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Horses

Burdens

It’s been a hard morning. I had a message which set me off in a bad mood and on a bit of a rant about Dad and the mess he left me with. Because why be angry with situations that can actually be changed, when you can be angry with someone who’s dead?!

Oh, and it’s his 60th birthday, or would have been. So, angry with him for leaving this shit behind. Upset because it’s his birthday and a reminder he’s not here. And guilty because I’m angry with him on his birthday, and he’s not here.

The days when things go right are great, or fine at least. But today I was thinking about all the things that go wrong, and I was so angry with him for leaving jobs undone or half done. So I come along with less experience and less knowledge, and have to learn how to deal with this stuff, as well as trying to deal with the estate, earn a living, and have a life.

I just wish he’d left it all a bit tidier. But he never was a tidy person. And neither am I, so maybe I’ll do the same?!

There are things that need to be done, and I am making some headway slowly. I’ve had help from people with various things, but I refrain from asking for too much help because I don’t want to be a burden. I’m quite happy to pay for help, so I’m finally getting round to having some fences built. I’m just so fed up of a tractor that doesn’t work properly (that he deliberately wanted that way!), a half-done water supply, and a ‘tenant’ I don’t like. And why couldn’t he just get his arse into gear and get a proper shed built? Instead I have the remains of a mobile field shelter that blew over the hedge in high winds, so it’s just added to the general mess.

I feel so alone in this. No matter how many people are willing to help or do help, I am alone. I will always try to be strong and to not be a burden, so I will only let people help with a certain amount. And as much as I might be angry with him at times, no one else is allowed to be. That hurts in a different way, and is likely to make me bottle up even more.

I’ve been very aware of my blogger’s block lately and thinking about why I wasn’t writing anything. This isn’t really the tone/subject I was hoping to start up with, but hopefully the block is gone.

Grief

Catrin Pickles: 26 May 1991-19 February 2012

Me, Dad (d. 4 Dec 2012), and Catrin (d. 19 Feb 2012)

I started writing this post almost 3 years ago, and for reasons now unknown to me, I never finished writing it.

On 20 February (2012) I received a text from one of my best friends telling me that Catrin had been killed in a car crash. I had to read it several times before I really took in what it said, and was able to reply. Later that night I was on her facebook page reading all the messages from her friends who were also in a state of shock.

(Yesterday) I went to her funeral, along with what appeared to be a few hundred other people. Every seat in the church was taken, people were standing at the back, and there were still quite a lot of us outside, listening to the service through additional speakers.

I didn’t know Catrin particularly well: in fact I’d only really started gatting to know her about 6 months before she died. But I really liked her and wish I’d known her better. She was really optimistic and happy without being in-your-face peppy. She volunteered in Mexico with an organisation called Therapies Unite, and they have posthumously named the first swimming club after her (Catrin’s Penguins). She loved to dance, and I was in awe of her natural talent. She was determined and brave, and just made everything she did seem like no big deal.

She was a good egg, and the world is poorer without her.

Dad knew Catrin before I did: he trained her in Pony Club for a few years and was always interested in what she was up to (like he was with all of them). I’m pretty sure seeing him cry in her funeral is the only time I’ve ever known him to cry.

She is Gone

You can shed tears that she is gone

or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back

or you can open your eyes and see all that she’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her

or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday

or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone

or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind,

be empty and turn your back

or you can do what she’d want:

smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Grief

Pointing out the obvious

I’m getting a bit teed off with people pointing out what a lot of work I’ve got to do with the land. I realise they think they’re being helpful, but what they don’t realise is that they’re one of many people telling me the same thing.

And pointing it out doesn’t get the work done any faster.

I know I have lots of horses that need feeding and looking after. They’re not going anywhere. As far as horses go, they’re pretty low maintenance. And when the system works, it works well. And even if I was considering selling them, there is no market for chronically lame, wild or dangerous horses.

I know the land is a mess. We had a very wet winter which is now being followed by a drought, so all the tracks have dried in place. There isn’t a lot I can do about this, and a lot of farmers haven’t started the harrowing yet.

I know I need a lot of bales to feed my horses over the winter. I know baling is expensive. I know the current drought will affect both my crop and the price of buying hay. There is very little I can do about this except prepare my land as best I can, and be prepared to let it go this year and buy bales instead.

