Today's book is Black Hunting Whip. I loved this story when I was growing up, and I still do, even now I have traded in my trusty and very battered 1960s paperback Armada for a smart-ish* hardback. Black Hunting Whip is the first of the Punchbowl Farm series - to be truly accurate, it's the second, but No Mistaking Corker doesn't take place on the farm, and is a rather different animal to the rest of the Punchbowl series.
I have spent much of my house-owning life taking on houses no one else wanted because they were so vile (among my son's first words were "Be careful!" which he would mutter to himself as he negotiated the gaps in the floorboards and other traps that made for a house which was a careful mother's health and safety nightmare).
Punchbowl Farm is one of those houses, though the Thornton family don't negotiate it as toddlers. They do, however, have that magical experience of discovery that you have with a very old house that has been much altered over the centuries. Not everything goes well, and Lindsey is ill for Christmas and has to spend it in bed.
When I first read this book, I was far more interested in Lindsey's watching the ponies being led out of the field and up to the house so she can see them out of her bedroom window on Christmas morning, but now I have a distinctly fellow feeling for Mrs Thornton, as she tidies Lindsey's room after the excitement of present opening.
"Between the Tree and tea-time Lindsey fell asleep. She still had the fur foal, which she had called Ginger Cream, and Appley Dappley in her hands, and though her bed had been tided of the stocking things it was now strewn with presents from the Tree. Another foal, in brown china, lying down with one foreleg hooked up, four books, a checked scarf, a pair of red slippers, a horse-shoe tiepin, several book tokens and postal orders, and a framed picture of a black hunter's head.
Mrs. Thornton lifted the things one by one and put them on the dressing-table, but the black hunter she hung over the fireplace, removing the windjammer in full sail which was already there and hanging it by the door of the dusty priest hole. This done, she opened the priest hole door and looked in on the rotting floorboards, falling plaster and diamond window so ancient that one could hardly see through it. But what she saw was a neat and shining bathroom, rubber floor, green tiles, hot and cold taps and a shower. And as she shut the tiny door she thought to herself, "All in good time. It will be a lovely house."
* it's not that smart, actually, as I have just had to scan the shelves several times to find it, having forgotten that the title area is missing from the spine.