Monday, 4 September 2017

Coming back to life..


I'm just SO going to walk soon, I'm really on the brink of it!
I've perfected just about every form of chair dancing this weekend & taken it to the MAX!
Yesterday it felt strong, today was going to be THE day - but now it feels over worked and painful.
Funny as well as fortunate that we can block out the joys of normal life and accept a new state quite readily, or is that just me? Or is it just because it's temporary?
So I've grown accustomed to being in valid - yes, that's what we call it!
I only realised that when I was disgusted at the Spanish word 'Menosvalido' translating to less valid which isn't quite as bad as our simply not valid at all! 

The perks (no washing up, no housework, no poo picking etc etc) are short lived. Sitting around watching films, going on facebook, smoking, it becomes an acceptable way of life, you find some happiness, some relief as pain subsides..
Then boredom boredom boredom
..but thankfully in my case the realisation that I will walk again, I will ride again & I will dance!

Oh to ride my horse! Or simply to groom him, be with him, watch him working nicely on the long reins..
As I said before its been difficult to spend any time with Rayo in the last 3 months, but the other day we had a fabulous morning.. 

A trimming session for Rayo developed into a lovely horsey event with our Spanish trimmer Dani doing the work which was overseen by Rachel our local lady with the knowledge and passion for healthy hooves.. Rayo has underun back feet and contracted fronts (with thrush).. These problems had been on the mend prior to our departure in May, but of course after three months of nothing going on, his feet have grown, the angle is still showing improvement on his hinds, but his front frogs have closed up again with a thrush infection..
With Rayo being worked on and separated from the others I could actually spend some time close up and enjoyed watching the bustle of stooped bodies discussing and working away on each foot.
 
So what has struck me is that with this forced rest Rayo has had, it's kind of like I have a blank canvas to work with & to work up to our departure in April..
Sitting around here, I've had time to reflect on mine and Rayo's partnership, not that it's ever been a bad one, but there is always more to learn..
So, I want to bring him back into work in a more conscious manner, rather than just hopping on and building up through time in the saddle..I've been reading loads & want to combine some things that have struck a chord with me.
I'm planning a more holistic approach, I can start now or very soon, just spending time sitting near him and building on our connection, trying to feel a oneness with him.. 

Meantime, we've got his feet going in the right direction, his frogs are opening up now quite quickly as the thrush clears.
His back is like newborn, I'm keen to build his muscles before I get on, whilst taking a further step towards bringing his head down, not just in walk and trot as I've managed so far, but to keep that roundness through canter on both reins..
When he came to me, Rayo didn't know how to walk, he was a perfect prancer for the Spanish fiesta's, head high, back concave, his canter was impossible to sit to.. Come to think of it he only felt right at full gallop, perhaps that's why he loves it so (that point has only just struck me!) being the only time he isn't being compromised. Interesting.
Anyway so he's come a long way already since then, and now I have the opportunity to take it further.
I'd like to go bitless, something that seems - and has proven to be - impossible up until now.
I'm really not convinced this is possible, but I'm going to work a bit differently with him, cool my bottom, and see where we get to. 

So after the initial togetherness thing, I'm going to develop a place where Rayo can feel relaxed, I mean within, a place that I can help him find any time.
I want us to have a connection like an Avatar with his horse or bird. How apt that I've had a bird connection too!
So phase one will be easy, it's hard to describe the pure pleasure one has by just sitting, watching and being with your horse.

Meanwhile Rayo is the fattest I've ever known him, I think he's a bit bored too, as he is the one to lead the galloping frolics they enjoy some evenings when the heat drops..and last night he cheekily zapped back out of the gate when they were brought in at supper time!

Good job we postponed the wedding, the pair of us are a comedy sketch, him with his stick & me on my crutches, I do often feel the need to point out to people that we are actually both pretty good riders!

It's almond time now so I have a productive use at last! Mark knocks them off the tree and I take the husks off..hopefully the price is good this year.
The nuts are humungus! All down to horse manure - a generous pile under each tree..

Up until now, Mark still beats me in our 1 crutch across the kitchen floor para-olympics, but I am gaining..

