Friday, March 25, 2011


Years ago when I was at school my sister's friend's sister was pony mad. She was only a little girl - at least ten years younger than me and too young to have a pony of her own so I used to lead her around on my pony when she called out to the house. I think I might even have taught her how to rise to the trot.
Now Ruby is a solicitor with three horses of her own, and a stable block and an arena. And last night at pilates she said to my sister: "Anne is welcome to come ride my horses any time she wants."

Thursday, March 24, 2011


You never forget how to do it, how to pull on the wellies and muck in...
Yesterday I had a phone call from dad en route to the mart at the foot of the mountain.
"That ewe in the field across from your house - can you see her lamb?"
I looked. There's only a hundred ewes in the field, each one with her new babies.
I said, "Black face ewe? Staring at the hedge at the back of the hay barn... No lamb."
"I think it's stuck in the ditch," says my father.
So I pulled on the wellies and went out to the field and climbed into the ditch and walked up and down it and saw rabbits and fox holes and some hidden primroses and got my hair caught in the brambles but I didn't find the prodigal lamb.
I told dad: "Let's leave it alone and it'll come home wagging its tail behind it."
Then today the post man stops his red van and knocks on the kitchen window and says: "There's a ewe on her back in that field."
So I pulled on the wellies and went out to the field and in the midst of the hundred there was a wee hogget, heavily pregnant and stuck on her back with four skinny legs waving at me. Just waiting for a crow to sweep down and peck out her eyes.
I couped her back over and went back to the postman.
"Anything for me?" I asked him

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home Sweet Home

The joke is wearing a bit thin - that I've escaped from the volatile Middle East to SAFETY in Northern Ireland...
Coleraine is a town near the coast, it's reached by a wide sweeping road with wide verges, a footpath and neatly trimmed hedges. The farmhouses en route are grey pebbled dashed with little sparkly mirrors in the pebble dash...
In Coleraine everybody talks to you - the security man in Dunnes Stores took five minutes to tell me there was no food court, the Fitting Room man in TK MAX was as thrilled as me when I found Vera Wang bras for a fiver, the woman in Laura Ashley explained with great charm their interior design service...
I popped into a shop - they sold sweets in glass jars- I bought a quarter of butterscotch tablets...
I'm thinking perhaps I escaped from the volatile Middle East and went back in time 60 years...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Nick's company has asked us to leave Bahrain until the thing settles down. Women and children first. They have offered us open ended tickets. They will fly us out ASAP. I've told the children to pack their school shoes for my sister's school in NI has kindly offered to educate them while they are refugees.
Of course I'm rather exhausted with the stress of living in a war zone - until the military moved in there were a shaky few days when I wore an abaya and headscarf and sunglasses when I went out to the shops - rogue protesters were attacking ex-pats....
"Take your flute, Maud," I said, "Aunt Lesley's school has an orchestra."
"Shin pads Rex, they play football."
"Plastic coat, Florence, it rains every day."
"Beatrice you don't really think you're going to wear shorts and sandals in Ireland in March?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Breaking News

The army are clearing Pearl Roundabout. We ran up onto the roof to watch but the teargas smacked us in the face, it was in my mouth like acid, so we came back inside. From my office I can see black smoke rising up, there are military helicopter circling, heavy arms fire and the scream of ambulances.
Maybe I won't go riding today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Operation Banner

The Saudi troops arrived last night in convoy over the causeway. They're here for an indefinate time period to provide back-up and support to Bahrain's police force.
Same scenario as August 1969 when British troops arrived in Northern Ireland for an indefinate time period to provide back-up and support to Northern Ireland's police force.
Do you know how long the British troops stayed?
38 years.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


So, I was down the stables last night teaching the nine year olds how to tack up, and lamenting to Omar, my colleague, that the schools have been closed again because of the civil unrest. He asks me: "What age are you?"
"I'm not telling you that!"
So he asks a child instead. She tells him: "I'm 9."
"What year were you born?"
"2002 + 9 = 2011"
Omar is a bit of mystic. One never knows what he's going to say next. He says: "I am 42 this year. I was born in 1969. 1969 + 42 = 2011."
"And your point is?"
Well, according to Omar this mathematical phenomenon occurs only once every 823 years. It foretells a year of catastrophic upheaval with governments overthrown, dynasties destroyed, earthquakes, famine, pestilence; chaos. Not just in the Middle East, but everywhere, all over the world. Oh, and October will be the worst month...
I felt a delicious shiver down my spine. My throat went dry, my scalp crept. I felt the flames of hell starting to lick round my feet - just as I used to feel them when I was told from the pulpit at home: Repent for the end of the world is nigh....
I said: "I'm still not telling you what age I am."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Nick has flown to England this week to visit his very frail father.
The children said: "Don't worry, Mummy, we'll help you!"
This morning they brought me a cup of tea to bed. They said: "We are making school lunches."
School lunches as made by the children consist of apples, bananas, raisins, popcorn, Babybel cheese, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, baby carrots, cashew nuts, Ritz Crackers, plastic bottles of water...
Maud said: "And I have made Mars Bar sandwiches."
Quite an improvement on the soup in a thermos I took to school as a child.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Poor Nicole Kidman, she got such a slagging for trying out Botox and fillers. And then when her signature strawberry hair began to turn silver she was slagged once again - 'Forget a hairdressing appointment, Nicole?'
Don't mean spirited media types understand that us natural redheads, with fair skin and fine hair age really badly from 40?
I, myself have notice a most ghastly decline in the elasticity of my skin - from now on it's long sleeves and skirts below knee length... And a monthly rolling appointment with Sara to have my red hair touched up... That's where I was this morning, shrouded in a sheet, flicking through 'Hello', discussing Nicole's recent statement that Botox et al did not suit her and she has stopped injecting stuff into her face...
"But can you believer her?" asked cynical Sara.
Well, actually yes, for there, in the midst of the glamorous airbrushed photographs of inhumanly beautiful women I found a photo of Nicole.
I showed it to Sara. I said: "Look - at last she has started to age in exactly the same way as me - we're both a bit slacker around the jaw line, and there are deep lines etched into our foreheads..."
Sara said: "Her hair's not as good as yours. She should phone me for an appointment."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Bahraini youth have been leaving their secondary schools to march in the streets of Bahrain. I met a march of young ladies this morning, they shouted at me: "Get out of our country." Nick met a group of young men. They shouted at him: "Death to the Kalifa's (Bahrain's ruling family)."
Good to know English as a Foreign Language is being taught to such a high standard in Bahrain's secondary schools

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Comfort Zone

I swapped riders and ponies tonight - it was a disaster.
Jamie who always rides fast trotting Toby couldn't get lazy Munch to move.
"Stupid animal. Why won't he move?"
"Because you're hauling on the reins..."
All along he's been using Toby's reins to balance - he's not been riding at all but waterskiing...
Bella who rides lazy Munch was moved to fast trotting Toby.
"Don't kick," I told her. "Don't kick or he'll bolt. Think zen thoughts when you ride him." But she rides like a Hun and insisted on kicking and Toby kept bolting and even after she'd fallen off three times she was still kicking and kicking.
"I'm bored," complained Liz, an adored only child, who likes undivided attention and is not suited to group situations. Of course she was bored - she was riding (as always) our remote control pony, Duke, who walks and trots to my voice command. I did not dare swap her onto a real pony for I know she's not fit for the challenge and her father will sue if she falls.