Saturday, 29 September 2012

Wow, that was Hard

In the manic rush of painting, cleaning and packing that has been the last two months, I'd pretty much blocked out thoughts of how much we'd be leaving behind.  It was forcefully brought home to me over the last two days as we said our goodbyes.  

Leaving our home of twenty years was surprisingly easy.  Saying goodbye to friends and family was a killer.  Thanks for all the help, au revoir gifts, phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages and HUGS!  I've never had so many great hugs in all my life!  I’ll miss you guys - if it doesn’t work out, you will absolutely be the best part about coming back.

Meanwhile, plan your visits, mes amis!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

We Lose 24 Hours

Are you paying attention?  Did you notice that the countdown timer has suddenly leaped forward by a day?

We had a lovely plan for our departure.  We were due to sail out of Cork Harbour on the Brittany Ferries vessel, Pont-Aven, at 16:00 on Saturday the 29th of September.  We had visions of standing on deck, waving to family and friends who had come to see us off, as we watched Ringaskiddy slip away from us.  We would watch Monkstown Hill (where I've ridden many's the time at Hitchmough's Riding School) fade into the distance, we would pass the pretty town of Cobh and we'd get a wonderful view of Cobh Cathedral, where the YD's boyfriend has been working up to recently.  Sailing on out of Cork Harbour, we would see Anne's old house in Crosshaven, from which we watched the Tall Ships Race enter the harbour in 1991 - a sight I will never forget.  Then we would pass Roche's Point and Trabolgan Holiday Village, where we had many happy days when the girls were very small.  Finally, we might catch a glimpse of Guileen, a tiny seaside village which gave its name to my in-laws' family home in Dalkey.  Then we would retire indoors, to enjoy the excellent food and service which, I have been reliably informed, one will find on board the Pont-Aven.

All very poignant, all very romantic.  All very unlikely, now.

Brittany Ferries have been attempting to introduce cost-cutting measures, in order to remain competitive in these tough times.  Their crew (only some of them, I am told) are not happy, and have hit the company with a series of Wildcat Strikes.  The response of management, after four months of disruption, was to tie up their fleet until the dispute is resolved.

This happened last Friday.  The Pont-Aven sails in and out of Cork every Saturday, and last Saturday's sailings were instantly affected.  Apparently, people travelling to Ireland were first of all told to travel to Saint-Malo, but the ferry could not dock there, so they were once again contacted en-route, and asked to proceed to Cherbourg, where they were all accommodated on the Irish Ferries vessel, the Oscar Wilde, the following day.

Those travelling from Ireland to France - which would have included us, had we planned on leaving a week earlier - were diverted to Rosslare, which is the home port of the Oscar Wilde.  Priority in transferring bookings from Brittany Ferries to Irish Ferries was given to French people returning home, so I'm not sure what they would have made of "Irish people emigrating" - maybe they would have fitted us in!

We've been waiting all week to hear if the dispute has been resolved or not.  We're still waiting.  I've been keeping an eye on the Irish Ferries vessel, the Oscar Wilde, too.  She sails on Fridays and Sundays - Friday will get us to Provence a day earlier than planned, Sunday a day later.  We had a two-day overlap with our landlords planned, to allow them to show us the quirks and foibles of their house, so we decided to focus on the earlier departure date.

I've been watching for any signal that Friday's sailing was filling up, and today, I spotted that all of the two star cabins were booked.  My nerve cracked!  Given that we have a high trailer, it seems to me (maybe I'm wrong) that there will be less space available for our sort of vehicle, hence my panic, but long story short, we've jumped ship and are now booked on the Oscar Wilde to sail out of Rosslare Harbour on Friday the 28th at 9.30pm.

We're leaving our house at 1pm, meeting the YD and Granny for a quick lunch and then leaving Cork at 2pm.  It's only a three hour drive to Rosslare, but we also want to pop in to see the LSH's sister and mother on the way.

So no last, lingering views of Cork Harbour, no five-star food and service with Brittany Ferries.  Just the now-familar drive to Rosslare and the now-familar Oscar Wilde.

Oh well, so long as we get there...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Final Horsey Preparations

I've finally admitted that I'm not going to ride either of My Boys before I leave.  I've made valiant attempts to get them back into "ticking over" mode, but have failed to keep it going every time.  Plans to meet up with Anne for a last hack with her and Gigi have evaporated into thin air, good intentions of getting down to Skevanish for a few more lessons have fallen by the wayside, and any notions of competing one last time were never going to be achievable.

