Return of Brother Lapin’s donkey blog

Thanks to Scary Goat and Dilly for responding to my SOS emails to send in a comment explaining my silence. I have been locked out of my blog for two weeks.

Since my phone handset was replaced following firework damage (yes, what a mad life I lead) the two-step authentication used to prevent my blog being hacked failed to work. WordPress did not accept the code numbers generated by Google Authenticator on the phone. To make matters even more complicated, WordPress support disappeared for these two weeks! They posted a notice to the effect that the company was involved in some arcane team-building group hug, so whatever problems we bloggers might have would just have to wait until they returned. Great! Not exactly what I pay my annual fee for, in order to have a address.

Anyhow, it has all been sorted out this evening and the blog is back in action. I can also access my other blog which I use for teaching, and deprivation of that site has been more frustrating, as it is regularly updated with homework materials and case studies current to the exam classes I am teaching.

Since it is Monday evening and I have a full week’s work ahead of me, the school blog must take priority. Apologies to readers for the silence these past weeks. Donkey news will follow shortly, but here is a picture of Morris pulling me and the cart yesterday during his latest driving lesson.

Morris minor driving slowly uphill

Morris minor driving slowly uphill

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Honest blog stats

On a good day this donkey blog gets 2, 229 hits.  As a random example, here is August 11th 2014 when I posted something controversial about Israeli propaganda and donkeys.

Blog stats August 11 2014

Blog stats August 11 2014


 Happily, the average is settling down at about three hits per day, and most of these three visitors are sensible, non-hysterical people who simply like donkeys.


 Gardeners Question Time

I have been trying to grow a small Christian community in very dry territory in Iraq, which was subject to the well-known Tony Blair Blight.  After flowering for hundreds of years this precious flower has been decimated by Islamist weeds growing up in response to Blair Blight. Can your Gardeners Question Time panel tell me when the waffle will stop and some serious action begin?

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Blogging into oblivion

How much time do I waste online?

There must be moments for all of us when we need to pause and consider our use of time online, and I have in the past sometimes concluded that my own keen commitment to blog discussion, Twitter etc. was getting unhealthily obsessive. A number of things have all come together now to indicate to me that I need to make a proper audit and assess the way my online activity affects: 1. the philosophical, political and religious issues I care about; 2. the social, cultural and community values I support at a local and wider level; and 3. my own self-care, i.e. my psychological and spiritual welfare as a result of engaging with others online, or simply on a more mundane level, could I get out in the daylight more and lose nothing by turning off the computer or smart phone?  Indeed, is the phone that smart?

1. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that any online activity engages people sufficiently to make them consider other people’s ideas: the medium is entirely ephemeral and discussion is instantly forgettable.

2. In a limited way, the internet can be useful to further local issues because online discussion can be followed up in a practical way by face-to-face meetings and realistic plans. For example, a neighbourhood watch scheme liaising with the local authority and people in touch on the internet has been one of the positive surprises of this summer.

3, I have found the hazards of engaging with others online, during the past several years, far outweight the benefits or pleasant encounters. There have been times when my professional life has been threatened and my psychological well being has been undermined by people obsessively attempting to pursue me across blogs and other media, simply to destroy my reputation because they disagree with something I said.

On balance then, I have concluded the following:

I should restrict mu activities to blogging on matters that give me pleasure because I can see some result. Therefore this blog continues because it is practical, fun, amuses others and sometimes provides useful information to help my animals.

I should be very wary of engaging too much with news sites, Twitter, any kind of newspaper bloggers, and in particular Catholic traditionalist blogs: a very real waste of time from my point of view, as there are so many of them and they quite often tend to regurgitate the very same issues in more or less the same way, on a three weekly rotation.

Fr Hunwicke 7There needs to be a sensible balance, however.  Some sites, like the excellent Fr Hunwicke and the unmissable Fr Finigan provide thoughtful and spiritual input, and the comment boxes are not full of pointless people doing their own thing regardless of the topic.  Brother Eccles remains a positive waste of time and his inimitable humour thankfully doesn’t require getting into pointless combat with commenters, as there are few of them and they are mostly too obscure to be intelligible, apart from the ever lucid Ferdinand Mass-Trousers.

The problem with some blogs is that they get filled up with the outpourings of people who cannot manage to write a successful blog themselves and need to hijack someone else’s blog!  This is becoming quite a feature of a few blogs that are plagued by “enthusiasts” who make up to a dozen comments on a post!


So, it’s time for a significant reduction online. Let’s just try and call it a day. What can I do instead?  I live alone in a Spanish farmhouse and after I put the donkeys to bed (no, not literally) there isn’t a great deal of entertainment. I’ve tried listening to the Archers, but honestly, I really don’t know how to make such a huge adjustment in life. If anyone can explain the point of it, I would be most grateful.

Or there’s the news on Radio 4.  Lovely.  Let’s get the latest details on beheadings in the Middle East. Something else that is best left to go its own way.  Why lay awake at night trying to get the grisly details out of your head? It is no longer news. it is voyeurism.

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Bath time for Matilde

Matilde has a bath

Matilde has a bath

The last weekend of the summer holiday is the time to try and catch up on all the last-minute things there will not be time for, starting tomorrow…

Like a bath for Matilde. She hates getting wet and I hate getting kicked, so bath time is unpleasant for everyone!

Also during this last weekend ofthe summer holidays, the Donkey Sanctuary announced they had put a stop to the use of a donkey in a museum in southern Spain.  I am interested in knowing more about the details.

Mill donkey

Mill donkey in Mijas

The news appeared on Twitter with the picture of the donkey, turning an olive press in the traditional way, and this caption: “Should donkeys be used as entertainment in a mill in Spain? We don’t think so. We’ve stopped demos like this.”  I was interested to know more and asked for further information, and a lady called Sue Cook replied: “I live in Mijas and have seen the mill and I don’t like to see the donkeys being used for this, that’s all.”

Now, I am all for donkey welfare and cutting out abuses, but I think we need to be very careful here. The donkey would have been used to demonstrate earlier agricultural processes, just as we have horses used to demonstrate horse-drawn ploughing techniques etc., and I wonder if this donkey would have been turning the mill for more than a couple of demo sessions, in any case?  I’m simply asking about this, as I have not got the full information, but I do wonder if we may be going too far.

Do we want to see donkeys entirely removed from public view, except gathered in sanctuaries eating and sleeping?  They once had a working role and we should allow that to be credited, and the donkeys’ work remembered, and sometimes demonstrated.  It would be good, as I say, to hear more about the facts of this, and “I don’t like to see donkeys being used for this” may not be a sufficiently good reason for banning a perfectly reasonable demonstration of working practices in former times.  If too many things we “don’t like” are labeled “abuse”, we risk turning animals into mere ornaments.

Update 2/9/14

I have now managed to find the Donkey Sanctuary’s full explanation which was not linked in their earlier Tweet, and you can read it here:

PS  Why bath Matilde?

It occurred to me since Hannah’s comment (see comments) that most readers of this blog will be unaware we have had no significant rain since January: this is a severe drought disaster area. The donks have had no natural rainfall on them for eight months!  Another reason why Matilde needs a bath.

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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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