A very strange summer

It is nearly the end of the summer holidays and – for once – I shall be glad to get back to work.  With the combination of the awful “neighbours” in the house next door - thank goodness they are finally to be evicted by Sunday – and the ghastly news of horrid events around the world, it has not been a very nice summer. It is very difficult to switch off and relax when you have headbangers next door and the world seems in total turmoil.

And yet, life with the donkeys carries on pretty much the same, and that is the saving grace. The daily round of feeding and walks, grooming and messing about with reins and pack saddles, at least made these weeks worthwhile.  The donkeys have to be kept away from the fig tree at present because the wind blows and down fall the ripe figs, then the donks eat them all. The rest is predictable. The field gets very messy and sweeping up becomes quite an unpleasant job.

Donkeys queuing up for figs: only one fig each, or it all gets very messy

Donkeys queuing up for figs: only one fig each, or it all gets very messy

"Correfoc" - the Finestrat fiestas fire run

“Correfoc” – the Finestrat fiestas fire run

The highlight of the Finestrat fiestas was the “Correfoc” – the fire run through the village, where we all take silly risks with fireworks exploding all around us. My mobile phone was destroyed: screen hit by flying sparks and cracked in two places. Luckily, it was insured and Orange agreed to replace it.  Unluckily this is Spain and the 24 hour replacement service was due to be effected on Tuesday. It is now Thursday and I have heard no more about it…

The painting was started but by no means finished, the farrier got a kicking, and in all this hot weather I still have not yet been to the beach. Must do that in these last three days before schoolbegins again on Monday.  Strange summer…

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Landscape with Donkeys


Unlike the usual August silly season when there is nothing much of importance in the news, this summer we have been saturated with daily horror. The delay in adding a new post to my blog is partly because it seemed almost offensive to be writing my usual routine stuff about life with the donkeys while the lives of so many thousands of people are disrupted by the evil psychotic death cult of Islamic terror in the Middle East.  We must never cease praying for the innocents.

Yet life must go on, and in a strange way I have accidentally found that my current summer holiday painting project brings me face-to-face with the more civilised history of Islamic life and technology.  I am working on a huge – and rather intimidating – two metre square canvas, constructed two years ago by my art teacher colleague Sarah, in exchange for a Land Rover full of donkey manure. (No, there is no better way to explain that, so I won’t try.)  Until now I had been so nervous about starting the project – in case I ruined the canvas – that I have just looked at it and let it gather dust.

#Landscapewithdonkeys Day 1: setting up the canvas outside

#Landscapewithdonkeys Day 1: setting up the canvas outside

My original idea for the painting – when I first decided to paint a large canvas two years ago – was to paint a valley. Everyone seems to paint the mountains around here, so I thought it was time to reduce the amount of blue sky and look at the valleys. Besides, in between Finestrat where I live and Sella ten kilometres away, there is a valley where the terraces and water channels still follow the original landscaping of the Islamic farmers and engineers who carved out this land for farming hundreds of years ago. The patterns of the hillside terraces are beautiful, delineated by dry stone walls that snake around the valleys, with terraces watered by gently trickling water channels whose gravity drop over great distances is worked out by extraordinary engineering skill.

Terraced fields and water channel near Sella, province of Alicante.

Terraced fields and water channel near Sella, province of Alicante.

Teaching GCSE and A-level geography locally, I have also become fascinated with the theme of local domestic and agricultural water supply, and have co-opted the help of Francisco Amillo, author of the wonderful Histobenidorm blog and retired principal of the Benidorm Instituto, who has inspired my students with the geology and topography of the local aquiferous rocks, water channels and Islamic engineering methods.

#Landscapewithdonkeys at end of Day 1

#Landscapewithdonkeys  Lunch break, Day 1

The work on the painting coincided with the start of the Finestrat fiestas, which involves the consumption of vast quantities of beer, so the first day’s work had to be done at a very fast pace before fiesta fireworks and drinking began. The end of Day 1 produced a rather pleasant ground coat and I was satisfied that I had not ruined the canvas. There’s nothing harder to return to and repair than a ruined oil painting.

