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There is a little french boy called Arnold here.  Think he is in love with me.  Seeks me out at any opportunity, always sits with me.  And talks, constantly, in rapid French.  Mostly he talks about how much he loves Dexter the pig (he has a song:  il est beau, il est gros, il est chou!!) and also about the state of the European Economy and his fears that China will soon own the world.

He's 11.

Anyway, I mostly understand him and he is v. impressed with my level of French. Apparently he thinks I'm the best here, apart from Flo, but he actually is French. Weird. But Is good.

more HVC

well we are well into first session now and things are going pretty well.  I am in the speciality riding cabin, Brumby which has two drawbacks:

1)I have to walk up a hill to get there

2)I have to walk up a hill to get there.

Now, I realise that technically that is the same drawback but it is one of such magnitude that I thought it worth mentioning twice.

Anyway, we have nine girls and two boys (who live in a different cabin) and there are four counselors.  My cos are all nice for the most part, except one of them sometimes seems a bit harsh to me, although she probably thinks I am too laid back.  Well, nevermind. 

Not too many problems with the girls themselves.  One of them is very sullen, but then she is 13. Nevertheless she drives the other three up the wall.  Me,  not so much; like I said, I'm laid weeeell back.  Some of them have moments of coming across as a little bratty and spoiled but I guess that is not surprising.  They probably are a little spoiled.  They finally got assigned their 'brumby' horse yesterday after a few days of trials, thank god because they were constantly asking 'who's my horse???' and that was a little annoying.  Of course there were some horses that everyone wanted (Bella the push button pony haha) and so not everyone was best please with their assigned horse.  I told them to suck it up.  Actually, I didn't quite use that expression but something about riding different horses and challengnig ourselves makes us better riders etc etc blah blah.  They will just have to get over it, they've all got nice ponies!

Anyway, aside from Brumby in the afternoons I teach a morning riding lesson (complete beginners... I had forgotten quite how bad someone can be.... first lesson was mass chaos, horse spooked at acorn falling on roof, SLOWLY cantered off and kid fell off, although it was a very graceful fall and she landed on her feet, and I leapt into the path of another tro stop him from running off.  After that it was still mass chaos, literally no one could walk their horse around the outside of the ring.  And we were using our ancient push button lesson horses.  Second lesson was much better, we even did some steering down the centre line and across the diagonals.  I almost fainted with joy.)

I also do a llama care class LOL I literally know nothing about llamas apart from the fact that they exist. Anyway, the class is not bad, we just groom llamas and walk them around camp. Except, that is, for the kids. 

They are nuts.  Literally nuts.

Well, I have one normal girl from my cabin, but the other three... nuts.

One of them is married to the head llama, Jeremy Joe.  And not just married, but in an abusive relationship: he is possesive and wont let her lead any of the other llamas. She is deadly serious about it and it is actually quite worrying: she hasn't mentioned her relationship with JJ for a few days now because we haven't used him but my co and I are thinking that if the abusive relationship gets brought up again it might be time to have a little talk. 

She was also bitten by a vampire when she was five (doesn't hurt as much as you would think), and can talk fluent Cat.  She was conversing with the kittens in an animal care class I was hanging out in.

Like I said, NUTS.

The other two are also nuts, just not quite on the same scale.  And sullen.  The first day we decided to do a quick name game as an introduction and my co started and this girl just was like 'I'm not playing'  stomped off and sat on the bench, arms folded and point blank refused to come and join in.  We did eventually get her to tell us her name.

Anyway, apart from three quarters of my class, llama care is fun.

We get every other night off and 36hrs straight off every 8 days.  I just had my 36 and I did my laundry (woo hoo) with some other girls, then the next morning we drove to Augusta and did a little shopping (I just had to buy essentials like a v cheap pair of trainers for $14 since mine had a huge hole in the bottom--- told you the sole was wearing thin, Nicholas!--- and then we went to see Eclipse.  It was pretty good, some nice asthetics and a few funny lines.  A lot of people slept at Knight's Pond and then hiked a mountain the next morning... not exactly my idea of fun!  I need a bed and certainly no mountain walking!  Yes, cinema and shopping definitely better option for me.