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Bird Whispering

Well I really feel there's not alot to entertain you with.. I'm obviously not doing an awful lot!
However, word has spread amongst the local bird population and I have had fledglings lining up at my bedroom door!
Literally, the other night there was one waiting for me and then in the morning, another one was there! These two were house martin or perhaps swallow babies, already feathered but only able to flutter downwards (hence ending up at my bedroom door as its downstairs).
We put them back into their nest and left them hopefully to it, whilst keeping a close eye on the movements of our 3 cats..
Through my limited experience I could tell they weren't ready to fly properly but the parents clearly didn't agree and came and went calling and flying away encouraging their babies to follow..
After finding them several times on the floor again, I put them into our birdcage and hung it close to the nest with the babies inside and the door open, but sadly later on we found one dead and the other almost hanging from it's feet clamped on to the cage doorway..
Up until this point I had been careful not to take the babies directly under my wing knowing that I was still on the rebound from my last affair, reminding myself that the babies were better off with bird parents, but at this point I decided it was time for auntie Niki, the bird whisperer, to step in.
I righteously brought the remaining baby in and revived it with a very diluted saline solution using a soaked cotton bud and dragging it around the sides of its beak.. It remained lying down in a flopped position all afternoon but gradually regained strength by evening when I began to almost force feed it, opening its mouth gently and putting a dead fly down its throat.
It's always a surprise when you find your patient still alive in the morning and throughout the next day it began feeding voluntarily, I could hardly keep up with it's needs, trying to kill flies has varying results, clapping your hands just above them can work every time, but sometimes it doesn't work any time and I seemed to be getting worse at it rather than better!
The next day, Mark pointed out that the parents were still flying in and out of the back room looking for baby, so I decided to set up the cage with its door shut in the back room on a pully system so that I could continue to feed it.
The family reunion was a lovely sight and to my amazement after a couple of hours from my hidden view point I saw the parents feeding baby through the bars of the cage!
Happy to be able to give up my haphazard fly hunting occupation I have since left them to it and will open the cage door when baby is ready to take to the wing!

Remember I'm doing all this stealth work on crutches, perhaps amusing to imagine me watching from various hide outs standing on one leg until I have to break cover and go to sit down.
Regarding my leg, which I'm thoroughly bored with dragging around, I have had two panicked hospital trips both caused by unqualified but well meaning medical staff, both verbally horrified by the state of the bones in my leg! One being the local doctor and the other the X-ray man.
PLEASE! I really am better off not knowing! Though I did actually catch a glimpse of the X-ray myself and it does look a bit messy.
I have been reassured by the specialists that it is doing really well, they say I can put weight on it now and almost told me off for not having done so already!
I am trying, its the mind that gets in the way.. A good trick is to shorten the crutches, making ground contact unavoidable and weight bearing more likely.
Marks foot too is still painful and swollen, he can walk with a limp, but now and again he makes a wrong move and sets it back. Of course he is having to do all the chores and be at my beck and call (possibly his worst nightmare!), but he is doing a splendid job.
People have said, if you two can get through this you can get through anything - well so far, so good!

The horses, by the way, are enjoying a summer break, fat and lazy, all day spent in the stable out of the sun, free range for whatever grass they can find in the evenings & in their paddock over night.
I miss them, you just have to give them up when you have a bad injury, its not wise to go in their midst on crutches, not because they are bad horses or anything, but they bicker sometimes, or just move each other around and one just can't move quick enough on one leg..

Right, I'm off to try and walk again...

The photos show the horses in the stable staying out of the Sun.. 

And a rather artistic photo of baby bird with mother bird swooping down to encourage baby to fly.. Today, baby flew away! 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

What reason?

Its a shambles up there! I once nearly wrote a book, maybe I'll finish it one day (don't nick my story anyone) but those fate operators are just as messed up as we are...

We're riding to England! we're not riding to England, I'm really fit! I break a leg, I saved a bird! I didn't save a bird.
I gave it 3 weeks of life - it flew! It got killed by the cat.
Twisted.

