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Showing posts from June, 2016

Railway Horses 1 - Railway Women and Horses

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Railways are not, I have to admit, something in which I have a huge interest. I have never train spotted, unless you count the anxious peering up the line of the commuter, so it's been new territory for me, investigating the horse and its interaction with the railway.

All this was sparked off when I was going through my collection of 1930s Riding magazines, and came across an article on the Willesden Horse Sanatorium, which was where horses who worked on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway went if they were ill enough to need more than a couple of days off.

The thing that struck me when I read the article was that nowhere, at any point, did the author (Col CEG Hope – later editor of Pony Magazine) mention what the horses actually did. There was simply no need to, because every reader would have known without having to be told. Horses were a part of everyday life in the 1930s, to a degree that was quite astonishing to someone researching it in the 21st century.

In 1937, the Lo…

Horse Tales - Cambridge Conference 3: Meg Rosoff and K M Peyton

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Huge, huge thanks to Victoria Eveleigh whose memory banks are in an infinitely better state than my own, because she remembered well, everything, and much of what you read here came from her. 

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In the final event of the day, Meg Rosoff interviewed K M Peyton. They have known each other for some years. Meg was talking to David Fickling about how much she enjoyed KM Peyton's books, and said wasn't it a pity that she was dead. 'She's not dead,' was the reply. 'Would you like to meet her?'

They met, and have stayed in touch ever since.

Kathy had written several books before her English teacher suggested to her parents that they send one off to a publisher. That was Sabre, Horse of the Sea, published in 1948. Despite having written about horses since early childhood (Sabre was by no means the first book she wrote) Kathy hadn't ridden much. This did not stop her having a stable-full of imaginary horses and ponies she documented in notebooks, and reading …

Horse Tales: the Cambridge Conference Part 2

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If you missed part one, which covered the morning of the Cambridge Horse Tales conference, you can find that here.
One thing I did forget to mention in the first post was the book shop, with every modern pony book you can imagine, and several I couldn't, having fallen back more than somewhat in keeping up with what is going on in the pony book world. Purely in the interests of research, I bought books. It would have been rude not to. The bookshop was run by the lovely Marilyn Brocklehurst, of the Norwich Children's Book Centre.



The first afternoon session was by Melanie Keene. I loved this session. I've never been quite sure how I ended up in the fields of literature, because I am never happier than when fossicking about in ephemera and documents. This talk featured an enthralling selection of  horsy toys, lesson plans, books, and even wallpaper, illustrating the central part the horse played in Victorian life, and in that of children in particular. The horse even made it…

Review: Terence Blacker - Racing Manhattan

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Before I get on to the book I am supposed to be reviewing, I wanted to tell you about another Terence Blacker title, The Twyning. I took this on holiday last year. It’s (nominally) a children’s book — a fantasy about rat society in Victorian times. My son (who is 24, and 6’ 5”, before you start imagining some pathetic, waif-like 10-year-old) and I fought over this book. If it hadn’t been for the fact that it was a library book, and my library book, I would not have won, but I did. It is a fantastic read. If you are not keen on rats, do not let that put you off.

And if you are concerned about the progress of the mother-son relationship, I bought him a copy of his very own.

I am having a bit of a down on covers at the moment, so I will say that I would not have picked Racing Manhattan up had it not been for the fact that it was by Terence Blacker, as the cover, although accurate, has that sort of misty soupiness that Bertie Wooster so much distrusted in Madeleine Bassett. At any moment…

Review: Marie-Louise Jensen - Runaway

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I bought this book by mistake at the Cambridge conference, when I was too busy chat, chat, chatting to keep a proper eye on what I was doing. I would never have picked this up normally, frankly being 100% put off by the cover. Do not be. There are no lipstick-wearing, long-haired pouting beauties in the book. Who designs this stuff? Do they actually read the book? When was lip gloss a staple of the 1700s?

For that is what this story is set, and it is rather good. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Charlotte and her father have travelled back to England from the Americas, after the death of her mother. Charlotte’s brother has stayed in America. The book opens with the complete destruction of Charlotte’s life when she returns to their latest squalid lodging to find her father dead, and his murderer still there, searching for her father’s papers. She escapes, with the papers, but the murderer has vowed to follow her, and worse, she finds she will get no help from the authorities: quite t…

Horse Tales - The Cambridge Conference. A Report.

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The Cambridge conference on pony books – what an event. I must say a huge thank you to Georgie Horrell and Zoe Jaques for having the idea in the first place, Sabine Edwards for triumphs of organisation, and Morag Styles for keeping the round table participants under control.

First up was Meg Rosoff, talking about throughness (not thoroughness, through-ness). And resonance. And why they're important when you write. Meg used to get sent shedloads of YA lit to comment on for the cover blurb. Dutifully, she read it all, and wondered why so much of it was dull. It was well-written. The characters were good. The plots were good — often, she said, better than her own, because she doesn't regard plotting as one of her strengths. And yet, the books were still dull. Why?

Because they lacked throughness. And what is throughness, you are no doubt asking? This was something Meg explained to us through the medium of her riding lessons. Her riding teacher was trying to get her to understand …