Well, I'm gonna go and watch one of my girls do gymnastics before teaching the dreaded llama care class.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Jo xxxx

Hidden Valley


all is well here.  We have just finished pre-camp and the rest of the ropes, life guarding and horse staff are arriving this evening.  Most of the horse staff are English.  Since I got here it has just been me, another new staff member called Emily and the barn director, Lauren, doing the horses.  We have 19 horses altogether.  Three huuuge drafts... they are seriously massive girls. I love them. One only has one eye, she is called Aphrodite.  The socket is quite scary lol.  But she is a sweet thing.  My favourite is an all black Tennessee Walker called Stanley (stupid name; we also have another horse called Stan.  WTF, Stan is a terrible name!), but he is a meanie to all the other horses so he has to go in a field by himself.  Bless.  Really cute though.

The weather has been off an on: it's really nice here at the moment, lovely and sunny, and has been for the past few days.  BUT it has been pouring rain for some of the days too... the ground here is really boggy.  I have acquired a pair of wellies and they have done me great service already.

The llamas we have here are ery awkward looking creatures!  I feed them sometimes.  They are a little creepy in the gloom.  There is one mean one called Tina, sometimes she spits, though she hasn't spat at me yet.  There is also a miniature potbellied pig called Dexter.  He is hilarious, really noisy.  I have a video of him which I will try to upload when I can.  Connection is not v fast here so it takes ages to upload things.

We also have two miniature ponies and two mini donkeys.  As you can imagine, I am in animal heaven.  But the best thing of all is the three kittens.  KITTENS!  6 weeks old and ginger tabbies, the same as Mr Bitties.  They are soooooooooooooooo cute and soooooooooooo friendly.  I am in love.  Spent 90 mins in their barn with them yesterday, just sitting there with them clambering all over me, fighting and playing.  And they like to sit on my shoulder. THEY ARE SO CUTE!  I WANT THEM ALL!  And today I have spent another 90 mins just sitting with them and reading my book whilst they play on me. And sleep.  And purr like little motors.  I walked in and they climbed right up my legs to my shoulders.  So cute!!!

I can wax lyrical about the kittens all day.

Anyway, I am looking forward to learning how to make stained glass and glass beads.  We get training in some arty thing is we want, like stained glass, murals or pottery, and we can teach that for a period a day.  That will be cool.  Fun thing to put on a CV haha. 

Not really anything much to report.  Everyone here is really nice.  Mostly returners here at the moment but more and more new staf arriving all the time, which is nice.  We seem to have a lot of kiwi staff and UK staff too.

Nothing else to say really.  How's England/Oregon/Memphis treating you?

Hope to hear back about the great UK adventures/USA adventures.

Writer's Block: Brush with stardom

Have you ever stumbled across a celebrity in your daily life? Was it more or less exciting than you would have expected? Do you have any interest in meeting celebs?

Submitted By lilphil999

I once met Steve Bull, a footballer of moderate fame in England in the mid 1990s.  I was at a local park with my family and Mr Bull was there with his son; my brother and I went and got his autograph, with me doing the asking as my brother was too scared to do it.  It was on a neon yellow post it  note.  I remember this because my brother had a framed 12 birthday card featuring Mr Bull on his wall for years, and the autograph was put in with it.  Apart from that I don't remember anything much about the situation, therefore it can't have been that memorable.

I have not 'met' any other celebrities and am not actually all that fussed about meeting them.  Theoretically there are people I would like to meet (Terry Pratchett!) but in reality I am sure it would be a very awkward occassion with me being all shy and stupid.  Alas.

I have also seen several members of the cast of Coronation St at Aintree on Grand National Day 2008 when I was working there, and been in the same room as soon, reportedly, famous footballers at the FA cup final at Wembly.  As I know nothing about football other than the fact that it exists, I cannot confirm that.  Also, the opera singer Katherine Jenkins was also there.  I was serving on the bar and she wanted a spirit and mixer combination which unfortunately we couldn't serve as all we had was wine and one brand of beer, forget which now.... but it wasn't her who ordered, and it wasn't to me that the order was made.  Still, I did SEE her so I guess this counts.

So commenced my second day of skiing here in the Pyrenees.  Le temps est mauvais, which meant that a number of the pistes were closed.  I had to go buy my forfait, with the kind help of B, and because half the slopes were off limits today I got a cheaper deal, only €12.80 (€2.80 for insurance, the rest for the forfait) so woopee for that as piste closures didn't effect me at all.