Small consolation (mainly for Mark) that the morning after HE left the door open allowing the cat to get in, the front door had been pushed in by the dogs before either of us got up, meaning that the cat would have got birdy the next day anyway.
She was in a bird cage for her protection, but the cat must have jumped up on to it, breaking the loop which hung off the ceiling, bringing it all crashing down and breaking the base off..
Poor birdy was nowhere to be seen, we never found her or her feathers..I hear sparrows outside and still go out to whistle for her...
It is possible that she got away somehow and is out there flying with her friends between the trees...ojala!

A bit more about birdy before I close that chapter..
She turned very quickly from that ugly bald thing into a beautiful soft feathered friend, she gave me so much joy! Her eyes opening, feathers growing, her first preening, perching and then her first flight, all within a little more than two weeks!
When I whistled, she chirped back, she learned to swing, jump and fly from perch to perch with amazing agility! Two or three times a day, we closed the door, pulled the curtains and turned the lights on so that she could fly safely about the house, often returning to land on my nose, not surprisingly the most perch like feature on my face (& possibly in the room!).
She was nearly ready to go free, not quite feeding herself and not yet able to fly far without losing altitude.
Just a few more days would have been enough... So sad.

So back to the 2000 mile aisle, as Mark said, we did 200 of them..
The next 1800 we plan to do next year!!
We've postponed the wedding, we're keeping Lorna and we're going to do it all next year!!!
None of our purchases and preparations will be wasted! We can go back to that wonderful place called freedom! The open road! The adventure! Every day new and different! Just us and the horses.
Yeaahhhh!!

Just have to wait out summer and winter...
..and learn to walk again..
..and get back on the horse..
..and forgive Mark for birdy..

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The 200 mile aisle

  "Looks like a black cat done crossed our trail....."

  Everyone's heard of cold feet, but broken feet for both bride and groom, if I was a superstitious man i might think it wise to stay a bachelor... I mean, bad luck comes in threes, whats next ...? But luckily I'm a fairly rational man, and I will trust in my guardian angel, whose obviously been on a months holiday, to protect me against the trials and tribulations to come ...

  So that was the 200mileaisle and full of ups and downs it certainly was. We didn't even make it out of andalucia, we were about 20kms south of the border, just outside the lovely town of Galera when we hit the end of the road. The earlier rain had been a rare treat, but it was this combined with the grey clay that led to Rayo losing his footing, and my fiance's leg being sandwiched between a rock and 400kilos of falling horse.

   A second before I'm happy as Larry, just left Antonios bar musica el puente, where they do the best fish and chips this side of the costa del sol and a great cold beer, atop my nag with a couple of kms easy riding to go till camp, then I see Rayo scrabbling for his feet for a couple of seconds and then go thumping down on my loved ones leg, Nikki immediately shouted "I'VE BROKEN MY LEG" as Rayo was getting back to his feet. I'm straight off Tio and hobbling over to her hoping, praying, that somehow this is gonna be ok, that the ground softs, that nikki falls well, that we would somehow get away with it, that this is not in the script, that the power of love was too strong to let anything bad happen, that thats not fair, and above all and overriding all of these.... that my fiance was wrong. It wasn't broken, a little bruised maybe. I knew she knew, she knows her body almost as well as I do, so when I got to her and held her and looked her in the eye I knew it was over ..

   Still its an improvement on the last time I saw nikki fall off a horse which was 4 years ago and again I was behind her when she dived off the side of Rayo at full pelt straight into a concrete gutter and didn't move. Again I was straight off Tio and ran over to nikkis crumpled body and this time there were no shouts. At best she was out cold, at worst ..? after 30 seconds she made a noise (errrrrrrrrrrh) and rolled her eyes, looked frighteningly absent! But after another couple of mins she seemed to be aware, and finally understood what had happened to her at the end of the 40 minute journey to the medical centre ..Apart from concussion, a broken rib was the damage, and a vision in my mind that will never leave me, much like the one above, and which makes me wince every time it rears its ugly head.
  So where was I? In the middle of nowhere with a broken fiance, 3 horses, and a busted foot, don't panic, just ring an ambulance, explain where we are (to at least 3 different departments)in a foreign language, feed nikki brandy,          commandeer all passing campasinos para ayuder, wait, dont panic, keep nikki talking and drinking brandy, more phone calls, wait, don't panic, wait.. Hallellujah here it comes and now the comedy sketch can begin, its such a blur I can't remember if there were 4 or 5 but i'm sure 2 of them where on there first day, at least thats how it seemed. Nikki managed to tell them what they needed to do and up and into the ambulance she went, a quick kiss goodbye and she was gone. There I was with 3 horses, a busted foot, and a hugely heavy heart, and no brandy.
 
