School holidays have started here (I could fulminate about the strangeness of the "standard school year" with which we are now cursed, and its divorce from Easter, but won't) so my fellow critic has been released from the servitude of vicious maths tests and is now here ready to start reviewing.
We're going to start with books aimed at those who are starting to read for themselves, or are reasonably confident readers.
Magic and the Best Day, by Sheryn Dee Happy Cat Books, £3.99
Aimed at children of around 5 and upwards, this book contains two short stories about Magic and Jessie. It’s an Australian series about Jessie, who is 7 and lives on an Australian sheep station. For her seventh birthday Jessie is given Magic the pony, and the book contains two short stories about them and the farm. The first, Magic and the Best Day, is about the great day when Jessie is given Magic. Her parents teach her to tack him up and groom him, and Jessie has her first ride. A Big Day Out…
As you have probably realised by now, as a child, I was pony-obsessed. My favourite monthly reading was Pony Magazine, which I read cover to cover: every advert; every word. I recently bought a set of Pony Magazines from the 1960s. I actually took Pony in the 1970s, but there wasn’t a lot of difference between the decades in the style and contents of the magazine.
One advert which took me instantly back to that state of childhood wanting; longing for things I couldn’t have, and trying to work out what I could do to afford them, was for Jacatex riding clothes. How I loved that ad. The Pat hacking jacket; the Pat riding mac and the Pat jodhpurs. Who was Pat? Was there a Pat? Or were the clothes just something that was off pat? It was never explained. Jacatex adverts didn’t change much over the years. The 1969 ad below is the same one that I remember from the 1970s, a cheerful pony girl in immaculate clothes. I don’t know whether Jacatex ever did haul themselves into the modern age and r…
Here's a clip of Dick Sparrow driving 40 horses. It's an amazing sight, particularly when the shot changes to show the team from the rear and you get the great incongruity of modern American corporate architecture as a background to the wagon and horses. I love the anticipation in the video: the sense of something amazing being just round the corner is palpable.
Thanks to Christina Wilsdon for telling me about this world record 46 Percheron hitch (alas just stills) but you get the idea.