Anyway, we did a little bit on the green slope again before moving on to the blue piste.  Terrfied once again and had to have Du Du guiding me down but did at least learn the fundamentals of steering and more importantly STOPPING.... remember to splay those legs and get that weight down in your butt!

Fell over a few times, woops, but hey wasn't the only one.... did ok on the teleski for the first time, we had to randomly fling ourselves off at a certain point and I may have fallen over when I flungm myself but I managed to get up on my own and didn't slide back into the path of oncoming teleskiiers.... that I managed to do on the second try. I scooted back and wisely waited for Du Du to rescue me instead of attempting to dodge oncoming skiiers to reach the other side.

Well I was managing to ski down the slope by my own at the end of the lesson, albeit very slowly and with no real turning involved, but at this point I was proud of myself  for moving independantly of Du Du downhill, even if it was in a straight line... maybe there is hope for me yet!

Tomorrow, we're going right to the top of the blue piste instead of leaping off about a third of the way up... I am hoping this is an easier feat to manage, but I somehow doubt it... besides, it's a lot steeper up there.

In the afternoon I had T again and he developed a fascination for my watch and bracelet, the ring i kept on my finger as it's too small for him... he also developed a fascination for using the phones in the house for 'talking' to madam/monsieur.

The conversations went like this (every time) :  "Allo, je m'appelle T.... allo, madam.... au revoir, bisous..."

After dinner I played a game of idem dito with the family (minus T who was in bed if not sleeping....) strange game, and a little difficult for the non-native French speaker.  but hey, I managed and maybe it improved my vocabularly....

More skiing tomorrow... uh oh...


not much time for an update!


I am in Portland! I was staying with Robin for a while, first we were at her house for a couple of days, just chilling and going to the cinema. We went to the drive in for our friend, Kim's 20th birthday on the 22nd, it was cool. We also saw Ice Age 3 at the cinema on the 23rd. On the 24th we came up to Portland and were staying at the house of a friend of Robin's parents, it was like a museum and was just a short walk from downtown. Downtown portland is great, really easy to navigate and get around. We went to the Zoo and the Rose Gardens, did some window shopping, walked and walked and walked. We went to a street market at night called Last Thursday which was fun and also went to the cinema two more times, to see Ponyo and then everyone else wanted to see Inglourious Basterds but I definitely did not so I saw Julie and Julia instead. It was good and apparently IG was rubbish so ha. I am now staying at a hostel in NW Portland called, imaginatively, the NW Portland Hostel. I'm sure you can find it on the HI-hostel website. Robin has gone on holiday with her parents so it is just me which is nice after a summer of constant people, people, people. I am living as frugally as possible of course. I am checking out on the first and then heading up to the airport where I will spend that night as have to check in about 4.30am.

All is well here, it rained a bit yesterday but apart from that has been beautifully warm. I have been wearing dresses. Imagine.

g2g, not much money in machine.

Photo dump!

Just a few photos from my second summer here at wonderful Westwind :)
Pony photosCollapse )

I'm going to miss playing with ponies on the beach :'(

And so, the end is here

Hi everyone,

well camp has ended today, we crossed the last campers out a couple of hours ago. We have our staff banquet tonight and then we have to spend the next few days intensely cleaning down camp. It's gonna rock. >:\ haha. Well nevermind, hopefully tonight will be a lot of fun!

So, the second half of camp was pretty amazing, we had session five of our advanced group, the River Riders and we had ten girls and they did so much awesome stuff. We spent the entirety of the session basically cantering and jumping around. We could do more advanced stuff with them which was great. I loved doing the jumping with them, that was my favourite. Most of the girls had never jumped before but by the end of the week they were all clearing 2ft no problem. Now that might not sound very impressive, but it really is. We saw some great riding from them and I was so impressed with some of our horses, who knew they could jump at all? But they were so willing and great, it was so much fun watching (and doing of course, Robin and I naturally had to test out all the horses to see if they could jump hehehehe)

So it had basically been an amazing summer down in the barn here at Westwind, the sun has shone, the girls have had a great time and our horses have been awesome. Both Robin and I are in love with Hudson, I wish I was american so I could buy him. He is just the most ridiculously cute thing ever, and so much fun to ride if you overlook the occassional buck and 'back to the barn!' freakouts that he has on the spit sometimes. I love him.