  Time to saddle up and head south, I got on Tio painfully with Lorna on a line and Rayo following which didn't work too well as he just wanted to eat, so off again with Rayo tethered to Lorna's pack and that worked fine. Had a bit of good luck in finding a wild bit of land just out of town with plenty of grass. The horses had been great throughout the whole drama and continued in that vain whilst I untacked them all slowly. Had enough daylight to set up the fence, the tent and get water..At this point the body was good and tired, but the mind, that was a different thing..Luckily I had a good book and lay in bed reading till the eyelids got so heavy that sleep was inevitable.. Then woke up early to a deflated bed, physically and mentally, and endured that first moment of waking after a disaster when your mind has to convince you that yes that did happen..

   Spent the morning staying busy waiting for help to arrive from home, which it did in the early afternoon in the guise of Debbie and Matteus. The lorry was coming to take the nags home 6ish so nothing for it but to retire to bar el puente for a cold one and tell Antonio the news. He was suitably aghast and filled my hip flask gratis. Then back with the lorry to load the horses which thankfully passed without incident until the driver wanted the money. I had next to none and assured him he would be paid at the other end. Next entailed your standard andalucian, hot men, fiery exchange of words which if you saw in England you'd expect the fists to be flying at any moment, but not here. We agreed to disagree, he left with the horses and I kept my cash due to the intervention of a bit of female charm a la Debbie.

  So now an hour in a car heading south to Baza hospital to see my bionic fiance .....................................................

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Back home but not where the heart is...

It hadn't rained atall on Mark and the horses, the fish tank didn't exist and the nurse wasn't that beautiful either.
But everything else, sadly, was real.
Our journey was over, for now at least...After feeling so great, after being so free!
My initial fears having been set to rest, things were going soo well. Never had I thought this would happen!
It was a tiny accident with a few unlucky factors that broke my leg! Shit Shit Shit.
The scene goes over and over in my head and I flinch and have to slap something.
Even as I'd sat waiting for the ambulance, I'd worked out how long until the wedding and how long a broken leg would take to heal.
I had already figured out that we could still get the horses to England and have our planned honeymoon return, but how to let go of our dream ride there?  

For now, for me, pain, and the hope of it getting less takes over my future and its all that matters, in some ways that makes it easier for me, than for Mark. 

Returning home was solemn, seeing all our wall lists bought tears, Mark tore them down.
Rayo, who I'd been wanting to see and touch all week hardly even cocked an ear when I went to the gate!
Jessy whined and howled as she does, telling us off for leaving, and she did uncharacteristically lick my face, but she too was already assured of her food and security without us.

So weird, all change, reset.

The next morning my spirits were lifted and life was taken over by the arrival of my daughter Poppy and sister Rachel, they cleaned, cooked,  shopped, and cuddled me.
These few days were fraught with agonising pain, but we talked alot and laughed loads - Im so glad they came!

Huge void.

Days punctuated only with pill popping and visits to the loo, every other day a momentous outing to get my bandages re done, such an alter existence...I have to get on, so I fill all my time working out ideas, costs and possibilities for plan B.
Life on the trail was cheap, horses eating grass, us eating little, all living alot.
Life now, expensive, horses eating hay,
us eating alot more, alive but not really living.

