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He arrived within the hour, examined her for a few minutes and pronounced in almost perfect English, "it's zer wind."

"Yes, colic." we agreed.

"Non, wind," he insisted.

"Colic?" I repeated, trying a different pronunciation this time, making it rhyme somewhat tunefully with eek.

"Oui, Colique. Mais ... zer wind." And he emphasised his point by pursing his lips and blowing.

The wind? We were confused. What had the wind got to do with anything?

But we should have realised. Any country that has a wind that can turn people mad - strange but true: 'the mistral drove me mad' has been used successfully in a French court to escape imprisonment in a murder trial - can certainly find room for one that gives horses colic.

We listened, amazed. There was a wind, he told us, a very rare wind, but when it blew off the Mediterranean, it left horses writhing in its wake. He'd had several cases already that morning.

Shelagh cast a look in my direction. It was a look of blame. Not only had I been hiding all the articles on pyroplasm but I'd neglected to mention the wind they called Horsekiller.

And, of course, we couldn't have anything as simple as a mere colic-inducing wind sweeping over our fields. We had to have complications. Rhiannon had a strange rash on her shoulder. Was that anything to do with this wind? We'd never noticed a rash associated with colic before.

It's one of the disadvantages of our keyword method of translation that occasionally you hear something only too well - like the phrase 'ten foot long caterpillar' - and whatever words you pad the rest of the sentence with, nothing can produce anything you'd like to hear.

I looked at Shelagh, had I misheard?

I hadn't. I could tell by the mouthed, "ten foot long caterpillar?" that she'd arrived at the same translation.

Then the vet pointed at a fir tree behind us.

"Là," he said.

When someone introduces a ten-foot long caterpillar into the conversation and then points at a tree above your head, you do not take that action lightly. Nor do you stand underneath said tree for long.

We leapt.

I could feel the imminent grip of the ten-foot long killer insect as it reached down from its lair in the trees. But I tried to disguise my panic by mutating the scream in my throat into a strangled cough.

Safely standing behind the vet, we looked back towards the tree.

It must have been an invisible ten-foot long caterpillar.

"Where is it?"

" ... zer nest."

I could see several balls of white filament dotted amongst the branches. Were they nests? Surely they were too small to accommodate the arboreal cousin of the Loch Ness monster?

"Processionnaire," he continued, struggling in a mixture of French and English. "Many chenille."

The dictionary was quickly consulted. Apparently it was not one ten foot long caterpillar but a ten foot long line of processionary caterpillars joined head to tail, contact with which could cause skin irritations.

And of all the places to roll when struck with colic, Rhiannon had chosen the one piece of ground currently being traversed by a ten-foot long string of orange and black hairy beasties.

Luckily it wasn't serious. Except for the caterpillars - who suffer far more than skin irritation when brought into unexpected contact with half a ton of horse.

Rhiannon was not having much luck on the horse-riding front either. When we first asked about horse-riding in France we were told there was no problem, you could go anywhere. France was a haven for the horse.

I thought it strange that I never actually saw anyone riding a horse in the three weeks I'd spent house hunting but everyone had been so adamant - horse riding; no problem, lots of it.

I began to suspect that perhaps, none of these people actually rode.

The biggest problem where we were was the lack of tracks. Or, more accurately, the lack of usable tracks. There were plenty of chemins, they just didn't go very far. Twenty yards in from the road and they fizzled out - usually into thick forest or a fence.

If Rhiannon had been better in traffic this might not have been a problem. But she had an aversion to large lorries, noise, tractors, cyclists, oddly shaped trees, flapping polythene...

She had a very long list.