiting it with food, but to no avail.

Eventually, in desperation, as winter was starting to set in, they drugged the food and waited for the drugs to take affect.  Poppie soon began to show signs of sedation, and although she never lost consciousness, she became groggy enough that they were able to catch her.  The other pup, who they called Freddie, unfortunately wasn't affected by the drug - her adrenaline levels must have been too high.  She bolted and ran off into the woods, while Poppie was brought home.

Rod and Gilla, whose house we are renting, had recently said their final goodbyes to their canine friend of many years, and weren't ready for another dog.  Jane cunningly asked if they would foster Poppie for a little while and she's been here ever since!  She's a lovely dog, fully adapted to domesticated life, and gets on great with visiting dogs and the resident cats.

Jane and Poppie still share a special bond, though, and they were both ecstatic to see each other!


As for Freddie, they still leave food out for her and catch occasional glimpses of her living her wild life in the woods.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Still More Wraps

I made a big mistake during the week.  I googled "pin removal fractured wrist."
Advice : don't do this if you're ever in a similar situation, you'll just scare the living daylights out of yourself.

This is a video I found on YouTube :


One of the pins has been giving me a bit of trouble, sticking into my skin from the inside, so I headed off for my first post-op consult with the surgeon knowing that I had to mention it, scared he would do something about it, scared he wouldn't do something about it and already stressing myself out over the impending removal of all three pins when the wrist is healed.

The bandage and partial cast were removed and Anne (who had come along to translate) and I oohed and aahed over the horror of my mis-shapen lower arm.

Those of a sensitive disposition, look away now!

It doesn't look too bad from Anne's angle, you can see the incisions are nice and neat:

But it looked fairly grim from my point of view:

You can see the extent of the swelling in my knuckles best from this angle, but unfotunately the camera focussed on the background:

The surgeon listened sympathetically to my tale of woe about being impaled by a pin from the inside out, looked carefully at my wrist and said "Yes, it's a pin"... the "And?" hanging unspoken in the air between us!

However, he assured me that the new resin cast I was about to get wouldn't press on it, and carried on preparing the cast.

First he wrapped my arm with Softban bandaging.  Anne and I exchanged glances - many's the time we've used Softban when treating wounds and sprains on horses' legs!

Then he produced a roll of.... hey wait a minute!  It was exactly the same as the resin impregnated bandages we've seen on our horses' hooves recently - PHW wraps!  Just a different colour.

Anne and I were joking about how she'd have to hold my leg up while the resin set and we were both giggling like schoolgirls, so we felt we had to explain ourselves to the surgeon and the nurse, who had been unable to keep up with our rapid-fire English.  Anne did a brief translation of our exchange, and they were both incredulous that the resin bandages would be used in that way, the surgeon immediately spotting the problem that they would cause the horses to slip - smart man!

I was told to come back in three weeks for another check, and then two weeks later the pins would be removed.  Gulp.

No, wait! I'll be admitted as a day patient, and they'll remove the pins under a light general anaesthetic!

You have no idea how relieved I was to hear that!