I know I have lots of fencing that will be expensive. It doesn’t change the fact that it needs doing.

I know I have lots of machinery and rubbish that needs clearing up, including a field shelter in a hedge.

But they mean well. And in some cases they are actually helping me with stuff. So I can’t say anything.

Music

Playlist of the Week

Tell us how your week went by putting together a playlist of songs that represent it.

Daily Prompt

My week has been one of forgetfulness, awkwardness and general rubbishness. I’ve been forgetting about doing basic things, a haircut appointment, and all the things people rely on me for. I used to be a reliable and responsible person, but I don’t feel that way much now. I don’t feel like a person who can help anyone with something they’re going through, or a person who can do anyone a favour even. And the worse I get, the more I give myself a hard time, and then I get even worse, and so on.

I also had a couple of work events to go to this week. Networking has never been one of my strong points what with shyness issues and stuff, and in addition I don’t really feel like I know enough about my industry to get into conversations with people, or know the questions to ask others about their work. So as I stand around alone while everyone else chats, I feel like even more of a failure, and massively dependent on the few people I do know, and like I’m clinging onto them.

And finally, it’s been yet another week of thinking about Dad, tears and guilt. We’re finally getting the ball rolling with sorting out the estate, but it still feels like a huge weight on my shoulders.

So the week is kinda depressing, butI’d rather post videos of songs that I need to help me out of it rather than remind me how crap it is.

So here goes:

Modest Mouse – Float On

Shit happens, but you’ll cope, you’ll get through it.

Jimmy Eat World – The Middle

For the lyrics: “Don’t write yourself off yet, It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on, Just try your best, Try everything you can, And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.”

I particularly like the end of this video, which is basically about standing your ground, being true to yourself and not conforming to something you don’t believe in or want to do.

Myfanwy

This was played at the end of Dad’s funeral, and has probably been sung by every Welsh choir going, as well as quite a few Welsh bands and singers.

Grief

Happy Birthday Dad

It was Dad’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. I spent the day at a mounted games competition with the riders he trained previously. He would’ve been very proud of them all and it’s a real shame he can’t be there to see them this year.

I took the following day off and went to see him and give him his birthday card:

Happy Birthday Dad. I miss you so much. Yesterday didn’t feel right without you, but you would’ve been really proud of them. And Lielie gave Jacob a bit of a surprise when she went into competition mode!!

I really want to make you proud by doing a good job with the games kids and our own horses, and looking after the land well. I’m finding it so hard to find the energy to do more than the bare minimum though. And I’ve got such a short temper now – I think you left yours behind in me! I really want to fix that. I need to.

I want all the rubbish stuff to be over so I can concentrate on the important stuff. I want you to have a legacy, so people know of all the things that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for you.

And I want to give James a break. I know it’s crap for me dealing with all this rubbish but I forget that he is basically in the dark and has no idea, and at the same time is trying to help me, either by letting me deal with it or helping me where he can.

I feel so alone. I never realised how alike we were until now. I know I’ve got plenty of people around who want to help, but there’s only so much they can do. They can’t stop me missing you.

Horses

Happily Ever After

Yesterday’s Daily Prompt over at the Daily Post at WordPress was:

“And they lived happily ever after.” Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there?

Once again it is more appropriate to respond on my Blogger site.

Shockingly the answer is no, I am not living happily ever after. I don’t think the answer would be any different if Dad was still here, or even if Dad never got cancer. I’d still be a Masters graduate working well below my qualification level, with very little optimism about that changing. I’d still have lost one of my best friends for an unknown reason. I’d still be angry about the state of the world.

I also think that I’m the kind of person who changes their mind and switches their goals fairly often, either because I achieve something or because I just decide I want to do something else. I think I’m an ‘it’s the journey not the destination’ kind of person: I don’t have a finalised bucket list but a constantly changing list instead. So I don’t think ‘happily ever after’ is a concept that applies to me.

But Dad isn’t here any more, and it’s changed everything. I used to like quotes such as

you make your own luck

But not so much any more. There are so many other forces acting on you. Dad got cancer and I got more stuff to do. I had to think about changing my plans to make sure he was still looked after. Then Dad died, and I got a lot more stuff to do. It’s changed everything. I’ve gone from a very independent person with few ties, to someone who jointly owns a house and land which are rented out, and the sole carer of 12 horses.

