Wednesday, 26 September 2007

A Jill Question

I've just been asked a question about the order of the Jill books. In the original order of publication, Pony Jobs for Jill is the eighth book, (and it says quite clearly on the spine of the first edition hardback: "This is the eighth Jill Book"), but when the paperbacks came out Pony Jobs (and Challenges, as it became) are book number 6.

Does anyone have any theories about why?

Friday, 21 September 2007

Alas, poor hen

Last week, Mother Hen, the oldest of our hens, vanished - not even a few pathetic feathers. That same evening, we found Matilda on the wrong side of the gate. We have no idea what happened. There has been a bird of prey hovering around, but it doesn't look big enough to have taken her, or dumped Matilda outside the gate. I am not good on raptors, but I think this is a sparrow hawk, which I would have thought was too small. Hen harriers are presumably called that for a reason, but I'm fairly sure we don't have them round here.

Sigh. Mother Hen was by far the nicest and most friendly of our hens, and an excellent layer too.

So, we are left with Matilda, whose tail, I am pleased to report, is coming on nicely and she's looking a lot better now she's nearly finished her moult. In mid moult she looks as if she is falling apart. Feathers trail from everywhere and I was very tempted to pick her up and give the feathers a helping hand, but she can be a bit pecky so I decided to leave her to it.

The bantams moult very gradually, but as Mary is starting to fly, it's obviously going to be time soon to clip wings again. The bantams do not approve at all of the recent fall in temperature. They hunch up on the perch, and glower at me, as it is obviously All My Fault. As they are being so vile at the moment (they bully Matilda, despite being half her size) I felt no guilt at all in shutting them up for the day this week. They are shockers at hiding their eggs and as they're free range, and I'm idle, I'm not going to trail round after them for hours in the hope that I might happen across them carefully putting eggs somewhere they hope I won't find them. A day inside usually persuades them that laying in the boxes is not that bad an idea. At least until the next time.

Friday, 14 September 2007

The worst pony book ever?

I was inspired by reading this post on another blog, as I have a few candidates of my own for this. It's quite rare that I fail to finish a book, but I did with Joan Dicken's Jill and Prince the Pony, which is real grade A stinker. I doubt even as a pony-mad child if I could have struggled through the waves of boredom which the pedestrian plot and characterisation roused in me, but as an adult I just couldn't. I failed.

Others I struggle with are Judith M Berrisford's A Pony in the Family series. This is supposed to be an educational series, teaching children how to look after ponies and ride. The educational bits are triggered when the hapless younger sister gets something wrong, which is when her hideously sanctimonious elder sister sails in and patronises her until any realistically written character would have shoved the elder girl face first into the muck heap and made sure she stayed there for a while. But no, she takes it all. The whole think makes me gnash my teeth in frustration that I cannot be the one to issue retribution.

There are other books I don't particularly like (the Silver Brumby books after Silver Brumby Kingdom, the Three Jays, J M Berrisford's Jackies) but the ones above are the ones that really get me venting.

Friday, 7 September 2007

The Teenager meets old technology head on

I don't normally blog about my husband and children as they never asked me to blog in the first place and I don't fancy evil stares at the dinner table when I have written about something they'd rather I didn't.

However, I have the teenager's full permission for this one. At the beginning of the week, before they'd gone back to school, I came back from a journey out with my daughter, and wandered upstairs to tell the son I was back. I could hear music coming from his room, but there always is. This piece did sound familiar, but in a very odd way. Once I'd got as far as The Room, I'd recognised the music: it was Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence, but it didn't sound quite as I remembered it - I thought that it was one of those sort of combined efforts something like Simon and Garfunkel feat. Soggy Dogs. Sampling, that's the word.

Then I saw that son had fixed up my record player in his room - quite a feat in itself as it has a thousand wires, and some of them have to be pinched in not plugged. And then it dawned on me. Son may know all sorts of things about MySpace, mobiles, dvds &c &c &c, but he does not know that records come in different speeds. Quietly, resisting all efforts to shriek, I explained to him the archaic terms 45 rpm and 33 rpm, and that when you were playing an LP (he now knows it stands for Long Player) 33 rpm was best. The slightly sad thing is that it was his second listen to that side, and he'd enjoyed it as it was..... but records, he tells me, are cool.

