Although l walk a lot and my feet are used to it, l do sometimes get blisters. I'd rested for a week, until l got restless, then l walked 20 miles [30km] to get to somewhere new, in the meantime my feet had become soft. Sometimes a piece of grit or a badly fitting sock can cause it. I could feel one of my feet getting sore, but typically l ignored it, l didn't feel like stopping. I should have stopped, bathed my feet, dried them and put new socks on. Perhaps massaged my feet with olive oil. If l'd been Oddyseus, a nymph from the woods would have appeared and massaged my feet. Not even a siren called me. Now as a result of my neglect l have two painful blisters on my left foot. Prevention would have been better than the cure. I can only accept it. Three times a day l get a needle and push it right through the blister, then l squeeze the fluid out. This helps relieve the pressure and relieves the pain. Although it looks a bit gruesome, pushing the needle through doesn't hurt in the slightest. For a few days l shall bathe my feet and take care of them, they'll heal and callous over and l'll forget all about them until the next time. Pain is a funny thing, sometimes a gift perhaps, it makes you think differently. It's interesting how we often succeed in adapting to it. We can choose how we react to it. We can complain to others about it, but it takes more courage to accept it with stoicism and try and learn from it. I only mention it to try and give an honest and accurate description of my journey, it's nothing really.
21st March. I'm at about 2,500 feet [800m] it's colder and a bit mountainous, wintery. The roads are now narrow lanes, they wind back and forth, but the hills are not bad to get up. The horse plods along regardless of whether he goes up hill, down hill or on the flat, he doesn't vary his speed, he doesn't rush or bother trotting up hills. He knows to conserve his energy, l conserve mine too. Sometimes people travel with me for a few days, some of them tell me l should walk differently, l humour them, after a while they get tired, they go home, l carry on [I'm already at home], l haven't got any better ideas.
I rested this morning and only intended to go a few miles today, but ended up doing another 13 miles [22km] , finding a place to stop as it got dark. It's a lovely peaceful stop, next to a stream. I met a lady who lives in the next village and comes from Manchester, she gave me some lovely cheese and asked her neighbour if l could stop in her field.
The next day l continued to the village of Peyrelevade. By the time l got there it was snowing. I got some firewood on the way and the lady in the cafe gave me some more. I stopped on some grass by le marie. There is a couple of small shops in the village, they have good food. Although it's snowing it's nice and cosy in the wagon. Le monsieur who has the pharmacie and also has some horses, brought me hard food for the horse. When l got up in the morning the lady from Manchester had left me 250 tea bags on the porch of the wagon.
I set off in the snow and climbed another 300 feet, beautiful country, went through the village of Marcy, there was a sign saying that the Nazis had burned it in 1944. I got to St Merd-les Oussines and stopped there, the people in le bar were friendly and said l could put my horse on some grass behind the village hall. Good to not have to go far.
The next day l did a couple of miles and stopped in a peaceful stop, almost disturbingly peaceful, by the remains of a 2000 year old Gallo Roman funeral temple. They used to cremate people here; l'm not bothered by other peoples ghosts, only my own. It's high up, 850 metres [2788 feet]. I woke at 4.30am, heavy snow falling on the roof of the wagon, by 6.30am it turned to rain. The horse was cold, l gave him the last of the hard food and 'pain dur,' yoked him up and set off without breakfast. He was keen to get on and warm up. Sometimes when horses are cold it's hard to yoke them up because they are impatient to get going, to make matters worse your hands are often cold and stiff. The leather of the harness gets stiff too.
2,770 feet, 850 metres
I've travelled for thousands of miles with horses and have done for years, l've gradually worked out what's efficient, what works well, how to have an easier time, l've often learned the hard way. Every year l get better at it and learn more. It's what l do.
I found some good dry oak on the way, when the weather is wet and cold, dry firewood makes all the difference. I bought two croissants and two bars of chocolate from the boulangerie 'vanette,' in a village, ate the croissants, 'on the hoof,' for my breakfast, beautiful countryside, ate some chocolate for lunch.
When the horse is thirsty he looks at puddles or sniffs at streams to let you know. If you ignore these signs for too long and the horse is tormented by thirst, you may suddenly find yourself and the horse and wagon in a lake! The horse will have a good drink and let you worry how to get out of the lake. I have heard of this happening. Horses are very patient generous creatures but do have their breaking point. Sometimes your ego gets in the way and you can push yourself and your horse too hard. Your horse has to rely on you to look after his needs, if you lose his trust, you may be in trouble.
I often pull over and let him eat on the way for a few minutes. A chance to look at my map or for me to drink some water. 22 km [13 miles]. l pulled over onto some quite good grass for this altitude. After tethering the horse and sawing up the oak, l lit the stove and sat on the bed, tired but pleased and drank a large glass of wine.
26th March. I've crossed the plateau de millevaches and l'm into different country. I feel elated to have crossed it, beautiful countryside, met some nice people, it was quite a challenge and l enjoyed it.
I went into a small town. Two gendarmes in a car told me to pull over into the square. One gendarme seemed very offended that l'd come through the town in my wagon. [The other one appeared to be mute]. The one who spoke desperately tried to find reasons why he was offended. He told me l was going too slowly and causing a 'bouchon,' a bottleneck, [there was one car behind me]. He told me I'd got to go more quickly through the town. He wanted me to feel intimidated and apologetic, but l felt more than equal to facing up to him, l looked at him and said , 'C'est le doit en France?' He looked at me slightly puzzled and said, 'le doit?' 'Oui,' l said, 'plus vittesse, c'est le doit?' He looked discouraged and muttered grumpily again that l must go quickly through the town, l beamed at him and said, 'Ah oui, d'accord je compris.' Then l led the horse as slowly as l could through the town, with the gendarmes following, l soon had a good 'bouchon' as no one wanted to overtake the gendarmes. After a while they got bored and left, as l went through the outskirts of the town several people said, 'magnifique' 'genial' . You can't please everyone, but l learned a bit more French.