For the love of horses
08/06/2011

I have loved horses for as long as I can remember. Where this came from I don’t know, we lived in a terraced house with a small backyard and the only horse I saw belonged to the rag and bone man. The first book I can remember reading on my own was Black Beauty, borrowed from a neighbour, reverently wrapped in tissue paper and with old-fashioned colour plates. I loved it and was about 7 or 8. From then on I read everything I could get my hands on about horses and ponies: all Ruby Ferguson’s books, ‘Silver Brumby’ books, ‘Flicka’ books. I drew horses all the time, had a model stable and a subscription to ‘Pony’ magazine, though I had no pony.

Every birthday and Christmas, I hoped against hope that THIS would be the year I got my dream. It never happened, despite me telling my parents what I would be prepared to give up to have one and how we could keep it in the garage and ket it graze in our tiny back garden! I never knew at the time, but every year they were working out how they could afford a pony for me, but with a younger sister and brother, it was never possible.

I can still remember the excitement of my first riding lesson, the smell of the leather and the ponies themselves. I had a black velvet hard hat and cord jodhpurs, they were the only items of riding kit my parents could afford on top of the cost of the lessons. I was instantly hooked and looked forward to my weekly riding lessons, progressing from being on a leading rein to tackling cavaletti to small jumps, cantering and galloping, it was all so exciting. I would cycle two miles to the stables at weekend and spend all day there, mucking out and cleaning tack and occasionally being rewarded by being allowed to ride bareback to a nearby field where the ponies grazed. I would cycle home tired and happy, with my Sunday roast dinner having been kept warm over a pan of boiling water. It tasted like the best meal in the world after spending all day outside!

Still my love for all things equine grew. I started to make up and write and illustrate my own books about horses. Any school project where there was a choice of subject was manipulated to include them. I subjected the whole family to the Horse of the Year show on tv annually (this was in the days when families only had one telly). I managed to go with a friend on a pony trekking holiday in High Wycombe – very posh for a girl from Cheshire. We spent the week pretending the ponies belonged to us. It was heart wrenching when the holiday came to an end, and we had to leave ‘our’ ponies behind.

Back home, we found two ponies in a local farmer’s field and, fuelled by Jilly Cooper storylines, we went and asked if we could ride them in return for looking after them. Surpisingly he agreed. I think they must have been bought for his children who had since grown up and/or lost interest in them. They were mother and daughter, Bonny and Lindy, had no shoes, their hooves were overgrown and hadn’t been ridden for years. They had no tack, except halters, (he would pay for saddles if they were just out to grass. We went down to the farm at every opportunity, grooming them and trying to ride them, goodness knows what health & safety would have said, although both ponies never managed more than a trot!

I can’t remember why we stopped going, I think it was when my friend moved away and I couldn’t manage both of them on my own (we were both about 12 at the time). For a couple of years though, I almost had my own pony. I still love horses and ponies and it would appear that my first grandson does too, that also, seems to have come out of no-where. Perhaps if he’s ever lucky enough to get a pony, I can share it with him and fulfill a childhood dream?

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The Inquisition
03/07/2010

Oh no, not the cushions!  Or was it soft cushions?  All those old enough to remember the Monty Python sketch about the Spanish Inguisition will no doubt be quoting it word for word now!  Anyway,  I’ve been tagged ‘for the very first time’  (thanks ‘him up north!) so I’ll just get on with answering the questions.

1. Which (in)famous person (alive or dead) would you like to take out to dinner, where would you go and what would you like to talk about?
This is really difficult, but I think it would have to be Stephen Fry, I would take him to The Lavender House, in Norfolk, he’d love the food. Then I would talk about his love of the area, his passion for music and the experience of tracing his family tree so far back.

2. What is the best gift someone could give you (tangible please)
I would love a horse!  When I was young, I asked for a pony every Christmas and birthdayand every time was disappointed.  I was unaware of how every year my parents tried to think of possible ways of acheivng this, but it was completely out of their reach.  I had lessons, they bought me the kit, I read about ponies, drew ponies and wrote stories about them.  It is many years since I have been riding seriously, but it is still my ultimate dream to own a horse.

3. Where in the world would you most like to live?
I have always felt an affinity with the Yorkshire moors and Cornwall,  There is someting about the moors, the bleak yet romantic landscape ( though that could owe a lot to Wuthering Heights!)  Yet Cornwall, though it has Bodmin Moor, also has more beaches and coves and I would love to live by the sea, so I think Cornwall wins this one.

4. What do you most enjoy cooking?
I LOVE cooking anything and everything!  I even managed to get on Masterchef, but got knocked out in the first round as I was SO nervous.  I loved helping with cookery club at school and find it exciting getting childlren interested in ‘proper’ food.  Not organic, or fancy, just making sinple, straightforward stuff that they want to eat.

5. What is your favourite novel?
Well the first novel I read on my own was Black Beauty – I was about seven. Iit was borrowed from a neighbour and wrapped in paper as it was a prized possession.  There were no illustrations, but I loved it, perhaps this is where my love of horses began?!   My favourite novel that I have recently read has to be ‘Cloud Atlas’, it was not a book I would have chosen myself, but it was featured on a book club review and I’m so glad I tried it – it was fantastic.

6. You have your own personal Tardis, where do you go first?
I would llike to go back to my wedding day.  My dad was so nervous about doing his speech and  I wish that during it I’d reached out and held his hand. He died suddenly a few years later aged 48 .

7. How old is the inner you?
The inner me is about 14.  I never wanted to grow up and have to learn all those boring things that grown ups have to do, and I don’t like doing them now. I try and keep as physically young as I can through exercise and keeping in touch with the children.  However, I can feel myself turning into a ‘grumpy old woman’ and coming out with comments that make me cringe.  Still as they say it’s better than the alernative!

8. Theatre or Cinema?
Don’t go much to either. I think in the last 30 years I’ve been about a dozen times to each – and that includes pantomimes! It was difficult to get a babvsitter for four children, and expensive, then on top of the the cost of the thatre or cinema.  (They don’t have either where we live and it would entail a costly trip and possibly overnight stay in London). The last thing we went to was ‘We Will Rock You’ at the theatre and it was great, though that was over a year ago.  We WILL go more often!

9. Would you be famous, with all that means?
If I became famous because of some skill, or gift, that was helpful to others, then I might.  But the chances of that, especially at my age – are pretty dim! Although I did go on Masterchef, it wasn’t to ‘be famous’ I hated that it was on tv, I wanted the competition.  I would never want to be known for going on ‘reality tv’,  isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

10. You are able to learn anything at all, a skill, a language, whatever, what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to sing, or play a musical instrument really well, or even at all!  Or for painting or writing to just flow effortlessly out of me – I suppose I’d better get practising then.

And now for my five ‘victims’ if you’ve done this one before just ignore it!

Victoria at http://www.itsasmallworldafterallfamily.wordpress.com

Clare at   http://clareybabble.blogspot.com

http://yummymummyno1.wordpress.com

  Emily at http://www.pantswithnames.com

Rachael at www.marathonmummy.com