I love my horses and I don’t want to change that. But I now need to switch my goals, to consider what I can and want to achieve in my new situation.

Horses

First Time Farmer

Shame I didn’t know about the Channel 4 series sooner – I could have been a part of it!

Me in my farmer outfit with my farmer vehicle!

Dad was a farmer and I grew up on the farm, but took very little interest in farming. If it wasn’t baby lambs or calves, or having fun driving the tractor, I didn’t care. I just liked my horses.

But this summer I had to learn a bit more because Dad was in so much pain that he couldn’t do as much of the work. I had to learn how to operate the front loader on the tractor so I could move the water container around to fill the troughs, and also had to move and stack the round bales. And I drove the tractor on the roads for the first time ever, which was an experience. Middle of town and I just could not get it into 4th gear! And the indicators don’t switch off automatically!

But now I have to learn lots of other stuff, because I have land to maintain. ‘Farmer’ might be a bit of a stretch for what I do, but there’s livestock (horses), 20 acres of grazing to get haylage from; so there is real work to be done. And there’s 40 acres of rented land, so I’m a landlady too!

I’m going to have to learn about chain harrowing and rolling, and the right conditions for cutting, turning and baling haylage. Thankfully we get someone else to come and do the baling and wrapping. There’s also fences that need putting up and maintaining and probably other stuff that hasn’t occurred to me yet. We’re in a nitrogen restriction zone so I don’t have to worry about fertiliser, and the land is really good anyway.

I also have to look after the horses, who are quite low maintenance for horses, but the conditions in the fields are making it a hard slog at the moment. And some of the horses don’t really understand that when you walk into an electric fence, you should stop and go back, rather than carry on walking through it.

My Boys excited by the first grass they’ve had in weeks!

The Boys in the photo are a bit susceptible to laminitis, so they have to be on restricted grazing and get hay and concentrated feed. This photo was taken on Saturday when I extended their paddock (which had turned into a mud bath). They showed their appreciation for grass by cantering up and down and rolling in it.

The rest of the horses are totally low maintenance with regard to food: just hay and water in winter, and grass and water in summer. But they’re the ones who don’t understand fences so just bring other issues!

Aside from the mud baths the British weather has been presenting plenty of challenges so far. There’s the frozen ground that the horses struggle to walk on, frozen water in troughs and frozen water pipes, and snow. The horses aren’t hugely bothered by the cold, but it means I have to go round smashing ice and carrying water to make sure they’ve got all they need.

But the best challenge has to be the wind. For the past couple of days I’ve wondered if I was going to blow away while trying to sort their food. One of the dividing fences gets pushed down to about a foot from the ground, essentially making it useless. I have to play ‘find the food bucket’ every time I arrive because they’ve all blown into the hedge somewhere.

But my ‘favourite’ event occurred weeks ago. The wind was so strong it did this:

The field shelter. Sheltering the hedge.

It is basically still in one piece so I’m hoping it can be lowered down gently and still work. Not that it really matters because the horses didn’t like it anyway!

I’m hoping to blog a bit of a mini-series of my adventures as a farmer, much like my travel blogs but with less travel and more stress no doubt.

Grief

Necessary phone calls

On Friday morning I decided to finally phone round utility companies and suchlike to tell them Dad had died and that’s why direct debits had been cancelled, to please cancel his account, etc. I expected this to be a fairly easy task.

I was quite surprised when I started crying halfway through my call with TV Licencing – the first call of the day. I then cried my way through 4 other calls before deciding that maybe I could leave HMRC to the executors after our meeting tomorrow.

It wasn’t that I expected to be OK about him dying yet: just that I expected the words to come easier, to be OK about saying the words “you haven’t been paid because he died in December”. I think I just assumed that I would be able to disassociate a businesslike phone call from my thoughts and feelings about him dying.

Tomorrow should be fun. Tissues on standby.

Grief

Things we should’ve talked about

I’m feeling trapped, and it’s stressing me out and causing even more sleep problems. And worst of all, it’s making me angry with Dad, and I really don’t want to feel like that.

