You want a dream world, but you want one where the shift to that dream world is small; just a little side step so that, if things were different, it could be your life. It could be you who had that pony, and who did things in the right way, and who lived in a world where, in the end, life, though messy, was full of warmth.
And that is what Josephine Pullein-Thompson gave me. The first book I read of hers was Show Jumping Secret, in which polio-stricken Charles overcomes the sneers of his cousins, who ride in an old-fashioned and unthinking way, and triumphs, winning a major show jumping event. And showing everyone that riding with your mind, and in sympathy with the horse, was best. Most of Josephine's characters didn't achieve such heights, but they were all often, like me, the odd child out. They were outsiders for different reasons: Noel with her lack of pony and chronic lack of self confidence; Charles because of his disability; Patrick and Sara because of their determination to ride the right way; but they all in the end come to some sort of accommodation with the community in which they live. They muddle through, but they keep hold of their convictions, and they get there in the end.
I was lucky enough to meet Josephine Pullein-Thompson, and to speak with her on several occasions. When I last spoke to her, last year, she was full of her characteristic vim. She got on with life no matter what her health problems were, and by that time they were severe. She was still able to read, she told me, though these days it had to be via a huge television screen to overcome her eyesight problems. She was absolutely free of any self-pity - she was immensely interested in the technology that meant she could still read, and viewed the whole thing as an opportunity to experience something new, and certainly not something that was going to hold her back.
Josephine wrote thirty two pony books in a writing career which stretched for over fifty years. "Books by the Pullein-Thompsons... are in the top class,” wrote Col C E G Hope, editor of Pony Magazine. Oh, they were, and they are.
I am very glad that I was able to tell Josephine, in a fulsome and no doubt embarrassing way, just how much her books had meant to me. She took it, as she did everything, with enormous grace, and great humour, and fed me boiled eggs for lunch. I loathe boiled eggs, a fact which was clear to both of us, but for her, I ate them.
Josephine Pullein-Thompson, 1924-2014. RIP.