It is almost three months since I last wrote here.
I can’t blame it all on Christmas so I suppose it was just me not knowing how to write about the weird experience of being back here in Cornwall, yet in such a different life.
We managed to move into the main house at the end of October and got stuck-in to painting walls and finding places to put everything.
Just as life started to feel a little normal and calm…..we decided to get a dog.
On November 15th we went up to Surrey to view a young collie who had arrived in the Val Valgrays rescue centre from Spain of all places. How strange is that?
It all happened so quickly and I know we made a lot of mistakes like, not finding out if he was good with cats (not) or asking if he was used to being in a house (from his anxious chewing the first few weeks I think he wasn’t) but after a very short introduction we ended up driving back to Cornwall with Zero, a Spanish border collie. Some kind of instinct leads you on but it’s a big decision and I don’t know how rational it was – more emotional really.
All the time I had planned to spend on organising life, preparing for work, reconnecting with friends, writing the blog was immediately totally swallowed up by the need to bond with and find ways to live with Zero.
He’s lovely of course. He is a good one. We were lucky. And I am walking much more than I have since the Camino.
He stops me worrying too much about what next? Everyone wants to know how Pep is coping with his first Cornish winter but really he seems ok. I however am reeling from the shock of finding myself back in Cornwall, with no set routine, in my new/old house, with changed friendships, in the endless rain.
And the boot is now on the other foot – I am the one in my home country, speaking my language, with responsibility to help someone feel at home. You’d think I would know how to do it after my experience in Catalunya. But interestingly, it isn’t that easy.
Be open, share everything, don’t try to control everything, be patient! I am trying.
We got back from Portsmouth at 5am. Slept till about 11am and then drifted around in a woozy dream. About 8pm we decided to have another sleep and although I intended to get up again and write a post – I didn’t wake again until 6am this morning.
However, I did take photos yesterday of Phoenix’ first day in Cornwall.
How does a cat behave when exploring a new home?
She drops to the ground if there is an unfamiliar sound
She explores in ever-increasing circles from the safe base of home
She seeks out camouflage
She gets up high to gain perspective
She uses her special abilities – such as walking down a vertical surface
She is balanced and poised at all times Then at the end of the day, she finds the best place to sleep
She has been travelling for four days. Mostly in the car but also in a private cabin on the crossing from Le Havre to Portsmouth.
Phoenix was a street kitten in a small village in Catalunya. She was managing by herself by the time she was 6 weeks old, sleeping in car engines and eating what she could find.
Now her new life starts in Dolphin Cottage. Country smells, birds chatter, the feel of the breeze in her fur and a huge expanse of green land to explore. This is to be her new queendom.
She is used to wearing the harness – it only took a little time and patience to get her to feel comfortable with it and this made her journey and her first steps outdoors easier and more relaxed for all concerned.
She’s a good reminder that no matter how your life begins – wonderful things can happen. And surprises are always just around the corner.
When you face a new life remember the advice of a travelling cat
Many girls enjoy reading novels about horses. I was no different. I remember stories about gymkhanas and trekking and the incredible bond between a human and a horse. Every week I went for riding lessons at the local stables.
Unfortunately it wasn’t a very good school and they never picked up that I was actually terrified of horses. I was happy walking slowly around the fields, being led on a white rein, but trotting edged me close to panic and I never got as far as a canter, let alone a gallop or a jump. I was regularly sent into the stables to muck out and although I loved the earthy peaty smells and the sounds from the stalls, I was very frightened when I had to go into a small space with an actual horse.
Sometimes I was very scared
One of my jobs was to put on a tail bandage – I never knew the purpose of this but I did know it meant I had to ignore my mother’s advice never to stand behind a horse. I would rush through it without enjoying the feeling of closeness or feeling any pride in my work.
They never taught me how to be with a horse and I don’t suppose they ever helped the horses know how to be with a frightened child either.
To show us we were safe, they lined us up with arms linked and raced a large horse towards us. This was meant to prove that horses will never, or rarely, run through a group of humans.
There is another way
Imagine how wonderful it was to discover a place here in Catalunya, near the mountains of Montseny, where people and horses learn to respect each other and to work together with love. That was what I always wanted but never found.
Creating rapport with a horse
Happy Horse is run by Una McLister, a Scottish woman who grew up in New Zealand and has lived in Catalunya for 18 years.
She uses only techniques which involve love and respect and body language rather than the far too common ones of force, fear, punishment and domination.
We went to watch her working with this beautiful tall black proud stallion.
I don’t want to say he was being trained as it didn’t seem like that. He was being horse-whispered so that he could listen and respond, relax and enjoy, give and receive.
Stallions are often kept away from other horses as they may be ‘difficult’. This difficulty comes from the fact that they are not allowed a normal life, often being kept in confined spaces and only allowed out to mate. They are used for breeding and the more ‘difficult’ they become, the less love and human contact they receive. In the wrong hands a stallion can be a dangerously powerful and frustrated animal.
