Showing posts from February, 2009

Alison Hart: Shadow Horse

Alison Hart: Shadow Horse Random House £3.44 Alison Hart's website This is another one that's been in the to-be-reviewed pile for over a year now: which does mean that I can add another layer to my collection of negativity over how behind I am with the reviews - guilt, because this is a very good book, and I have kept it to myself all that time. It opens with 13 year old Jas facing a courtroom and being prosecuted for assault on the owner of the High Meadows farm, Hugh Robicheaux. Until the assault, this is where she lived with her grandfather, who worked for Robicheaux. Jas found the mare Whirlwind dead, poisoned by eating yew, and her grandfather, who has since had a stroke, has been accused of negligence by allowing the yew to be in the paddock. Jas, however, is sure that Hugh Robicheaux has killed the mare deliberately and blamed her grandfather. Jas is very much alone at the beginning of the book: Hugh Robicheaux is powerful, and she is just a 13 year old girl. She

In America, books are bad for you

Read my post on the Ibooknet blog and just pray it doesn't happen here.


Yesterday OH and I watched Margaret on BBC1. There's a generation who remember where they were when John F Kennedy was assassinated (being 1 at the time, I don't) but for mine, I wonder if our equivalent is remembering where we were when Margaret Thatcher resigned. Lindsay Duncan did a wonderful job in the play. The moment she opened her mouth and began speaking, I felt that same visceral surge of fury I felt whenever I listened to the real Margaret; such a good job had LD done of getting the feel of the woman, not just the way she sounded. Margaret Thatcher had been in power for 4 years when I started work. One day I was walking up Upper Regent Street in London on my way to work in my poorly paid fundraising post for the Mental Health Foundation . Crossing the road, I leaped out of the way of a Porsche which wasn't inclined to stop, and I can remember looking about me and seeing the rush and bother and gloss, and feeling that the things I cared about: the lost and unlov

Archibald, don't eat the bedclothes

My friend Louise sent me this picture today. It's from a children's book with the rather wince-making title For The Wee Ones. I thought, when I read that (because I read the message before I looked at the picture) that the picture was going to be a typical winsome production from the school of artists who think (or who are paid to think) that the child is a thing sent from God and a blissful thing. They had obviously never met a child, and certainly not mine. I should have known Louise better. The artist responsible for Archibald, don't eat the bedclothes slipped this one past the editors. Just look at the poor, broken Mother Rabbit. She knows she has not the faintest chance of being listened to, and poor thing, she is stooped in the way of a mother to whom this is just the lastest in a long line of horror; with nothing good to come. And Archibald is obviously the spawn of the Devil. Just look at those eyes. He'll have the bed after he's finished the bedclothes

Not as cold as last year but still...

Every February for the last few years I have helped a friend with her garden opening. Another friend Clare and I run the plant stall - the one problem with this is that we are always outside, and it's always February. Previous years have been eye-wateringly cold, despite 300 layers of clothing and fairly constant hot drinks. This year it was above zero (a good start) - in fact so far above zero I wore a measly three layers. That was fine for the first two hours, but when you are basically just standing around outside it does begin not to be. By the end of hour 4 Clare and I needed intensive Aga reheating therapy. You'd think by now, with the amount of my life I spend outside, and my advanced age, that I would have got the hang of dressing for the weather. Still, the garden looked wonderful; the 100 varieties of snowdrop were busily doing their thing, and over 200 people came, raising a heap of money for the National Garden Scheme and the church. My daughter also discovered a

The sickly hen

Had a bit of a shock yesterday afternoon when I went to give the hens their corn (they get this an hour or two before bedtime). Pandora, the Sussex, emerged from the stable with the remains of soft-shelled eggs hanging down, and a prolapsed oviduct . What, my husband asked later, did I do? First I went and fetched a helpful child. Then I fetched another helpful but less squeamish child - son, who did an excellent job of holding and soothing hen. He really is very good with animals. Just think, I muttered, as I cleaned Pandora's back end up, how this will sound at medical school interviews, for son wants to be a doctor. Son replied that he didn't quite see his future in terms of hens. I managed to remove the remains of the egg, at which point the prolapse went back of its own accord but today poor Pandora is still not quite the thing. She is isolated from the others in a darkened stable, and is drinking but not eating more than a peck or too. Fingers crossed. I'l

The power of the wellie

I liked the snow. It made life a bit more exciting, and perhaps best of all dog walks were clean. A little light towelling needed on return for drying purposes, but that was it. It's not like that now.

Stumbled across this

Floreal - quite stunning. My French is not quite up to the task of reading the whole blog but the pictures are simply glorious.

