Posts

Showing posts from 2009

Happy Christmas!

I've always wanted to sing In Dulci Jubilo with the verve this version has, but other than in the confines of my own kitchen, never have!

Happy Christmas everyone.
Having learned the top part, and spent some time wondering quite what if anything was going to come out by the time the top A at the end was reached, ended up singing Alto. Hurrah.

Christmas update

Number of presents wrapped = 0
Number of cards thrown away after muddled up family members, wrote wrong name on envelope which is unique to that one card, mis-spelled friend's name after knowing them for decades = 5 Number of people who had to be contacted after I lost their address again after losing it the year before = 3 Number of people still to invite to drinks party tomorrow = 13 Mince pies cooked for party tomorrow = 0 Number of cards still to send = don't want to count Number of choir anthems where completely lost concentration and came in too early = 1

Snow....

Image
The world is all ours:



































Jill's Gymkhana - it's out!

Image
Jill's Gymkhana: the full, unadulterated text, and ALL the Caney pics: for the first time in ooh, decades. It's £7.99, and can be bought from Fidra Books, the publisher.



I really like the cover: Black Boy's black, for a start, and looks as if he might stand a chance in a show! A Stable for Jill and Two Ponies for Jill will be out in early 2010.

Jane Austen's first publisher

Some fascinating research here on Jane Austen's first appearance in print.

War Horse to be filmed

Dreamworks (Stephen Spielberg) have acquired the rights. Bearing in mind the difference between the book and the play, I'll be interested to see what new directions the film takes off in.

Am I the only person

who finds the self service checkouts springing up everywhere unbelievably irritating? Having decided that £40 was a bit much to spend on a Christmas tree, we retreated to B&Q who now have cheap Christmas trees (good) but now have these wretched self service things installed. The chap in the queue before us gave up, dumped his stuff, and left, and after the machine had been re-set, it was our go. It's the voice that gets me - all calmly reasonable, and so bloody bossy. Do this... do that.... Pay now... tolerant pause ... Pay now... further tolerant pause... Pay now.... by which time, the idiot human (me) at the other end is steaming, as all payment methods are at the right hand side, apart from the one I want, which is to the left, which Miss Bossy doesn't see fit to mention. Then being reminded "Don't forget your receipt" makes me want to scream "NO you bossy mare, I won't take it!"
Of course, all this irritation and fury means nothing whats…

Review: Susan Richards - Chosen by a Horse

Image
Susan Richards - Chosen by a Horse
Constable: £7.99
This is yet another book that's been in the review pile for months: so long, in fact, I can't remember when I got it.
It's about a rescue horse: a Standardbred mare called Lay Me Down, and the woman who rescued her, Susan Richards. Lay Me Down was rescued when she and her companions were seized by their owner, who had neglected them so badly they were nearly at the point of starvation. At first, it wasn't even clear if Lay Me Down would survive, but she and her foal both did. The foal was reclaimed by the abusive owner, who had to sign all the foals over to his vet in lieu of fees, but Lay Me Down stayed.



She really was a quite exceptional mare, and Susan Richards shows you just what a complete sweetie this horse was. Despite the horrors she had known, she bore no one any malice, and was always accepting and kind: no mareish nasties at all, unlike one of Susan Richard's other horses, the Morgan Georgia, who w…

Wonder where this one will end up

There have been mutterings for a while that jump racing would be banned in Victoria, Australia, and now it has been, from 2011. Read the story here.
As far as I'm aware, there's no equivalent mutterings here. There are some things I disagree with very strongly in racing: breaking and racing two year olds, for one, and not giving any thought to what happens to the horses after their racing career is finished for another.
However, I love National Hunt (as jump racing is called here). Horses do die, and it is absolutely terrible to watch one of those falls when you know the horse is not going to get up. When you make the death or injuring of horses into a welfare issue that you're determined to clear up, I do wonder where it will stop. Horses die eventing, show jumping and hunting, and of course hacking on the roads is not exactly safe. If you take as your premise that the horse hasn't asked to be doing x and that therefore if y can happen you must stop doing x wil…

Rollkur (well sort of) in 1961

I said in a previous blog post that I'd never seen or heard of a horse doing rollkur on its own. The following example isn't really a horse doing rollkur because it feels like it: it's more because the horse wants its own way and is evading the bit, but still. Here it is:

"She had a mouth like iron, but she could not be accused of bolting, or even running away. She would just tuck in her chin until it touched her chest, drop the bit, and canter slowly, steadily and relentlessly on. The most that you could hope to do when she was in this mood was to turn her into a circle, and wait until she grew tired - unless of course you had a friend on foot who would run in and grab the bridle." (Stella Markeson - Horse Portraits, in Riding Magazine, Sept 1961)
This is of course evasion, and not at all actual rollkur, but I found it interesting to read of a horse doing something similar!