#Landscapewithdonkeys End of Day 1

#Landscapewithdonkeys End of Day 1

#Landscapewith donkeys Day 3

#Landscapewithdonkeys Day 3

I’ve put one Spanish farm house into the painting and I’m still thinking about where to put the donkeys: all four of my donkeys will be in the painting (Morris doing something very norty, as usual.) Now I’m at the end of the third session on the painting and taking a break to return to the village fiestas.

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The new farrier gets a kicking

It has been several weeks since I have tried to get Cristian the farrier to come and trim the donkeys’ hooves. He was very good with them last year and managed to deal with the rood and norty behaviour very successfully. Having tamed Matilde, who is the most headstrong, he worked his way through the hooves of Aitana and Morris. Finally, he got kicked by Rubí, who was last to be done and had worked herself up into a state while watching the others being done.  Last year’s episode can be seen here.

So now we have Jacobo, licensed farrier: a very big man in a leather apron and quite a well-stocked van, with travelling blacksmith forge and everything. Not that we barefoot donkey family require that sort of nonsense. Just a hoof trim all round.  When I say “just a hoof trim”, what I mean is a full-on battle with kicking, snorting, stamping and general roodness.

Morris keeps still at last: having already kicked the farrier three times

Morris keeps still at last: having already kicked the farrier three times

Well, maybe it was unsurprising Cristian didn’t want to come back again after last year. Jacobo did a very good job: same reduced price as Cristian for doing four animals. He looked a bit exhausted afterwards. I hope he comes back next time they need doing. Norty rood animals.

Here’s Aitana’s front right hoof after trimming. She lets me pick up her foot with no fuss. Maybe they are all terrified of the leather apron…

Morris with pretty hooves

Morris with pretty hooves

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The horror, the horror of propaganda

BumXpxpCYAALba3A short while ago this image appeared on Twitter – posted by with the following caption: “ in Gaza lead donkey to be stoned as a scapegoat for Israel.

The Tweet was posted by @EriSt0crat who helpfully tells us, “I’m a cisgender-white-male privileged islamophobe Jew who controls the world with my illuminati cabal of Rothschild bankers that eat puppies. Obviously.”

In other words, another Internet nutter whose entirely inflammatory contribution we can dismiss immediately. Except that some people will not have done the extra couple of clicks to discover this is entirely malicious nonsense, so the poor scapegoat donkey being “stoned to death by Arabs” stays with them as a reality.

In the whole tragedy of the Middle East with its present butchery of the innocent, those who sit safely in their homes tweeting malice, or teenagers pouring petrol on the flames from their bedroom computers – and the example here is possibly from such origins – are the most despicable.

The fog of war is always a problem. The purple mist in the heads of internet nutters is another problem entirely.

Twitter screengrab

In fact the story first appeared in 2011 with the following caption: “Palestinians display a donkey painted as an Israeli flag during a demonstration to support the Palestinian bid at the United Nations for statehood recognition on September 23, 2011 in the West Bank village of Kfar Kadum (AFP Photo / Jaafar Ashtiyeh)”  See http://rt.com/news/chomsky-wall-street-palestine-645/

The photo has been displayed in a variety of different contexts, as a Google search will show, and the most malicious and disgusting use of it is in the Twitter article I have drawn attention to here.

Distrust all propaganda. Always check the sources of images. There are a lot of internet nutters out there warping your world view. The reality is bad enough, without sick people getting their kicks out of making it worse!

Update Tuesday 12th August

Yesterday the peak views of this blog article reached 2,200 visitors and I am a little unnerved that my blog has attracted such a huge audience because some people have come here for the wrong reasons.  I will give as a wrong reason the kind of visitor who comes here to post anti-semitic rantings (yes! there have been several), or very nasty videos and pictures of cruelty to donkeys. These things are abusive and unwelcome.

This blog is about donkeys: mainly about my domestic life with my small donkey family. It is not about world affairs.  The point of the article on the Palestine donkey is that lies and propaganda do nobody any good.