Next trip to Cadiar for my bandaging brought me a new raison d'etre.
Hannah, my neighbour and chaffuer spotted a fledgling on the road outside the bar and the barman went for a dustpan and brush to clear it away..
I looked down at it, bald, ugly and awkwardly walking on all fours on the tarmac, its kind of embarrassing to do around here, and I never thought it possible to hand raise a new chick, but it looked strong, quite determined in its vigour and I'm so bored, all I can do is sit.
I hopped over, scooped it up and wrapped it with tissue paper.

I googled it, then tried it, soaked the cat biscuits, tapped its beak with the morsel on tweezers...It took a while but soon began to eat greedily!

In my inner search for fate's reason as to why I broke my leg, I muse the idea of my broken leg = a birds life.. Given the choice in advance I'd say F*** you birdy! But that aside, I like to believe that all lives on this planet are equal. 

How apt that the bird will fly when I can walk..

Mark is supposed to be publishing before me, but he hasn't managed to put the words together yet..



Saturday, 10 June 2017

Our left feet

I knew it was broken because of the waggle, I said so, and as i clutched my leg I heard it click (Ew) and hoped I'd popped the bone back..
Rayo had a muddy side, but he was fine and all three horses just stood still for the first half an hour.
Mark rang an ambulance, so difficult for him to explain in Spanish what had happened and where we were..
Meanwhile, I just held my leg together, drank brandy from the hip flask and smoked a fag. Feeling myself hyper-ventilating, calming myself, panicking, calming, becoming more and more desperate every minute for help to arrive, it was bearable if I held it still, but my body was aching and giving up the position I was forced to stay in. I wrapped a lunge rein in a figure of eight around leg and foot and held my toes up towards me.
I could only slightly shift my weight from one buttock to the other..
Mark was frantic, he kept having to call different numbers and explain things again and again and he hates phones. The horses stood.
The ambulance arrived after about 45 minutes and naturally I expected the team to just take over the scene with calm efficiency..
Well, they were all very nice but couldn't get the stretcher to click together underneath me, they tried to maneuver my boot off while Mark jumped in to cut the laces! Me crying out ' LA PIERNA - LA PIE !!! '
They had a leg stabiliser but with no foot bit, so it waggled again with every jolt of mounting the ambulance.. 'OW! OOW!
Inside I received the (begged for) pain killer and the hour long journey to hospital began, the nurse holding a folded blanket around my foot in an attempt to stop it rocking with the bumps on the track.
Mark had leaned in to kiss me as we left and was then faced with 3 horses, alone with a walking stick in the middle of nowhere..
On arrival at hospital, looking back now it was comical!
A young (rather handsome and very smiley) man came out with the trolley to transfer my stretcher from the ambulance..
I rolled out of the back doors into thin air! he looked down to check linkeage with my under carriage, then up at me with an uncertain but hopeful look..I looked down, then up at him, with an uncertain but hopeful look.. 
Perhaps it was his first time?
He pulled and I moved, thankfully he got it right.
He breathed out, and so did I.
Corridor, ceilings, lights, doors, and into a room.
Clothes cut off, electrode things slapped on everywhere! questions asked and answered.
A nurse came in with a massive fibre glass L shaped leg thing - Yes!!
But the doctor said 'not that one, where's the softer pink one?'
'I threw it away yesterday',
'Why??'
'It was covered with blood',
'Well, nevermind, retrieve it if you can and line it with something'.
She returned with it, truly a much better fit for me and more comfy looking - hey ho.. I guess they thought I couldn't understand!!
Electrodes off, drips on, X-ray's, nods, and away to my hospital bed (with a help button) to reflect on my own for the night.
My phone had been packed in my belongings bag, along with chopped up boots, chaps, leggins and knickers!
Clearly I was fucked. No riding for weeks or months.
There seemed to be a fish tank somewhere in the room, or was it raining? All night I felt for Mark and the horses, out there in the pouring rain..
I didn't sleep,  but of course I was kind of only semi-conscious.

