Rescuing horses is such a fulfilling business…

Horse Tales – Part 2

After the seventh attempt to get her to walk up the ramp onto the trailer, the will to rescue this mangy old nag was quickly slipping away, as was the control over my temper.

Standing in the rain in the car park of the Manchester Arms using every trick my friend Si and I knew to get a horse that wasn’t even mine to load onto a trailer wasn’t my idea of a fantastic Saturday afternoon.

Harley didn’t seem to understand that I was trying to save her from freezing/starving to death under the neglectful care of her owner. Either that, or she thought it was hilarious to be an awkward bitch.

We tried putting some straw down to cover the ramp; horses aren’t the cleverest of animals and are easily duped. Apparently not this one though. She’s cleverer than she looks, contrary to the myth about Thoroughbreds being the bimbos of the horse world.

We tried looping a lunge line round her bony arse to persuade her to walk forwards. That resulted in her spinning round, knocking Si over and getting her legs tangled in the lunge line in the process.

We tried everything. And you know what; I can’t even remember what worked in the end. I think she just got bored of mocking us and getting wet and decided to put herself on the trailer in her, what I was soon to learn was typical, contrary fashion.

I felt very pleased with myself, in a holier-than-thou and virtuous way. I had SAVED this poor, defenceless animal. She would have DIED that winter were it not for me.

Little did I know I’d regularly be wishing death upon her for the next five years.

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Look at that innocent face.

The (first) time I wanted to murder a pony

Horse Tales – Part 1

The first time I felt like killing Harley was the day I first tried to catch her. Although she was perfectly happy to plod over when she was being fed, the tell-tale flash of headcollar from behind my back told her that something TERRIBLE would happen if she came near me. For headcollars equate to being beaten with sticks wrapped in barbed wire, being electrocuted, or being subjected to Chinese Water Torture. OH THE HORROR!

I just wanted to give her a brush and take her for a little trot round the field.

I soon learnt that there was no fooling this horse. Many others had gone before me, and many others had failed. So after I’d wasted a quarter of an hour, I stopped trying to hide the headcollar behind my back and pretending that I was just going to feed her. I had to use more devious tactics to bring this mare round.

I started to fuss over the other horses, giving them scratches and treats. I didn’t look in her direction as I was no longer interested in her. In fact, she bored me.

Drama queens don’t like getting ignored, so I soon got her attention. When she looked a bit interested in what I was doing, I chased her away. I don’t want you. Go away, boring pony. Nope, I want this other horse over here.

Not revolutionary; anyone who’s a bit into Monty Roberts knows the Join Up technique that he’s famous for. But this was the first time I’d tried it and I didn’t really know what I was doing. So it was a bit of a long shot.

After ten minutes I had her cantering round me on roughly a 20 metre circle. After ten more minutes, she started to look over at me, wanting to come in. I flicked the rope to keep her away. I got her to change to trot using my voice, then back up to canter, then right down to walk. And so on, for about twenty minutes.

Eventually, she began to relax and started stretching down. Thank God! I thought she never would. I softened my body language and she gradually slowed to a walk and came in towards me. I took a step towards her. She stayed put. I reached out and touched her neck. All was good. Breathing slowly, staying calm, I got the lead rope out and slid it gently over her neck. Slowly, I untangled the headcollar, got the noseband out and started to slide it over her nose…

And she fucked off across the field so fast you’d think her tail was on fire.

 

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The time I saw loads of naked models

Getting models undressed on your day off sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I thought so too, which is why I agreed to help my recruiter friend out and play around backstage at the Snow Queen runway show at Grand Arcade on 26th October.

On the morning of the show I was giddy as a racehorse at the starting gates – I had no idea what to expect, didn’t know what to wear, and I was pretty nervous that I’d totally fuck it up, enraging a cocaine-fuelled, anorexic model in the process.

The task of giving a model some stuff to wear, helping her get in and out of it and ready for the next scene in the show isn’t exactly cerebral. But actually –  it’s not as easy as you’d think, as I found out when I got my model’s fiddly buckled shoes on before I’d given her the tights she was supposed to be wearing. She left the changing area bare legged and I was left shamefaced.

The model herself was one of the most gorgeous things I’d ever seen. So I was pretty sure she was going to be a right bitch and I braced myself to get a phone lobbed at my head.  Actually, the only thing that hit my head was a bony elbow as I scrabbled round on the floor while clothes were being flung on. That was followed by profuse and sincere apologies rather than ‘get out of my fucking way, minion’, as I’d expected. I’m pretty sure she ate actual food as well. There was talk of Sag aloo. Yeah, I know!

