Saturday, 25 April 2015

Poo picking

It doesn't sound like a nice thing to do, but I can assure you that it is. Clearing the fields of horse poo is a thankless task to many, but for me it holds so many therapeutic benefits.

There is time to think, to let your mind wander and let all the things bothering you slot into their rightful place.

There is time to observe, all around the spring flowers burst forth. Frothy mayflower and scented bluebells who tower above a carpet of white, starry wood anemone. The insects in the grass, the swallows swooping and diving in between building nests for their young.  A bird of prey, perhaps a hawk, hovers on the thermals in the valley below. The horses graze, heads down, filling their bellies on spring grass.

There is time to listen, to the birdsong unidentifiable but pretty. To hear the silence that is nature. The occasional snort of the horses as they clear their noses and whisk their tails, to swat any early flies out of the way.

Fletch wanders over occasionally to see what I am doing, I talk, he nuzzles in my pocket, sniffs the wheelbarrow and walks away. He comes back at intervals to check all is the same as I work, clearing the fields of his excrement. I think he appreciates it somehow.

It's not a bad job poo-picking. I can think of a lot worse.

Monday, 20 April 2015

All the fun of the fair

The music pumped out of the various rides, enticing us on - scream if you want to go faster. The sun was low in the sky, saying goodbye to another beautiful spring day in Sussex. The gaudy lights and flashing bulbs encouraged the kids into a frenzy. Two pounds fifty for the bumper cars, three pounds for the twister, another two pounds for a walk through some badly painted rooms and down a slide. And another one pound fifty for the mirror maze - but the toothless man selling this experience was too delightful to refuse, maybe a gypsy, maybe not - caring about our health and safety and letting him on for free, so that the children didn't walk straight into the mirrors. I thought that was the point.

All this catapulted me back to my youth, we looked forward to Bridgwater fair all year in Somerset. In fact we saved up for weeks. The excitement of fair week was palpable at school.

"Goin' up fair tonight?" we'd ask each other, forming little gangs to roam the huge fairground.

We'd work out what we were wearing in friendship groups, hang out by the cool rides and eat candy floss provocatively. For the fair was not just rides for entertainment, it was a pulling ground, a flirtatious place, a time of year when you hoped to bump into the boy you fancied or catch a wink from the gypsies selling the the fairground dream.

I smiled as we left our tame Sussex village version of a fair - a group of girls in hot pants and denim jackets, eating chips and toffee apples sauntered past us. And two minutes later a group of lads appeared from the other direction, staring sidewards out of their floppy fringes, looking but not looking.

Thursday, 9 April 2015


I filled up a little with tears in the supermarket, putting the olives, the feta and the interestingly-flavoured packets of crisps into my fiftieth plastic bag - it all felt so familiar here in Greece, so warm and fuzzy, so many happy memories of Corfu and a previous life.

"Yasass, efcharisto!" I blurted out two of my very few Greek words.

We stayed in Methoni which is on the mainland, a far cry from the resorts and island life. It was empty of people as I had predicted but full of glorious wild spring flowers, full of bright blue skies and a sea the most vivid turquoise, it had castles on every corner, crumbling and free to the visitor. The villages were sleepy, thinking about waking up for the tourist season, skinny cats crouched behind the bins hoping for some tit-bits, any food at all. They snoozed in the spring sunshine. Older women screamed in their language, all high pitched and shouty, like little boxes dressed all in black with a hair-do, fluffy and large. The men rested their stomachs between their legs on wicker based chairs, leaning into their walking sticks, smoking cigarettes and talking over coffee, after coffee. Their moustaches and flat caps gave their nationality away.

We wandered through the olive groves marvelling at the colours, wild orchids, bright pinks and delicate mauves, we picked up stray dogs along our way and passed fields of pastel beehives. We found churches so tiny and perfectly kept, with no more than six chairs for the congregation. And passed farms of sheep and goats, protected by fierce and hungry looking dogs on chains.

The beaches were deserted of people, the temperature too cold to swim but just perfect in a sheltered spot on the dunes. Bamboo had been washed up in piles along the shore line, a natural Lego, so that shelters and rafts could be made.

The food is the best in Europe. The pinkest and saltiest of tarama's to start, wiped clean with crusty, soft bread. Shiny olives hand picked from the groves, all purple and plump, the salad with its crumbly feta, against the green-yellow of the oil - drizzled liberally adding years to our life. Fresh fish simply grilled, sprinkled with oregano from the hills and garnished with tomatoes as big as your fist. It was difficult to find a restaurant open but when we did we felt we need not eat for a week.

Greece in spring is a delight, a well-kept secret before the searing heat and sun-worshippers. I will be back, to explore another corner of its land, perhaps just a week or two later in the year when the fireflies begin to dance and the tortoises wake up from their long winter sleep.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A week of ups and downs

I learnt two things this week;

1. You only have your health
2. Never predict how its going to be, ride like you're going to win

It took three weeks to fully recover from this cold/virus/sinus and searing headache thing. Poor A had 7 days off school and 7 loads of drugs to clear her severe chest infection. Even hard-nut P had a day off for an earache. My wisdom tooth reached ridiculous levels of pain and after three and a half hours in the dentist chair the grotty, rotten tooth was out, leaving me dribbling and relieved - I could now get on with my life.

Fletch, the great big orange pony I am lucky enough to ride, has changed his behaviour from 'Winter Fletch' - a lunatic on speed - to 'Summer Fletch' - a much more chilled out horse, with only the odd flip-a-dee-doo-dah to keep me concentrating. He surpassed himself this week enabling me to learn and took me to victory twice, even in gale force winds with the rain lashing sideways soaking us both to the skin, literally.

And with all the pain of the tooth and the adrenaline of show jumping and dressage competitions, I haven't had time to think about Greece. A spring break wandering through ruins, eating olives and sitting on deserted beaches before the hordes arrive. We are off to seek solace in some silence, a break from the everyday to be ready to tackle it all head on when we return.

The ginja-ninja on fire - you can achieve the moon when your tooth doesn't hurt

Monday, 23 March 2015


I turned off the radio and talked to my daughter instead. She sat in the front of the car, her mouth slightly open as always and stared out of the window, dreaming. I wondered if she had heard what I had heard on the one o'clock news, the atrocities, the killings, the paedophiles, the cyclone, the bombings and the racism. She didn't ask any questions, I wonder if she had heard.

I hate the news now. I don't want to hear it, it depresses me and leaves me wondering where the humanity is, where the kindness has gone and where the beautiful planet is going. I am scared for my daughter and her children, as our grandparents were probably scared for us. 

But I don't want my children over-protected, naive and ill informed. I would like them to understand the world from an early age without being frightened of it, to be sensitive to other peoples plight and emotionally attached to the whole earth and not just to Sussex, with its comfortable ways and privileges. 

So we will start with CBBC Newsround together, a nightly ritual in between their obsession with Tom and Jerry and Junior Bake Off. A gentle introduction to the world and its problems, hopefully.