Unfortunately for the son, his room is next to my study - sound travels effortlessly between the two and I know every word, every one of all the LPs of mine that are now in his room, and I like to sing along.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

The Moon Stallion

I said I would write more about this, so here goes. The book is a novelisation of a 1970s BBC serial (which completely passed me by). It's not really a classical pony book - more a story that happens to have a horse in it.

The Moon Stallion of the title is a white horse who is connected to the White Horse of Uffington. The story is set in either late Victorian or Edwardian times (it's not specific) and opens with an archaeologist, Professor Purwell, and his children, Diana and Paul going to Uffington. The Professor has been asked by Sir George Mortenhurze, a local squire, to seek out the true facts about the historical King Arthur.
It soon emerges that Mortenhurze, and Todman, his stablemaster, and it turns out, a horse warlock, have designs on the Moon Stallion - Mortenhurze because he wants revenge on it for having, he thinks, caused the death of his wife, and Todman because he wants the power the Moon Stallion has. The plot centres around Diana, who is blind, but who has a connection with the Moon Stallion and does in fact turn out to be the Moon Child.
I won't give the plot away completely, though it does end pretty much as you would expect. Novelisations aren't always the most successful literary form, and this one doesn't do much to improve the genre. The author (Brian Hayles) has a disturbingly literaral approach, and it is as if he is describing exactly what he sees on the screen - as he was a scriptwriter this is possibly why. It leads to a mire of redundant adjectives and description, and left me longing for a red pen to get rid of all the verbiage. Here's an example:
"Thank God you're safe, child!" whispered Purwell into his daughter's hair, as he hugged her to him, not ashamed to cry as her gentle fingertips caressed his face. Paul bubbled over with excited laughter and cheerfully pulled Estelle into the heart of the family confusion.
You might have spotted that Purwell whispered: and in the whole book no one ever says anything: they demand, retort, grunt, smile... All of this makes the book a bit of an effort to read. The constant packing in of far more words than are necessary makes it tedious in places, and instead of introducing emotional subtlety it's rather more as if you're being hit over the head by an author who is constantly trying to impress you with the accuracy of their description.
"A shadow crossed her face, and she called out, into the shadowy interior, quietly troubled."
Why quietly troubled? Just troubled would have done. Maybe if I'd seen the TV series, I'd have had enough of a sense of magic for the story to have taken over, but it just didn't work for me.
If any of you saw the series, I'd love to know what you thought of it. And indeed, the book.


I am sorry about the total absence of line breaks - try as I might I can't get any to appear. The Moon Stallion obviously doesn't approve of this post.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Behind, behind, behind

I am. Having had a week off (spent in Scotland, and utterly wonderful, about which more later) I have now come back to earth with a big, fat bump. Just before we went away someone said to me, having just told me an alarming bit of news about one of the things with which I am involved: "I hope it won't spoil your holiday." "It won't," I said. I may be a bit short on time-management abilities, memory skills and a host of other things, but at putting things I don't want to think about firmly out of my mind for the week of my holiday I think I have few equals.

However, even I cannot fend off the thought of the Inland Revenue for ever (which wasn't by the way, the alarming thing: that turned out to be merely worrying), so I am now in the throes of finalising the business accounts. Every year I say firmly to myself that I will make sure every bit of paper is irretrievably filed, but every year something goes missing. Most years it has been a bank statement, but they're all there: this year I have managed to mislay entire files of household things I need bits of information from. Hey ho.

Still, not long to go, and then I will be able to catch up on emails (thank you very much to everyone who has: I'm not ignoring you: you're constantly in my thoughts but at the moment the Revenue is even more so) and everything else. And there's such a lot of everything else...

However, I have managed to read about a third of Moon Stallion as a bit of light relief from tax. Somehow I managed to miss this when it was on telly in the 70s. More about that later too, but I shall, I think, have quite a lot to say about it.