Aero is sound and looks good on the lunge, thank goodness.  My horse plan now is to get them going once they arrive in Provence - they'll have a day or two off and then we'll start again and work on getting all three of us fit - plus the LSH, of course, if he's going to join me on trail-rides at the weekends.

Both horses have had their teeth done in advance of the trip.

Aero had his usual little growths right at the back - to any other horse, these would be nothing, but with Aero, they make him to clench his jaw and tilt his head when being ridden, causing further tension in his back, so it's essential to keep them in check.

Flurry had a major dental issue two years ago, when I bought him.  He was quidding - dropping chunks of chewed hay - so I knew something was going on, but I expected it to be nothing more than a couple of overgrown molars.  Unfortunately, I was wrong - he had large gaps between his teeth where they enter the gums, called Diastemas.

Ideally, a horse's molars sit tight to each other the whole way down :
Flurry's teeth were tight near the grinding surface, but gappy at the bottom, so there was food getting trapped in these gaps, which then rotted and caused periodontitis, or gum disease.

The pain from the periodontitis was preventing him from masticating properly, and by god it was painful - when John-the-senior-vet touched it, he groaned and practically sat down in his attempt to escape.  He had seven diastemas in total, on both the upper and lower jaws, on both sides.

The treatment plan was to carefully open up from the grinding surface to the diastema, thereby allowing food to travel through the gap rather than get wedged there.

He had to have a general anaesthetic so that the vets could work away for as long as it took.  The end result was something like this :

It worked, but it was expensive!  I often wonder if I would have bought him, if I had known how much his future dental treatment was going to cost!  But he's worth it!

Before we left for Provence last year, I had his teeth checked, nervous that he might have grown a few more Diastemas, and unfortunately, he had - another three.  Another round of anaesthesia, another stay in Tower Equine Hospital, another big bill.

So, yeah, I made sure that, this year, I booked their check-up with plenty of time for follow-on treatment and recovery time, if it became necessary.

Thankfully, no more diastemas, but his teeth were very up and down - not providing a level grinding surface, so he required a lot of floating to level them off.  He was difficult to treat, too - he has unpleasant associations with dental treatment, unfortunately.

At least the job is done, and I will have plenty of time to sort out a horse-dentist for next year.

We've had our last visit from Anja the equine podiatrist, too.

Aero's hind feet are great, but his fronts are still showing signs of hoof-wall separation.  I'm planning on giving him a light rasp every couple of weeks to keep any flare in check, which will, I think, help prevent the separation.

Flurry's feet are great!  What can I say, he's a model!  I will be interested to see how he wears them once he is continuously on hard ground - I have a suspicion he will need very little trimming in France.

So that's where we are with the horses.

As for Everything Else :

We had an Au Revoir party last weekend.  It was great - we got to see loads of people who we would otherwise have missed.  The only problem is that people were very generous and brought wine and food, adding to the supply we already had, so we are now trying to rehome beer and wine, having successfully found an appreciative home for some cakes!

I behaved myself exceptionally well at the party - I only had, at most, two glasses of wine.  I made up for it the following night, when some of my family visited.  We had a great evening, wine flowed ceaselessly and I found myself in a very sorry state the next morning, struggling to pack boxes with a pounding head and a churning stomach.  Never again...

Still, my family were a great help, the house is almost entirely cleared of our possessions and there's a stack of boxes labelled "France" or "Office" waiting to be moved into the jeep or into storage.

And finally, we have a nice, unhealthy dose of uncertainty, thanks to striking crew and reacting management at Brittany Ferries, but I think that merits a post all of its own - maybe tomorrow, when we might possibly have some idea of when we will be sailing.  At the moment, we could be leaving on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  My countdown clock at the top of the page is almost definitely wrong!

À bientôt! (see, I'm still practicing the French!)

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Victor Dowling Centre

Any Wanderly Wagons' followers remember this little chap?
This is Ernie.  In October 2011, he was rescued from starvation by the ISPCA and I followed up his story here and here

This week, I took some old rugs and head-collars up to the Victor Dowling Centre, the ISPCA's Munster Equine centre.  I met up with Chris, the centre's manager, and of course I asked to see Ernie again.

Well, what a difference a year makes!

Three yearling colts were snoozing in the paddock as we approached.
They strolled confidently over to say hello to us.  I recognised Ernie immediately - he was the only dark bay present!
Horses can't lie. 
They all adore Chris.
You just know that this man has never mis-treated a horse in his life.
Ernie has grown a lot - last year, his poll didn't even reach the breast-bar in my trailer, but he's pushing thirteen hands, now.

