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Showing posts from March, 2008

The Pony Book Today

I've been busy over the past few months buying up an example of every pony book author I can find who is in print. People often ask me what they can buy today for their pony mad child: what they can go into a bookshop and pick up and buy. Unfortunately, if you go into the average bookshop, you would very soon come to the conclusion that the pony book was a dead genre, or meant only for the under 8s.

In the dim and distant past when I was buying pony paperbacks, I would find them in toyshops and even in Boots, which then had a book department. Now, the choice in my home county is severely limited. I visited Waterstones in Kettering and in Covent Garden, London, and WH Smith in Northampton and Rushden, and an independent bookshop in Market Harborough. WH Smith was better than Waterstones, but there wasn't a lot in it. Waterstones in Covent Garden had only the Katie Price paperbacks (the lack of pony possibly reflecting its city centre location), but Waterstones in Kettering …

Buy a Friend a Book Week

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I hadn't heard of this before until I was reading Juxtabook's blog here (and hurry along now and put your name down for a book).
What an excellent idea, I thought, so went and looked it up. Do this, it says, and convince everyone you're a good thing: "Look at me, you'll be saying to your site's visitors, I am the sort of person who buys gifts for my friends for no good reason. Befriend me! Love me! Read me." Well. Hmmm.
I do like being read, I have to say, and I am extremely grateful that I am, but I am rather more wary of other forms of public exposure. I like being read, but would shake with terror at the idea of being on television (all those people watching) but don't mind the idea of being on radio (and will be at some point, about which more later). Anyway, I am drivelling off the point, so will get back on to it again. I would love to give away a few books, particularly ones I am a bit evangelical about myself, so here is what is on offer, free a…

The Thunder of Paws

Our cat is small -much smaller than she ought to be, I think, because she had had 2 litters of kittens by the time she was one and rescued by our vet, from whom we got her. She is also, being of Oriental descent, quite fine boned: an elegant little black cat.

But boy, can she make noise. When the earthquake hit us recently I woke up, hearing loud banging, and my first thought that it was the cat thundering round the bedroom, because she is that loud. Last night, she woke us up twice, crashing into the wardrobe doors, and charging round the bedroom on the elephant feet she likes to use instead of her own for night work. The poor mouse she was chasing escaped (the dog found it this morning). Cat is a mouser and usually catches her prey to eat, but occasionally she feels like having her own brand of sadistic fun. I feel for the poor rodent, but I wish she'd have her fun more quietly.

Over many years of having cats, I have developed a few catching skills of my own. One of our …

Change

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My sister and I were talking to our mother about what life was like on the family farm - still just about around when we were small. I used to spend most of my school holidays there (and I am convinced that where I remember the hen's stable being is the right place and Mother has got it wrong, but that's by the bye....)



By the time my sister and I appeared in the early 1960s, the farm horses had gone. Mum was telling us about riding them to their stables after work. She was never allowed to have a pony, as my great-grandfather had a sternly practical view of animals. They were there to do a job or not at all, so her terrier was ok as he was a ratter. Cats were strictly outdoor and mousers. Horses worked, and troodling round the lanes wasn't work.



But, Mum was allowed to ride the work horses, and they were Suffolk Punches. On a quick diversion, there is an excellent organisation called The Suffolk Punch Trust, which is carrying on the excellent work done with Suffolks in reha…

Cleaning (or not)

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I meant to blog about this at the weekend, when it appeared, but then I was too busy doing other things - and not one of them was cleaning. According to The Times, cleaning has apparently become synonymous with social status - in which case I am even more of a social pariah than I thought. Apparently the really smart have 3 or 4 cleaning teams, not just one, or a single solitary cleaner - and stand over them to make sure they do it properly. In which case, I can only think they don't have enough to do. If you employ someone to do a job, surely you ought to be able to leave them to get in with it. If you need to stand over someone checking, why not do it yourself?

Only once in my life have I been flush enough to employ a cleaner, and I was so incredibly grateful that someone else was doing all the things I loathed I happily left her to it. Once she apologised for not hoovering the underside of the rugs, which flabberghasted me as it had never ever occurred to me to hoover the other…

Too much reality?

Vanessa of Fidra put this post on her blog about the shortlist for the Galaxy Book Awards 2008. The children's section is voted for by children at W H Smith shops, and the shortlist is: Michael Morpurgo's Born to Run, Jacqueline Wilson's Kiss, Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman and Fiona Watt's That's Not My Penguin. So, no surprises there: but there is another entry on the shortlist and that is Katie Price's Perfect Ponies - the guide to looking after ponies, rather than the stories.



To me (and to Vanessa) that seems an odd inclusion, but I was thinking about it and actually I think it isn't. It's children that have voted for it, after all, and so I've been asking myself why they've gone for this title.



The pony care books I know about (those you can get in mainstream book shops, rather than saddlers) tend to be the Dorling Kindersley style which is absolutely straight down the line realistic, illustrated with photograp…

Will plaits ever be fashionable again?

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The two bits I'm about to quote say it all, I think.

"When I was a child," said Mrs. Pyke, "I was the youngest rider to hounds in the county. I remember the MFH once lifted me on to my pony himself, and there I sat in my litle habit with my long fair curls hanging down to my waist. Children had the loveliest hair in those days."

Personally I thought (a) it was impossible to picture Mrs. Pyke as a child at all, and (b) that curls down to your waist must have looked pretty awful all waving in the breeze like floating cork-screws. I'm sure Mrs Darcy would have had something to say about it. I mean, there are always plaits."
[Jill's Gymkhana, Ruby Ferguson]
and
"Jess turned to see Vicki, the owner of the riding stables, standing at the open stable door. Jess secretly hero-worshipped Vicki. She was everything Jess wanted to be when she grew up. Tanned and slim, with thick dark hair and stunning silver-grey eyes, she always looked amazing. Vicki was liv…

A bit more on toys

I started this replying to Vanessa's comment on my Strutz piece below, but it was getting so long I thought I'd make it a blog post instead.

Vanessa. Ahem. Girls DO have an unnatural love for 4" stilettos. There are plastic dressing up shoes you can get, and we (or at least my dear daughter) had several pairs. If they'd have made them with stilettos, she'd have wanted them. And have been told no.

I agree with you and Susan about the creeping sexualisation of toys. I suppose it's all of a piece with the Tesco's pole-dancing kit for children, but I find this attitude utterly bizarre. It's not so much the manufacturers I find difficult to understand. They do, after all, want to sell things. It's why people buy them.

Though having said that it is a slippery slope and I am not guilt free myself. My own dear daughter had Bratz dolls as I thought them preferable to the plastic cuteness of Barbie. There's just something a tad self-righteous ab…

It's a world away from bantams

I was going to blog about the bantams, who as I haven't clipped their wings this moult are enjoying themselves flitting about the rafters in their stable.
However, I was distracted. If My Little Pony is emphatically not your thing, and Bratz makes you long for the safe, pink horizons of Barbie, there is a new nightmare stalking the horizon. And I use the word stalking advisedly. These pony toys wear heels. Strappy heels. For this all I know, Jimmy Choos, for this is a far cry from real ponies with their inconviently mud-packed hooves. All this is aimed at, who else, little girls.

These ponies make My Little Pony look trapped in a world of childish innocence, for they are things imagined by someone who has realised that pandering to the worst instincts of small girls makes stuff sell, sell, sell. Girls love ponies, right? And they also LOVE the slutty style of Bratz, so why don't we combine them? Ta da! Strutz. Fashion with a kick, they say.
I don't like My Little Pony - I ne…