Furthermore, I didn’t witness any cocaine sniffing, puking up of food, or drama queen hissy fits. A little disappointing, but a lot more pleasant than expected.

It was definitely fun. But I can’t see me leaving my comfy desk job with free lunches to run around after women that make me feel like an obese dwarf.  So you can relax, Red Gate.

PS: The male models were well hot.

Not sure I’m cut out for this

Well this really is overdue, isn’t it? Oops. I’ve just been so busy since I came to Indonesia. Seriously, I’m exhausted.

Lying on the beach (Bali, Gili Islands, right now…), doing meditative yoga (Ubud), and eating fresh seafood (everywhere) really takes it out of you.

Every few days I’ve had to have a massage just to rid myself of the tension that comes with being on the road.

Anyway, must dash. Someone just brought some fresh juice over to me. No rest for the wicked and all that.

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Bali, you’ve got a tough act to follow.

I’ve just arrived in Bali after spending 1 1/2 weeks in Sarawak. I literally had to force myself to leave, or I’d have left myself no time to explore Indonesia. There were still things I wanted to do and I felt so at home there it was hard to tear myself away.

Looking back, I realise I didn’t really know what to expect from Kuching (the city in Sarawak that I based myself in), so it would have been difficult to be disappointed. But in actual fact, it was better than I could have envisaged.

As well as trying a myriad of new things (kayaking, caving, jungle trekking, bee larvae), staying in Kuching has given me an insight into Sarawak culture that I’ve never had as a tourist before.
This is down to the guys at Singgahsana Lodge, where I stayed. When the brother and sister-in-law of one of the receptionists asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner on my first night, I was pretty sure it was out of pity, as I was sitting at the bar on my own like one of those sad old men you avoid in the pub. But then when they invited me to join them and a bunch of friends at Damai beach the following night, I relented and decided I didn’t care if it was pity driving their generosity.

And so, I was introduced into their group of friends, along with Leah, a German tour guide/intern who’d moved to Kuching a couple of weeks earlier.

Through my new Malaysian friends, I learnt things about Sarawak and Malaysia that I’d never have found out on my own.

Like the fact that, according to one government official, wearing v-neck tops indicates that a guy is gay. And if a girl hangs out with other girls a lot, she’s probably a lesbian.

Or that your rates for loans are determined by your ethnic group. (Seriously).

Politics aside, I also found out that they really like to eat innards. That they love to drink. And that a Chinese/Sarawak barbecue is possibly the greatest eating event you can attend. Seriously – they had sweet and sour chicken, pork belly and SUSHI – all home made – amongst the more conventional barbecue fare.

So Bali had better be pretty fucking amazing, or I’m going back.

The Singgahsana Gang

Living with the Village People

 

No, not those village people.

Last week a girl I’d met at the lodge told me about a tour she was doing – a 5.5 hour trek up a mountain and two nights living in a Bidayuh village. There was one space left, so I signed up, although with more than a touch of trepidation as I’d never hiked in my life and Cambridge isn’t really known for its steep ascents. I was pretty confident I was going to die.

The actual hike up the mountain wasn’t as harrowing as I’d thought. But it was still bloody hard work – I didn’t know you could sweat from your shins. The views were incredible and there was excitement with the thin bamboo poles acting as bridges high above the rivers – a little scary, but we all made it in one piece.

During the couple of days we spent there, we got up to climb above the village to watch the sun rise over the clouds below us.

Sunrise

My photos really don’t portray quite how stunning it was. We then hiked to a waterfall and spent the day swimming, God, it was glorious. We actually got goosebumps because we were cold.

We also got to meet some of the prominent village ladies, who wear traditional dress and arm/leg rings to show their beauty. They showed us how to do their traditional dancing, which basically involved shuffling round in a circle with our arms held out.

The Bidayuh people living in the village are soon to be relocated, as a dam being built at the bottom of the mountain will flood, meaning access to the village will be impossible. That sounds awful, right? For generations this tribe has lived in the same village, hunting and growing crops up on the mountainside and their deceased relatives are buried nearby. And now they’re forced to leave and live in a completely new environment.

But when you speak to the people, they’re mostly glad for the change. Anything that want or need has to be carried up the mountain. On our way back down we saw a guy lugging a wooden TV unit up past us. If someone gets sick, or injured, they have to be carried down the mountain. The flying doctors only come for pregnant women about to pop, so if you break your leg or cut open your head you have a 4 hour hike, then a 45 minute drive before you can get to a hospital.