It's incredibly rewarding to see him like this, a well-grown, confident young pony.
This year, the Victor Dowling Centre is inundated with foals.
These cob foals were dumped within days of being born
so that their dams could be hired out as foster mares.
They've been on milk up to now, but have just switched to yearling feed and milk pellets and are doing well.

This little guy was born on the premises a few days ago.
His mum was described by Chris as "the sweetest old pet of a pony you'd ever come across."
 but he's a bit of a character
as you can see!
I have to confess, though, that my heart was completely stolen by this little lady.
Her very elderly mum had died of a heart attack the night before my visit.  She's a few weeks old, and is, thankfully, eating well.  Chris is feeding her three times a day and she's nibbling grass all day as well.  She's a pretty little thing, and a very smart mover!
Her companion was impounded after being offered for sale at a horse fair, less than two months old, far too young to be removed from his mother.
No, he's not the best looking foal to ever hit the ground, but he's already doing a worthwhile job - keeping the little filly company.

Irish followers, please don't forget the horse rescue agencies.  They need any help they can get in these tough times, so if you have old rugs, head collars, lead-ropes or whatever lying around, consider donating them to your local rescue centre or the ISPCA (email the Victor Dowling Centre at or the National Animal Centre at  

It's a cruel time for our four-legged friends and every little helps.

From a Facebook friend, how to make an admin-free donation to the Victor Dowling Centre :
I found out how to make a donation directly to the Victor Dowling centre by the way, Martine. You contact Brian from Duhallow Feeds 086 2696967 and send him a cheque with a cover note and he will credit your donation to their feed bill account. 100% useful, no admin costs, goes to local horses we know are in need.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

What I'll miss about Cork

Well, I'm not going to say Neighbours because they've already had a post all to themselves and they should know by now we're both going to miss them

Family, but I'm not going into details because I prefer to preserve my family's privacy.

Friends who are not neighbours.... especially the horsey ones, you know who you are!

Our lovely vets.  I am going to have to learn a whole pile of new veterinary terminology.

And then there's the food :

My newly discovered favourite potato crisp, O' Donnells.  They taste like they're full of MSG but they're not, so I can eat them, yum!

Rashers, O' Flynn's sausages & Clonakilty black pudding.  Boudin (a French blood sausage) is almost an acceptable substitute for black pudding, but not quite

Barry's Tea (future visitors take note, a box of Barry's is ALWAYS a welcome gift)

Chowder (that's an interjection from the LSH.  I don't really like seafood)

My Giant Mushrooms (sniff)

Chinese TakeAway

Going into town on a Saturday morning  (another interjection from the LSH.  Hey, whose blog is this?)

Going to the rugby matches (but we might look into being French Munster supporters)

Having fresh eggs every day (I'm tempted to get chooks in Provence... )

My two favourite tack shops, O Brien's Saddlery & Country Clothing and Thoroughbred Remedies Ireland (the latter isn't in Cork, but I'll still miss it)

Going for lessons at Skevanish - I had hoped to get back there before I left, but that's not going to happen

Having just had major medical check-ups, inside and out, I am pretty certain I will miss dealing with medics in my own language.  I kept thinking to myself "Imagine trying to fill this form out/answer all these questions in French."  Gulp.

.... and I think that's about it.  Thanks to the internet, I'll have daily access to Irish news, sports programs (ie rugby matches) and chat with my friends.

I don't think I'll miss the gloomy air of morose pessimism which pervades society at the moment, although I will miss the black sense of humour which helps us to cope with all the doom and gloom.

I don't think I'll miss our very creatively corrugated road surfaces, which have caused poor Jeepy to develop an interesting and varied array of squeaks and rattles.

And, finally, I don't think I'll miss the weather, although I have to confess that a certain 22 year old who was living in Los Angeles in 1984 got fed up with all the sunshine and craved a soft Irish day (just smack me if I ever say that again, ok?)
A soft day, thank god!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

My road trip with Martine....

(Guest post from Elayne)

Well now where does one start!