He’s left me with a situation which, had we planned properly, would have had specific instructions about how to deal with it. Because I knew I didn’t want to be left in this situation. And now I am.

I don’t know how the person in question managed to repeatedly crawl her way back into his life, but she did. And no matter how many lies she told or how many problems she caused, he let her back in, and still seemed to trust her.

But the reason I’m trapped is because she did help him out of a financial situation and he didn’t get the chance to repay that debt.

She is happy to write that debt off but I am not, as it would mean being indebted to her and I really don’t want that.

She also keeps horses on Dad’s land, which I’m pretty sure she does not pay for, and neither does she pay for hay. But I don’t know for sure.

The problem is how to get out of this. I sat in her living room last night and as I listened to her, I wondered what was true and what was false.

My gut instinct is to distance myself from her, but that means I’d also have to kick her off the land, which won’t be easy while I don’t fully understand the arrangement. And she’s also disabled and has cancer, so it doesn’t exactly make me feel like a good person.

So I think I have several options.

  • Keep going like this and feel worse and worse and probably damage my own health.
  • Ask her to pay rent on the land, which might cause enough of a problem for her to leave of her own volition.
  • Say that I can’t be her friend because I don’t know what is the truth and what is lies. Let her stay on the land if she chooses to, but ask her to pay rent.
  • Wait for the financial situation to be resolved, say I can’t be her friend and tell her I want her off the land.

The first is definitely not an option. I really do want to choose the fourth, mostly because I remember what an awful person she has been in the past and the fact that she has threatened members of my family as well as Dad’s friends. But she helped Dad. And she is being nice as pie to me. I think it’s about self preservation more than anything else. But if I kick her out, I still end up looking like a horrible person.

Grief

Well if I must talk about it…

I’m upset about all the work we still had left to do.

I’m upset about all that was left to achieve, that can now never be achieved.

I’m upset about all the things I don’t know about, that he would’ve told me if we knew that time was up.

I’m angry that we argued a couple of years ago, and rather than really try to sort him out, I just focused on how angry we were at each other.

I’m upset that he had his phone in his hand, and that he might’ve been about to text me, to say he was short of breath.

I’m angry with myself that I backed off in the last couple of months because I was too busy doing other stuff or because I didn’t like seeing him like that.

I’m angry with myself that I didn’t make more time for him, that I felt like running his errands was a chore rather than something important.

I feel alone. No matter how many people are around to help and support me, and how much they are doing. At some point everyone will say the wrong thing and it’ll get to me. On some level I am letting people help because it’s what they want to do, even if I do appreciate the help.

I hate that everyone has to ask how I am or how I’m coping. I hate feeling like everyone is putting a time limit on how long I’m supposed to feel like this. I hate feeling like people think I’m taking on too much, when it’s stuff I want to do.

I just want to grieve. In my own way and in my own time. And if that means I don’t sleep well for a while or that I cry a lot, I’m OK with that.

Grief Other

Birthdays of the Departed

Emma Griffin’s birthday has appeared on my Facebook news feed today. 25 years old today. Except she died last week. Took her own life.

We weren’t close: I’d only met her a couple of times. More a friend of a friend than anything else. We were chalk and cheese really, but the one thing we had in common was that we were opinionated.

I don’t really know what to say about her except that I couldn’t imagine anyone less likely to take their own life. Maybe that just shows how little I knew her. Or maybe it shows how well she covered up her feelings. She was always so bubbly and fun and outgoing and outspoken.

Despite the fact that we were very different and I had no intention of letting her change my mind, I was envious of how outgoing and outspoken she was. I have opinions about a lot of things, but I’m shy and generally only let my close family and friends see the real me. I tend to avoid rocking the boat with people I don’t know well. Keep a lid on things.

Emma wasn’t like that.

The first time we met she mistook my shyness for snobbery. I thought the fact that we had nothing in common meant we would have nothing to talk about. The second time we met she told me her first impressions and I was much less reserved. And we both changed our opinions.

About 5 days had passed before our mutual friend texted me to say what had happened. I immediately went on her Facebook page and read through hundreds of messages. Everyone who knew her – close friends and others like me – in an equal state of shock, wondering why and how they couldn’t have known her state of mind.

Emma G (sounds like energy!!).