Plus, I imagine they won’t have nosey tourists coming to stay in their village and take photos of their children. That must be a bonus too, although they were too polite to say so.

What did you do this weekend?

I saw some orang-utans, kayaked down the Sarawak river, went in some caves, swam in the Sarawak river, swam in the sea, prepped for tomorrow’s 5.5 hour hike up a mountain to live in a Bidayuh village.

If I knew how to write ‘In your face’ in Malay, I would. But I’m not quite up to that level yet.

Apologies for short post, off to dinner soon where I’m going to eat ostrich meat stuffed with mozzarella. YEAH.

Expect a more detailed post when I’m recovering from the harrowing hiking over the next few days.

The adventure starts here (I hope).

I’m now in Kuching, Borneo after spending a couple of days in the quite-strange Kuala Lumpur. I stayed in Chinatown, which is famous for its night markets and great street food. Chinatown’s very similar to other places in S.E Asia I’ve visited, so I felt fairly comftortable there, practising my ‘no thank you’ and polite yet assertive smile. Mostly though, I slept. And watched TV in my rather lovely upgraded hotel room. I just didn’t feel excited about KL. It was merely a stopover before the real trip began.

When I finally headed away from the dingy but  charming area surrounding my hotel into central KL on my last day there, I was in for a shock. Even though I’d read about KL’s massive shopping malls and seen the skyscrapers in the distance, I wasn’t prepared for the LRT being so like the Parisian Metro system, and then coming out of the station straight into one of the glorious malls which make Westfield look like a shed. I was in absolute backpacker mode, in my Cambodian baggy knee length purple pyjama trousers and an old shirt with paint on it. I felt so self conscious next to all the chic ladies with their Chanel handbags that I nipped into Topshop (yeah I know), and bought a maxi skirt to swap them over with.

Now looking like the other tourists (baaaaa), I took a quick glance at the Petronas Towers, had a massage that involved severe pain, my knuckles being cracked and the woman attempting to sodomise me through a towel, and then I was back to prepare for my flight to Kuching.  

So, here I am. 

I’m going kayaking tomorrow morning, so maybe I’ll feel like I’ve actually got going then. Because so far it’s felt like prep for the real thing.

A high maintenance girl going feral… sort of

I’ve been described as ‘high-maintenance’ on more than one occasion. This might be because I like to drink champagne whenever possible (and in large quantities), or because I like massages and spend an inordinate proportion of my salary on them. But, probably – because it’s one of the things people first notice about one another, it’s because I like to wear pretty dresses and pearls. So my choice to spend my 6 week sabbatical (thanks Red Gate), in the Bornean jungle doing some trekking seems to have surprised a few people.

Some of my friends have delighted in seeing the unflattering and eminently practical clothes I’ve bought to hike in. I’ve even got a pair of trousers (elasticated waistband, obviously), which zip off into shorts. My housemate displayed true glee when I modelled them for her, one leg on, one off. Trying on hiking shoes last weekend, I wished someone was there to see me striding round the shop in the bulky, sludge-coloured shoes and pretty fit & flare dress.

The people who find all this just SO hard to imagine have never met Horsey Hannah.

Horsey Hannah went to Tesco in her riding gear (7 year-old muddy boots, old jeans with holes in and my boyfriend’s old XL t-shirt), and no make up and didn’t have her hair cut for over a year because her horse ate all her money. (Not literally, I just spent it all on hay. It’s a metaphor).

So as someone who’s known me all my life, I’m not at all surprised that I’m relishing the thought of getting sweaty, muddy and sunburnt. It’s how I spent most of my childhood. Only this time I’ll be getting my sandwich snatched from me by orang-utans, not Shetland ponies.

I have grown up a bit though. I’m not going to totally slum it. I’ve got 5 different sun screens, 2 of which are for my hair. And I got my eyelashes tinted so that even though I’m not wearing mascara, the photos on Facebook won’t be completely shocking.

But for the most part, I’m leaving fashion-lover Hannah behind and embracing the Hannah who wanted to be George in the Famous Five and who liked playing with frogs and snails. Let’s hope I can extend that affection to cockroaches…

It is going to pain me not having an array of pashminas and jewellery to choose from each day though.

The other day, one of my colleagues jokingly asked if I was going to wear pearls in the jungle. Now there’s an idea…