Finally, I would remind adults viewing this site that it also receives a number of children viewers who simply come to look at pictures of donkeys. Thank God I had moderation in place: when I saw some of the disgusting comments and images of animal abuse some people kindly sent me, I was amazed. There are a lot of sick people out there. (Note: Particularly outstanding was the one from IP address – now reported to their internet provider.)

I do not particularly value a large number of hits from the wrong sort of people. The world is becoming a very strange place.

Comments are now closed on this subject, with the exception of existing regular contributors to this blog. 


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Getting plastered on a Saturday night*

* Hat tip to Bruvver Eccles for the title, from Twitter last night:

Twitter conversation late last night when I was discharged from hospital.

Twitter conversation late last night when I was discharged from hospital.

It is my normal custom to check the donkeys at the last moment before I retire to bed. I make sure they have enough water for the night – particularly in this hot weather – and everything is secure and safe for them on the field. I usually take a torch but last night I forgot it.  I could have done with the torch last night: for within five minutes of arriving on the field I was dripping blood from a wounded right arm and phoning the police for assistance.

The house nextdoor - a traditional Spanish farmhouse ruined by an oversized satellite dish and English headbangers

The house nextdoor – a traditional Spanish farmhouse ruined by an oversized satellite dish and English headbangers

Some weeks ago my neighbour in the house nextdoor moved back to England and I waited – somewhat anxiously – to see what kind of people would move in when the house was rented out again. After three days of the new “neighbours” who arrived on Thursday, I have the answer to that question: headbangers.

The house has been rented to some young English people who are accompanied by others in several cars and I understand from a local source that one of these vehicles has been seen outside an English bar known to be a drugs bar.  From the very first day, my main concern was the treatment of a very neurotic and out-of-control dog. The man who appeared to be its owner was hitting it full on with a broom, then in another incident holding it down and punching it in the head. This was distressing to see. Finally, I summed up the courage, stood on my balcony – which overlooks their garden – and complained that enough is enough!  That was the first day.  Things did not improve, so I spoke to my landlord, who owns both properties, and he said he would come around today and speak to them. Unfortunately things moved on more quickly…

The low wall at the entrance to the donkey field

The low wall at the entrance to the donkey field

Last night – with the new neighbours out for their Saturday night on the town – I was left with their ceaselessly barking dog for several hours.  Barking at me through the fence.  Little did I know that their fence gate had not been properly secured.  It is a very short distance from that house to the donkey field and Aitana was standing near the low wall by the water tank when the dog arrived to attack.

I was checking the far end of the field and saying goodnight to Matilde, Rubí and Morris, who were all sitting down under the lemon tree. I stroked Matilde’s ears and Morris was snoring nearby. The sudden commotion of the dog attacking Aitana sent me racing across the field and all I could think of was protecting my donkey: the olive twig that I quickly snapped off a tree was hardly more use than a feather as a weapon!

As Aitana fled, I stood between the dog and the donkey and swatted the beast across the head with my silly twig. The fact that I had no torch was crucial: I could have dazzled the dog.  Instead I felt his fangs sink into my right arm. I kicked him in the head and he ran back over the short distance to the neighbouring house.

My arm after hospital treatment.

My arm after hospital treatment.

I phoned the Policia Local in Finestrat and they were very prompt arriving.  The owner of the dog arrived home by coincidence at the same moment the police arrived. My friend Carl and his parents arrived too, having cut short their evening out in Finestrat.

Having given my statement to the police, I left them to deal with the culpable owner and I followed their advice to go to hospital straight away. It was nearly eleven o’clock at night but my friends kindly offered to drive me to Marina Baixa hospital.  The waiting room was full of the Saturday night casualties of the Costa Blanca, but I was immediately processed and seen within three minutes to have the bite wounds dressed.  I then had to wait for a doctor’s decision on whether one injection would be sufficient (anti-tetanus) or two, and I was dreading a possible rabies injection, as I’ve heard that is a big needle in the stomach. Thankfully the decision was made to go for the anti-tetanus alone!

Aitana inspects the wounded arm of her gallant protector

Aitana inspects the wounded arm of her gallant protector

This morning my landlord came around and spoke to the people nextdoor.  I have no idea what was said, but he was already aware of the incident in the night because the police phoned him.