So the sad news of the summer is that this is the last year the Ranch Programme is going to be running at Westwind. Apparently it's all about economics and the fact that the programme is too costly to run. but it's a kick in the teeth for everyone involved in Ranch over the past few years, and I'm 100% including Anna in this as it was basically her baby and we have been pretty upset since the announcement was made. I know Westwind will be loosing a lot with the revocation of the programme and am personally sad about the thought of no more horses here on the beach. :(Oh well at least we had a final fantastic summer and went out on a good note I guess.

The horses have already gone, we walked them out on the morning of the 14th. Robin and I took Hudson (her) and Whisper (me) out for a last play on the beach. I took a little video of us running down the beach for posterity. It was a lot of fun, I am going to miss having the opportunity to do that. Boo :(

Anyway, we're probably leaving camp for good on the 20th/21st then I'm hanging out in Oregon for a week and a half before heading on home. Double boo!

Hope everyone is well, will be seeing some of you very soon!
who would have guessed??

Well anyway, we road tripped it on down to San Fran on the 17th, the day after the bag nightmare, but we had to take a four hour detour to camp to collect my bag, that was fun. And then when we arrived at camp the promised bag was not there. We almost screamed. Turns out that Flof had left the bag at the end of the road for us to pick up at our leisure as was arranged but that Kim had drove into camp, seen the bag, and took it back in with her. Oh my god. Well we thought we'd have to freaking hike into camp (45 mins) and then back out and we were pissed, having already gone four sodding hours out of our way argh, but Flof felt bad apparently and he sent one of the WSG staff down in the ATV to deliver my bag. Thank god... it took about 15 mins instead of 1.30hr...

Anyway by the time we finally got on our way to Cali it was 11.38am. I remember this time precisely because we'd stopped by safeway to pick up road tripping supplies (ie a lorra food) and Kim was eating her sandwich and bemoaning the fact that it was too early to be eating lunch when in actual fact I pointed out that it was almost twenty to twelve and therefore a perfectly legitimate time to eat lunch.

So we drove. And we drove. And we drove some more. It's a freaking long way! Well we got across the border of Cali and saw our first sign for San Fran... only 363 miles to go!! So we continued driving... and some more driving occurred and pretty much nothing else of any substance happened except the driving and the occassional filling up of gas until we finally arrive in San Fran and pay the stupid $4 toll to cross the bridge... not the Golden Gate, I think it was the Oakham or something. Definitely had Oak in front of it. Our hotel was right in the centre of China Town which was awesome, though we didn't get much chance to enjoy the sights that night as we arrived gone 11pm lol.

The next day was my birthday, yay. We did very touristy things. Had breakfast at Union Square and then took an open topped tour bus around the city (like in Dublin, Emily, though minus the cold wet weather). The competing tour bus operators had a fight over us as one guy had convinced us to take his bus but then a different bus pulled up and we got on this (we were not aware it was a different company lol) and then the two salespeople got in a fight and started bitching about poaching customers and lying about prices... was rather amusing actually though we did end up waiting for the original bus, very much to the second bus's saleswoman's consternation: 'are you kiddin' me?!' she said.

Unfortunately for her we were not.

So we rode around San Fran on this bus for a while, saw China Town and learned a LOT about the victorian buildings lol. Also saw the steepest street and the crookedest street in San Fran which was cool. 8 switchbacks and it IS very crooked, no denying that. We got off the bus at pier 39 as learned that the tours to Alcatraz (or Allacatraz as Kim kept calling it) were sold out til Thursday, still got some good views of it from the piers. The Pier 39 is apparently quintessential San Fransisco and it was pretty awesome. Lots of Fishfood restaurants of course and street performers etc. Kinda like a typical seaside town at home. Except sunny. Not that warm though at the water's edge, quite brisk seawinds! brrr

Anyway we stopped by the Sea lions and they were funny. Apparently they moved to their current location after the 1989 earthquake where they got scared and now they're just hanging out on these floating docks sleeping and barking and fighting. and smelling very strongly of fish. Seriously, they stink lol.

Had lunch and moved on to what is apparently a very famous chocolate shop called Ghiradelli... neither Kim or I had heard of it but there is no denying their chocolate was pretty tasty.