Review: Alison Hart - Racing to Freedom Trilogy

Image
Alison Hart: Gabriel's Horses
Peach Tree Publishing, Atlanta £8.21

Alison Hart: Gabriel's Journey
Peach Tree Publishing, Atlanta £8.21 Age 10+
Alison Hart's Website




My New Year's Resolution was to get through the to-be-reviewed pile more quickly, but nearly at the end of the year, I can tell you I have failed miserably. Gabriel's Horses I have had for well over a year; Gabriel's Journey much less long, thanks to the author, who kindly sent me a copy, but still quite long enough for it to be embarrassing.
The second book I haven't read, but if it's up to the standard of the two I have, it's well worth finding. The Race to Freedom trilogy is set in Kentucky, during the American Civil War. Kentucky, as I learned, was not a centre of operations during the war. Only a few battles were fought, and racing and breeding carried on. So unaffected was Kentucky that some Southern owners brought their horses to Kentucky to remove them from the ravages of the war in …

Going green...

Image
The non-recycleability of some of the packaging materials I use has been nagging at me for a while now. I've now decided there's not a lot of point my carefully composting, giving scraps to the hens and filling the council recycling bin when I'm contributing to the waste because of my use of padded envelopes and non recycleable bubblewrap.
So, paperbacks will now be posted in little paper padded Jiffy envelopes. You can use them again yourself, and they should rot down nicely on the compost heap too. Hardbacks will be sent in cardboard book boxes (when they arrive - they're still somewhere between the factory and here, after they attempted to deliver at the one time I went out yesterday). Anything that needs bubblewrap will now have a new green - quite literally, as it is green in colour - bubblewrap that will break down rather than rot in landfill for ever. I'm still using the corrugated card and brown paper I always have used, and I moved a while ago to usin…

An update on Rollkur

The FEI have now held their meeting, at which they discussed Rollkur. This is their statement:

"The FEI condemns all training methods and practices that are contrary to horse welfare. The welfare of the horse has always been and will always be at the core
of every aspect of the Federation’s work as the international governing body for equestrian sport.

During its meeting in Copenhagen (DEN) on 15 November, the FEI Bureau had extensive discussion on the issue of hyperflexion. The FEI Bureau insists that, with immediate effect, stewards in all disciplines use the disciplinary measures available to them, such as verbal warnings and yellow warning cards *, to prevent any infringement of FEI rules.

The FEI is now engaged with World Horse Welfare, a leading international equestrian organisation, in addition to continued consultation with riders, trainers,
officials and veterinarians to thoroughly research the issues. The further education of stewards will also continue to ensure that we…

The latest on Rollkur

According to Horse and Hound, the FEI are going to debate the Rollkur issue at their general assembly on 15th November in Copenhagen. A spokesman said "important developments will be announced as soon as possible."

When you look at the FEI's dressage page, and see listed along the right hand side article after article on Anky and other Dutch dressage riders (Anky, the Olympic gold medallist, is very well known for being a Rollkur practitioner, as I believe are most of the Dutch team) it is immediately obvious what a tension there is here. On the one hand, the top echelons of the sport support rollkur, and are presumably lobbying very hard for the FEI not to change their stance; on the other there's a great deal of public attention being directed at a sport which has only just emerged out of the shadows and started to become popular.

In an ideal world, I would suggest a moratorium on rollkur being practised until definitive studies have been done on the effect on t…

Vote on Rollkur

Horse and Hound have a poll going on on their front page at the moment. You will have to scroll down the page a bit to get there - it's on the left hand side, but if you want to tell H&H what you think, here's your chance.

Rollkur and the blue tongue

I've been meaning to write about this all week, but reading the exclusive in Horse and Hound about the controversy tipped me over the edge.

For my non-horsy readers, rollkur is a training/warming up technique used by some dressage riders. It basically involves riding the horse with its jaw pulled in virtually to its chest, in order to increase suppleness.

Patrik Kittel , a Swedish competitor in Odense was videoed riding his horse in this way. If you watch the video, you'll see the horse's tongue hanging out - blue. It takes a while before the rider notices this. When he does, he stops, puts the horse's tongue back in, and carries on.