Early morning off to surgery, down there in the green room I was greeted by the most beautiful nurse ever (more beautiful than Gerda, I thought).
With a soft smile, her face fresh as a childs, her pony tail to her bum, I almost told her, thinking that would be ok..
She asked if family knew I was here in surgery, then rang Mark to tell him. She glided away, or I glided away..
I heard the sound of serious mechanics going on behind the green screen, quite a struggle infact, like trying to line up and fix a car wishbone arm. With power tools.
By contrast, I had strange amphibian dreams and awoke thinking I had a sort of Dr who type mutation, but I was elated and immediately felt right in the left leg.
I had thick bandaging from my mid thigh to toes..with a pin from my knee to my ankle, they didn't do a plaster cast. (I had mixed feelings re that, as it felt so vulnerable, but now Im glad I can work at moving the joints).
Mark arrived that evening with our neighbour Mathius, and friend Debbie.
Nice to see them all, but still a bit noddy, I learnt that the horses had been transported home safely and Mark would stay with me.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Loving it

On the edge of Castillar, next to the river, shade amoungst the poplars, dense green grass, we found paradise 5.
The horses were a little over exuberant when we unleashed them in the almost finished fenced area, naughty Tio spotting a bit I hadn't closed off launched himself up a terrace, fast followed by Rayo, both bucking and squeeling!  Buggers, as if they didn't have enough grass and space in the area I was making them, no, they preferred small fresh almond trees on the terrace above!  Horrors! Managed to catch and bring them back down quickly, but not before they'd had a succulent branch or two.

Mmm it was Sunday, this was a nice spot, two days riding, one days rest, seems ok, then we can shop in Castillar tomorrow.
Clearly we weren't pushing the horses!
These glampsites often lure us into relaxation... But with Mark still 'cojo'(lame)...& we're on holiday!

After climbing the short hill up to town for the imperative evenings litro, I came happily back down to camp, wearing shorts and my utility belt, I was feeling fit and Lara Croftish. My back had held up and I had passed through into strong mode. (Humour me!)

The next day we went back up to town to do some shopping, Mark painfully slow, limping along with his stick.. I teased him!
Then in the afternoon we took the horses over the other side of the track for more variety pickings..we then took them to the river to drink and have a splash..
Baked beans supper and we prepared things ready to break camp first thing.
(haha!)
Come morning the clockwork preparations we're all undertaken in the shade which made things much more pleasant.
We headed up through Castillar stopping for a coffee and refilling water containers from the fuente.
Admirers, when questioning our plans, faces agog.. Francia!? Inglaterra!!!???
Having done so much riding in the full heat of day, it was refreshing that it rained, we donned our rain cape coats which did a great job keeping us and most of our two horses reasonably dry and comfortable.
Lorna's pack was wateroroof too,  though we soon realised that our sleeping bags tied either side of the top bag, were drenched!
Still I thought, (normally being a fair weather only girl) this is OK, I can do this.
Again for a while we followed a narrow, little used tarmac road, the going was easy, Rayo had a full set of boots on as I wanted to give his soles a rest, the other two barefoot.
We found some nice grassy stops en route and enjoyed seeing the various cave houses, common to areas in Spain with the sandstone rock landscape, all individually designed, intriguing us as we passed by...
On arrival at Galera on route to Huesca, we stopped in a really friendly bar for lunch.. Fish and chips!! Loverly!
We chatted a while with the barman who loved horses and then had to move the horses aside for a customer who was too scared to even drive his car past them!!
Heading on towards Huesca, we had a taj of road work then over the motorway, thankfully a bridge.
Turned left on to a track between farm land with grassy banks to snack on, my mouth almost waters at the sight of it!
We let them graze here and there whilst vaguely looking for a suitable night spot, I hopped off to fill some water at an asequia waterfall and thats the last time Ive walked since.
A little further on there was a warning that tragically didn't change fate, Rayo slipped on a ramp but just about kept his footing..
I trust him totally on the most precarious terrain.
Minutes later I instinctively guided him to the side of the track that was less stoney, there was a slight camber, there was on old stone wall to our left.. In a second where hooves desperately grappled for purchase Rayo slapped down on to his side,  I felt my lower left leg waggle oddly, Rayo straight up on to his feet, me screaming on the ground holding foot to leg..

This isn't the end of our story.