Wandered around some more and then caught the tour bus for the rest of the trip where we learned even more about the victorian  buildings... Queen Ann's or something. And we saw the six identical buildings called the painted ladies or the six sisters because they're all different colours and apparently have been in several films. It was actually very interesting although all the information apparently went in one ear and out the other as I can't remember a single thing about it now lol.

We meandered our way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, where we went to the Cheesecake factory. It was lovely food and Jayde, Kari and I had two cocktails each. Tres delicious! I was very merry and told everyone my favourite funny story about the Boy and the Cat... ah it makes me laugh so much. Then the waiters bought me a little birthday cake with a candle and sang me Happy Birthday haha!

We went back to the hotel and then slept because the next morning we departed San Fransisco for camping on Shasta Lake... this was like another 6 hour drive lol and we arrived about 5pm. F**king hell was it hot there. We were melting. We scurried down to the lake and it was rather a precipitous climb down over these boulders and clay and then I sunk one leg down in the clay by the edge of the water all the way to my knee and then sat there laughing at this until I could pull myself out. My leg was orange for the rest of the trip. and probably my bum too though I can't see that part of me.

The water was amazing and we idled there for a bit until we headed back up for dinner, reading and then silly drinking games. This was all great fun and it was dark in no time so we had candles lit at the table and continued playing. It seemed like nothing was going to disturb the night's hilarity until Jayde said...'Everyone get in the van now. I just saw a bear' in this really calm voice and none of us actually believed her because we were a bit drunk and thought she was hallucinating so we meandered over to the van, I took my drink too because why not, eh? And then Jayde screamed out to the campsite in general 'THERE'S A BEAR!!" and we all crowded into the van and locked the doors.

There followed a very intense discussion about the possibility of a bear in the campsite and Jayde's general sanity and basically none of us believed her, except Kim who was pretty much scared shitless lol esp since earlier in the day when she'd expressed concern about the possibilty of bears in the surrounding area we'd derided her and told her there were no damn bears around and it was all perfectly safe.

We it turns out there was a bear around lol and that apparently it had been coming around for the past few nights trying to get in the rubbish and eat food. We decided to sleep in the van that night. It was rather hot but hey, I slept quite well!

The next day I spent in complete inertia, barely stirring from the campsite and just moving with the shade to read my book. There was no bloody way I was sitting in the sun, it was freaking hot enough in the shade!

We slept in the van again, no sign of the bear which was very disappointing! But in the morning we went down to crater lake in Oregon, it was so pristine and beautiful! Apparently it's the deepest freshwater lake in the continental US, and the purest water. It was formed by a collapsing volcano about 7000 years ago and is fed only by snow and rain. I bought a thimble yay as I forgot in San Fran... then we drove all the way back to Kari's house where we're hanging out today.

We're back at camp tomorrow for the second mother-child camp. Boo I hate them. Then we have two more regular camp sessions and campOUT before we finish.... don't know what I'm doing post-camp yet though. How the summer is flying!!!

hope everyone is well.  Am afraid I really can wait til I'm home again lol

Jo xxxx


hi everyone,

sorry haven't been in touch again since session one. Crazy times and lack of internet is so annoying.

Anyway, will be very brief, hope to do a proper update sometime this week as am off from camp and heading down to San Fransico with three friends for a chill time and to celebrate my birthday.

Sessions have pretty much got better and better. No more poo incidents and certainly no more falling off. However, we replaced the crazy horse, War Dancer with another horse, a gelding (??) called Whisper. He promptly sent all the mares crazy with lust haha and one time when we were feeding in the pasture with the kids  there was a horsey menage a trois going on between him, Jeopardy and Marshmallow. The most unlikely horses ever haha. It was pretty amusing but very disturbing at the same time.

Bag nightmare again yesterday. Took bus back to Portland as a favour to Flof as there was no one to take it even though I had a perfectly legit ride back with Mac. Bus ride was fine but then was left in car park from 7-9pm as Mac no idea where place was. Also they collected my luggage but got one wrong bag and left my main backpack. So hopefully that is still at camp because if it is not am going to be majorly pissed. F**king bag situations.

Well I gotta go now as we are leaving very soon. Hope all is well. The weather is glorious here, so freaking hot and blue skies.