The fun began last Thursday when I left Kerry for the first leg of this road trip and took the bus to Cork... the giggles started almost immediately after we caught up in Wilton Shopping Centre... we then had to get up at stupid o'clock the next morning so I decided to have an early night and headed to bed about 12.30 a.m... up bright eyed and bushy tailed for a quick cup of tea (made by LSH) before departure with one crammed to capacity jeep, almost forgetting the ED's plants...  Martine wended her way through the narrow roads of Ballinhassig and environs and after we got some diesel I took over the driving to Rosslare... the puns and jokes flew, the journey to the ferry was over before we knew it and it was bright and sunny when we arrived... lovely day for a ferry crossing!
Pembroke Ho!
Nigel (the sat nav) brought us safely to our first port of call in Chingford at 8.00 p.m. that evening somewhat tired and hungry but we checked in to the hotel and went in search of food and drink... had a nice walk to the pub to stretch the legs and as we tried to gain entry to said establishment I was asked to remove my baseball cap (much to my horror 'cos my hair was so flat and awful looking) while on the premises and Martines rucksack was searched (we obviously looked fairly dodgy at this stage after a long day) but we gained admission and settled down with a nice cold pint of lager for me and a not so cold glass of white wine for Martine - I discovered she doesn't like her drinks too cold!  I saw steak and ale pie on the menu and thought how typically English it was so decided to taste it.... mmmm yum yum.... Martine's ED arrived at the pub with her new boyfriend and we headed to nearest off licence and back to hotel room to catch up... think I may have got a bit tipsy that night... (tired, dehydrated etc....) Martine reckons it's first time she ever saw me like that... anyway onwards and upwards.
Yummy Steak and Ale pie
Saturday morning we went for a walk in beautiful sunshine and then went to check into our new hotel that was near to where the ED was moving... Martine had booked a twin room and when we arrived we were shown to our room which consisted of a double bed, a wardrobe, wash hand basin and shower... the toilets were down the end of a long corridor and the double bed was pushed up against the wall at one side... think 50's style boarding house... with no other room available we decided we could live with it for one night... and we did... lol!
The very strange Rose Hotel
Saturday afternoon was spent with the ED and her boyfriend, helping move into ED's new house share, had lovely lunch in Nando's but it appeared not to agree with some of us.... (I say no more 'bout that) being a bit pressed for time to head to our show that evening Martine decided to splash out on a taxi to take us there, I have to say the taxi driver looked very relieved when he saw Martine taking a map out of her bag and kept asking her if he was going the right way....
Looking unconcerned in the taxi, despite the driver's confusion
We arrived to see the show War Horse, Martine had told me it was a story about a horse done with puppets... went to the show with pretty much an open mind... and was totally blown away by it all... I admit I thought the start looked a bit... not sure how to describe how it looked but it wasn't really what I was expecting but all of a sudden there was a loud bang and a flash of light and the show proper began and oh my gosh what a show it was... words escape me in trying to describe it but suffice to say that Martine's description left a lot to be desired...  finished the evening off with a few drinks and meze, (have to say the calamari was one of the best I have ever had)...
My next car! On display for London Fashion Week
Sunday we went to a few markets, talk about choice of everything... an assault on all the senses... amazing...

...then off towards Manchester to stay the night with Martine's brother in the Peak District... what a beautiful place... almost as nice as where I live... pleasant evening spent with him and his wife, a few drinks and a catch up...
Martine's brother's house!  No, just kidding, this is Chatsworth!
Next morning we were heading towards Nottingham to visit my son who is studying there... stopped off en route for a visit to Chatsworth House, we didn't have time to do the house and garden together so decided as it was such a nice day that the gardens would be the one to do... it was absolutely beautiful... I think Martine was worried that I wouldn't enjoy it but I have to say I did... we finished our long walk around the grounds with a lovely cup of tea and a cornish pasty in the courtyard... the chaffinches loved the crumbs off our pasties and one of them had a punk rocker hair-do.... cute beyond measure...

On to Nottingham to visit my son (and first meeting with his new girlfriend) went out for dinner on our best behaviour (for me anyway) had lots of laughs and have to say its wonderful to see him so happy and contented looking...

Toasted Tea Cake and Tea
...Tuesday morning it was back towards Manchester again to spend our last night in Martine's brother's house, on our way we stopped at an old mill in Matlock Bath (it was an outlet centre) because we needed shelter from a horrendous downpour... we decided a cup of tea and a scone were in order but when  I got to the counter I saw that they did toasted tea cakes and decided to try this other English delicacy that I have heard about... it was yummy... a bit like toasted barm brack the smell of cinnamon and other spices was lovely... Martine being a good girl had a cheese scone... (she is trying to stop eating too many sweet things, hah, good luck with that!)
Winnat's Pass, near Castleton
We went higher into the Peak District and went to visit Speedwell Cavern where you go down an old mine shaft in a boat... not a lot of head room and pretty cold but it was another first for me... and due to my malfunctioning internal thermostat (it's an age thing!) I found the temperature quite agreeable... then into Castleton to have a look at the Blue John stones that they mine in the area and craft into jewellery and other beautiful things, I have never seen such a varied stone, it looks quite ugly in its natural state but a beautiful finished product... if we can believe the guide in the mine shaft they use epoxy glue with the stone in an oven to bring it to the pretty state that we saw... Nigel the SatNav at one stage made it look as if we were flying rather than driving because he didn't recognise that we were on a minor road (a very minor one as it happens... glad Martine was driving that time)...