Review - Dandi Daley Mackall: Winnie the Horse Gentler

Dandi Daley Mackall Winnie the Horse Gentler 1: Wild Thing £1.99 Dandi Daley Mackall's website I have had this book hanging around for over a year now in my to-be-reviewed pile, which is rather slow going even for me, the High Priestess of Prevarication. It's an American book, part of a series of eight titles. I did wonder, what with the exchange rate falling and all, if the book was going to be horrendously expensive now, but having looked it up on Amazon it's actually considerably cheaper than when I bought it. Something going right for someone, presumably. The title is not, I have to admit, one that filled me with a lot of confidence. It sounds like something Jill's mother, Mrs Crewe, author of such gems as Barbie Brightsides, would have written. Added to that, my acquaintance with the Horse Healer genre so far, in the shape of the Heartland series, hasn't been overwhelmingly positive . There are similarities with Heartland , which predates it by a c

The Ice Wood

The frost was so hard yesterday not only could dog stand on the snow and make no impact, so could I (and I am a LOT heavier than the dog.) This morning, before diving back into cataloguing, I decided to do the wood walk: not a mistake I'll make again, at least until the ice has gone. The wood walk is much more popular than the fields one, so all the snow has been compacted and the paths are a beautiful sheet of solid, bumpy ice. Even the dog fell over, after she tried a complicated gambol with a stick. The poor deer are so hungry they have even been nibbling at the stinking iris. I love the strange geometric shapes in the ice. The dog doesn't appreciate me stopping all the time to take photos, and likes to remind me that she hasn't forgotten about me by thundering through the puddles, sending the patterns into cracky disaster. The photos are pre-labrador.

When new books come

Blogging has been a bit on the back burner just lately: my life generally is just about copable with until I buy a collection of new books. Most booksellers I know have piles of books here and there: they may have been bought well into last year, but the time to deal with them just isn't there. I imagine most booksellers' families (those that work from home, at any rate) are used to the sudden decrease in living space once the bookseller in the family has been buying. I do try and keep the piles within bounds, but it is nearly impossible, particularly when it is, as it is now, stocktaking time, and piles of books are washing hither and thither. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to someone out there to see what I actually do with my days so here is a blow by blow description of the minutiae that overwhelm me when I've been buying. Actually it isn't quite a blow by blow description because that would be quite unbelievably dull, so here are the edited highli

More Snow

Beautiful, and thankfully without that much worry as none of my nearest and dearest are able to get anywhere today. We have to ration milk though: meant to go up to the Co-op at 8 today after I'd done the animals but decided to dog walk and do some work. Shelves bare by the time I did walk up - not a slice of bread; not a jot of milk. "I bet you've seen people you didn't even know existed," I said to one of the assistants. "I didn't know so many people lived in the village," she said. Having consulted the instruction manual, I have now found the snow setting for the camera, so my efforts were a bit more successful today. Even my very, very untidy garden has had its imperfections blotted out. Absolutely no sign of the hens venturing out. They have not stirred from the stables. Beautiful though it is, the snow is undoubtedly bleak if you are not that tall. The hens' paddock. Repeating my effects here on the dog walk: I

Heard today

on Radio Northampton this morning, while listening to the litany of jack-knifed lorries and closed schools. "We have a text from Nick. 'I'm on the A45 and nothing's moving! I want to know why.' It's the weather, Nick, it's the weather."

The Closure of Schools

Margaret Morrissey, of Parents Outloud , thinks that closing schools at the first sign of snow teaches our children to give up easily. "“We are giving children the message that when things get difficult you should just stay at home and have fun..” (I might also add, snidely, that if Margaret Morrissey devoted some time to learning how to use the apostrophe instead of acting as a modern Mrs Gradgrind, it might not be a bad thing.) It seems a terribly joyless way of viewing the world. Work, work, work and then a bit more work when you've finished. Poor things: whatever one might think of the ease or otherwise of exams now, our children are relentlessly pushed towards them, with more pressure in a year than I experienced in my whole school career. Is it so very terrible to have a day or two off from the grind, and actually enjoy yourself? In something that happens in Britain very, very rarely? My daughter's maths set have to do their latest test again after they all did

The Arrangement of Hens

The new hens still don't really have the going-to-bed bit sussed. Pre new-hen, shutting the hens up was a breeze. Popped up to put out corn while it was still light, and then popped up again an hour later; hens on the perch in a Matilda-between-the-bantams sandwich; bolt stable doors and that was that. Not any more. OH built the new hens their own special perch, which, for a couple of nights they went on. Then Scrabbles, for some reason best known unto only herself, decided that any hen who joined her must be immediately barged off. The three originals found all this most amusing, until the others started joining them on their perch. Several times I went up to shut the hens up, to find our three waiting for me in a corner of the stable, from where they would shoot out when I appeared, bobbing about with their heads stretching up and down in that henny way which means there's something they really want you to know about. When I looked, their perch was occupied. So, I


Glorious sunny day today: I'm doing something wrong with my snow photographs as most of them look distinctly blue - back to the instruction manual I think. Dog very worried indeed by the snowman, and barked and rumbled at it until we were well out of sight. The hens have tried eating the snow - not sure why, as their water wasn't frozen, but the newbies at any rate have been pecking at it keenly. The old guard didn't bother, presumably having already worked out its food value was nil. Children's school is closed today, and picked them up yesterday with no trouble, thankfully, though getting back into our yard, which is on a slope, was interesting. After a bit of careful maneouvering I eventually managed it, though not exactly where I wanted to be. OH thankfully made it home fairly easily. In the last big snow, he was stuck on the M11, though unlike the poor souls who spent the night there, did eventually manage to make it through.