There goes my quiet life here in the country…  but for how long?  I have had four years of quiet and simple farmyard life with the donks: a pleasant retreat when I come home from my full-time teaching job. And how I was looking forward to my summer holiday after another year’s teaching!

Note:  Some changes have been made to this post and some images removed, following my decision to launch a “denuncia” against the dog owner, and the matter is now in the hands of the Guardia Civil.

Update Monday 4 August midday:

This morning a friend and neighbour of mine telephoned the commandante of the Guardia Civil in Finestrat on my behalf, as the commandante is a personal friend, and he assured me I should go for a prosecution and the Guardia Civil would issue a “denuncia” against the dog owner. Consequently, I arrived at the Cuartel de la Guardia Civil in Finestrat at 9.30 and explained to the duty officer, then the commandante.  They got the information from Saturday’s incident from the Policia Local (in the office fifty metres away!) and I passed on all the information about the comings and goings next door.
The guy who owns the dog will receive the “denuncia” from the Guardia by the time I get home. The dog is still there, indoors as far as I am aware. But now the denuncia has been issued it will be taken away and quarantined for 30 days and an analysis will be made .
The denuncia will finally come before a judge in court and he/she will pronounce on the matter, but that could be a couple of months hence. These people could be long gone by then.
Do keep me in your prayers. I am still concerned for the safety of my donkeys, as I still have these headbangers nextdoor.    I now have a sign on the fence next to the donkeys, with the phone number of the local police, just in case.  It is worrying.
At least I’m not getting bored on my “holiday”. (Sigh.)


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The news is bad: and particularly the BBC

donkey bomb
The news is certainly bad.  We all consume news in different ways and particular episodes make their impressions on us.

An example that struck me, from the Daily Telegraph 19 July: “Hamas militants sent a donkey laden with explosives on a suicide mission in one of the most unconventional tactics yet seen in the fighting in Gaza, the Israeli army has said.  Troops said they were forced to open fire on the animal – blowing it up – as it approached their position in the southern city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border.”

The news is filled with the horrors of Syria, Iraq, and Gaza. The unimaginable human suffering affecting the lives of so many people highlights the presence of evil in the world, and anyone who would deny the devil is at work must be a madman.  The devil is particularly clever in the media: we have heard virtually nothing of the fate of thousands of peaceful Christians in Iraq, while all the attention goes on the plight of the people of Gaza whose extremist Hamas leaders have once again brought calamity upon them.

The internet now serves as a place where we can select our own sources of news: Twitter, blogs and other sources we have learned to trust.  Sadly, I no longer trust the BBC for unbiased reporting and analysis and I am deliberately reducing my consumption of daily news from once-trusted “Auntie Beeb”.  It is often now merely a mouthpiece for a pro-Islamic world-view that belittles and despises Christianity to the point where a complete extermination of the ancient Iraqi Christian community can disappear behind a news story about the Queen’s racehorse; or the political and military complexities of the Gaza situation become merely an excuse to bash Israel and to present blatant pro-Hamas propaganda.

From my perspective here, catching up on fence repairs in a quiet field with four donkeys in Spain, I cannot ignore the huge suffering that is taking place in the Middle East.  You cannot turn your back on such events, even when there is nothing to be done about them from where you are.  But I am increasingly turning off the BBC – for it has failed in its duty – and I am listening to other voices.  In these times, we can use the internet to get our news straight from the donkey’s mouth. We can find the news that the BBC buries under the Queen’s racehorse.

iraqi boy on donkeyPalestinian children play outside a U.N. school-turned-sheltergaza-rubbledonkey water carrier


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More Summer School Donkey Pics

See yesterday’s page for Thursday’s Summer School donkey visit pics and further information.

20140718_103244 20140718_103251 20140718_103301 20140718_103324 20140718_103330 20140718_103333 20140718_103340 20140718_103347




Follow up classroom donkey activities:

For younger children here are some links to donkey activities There are also galleries of previous years’ donkey photos in the menus under the blog banner above, with the photos of baby donkeys!


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