Back to Martine's brother for the night, a few drinks, lovely Indian take away and a supposed early night... late start this morning (we weren't up till 7 a.m.) and then shared driving to Holyhead for the fast ferry to Dublin... it has been a great week with lots of driving, laughing, reminiscing and believe it or not a lot of sunshine...
In Chatsworth Gardens
I have had a week full of fun and first times for a lot of things for me...

       1st time driving a jeep
       1st time having steak and ale pie
       1st time at a west end show
       1st time having a toasted tea cake
       1st time writing in a blog
       1st holiday without a significant other or children in tow
       1st stately home
       1st Cornish Pasty
       1st garden maze (and made it out unscathed thankfully)
       1st trip down a mine shaft in a boat
       1st time eating Amber Bikkies (Yum)
Barry Flanagan sculpture by the lake at Chatsworth
On a more serious note... Martine and I have not always had the time to spend together when we would have liked to... family stuff and kids etc got in the way... we always had the ability to pick up where we had left off or at least that's how it always felt... this week has given me a much needed break from my home life and a much needed catch-up with my best friend as I suddenly realise she is leaving the country and it feels like she will be so far away, but then modern technology is great and we are probably more in touch these days via Facebook anyway... my sides are still sore from the laughing but I really think it's time to be going home for sure because we are absolutely thinking and reacting the same as each other now!
Friends for nearly fifty years - it'll never last!

Monday, 17 September 2012

London Calling

Fleeting impressions of the trip so far :

This is what Stupid O'Clock looks like
Halfway between Cork and Rosslare, just before dawn
I've never been parked on the top deck of a ferry before
Not parked in the bowels of the ferry for once
Hello Wales, just passing through
Cool cars on the motorway
A cool car
A cooler car
London Traffic (a bit of a shock to two country girls)
London Traffic
Eating pub grub with flashing disco lights and loud 80s music.  The DJ got it completely wrong - the audience were the right age profile for the music, but that automatically made them the wrong age profile for the decibel level

A fire engine crashing into a car fifty metres in front of us as we walked down a street in Chingford

Daring to park illegally on the street near the ED's house (and getting away with it)

Carrying a LOT of stuff from Jeepy to said house
The orchid survived the journey!

Nando's loo

A few other loos (I'm not saying it was because of the food from Nando's, but three out of four of us had dodgey tums for the afternoon)

Waiting for the bus to get from Hackney to Liverpool street en route to see War Horse

Panicking and getting a cab instead

Worrying that the cab driver was lost

Seeing the delight on the cab driver's face when I took out the map of London

Arriving at The New London Theatre JUST in time
New London Theatre
War Horse.  Long anticipated, it did not disappoint.  My non-horsey but animal-loving friend did not know what to expect - I had told her it was a play about a horse done with puppets.  To quote her Facebook page
Well now.... just back from an evening in the West End.... went to see War Horse in Drury Lane.... WOW doesn't even begin to describe it.... awesome is not adequate but suffice to say I am completely gobsmacked.... and that doesn't happen often.... great night and great fun so far on this trip
Squished like sardines in the tube on the way home.
Going down to the tube
My first ride on a London Red Bus, watching all the late night revellers falling on and off

Sipping wine and eating Meze in front of a cafe at midnight

The Rose Hotel, which takes you back through time and gives you the authentic experience of a 1950s London boarding house (although I don't think that's their intention)
The view from the bed
Brick Lane and Spitalfields markets.  There's an awful lot of STUFF there.  Thankfully, I have de-STUFFed my life and I wasn't tempted to start STUFFing it again.
Street performer at Spitalfield market
Nigel the SatNav repeatedly telling me to turn down one-way streets in the middle of London

On the road again...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Road Trip!

I've been kinda quiet about this, with everything else that's been going on.

I'm off to London for the weekend, with a jeep crammed full with the ED's possessions and my best friend riding shotgun.

We'll be up at stupid o' clock tomorrow for the 8.45 ferry from Rosslare, three hours away, and expect to arrive in London around 8pm.  I feel tired already!

Saturday, we'll be helping the ED move all her stuff into her house and then, on Saturday night, we're going to.......

.....pause for effect.....

.....drum roll......


Can't wait!

Then we head Northwards to visit FAMILY :D for a few days.  Looking forward to that too, just a wee bit.