There are two things which bother me about this. Firstly, I am fully aware large sections of the dressage world, and some of its brighest stars, consider rollkur perfectly ok, but the FEI guidelines state this practice should only be for short periods, allowing the horse to rest. Patrick Kittel apparently rode the horse for two hours in ro…

Review: Susannah Leigh - Strangers at the Stables

Image
Susannah Leigh – Sandy Lane Stables – Strangers at the Stables
Usborne Books, 2009 : £4.99 Age 10+ (or thereabouts)


This book was originally published in 1996, but it’s been republished a couple of times since then and is still going strong. The latest reprint came out this year.
The latest cover re-design is of the twinkle-twinkle-fairydust school. Goodness alone knows why. There’s nothing remotely fantastical about the story, so presumably this latest effort is to make the books appear fashionable and “new”. I don’t dislike the cover particularly (I love the grey Arab in fact) but I wonder if it wouldn’t confuse its public a bit: this is a straight down the line pony story and there’s not even the merest hint of a mysteriously fading sparkly hoofprint anywhere.
The Sandy Lane Stables series is one I’ve been aware of for years, but which I’ve managed to avoid reading, assuming from the various cover designs that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. I haven’t read the whole serie…

My little pony goes Gaga

I've mentioned these before, but Finnish artist Mari Kasurinen has transformed some more My Little Ponies......

I love these, particularly the Gaga one, and the Elvis unicorn is just brilliant. The artist presumably has a bit of a thing about Johnny Depp, as there's a pirate pony, and a dreadfully pathetic Edward Scissorhands.
Book memories meme The following meme comes from the Ibooknet blog.

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest.
A bit difficult, this. As with most people, I guess this would have to be a childhood book. The one I've had the longest would either by my extremely battered Winnie the Pooh paperback, or my slightly less battered but still not good Wind in the Willows, both of which were read to me by my mother. A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time).
Well, most of them do, really, even ones I've bought on to sell remind me of where I bought them. Hmmm. There is something that reminds me very specifically of a time in my life, and that is "Jane Hankey" scrawled across the title page, as that was my name when I was married first. I used to spend a lot of time either in Mowbrays (which at that time was north of Oxford St and not amalgamated with Hatchards as it is now) and was one of my lunchtime haunts, or in W H Smit…

Bonkers Advertising Copy - Joules

Eating my cheese muffin at lunch today I was mulling over the Joules catalogue, as you do, when I came across this:

"One of life's greatest pleasures is a loose fitting shirt pulled overhead."

I can think of a few circumstances where that might be the case, but frankly, in the general scheme of things, isn't your life a bit sad if putting on a shirt is your greatest pleasure in life?

A bulging parcel which you know contains a book being pulled out of the letterbox, on the other hand....

Apethorpe 2

Image
Vista, oh bless it, has just decided that blogger is a malicious add on. I know several things I would describe as malicious add ons, but blogger isn't one of them. So, fingers crossed that Vista doesn't do the dirty on me again, and here is my second attempt at a second post on Apethorpe - more specifically, on the caretaker, George Kelley, and also in passing, because I was so intrigued when I read the Inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Order, Simon Karimzadeh.

George Kelly worked at Apethorpe from 1970 as a groundsman, when it was still St John's School. When Wanis Mohammed Burweila initially bought the house, Mr Kelley was kept on as a caretaker. Together with his colleague Peter Coxhead, he spent the next 20 years trying to stem the tide of decay. Knowing only too well just how wracking it can be to try and mend a small listed house when there are two of you and you have at least some cash, Mr Kelley's task, with no input from the owner, no money for repairs an…

Sue Bentley - Magic Ponies Series

Image
Sue Bentley - Magic Ponies 2: A Special Wish (Puffin, £4.99)
Sue Bentley - Magic Ponies 6: Riding Rescue (Puffin, £4.99)

Sue Bentley on Puffin Books
There is a particular school of cover design for children’s books which it’s almost impossible to escape at the moment. The covers of Sue Bentley’s new Magic Ponies series are of the twinkle, twinkle fairydust school which now seems to infest even quite serious non fantasy pony books, like Michelle Bates’ Sandy Lane Stables series, now re-badged with the obligatory sparkles. The animal on each and every cover has those deliberately huge appealing eyes meant to tug at their infant readers’ heartstrings. Worse even than the covers are the strap lines. The kittens series has a fairly inoffensive “... kitten needs a friend;” the puppy series moves on to “A little puppy, a sprinkling of magic, a forever friend” and ponies have “Could you be a little pony’s special friend?” slobbered on each and every cover. I hope whoever was responsible for t…

Move over Chestnut Hill

Stacy Gregg is writing a new series called Pony Club Rivals set in, you've guessed it, an American boarding school. Here's what's on her site:

"Gripping adventures and drama at an exclusive horsey boarding school in Lexington, Kentucky USA. The Blainford ‘All-Stars’ Academy is the most elite horse-riding school ever and it’s auditions time for next year’s new students! Tabby Parker is a talented British rider determined to ace the auditions. She’ll be competing against the best young riders in the world for a place at the Academy. It’s a different world full of danger and glamour for the young horsey girl from Herefordshire – but Tabby is determined to live the dream…"

I'll review one as soon as it's out - which I gather will be 2010.

