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Hell and Horseboxes
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Or, at least, into the darts room. Which was starting to feel distinctly cold. It was February, after all. Shelagh suggested we fetch a horse blanket. We had a couple of spares.

The spares turned out to be two canvas New Zealand Rugs. The canvas was cold to the touch and stiff rather than thick. I looked at the padded, and very warm looking, quilted stable rugs both horses were wearing. Couldn’t we...

No we could not. As anyone who lives with a horse lover knows, there are times – usually on a day with a ‘Y’ in it – when horse welfare has to come first.

Back in the darts room – and clutching my cold, stiff, horsey smelling blanket – I eyed the sofa. It wasn’t big enough for two people to sleep on. The only other place to sleep was the floor. So ... we tossed for the sofa. I won. We argued. You're the one who wouldn't stay in a hotel. They wouldn't have taken Gypsy. We could have left her here. Not for a whole night! And so on.

Solely in the interests of equality I insisted that I had to take the sofa. Anything less would have been an attack on the entire feminist movement, which I just could not countenance.

Five minutes later Gypsy climbed on top of me and tried to get between me and the back of the sofa. Whether this was an attack by or against the feminist movement I was unsure. But she did manage to gain a foothold on the sofa.

For a while.

I threw her off, she jumped back, I threw her off again. But I was tiring and as I started to drift towards sleep, she wedged herself against the back of the sofa and started to use those long legs of hers to push and lever until I woke up at two o'clock and found myself on the floor. I hadn't even got a rug. Shelagh had one and Gypsy the other. A combined victory for the united feminists.

By 4:30 we were up and ready for whatever the day could chuck at us. I was cold, my back hurt, but I was alive. And by that time my threshold of expectation from life had sunk so low that being alive was about as good as it could get.

I took Gypsy out on the lead while Shelagh washed. It was still pitch black and a raw wind was searching out all the gaps in my clothing. Gypsy looked up at me and I agreed. We went back inside.

By the time the vet arrived we'd seen to the cats again and cleaned up the darts room. Sue was making coffee in the horsebox and all the yard lights were on and the lairage was awake.

The vet raced through the paperwork, documents stamped and signed in a few minutes. Then Sue called to us that we were booked on the 8:30 ferry, the window had arrived.

All we had to do now was load the horses.

And the less said about that the better. Suffice to say, Rain and the pony loaded like lambs and Rhiannon did not.


Customs was not what I'd expected. There were no spot checks on the animals, no one tried to match the horses against their Identikit pictures or check to see if we’d smuggled a few extra ones into the back. The documents were collected, stamped, handed back and we were waved through.

Once on the ferry, our next problem was what to do with Gypsy. Animals weren't allowed to wander the car decks and I assumed the same went for the passenger decks. Shelagh volunteered to stay in the cab with Gypsy as she didn't want any breakfast but she'd have to go to the bathroom first, so could I hang on with Gypsy for a few minutes? No problem. I wanted to check on the bow doors anyway.

The car deck soon emptied. Just a few stragglers remained from a coach party behind us. I watched in the mirror as they walked to the side luggage storage area ... and started taking their trousers off.

"Oh. My. God," I mouthed slowly as I sank lower in the cab, trying to drag Gypsy with me. Alone on a deserted car deck with a coachload of trouserless Scotsmen!

Why did I say Scotsmen? I thought for a while. Something subliminal? I craned a look back through the side mirror. Perhaps it was the large number of blue and white flags and ‘SCOTLAND’ written in giant letters all over the coach windows.

There were more of them now. All with blue jerseys and flapping kilts. Others were still changing.