This graceful intelligent horse had been through this kind of experience and was depressed when he arrived at Happy Horse. Watching Una and her students work with him was deeply moving and unforgettable. He now allows his ears to be stroked – he’s not comfortable but he can cope it. In the past his ears were hurt and so they are highly sensitive and it takes great trust for him to let another human touch him in this vulnerable place. You see in the picture above that his ears are back and he is not totally relaxed – but what a change from when he first arrived and he couldn’t tolerate touch at all.
As I watched the humans and the horses move around the ring together, sometimes using the motion of a coiled rope to indicate direction and speed, I could see the highly attuned sensitivity of both horse and person.
It was like watching a tango.
Tiny movements communicate clear messages. Just the thought of a change of direction ripples through the air and the other responds to it. It is unbearably sad that so many horses are man-handled around the world without any care for their finely tuned antennae.
Happy Horse runs courses both for interested individuals and for those seeking a professional training. I will go there to heal my own past difficulties with horses. I want to learn how to build rapport, to get close to a horse, to communicate and to share a safe space together. Perhaps I will learn to ride too but this is not my main goal. I want to discover how to be present and to open my heart to a horse.
I want to learn how to dance tango with a horse. As in tango, you need to open your heart.
Please help spread the word about this wonderful horse heaven. You can do this by:-
Sharing this post with your friends and especially those who love horses
Visit and like the Happy Horse Facebook page. There are more photos there and updates about how it is going with Cariñoso and Pujol and many more.
Come over and do a course in Catalunya with Una.Her web site is in Spanish but she’s an English speaker so don’t hesitate to ring or email her with your questions.
And don’t forget to sign up below to receive my weekly posts!
Have you ever had riding lessons? Do you feel confident standing behind a horse? Have you ever had a dream about a wild horse? Let us know in the comments section
We got back from the skiing trip on December 27th and did a quick turn around, leaving again the next day for the Costa Brava.
Oh what a life! I hear you say.
Yes it is great to have these places on our doorstep and I love travelling around but actually the ski trip was more to please the Resident Adolescent and I was much happier when driving up the AP7 to Figueres. I knew I would be able to relax in the calm beauty of Mas Sant Nicolau and it would be a good way to end this year.
We were sitting in a cafe near the port of Escala today, eating tapas and enjoying the wild sea-scape from a warm dry table and we talked about powerful moments of 2014.
Here are some of mine, in photos
The arrival of Phoenix, rescued from a life under a car in Peralada
The day Bonnie died. She was very sick and disappeared in the early hours of the morning as we waited until it was time to ring the vet. Just as I began to fall to pieces after searching the woods for hours, I heard she was had been found at a nearby farm. It was like waking up from a nightmare, and remains my strongest moment from the year.
My friend Janet came to visit. We went to bathe in the mineral waters of Caldes de Montbui. The Balnearis are hot mineral water spas and there are still many to explore here!
Minorca! How can I choose just one photo? It was all a paradise
We went on the Tren dels Llacs and Thich Nhat Hanh came to lead a meditation in Barcelona but I have to choose two images of Lydia, my friend Tiffany’s daughter, who has been a delight and a blessing all this year.
I was in the UK and saw so many friends and family I can’t chose one day as better than another. A wonderful month with one cloud. My old cat Maisie died and I seriously fell out with one of my neighbours. It made me question if I can live in that house again. But nearby the 3000 year old Merry Maidens give a sense of perspective. See also the Scottish flag?
Sunny days in Cornwall. I’m going to cheat and have three photos!
The Barbara Hepworth garden in St Ives with my friend Elizabeth
Then I flew back to Granollers for a week before we drove up to Santander via the Basque Country. We danced a little tango in this pavilion in Pamplona
Visiting cave paintings near Santander. There are still many caves open with original art
Lots of work in the field at Lamorna. A wall had to be moved and so the digger came!
We drove down through France were in Granollers to watch the Scottish Independence Referendum on TV. I was disappointed with the result but not too surprised.
Amma came back to Granollers and I overcame my fear of wearing white. I started my project of recording what I am wearing by taking photos as often as possible and putting them on Instagram.
And my sister came back to visit us! We went to my favourite part of Catalunya – the Costa Brava! I never stop trying to imagine ways I can live there.
There was a vote on Independence in Catalunya – not an official one this time. This photo is of the huge demonstration in Barcelona in September calling for the right to vote.
and then I went back to Cornwall to help some friends.
I don’t usually go in November so it was both strange and wonderful
Here we are at the end of this year. My strongest moment was losing Bonnie. We have just returned from Sant Nicolau which was the place she died, and where my older dog Blue is also buried. We walked the walk that Bonnie took when she disappeared and ended up at the farm where she was found. There is an Iberic Village there being excavated. The resident dog welcomed us back. She was good to Bonnie too so it was nice to go back and thank her
I know that the change of year means leaving Bonnie in 2014 and it is time for me to walk on into the new mysterious and full of promise year of 2015
I have been sharing old photos on Facebook with my family and here is one of me, reminding me of time passing, of the vitality we enjoy when we are young and of how important it is to never stop living in the moment, exploring the world, laughing and being happy