Victoria Eveleigh: Midnight on Lundy

Image
Victoria Eveleigh: Midnight on Lundy Tortoise Publishing, £8.50 - published October 12, 2009 Tortoise Publishing's Website

Victoria Eveleigh is one of the very small band of authors writing pony books untinged by either fantasy or horse whispering. She’s set this book in 1960s Lundy, when Lundy was a much more isolated community than it is now. The only way of getting to the mainland was via boat, and if the weather was too bad, you were stuck.


Jenny, the book’s heroine, has lived on Lundy all her life. It is a very small community, and Jenny is facing a huge change in her life with the prospect of boarding school, rather than lessons with Mrs Hamilton on the island. Jenny’s passion in life is the Lundy ponies, particularly the stallion, Midnight. He has a rather mixed reputation, but Jenny has managed to tame him, and with the aid of filched sugar lumps, manages to tame him even more. Unfortunately this has taught Midnight that humans can have goodies, and he molests visitors and ma…

Tail not looking good?

Image
Never mind. If you're a Western Pleasure horse, or any other poor unfortunate American animal being displayed in the show classes on the lunatic fringe of American equestrianism, it doesn't matter if your own tail's a bit stringy. You too can get a custom made tail. Amazingly, this is perfectly acceptable in show classes.

Not only that, some breed associations even allow you to weight the tail extension to flatten the horse's tail carriage.

If your horse still isn't looking right, you can try a forelock extension.

It makes the diamanté browband look rather tame.

Charlotte Hough

Image
Charlotte Hough didn't illustrate many pony books, but she did do one cover of which I'm particularly fond: Margaret Stanley Wrench's The Rival Riding Schools. I love the impression you get of vivid life you get: I feel that I'm looking in on an intense bit of childhood secrecy, and I like the shaggy pony, standing there patiently while the humans get on with being odd.


When I began to research Charlotte Hough, I turned up more than I'd bargained for. Until I read The Times’ Obituary, I had no idea that Charlotte Hough was the mother of the author Deborah Moggach, or that she had been involved in a celebrated case when she was accused of murder.
Helen Charlotte Hough (pronounced How) was born in Hampshire on May 24, 1924, and died on December 31, 2008. Her father, a doctor, was 50 when she was born. Her mother was much younger, and she had a rather dislocated childhood, as her father refused to contribute to her upbringing. She was educated at Frensham Heights, a p…

It wasn't like this when I was at school

Image
Took daughter and friend out for a quick pizza after school. Sitting there looking at them, both 13 years old, with full make up on, I asked them if there was much of a queue for the loos to re-touch the paint. Oh yes, they said. There is, apparently, an informal system, where whole years go in at a time. Year 11, queens of the school as the sixth form presumably make up elsewhere, get first dibs at 12.15. Daughter, who is year 9 (12.30 is their appointed time at the mirrors) said she was in there leaning on the wall waiting for a friend, as the year 11s were there, leaning at the mirrors, re-touching, when a year 9 came in, and wiggled her way through to the mirrors to start wielding the mascara. As one, the year 11s stopped talking, and turned and looked at the year 9, who scuttled off. Once she'd gone, conversation, and re-touching, restarted.

Good grief. I can remember passing an older girl on the stairs in my time at school, pinned in to the corner by Miss Hansford th…

Morning walk

Image
It's months since I took the camera out on the dogwalk, having been tramping round, buried in my own thoughts. I'm amazed at how much I've missed - though even I can't remain oblivious to the ploughing and harrowing, now thankfully over. Do not at all like traipsing over miles of plough, trying to aim for where I think the footpath might be. The rest of the village has the same problem: for the first few yards there's a solid path, but then it disintegrates into vague, half trodden meanderings as we have no fixed point to aim at. Now, thankfully, the farmer has put back the path (amazing what a quick sweep with the tractor will do).



Another thing I managed not to miss was the sloes: I have some now lurking in the freezer, though goodness knows if my plans for them will actually happen. I have a tendency to mentally tick things off once they're in the freezer, meaning I have several boxes of very, very old fruit in there.






The hedges have been flailed, whic…