Many years ago, when I was young, fresh and had no responsibilities of such, I found myself working as a groom in Corfu. A yard nestled away among the olive groves and cypress trees. There were many horses to look after, young ones, old ones, completely ancient ones, ones without an eye and ones who were worth thousands. It was a busy day feeding, cleaning tack, putting escaped horses back into their field, mucking out and riding. And it was the riding that was completely unpredictable - some needed breaking, some needed bringing on and some needed retraining altogether.
Simba was my favourite, he had a long, curly flowing mane and deep, chocolate eyes. He had a compact little body and arrived as a stallion - which the vet soon sorted out, but Simba still thought he was a stallion. What he lacked in height Simba made up for in beauty, prowess and showy paces, making sure that everyone was looking at him. He came to be trained for the carriage so he could pull fat tourists around Corfu town, but he was terrified of traffic so that put an end to that career, much to Jackos and Stomatis's disappointment. So he became my fun horse for months, we discovered trails all over the island together, we jumped hedges in the way and galloped along the Ropa Valley floor, we stepped over snakes and were careful not to run over the tortoises who pottered about the place. We made friends with the locals calling "Yiassu!" as we passed their adorable and simple homes.
And then he got sold to an English woman who owned a trekking centre where I assumed he would be taking tourists (sometimes fat ones) on rides over the Corfiot terrain. He left my heart soon to be filled by Roger who was an altogether much more sane animal.
It is four and a half sleeps until I revisit Corfu. I don't think I have ever been so excited about a holiday and my excitement is infectious - A thinks of nothing else and our Gerald Durrell obsession is reaching fever pitch.
So I had a little mooch on the Internet to find us a place to ride when we are there, the girls now riding every now and then and enjoying the experience. As I browsed the trekking centres available, there he was, Simba staring out at me from the page. His chocolatey eyes as deep as before with grey hairs showing his age all around his muzzle. The website said he is now called Rebel, a spirited horse - he must be 22 years old, or older. An email to the owner confirmed that Rebel is indeed the Simba I knew and discovered the island with.
17 years later I am going to see him again, my excitement is palpable. Four and a half sleeps.